About Nancy J. Nordenson

Photo by: Dani Werner

Photo by: Dani Werner

By day, I'm a medical writer. After hours, which I'm loosely defining as early mornings or late evenings or weekends or other cracks of random time, I do another kind of work: creative writing, spiritual writing, essaying. This website is about that kind of work. I don't think of it as a hobby I play around at, but rather a spiritual vocation that I practice. I try to essay through layers of meaning; to behold life with an imaginative eye of faith; to create bridges from seen to unseen reality and back again; to write in a spirit of doxology and prayer and with an intention toward wholeness and calm.

I write in a genre that goes by many names – creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, lyric nonfiction, personal essay, lyric essay. Writers who write in this loose genre have a personal slant to what they write, so their work, in terms of approach, content, tone, and structure, is largely a function of who they are. My writing also tends to be idea-driven. While I draw on personal experience, I am more interested in following an idea or a question than in following my own narrative. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit wrote that "In essays, ideas are the protagonists, and they often develop much like characters down to the surprise denouement.” I couldn’t agree more.

Books

My second book was released in April 2015 from Kalos Press. Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure started with the question, How do I make peace with the fact that my husband lost his job just as I started graduate school and we had two sons in college? That question led to others, as questions usually do, and the book evolved to become an exploration of work as a place of spiritual journey, particularly when the tensions between passion and need, aspiration and fear, and the planned life and the given life trigger longings for satisfaction, provision, and meaning. I think Finding Livelihood is particularly timely given the intensification of conversations about work and vocation online, in print, and at conferences. The book provides a missing piece in these conversations: the contemplative voice of the working individual living into work's complexities as distinct from the authoritative instructional voice of the academic, pastor, or theologian.

The primary question for my first book, Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul (Baker Books) was, How do I keep my mind strong and steady when life seems increasingly unsteady and complicated? That question led to, How do I serve and love God with my mind? And that question expanded to include, How does thinking as a spiritual practice address all kinds of spiritual longings?

Other Publications

My writing has appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Indiana Review, Comment, Under the Sun, Relief, and in other publications and anthologies, including Becoming: What Makes a Woman (University of Nebraska Gender Studies) and The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God (Cascade). You'll find a full list of publications below. To my surprise and joy, a number of my essays have earned multiple "notable" recognitions in the Best American Essays and Best Spiritual Writing anthologies and Pushcart Prize nominations.


Books

  • Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure. Kalos Press, 2015.
  • Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul. Baker Books, 2004.


Anthologies

  • "Ontology." In: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Miscarriage and Infertility. Jessica Snell, ed. Kalos Press, 2015.
  • “Ontology.” In: Becoming: What Makes A Woman. Jill McCabe, ed. Omaha, NE: University of Nebraska Gender Studies Program, 2012.
  • “Things That Fall and Things That Stand.” In: The Spirit of Food. Fields, Leslie Leyland, ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books (Wipf and Stock), 2010; 98-110.


Periodicals

  • "Physiology Lessons." Comment. Spring 2015.
  • “Two-Part Invention.” Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Summer/Autumn 2014.
  • “Still in French Airspace.” Under the Sun. 2012;17(1):191-201.
  • “Prelude.” Lake Effect. 2012;16:66-77.
  • “Metrics.” Indiana Review. 2011;33(2):147-151.
  • “Woman on Michigan Avenue.” Saint Katherine Review. 2011;1(3):61-74.
  • “Spinning and Being Spun.” Comment. Fall 2010:54-63.
  • “Witness.” Under The Sun. 2010;15(1):242-253.
  • “Ontology.” Harpur Palate. 2009;9(1);160-161.
  • “A Place at the Table.” Relief. 2009;3(1):168-178.
  • “Waves and Oscillations.” Desert Call. 2008;8(3):27-29.
  • “Nothing Can Separate.” Relief. 2006;1(1):28-35.


Online Publications


Awards

  • Best American Writing 2016 notable mention: "Physiology Lessons"
  • Best American Writing 2015 notable mention: "Two-Part Invention"
  • Collegeville Institute, summer writing fellowship, 2013, 2014
  • Best American Writing 2013 notable mention: “Prelude”
  • Best Spiritual Writing 2013 notable mention: “Woman on Michigan Avenue”
  • Best American Essays 2012 notable mention: “Metrics”
  • Best Spiritual Writing  2012 notable mention: “Spinning and Being Spun”
  • Best American Essays 2010 notable mention: “Ontology”
  • Pushcart nominations: “A Place at the Table,” “Metrics,” and “Still in French Airspace”