Author Jessie van Eerden urges exploration of creative frontiers in nonfiction writing  

On Monday, Feb. 26, author Jessie van Eerden visited Elon University for a creative nonfiction reading. 

Author Jessie van Eerden spoke to an animated audience that filled Johnston Hall on Monday, Feb. 26, for a special talk sponsored by Elon’s Department of English. Many of the attendees had met and spoken with Van Eerden earlier in the day when she visited English and creative writing classes across campus.

Author Jessie van Eerden speaking in Johnston Hall during her Feb. 26 visit to campus.

van Eerden began the evening by congratulating the winners of the Frederick Hartmann Nonfiction Writing Contest and then read the audience an essay from her upcoming book, “Yoke and Feather,” which will be released later this year. Often inspired by biblical myths, van Eerden focuses on unraveling the subtexts behind these stories and exploring the underlying themes and narratives of the characters in them.

“The book is interested in the images of gravity and grace, likeness and happiness, and obligation and freedom,” van Eerden explained. “A lot of these biblical and ancient texts are very skeletal, and this book is about filling in the gaps.”

The essay van Eerden presented to the audience drew inspiration from the biblical narrative of sisters Mary and Martha. In an imaginative reinterpretation, she took artistic liberties by portraying them as adoptive parents of a foster child.

Author Jessie van Eerden reading from her new book during her Feb. 26 visit to campus.

“I take some creative liberties here,” she said. “What’s interesting to me is the form of nonfiction that slides toward fiction and makes use of imagination in order to test out ideas and make sense of our own experiences.”

Van Eerden has written three novels, “Call it Horses,” and “Glorybound” and “My Radio Radio,” as well as a collection of poetries, entitled “The Long Weeping.” She has been awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Nonfiction, the Milton Fellowship and a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Fellowship.

Van Eerden earned a bachelor of arts in English from West Virginia University and a master of fine arts in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She has taught for over twenty years in college classrooms and adult literacy programs. She is an associate professor of creative writing at Hollins University and is the nonfiction editor for Orison Books.