The new literary journal Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression continues a trend begun by Image and Rock & Sling, providing a home for creative writing that takes Christian faith seriously without sacrificing literary and moral complexity. My novel excerpt “Bride of Christ”, about a young woman torn between loyalty to her gay brother and her evangelical family, will be published in Relief later this year.
In this interview on their website, guest editor Jill Noel Kandel shares some perceptive advice about what separates Christian literature from doctrinal or inspirational writing:
Relief: A number of our nonfiction submissions are more like articles or even sermons and not what we at Relief think of as creative nonfiction. How can writers be sure their work is appropriate for Relief before they submit?
Jill: Christian writing has many avenues. Doctrinal, devotional, and magazine article writing seem to be prominent. I would say that Relief wants to publish fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that is out of the Christian mainstream. If a piece is something I could read in Guideposts or Christianity Today for example than it probably isn’t right for Relief. I think that what I am looking for is of a more literary quality.
Relief is trying to do something different. I love the definition given by the Relief staff:
Relief- An architectural term referring to a raised projection of figures on a flat surface. It is an image of a reality caught halfway between 2D and 3D.
This is precisely the type of writing that I will be looking for. Writing that reflects the reality and honesty of the world we live in tempered by the hope given to us as believers. Leave the cotton candy at the fairgrounds….
Relief: What is it that makes a piece of writing absolutely Christian?
Jill: As a writer I am still trying to learn how to write faith. As Christians we walk by faith and not by sight. To write faith is not to write sight. What I mean is that as Christian writers we tend to want to write the end of the story, heaven, and angels wings. Throw in a little victory celebration. But as human beings living here on this earth we are often like Joseph sitting in Pharaoh’s prison. He didn’t know the ending of his own story. I try to write what I know today to be true.
I think I’m going to post that last sentence over my writing desk, with an emphasis on “today”. How do I know what is true? Try something and see what happens. Sufficient unto the day is the writer’s block thereof.