Writing Ourselves: An Interview with Jack Harrell

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

Over at Worlds Without End, I’ve written a review of Greg Kofford Books’ new publication Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism by Jack Harrell. I explain,

As one who does not consider himself a creative writer (at least not a fiction writer), I was a bit hesitant to attempt a review of a book almost entirely dedicated to the art of writing. Yet, as I made my way from essay to essay, it became clear to me that Harrell was not merely talking about writing, but was describing the essence of Creation itself. In short, Harrell is discussing what has become known as the “cultural mandate” in Genesis 1 to become co-creators with God. And this in turn is about transformation and new creation; the first steps of eternal progression (at least from a Mormon perspective). As Harrell explains in the touching first essay, “…I’ve learned that God is with us in every desire to improve. Anyplace can be a starting place with him…Whatever we make of ourselves, whatever circumstances we come to, God can turn it to good.” He imagines God saying, “Now is a good time…This is a good place to begin” (pg. 5). For me, the essays are connected by two major strands of thought: a Mormon theology of creativity and the meaning and morals of the work itself.

…There is much more in Jack Harrell’s book that I have not touched on: the place of violence in literature, authenticity, the agenticity of imaginary characters, the euphoria of peak performance, etc. But the themes above struck me the most. Harrell’s way of weaving together tales from his childhood, reflections on Mormon theology, and writing insights as an expert craftsman calls for contemplation. It is a meditation on ordinary life; an invitation to construct meaning out of life’s chaos and disorder and put it into words. It encourages readers to be creative in their ventures, to become co-creators with God, and to transform this world for the better. It encourages them, much like the Maclean boys, to “glorify God, and to enjoy him” in their craft. But most of all, it encourages them to write about it. Readers will find themselves exploring old feelings and new thoughts. Even better, they may find themselves putting pen to paper soon after.

You can hear an interview with Jack Harrell on Greg Kofford Books’ Authorcast here.

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