ICYMI #008: The heart.


The heart.
ICYMI no. 008  |  January 2021

Welcome to ICYMI Monthly. Every month, we feature four essays and two craft pieces handpicked by our editors.

In our 25+ years, Creative Nonfiction has published hundreds of original works, most of which have never been available online. Now we're sharing some of our best writing with you. Happy reading!


ESSAY  |  CNF #39, Unthemed (2010)
THE HEART  |  Jerald Walker
Two troubled souls who—despite their love—simply would not, and maybe could not, be soothed 

"For a decade my brother struggled to save his marriage, but late one winter night he accepted that it was over, right after his wife almost cut off his thumb. It dangled from a strip of flesh while his wife, still holding the butcher knife, flailed around in a spasm of remorse. My brother moved to console her, insisting that everything would be okay, displaying the kind of humanity perhaps common only in people who believe they can wed heroin addicts and have things turn out well." Read →


ON CRAFT  |  CNF #62, Joy (2017)
THE JOY OF WRITING  |  Jennifer Niesslein
Using positive psychology to identify the pleasures of putting words on the page

"According to Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, who's credited with being the grandfather of positive psychology, the problem with describing joy lies within our very language. In his book Authentic Happiness, Seligman points to Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, who had two distinct words for what we English-speakers tend to lump together in one big glob of generally positive feelings: happiness, joy, pleasure, gratification, and so on. Taking inspiration from the Greeks, Seligman divvies up these feelings into two basic classes: pleasures and gratifications. Writers get to reap rewards in both categories." Read →


ESSAY  |  CNF #66, Dangerous Creations (2018)
PROMETHEUS UNBOUND  |  Elizabeth Fortescue
The forces that keep us going

"My cardiovascular system had shorted out. A purely electrical problem: my heart muscle was good and strong, but the nerves were incompetent. I was quickly diagnosed and fitted with a combination pacemaker and implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). My life depends on a non-rechargeable lithium-ion battery implanted in my chest within a hermetically sealed device about the size of a deck of cards. Underneath the activity of the pacemaker, my heart is nothing. No rhythm. Sometimes I feel as if that makes me nothing, too." Read →


ESSAY  |  CNF #47, Female Form (2013)
REGENERATION  |  Brenda Miller
How to regenerate a human heart

"On the radio show Speaking of Faith, researcher Doris Taylor is telling us how to build a new heart. They take a cadaver heart, she says, and wash away all the dead cells with shampoo until only a "ghost heart" remains. This ghost heart will provide the scaffold for stem cells that will create the new heart on their own." Read →


ON CRAFT |  CNF #71, Let's Talk about Sex (2019)
On libido and the writing practice

"The author of creative nonfiction, diving for core truths, must engage in the writing process with this special kind of all-in ecstatic energy, and it's this libidinous relationship of the writer to her work, I think–our lust for the fully lived and examined life, as explored and made manifest on the page–that informs, too, what falls out there, the shape and substance of the work. The arc of rising desire and ultimate fulfillment is the same force that drives the creation of the classic dramatic arc, this stimulation and energy and fearless concentration that help us arrive at a satisfying narrative and rhetorical climax: the union of the lived story and its purpose or ultimate meaning. Hard to argue that Freytag's pyramid, that whole teasing package of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution (or, perhaps, some more feminine version of that graphic, a slow-building, crashing wave of intensity) doesn't mimic almost exactly the sex act: the self-same pattern of arousal, orgasm, and comedown." Read →


ESSAY  |  CNF #48, Southern Sin (2013)
A forbidden love in the 1890s ends in murder

"The sin was not so much the taking of the throat as the wanting of it in the first place. And what a fine throat it was, the way it captured those who saw it: men loitering at the Customs House; boys down by the river, who stretched their own necks to catch a glimpse of its fine whiteness; eventually the entire nation. But Alice Mitchell was the first to be lassoed by Frederica Ward's charms, becoming hooked while they were still schoolgirls." Read →

#cnftweet  |  Twitter Daily Contest

@shuniahwriter: At night, I rest my head on his shoulder, my fingers on his chest over the scar, over layers of tissue re-knit, over muscle now replumbed. Six years after, one more year than bypass. A pulse in my ear--his or mine? Yes.
10:40 AM · Feb 10, 2021

@deborahcrooks: I dried my tears and went for a walk, my heart still ragged. Around a park, through open space and home via the slow street. Despite my hurt, signs of life were everywhere. Kinglets flitted, dogs wagged and a hawk flew across my path, showing the way: forward.
3:33 PM · Feb 10, 2021

@JennRHubbard: As candy, the hearts weren't much (they weren't chocolate), but the point was the messages. We knew they were mass-produced, but those years were a search for signs, for promises, for good omens.
1:28 PM · Feb 12, 2021

Thanks for reading!

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