Written by Becca Naylor
Photographed by Sarah Grace Kivett
Jenni Harris lives creative nonfiction. She's drawn to "making connections between events and meaning," and her eyes express her passion for the subject. She does not limit herself to writing about her own experience, but she enjoys writing about other people, something she believes is "atypical of the genre." She often connects events from various people's experiences and discovers similar meanings.
"Things are more connected than we think," she tells me. This statement is proven by her journal, a small notebook in which she likes to plan her nonfiction essays. She flips through the pages, and I can see that they are filled with her thoughts. Bolded words, paragraphs, lists, and doodles cover the pages of the journal. She explains that she uses the journal to track her thoughts and plan, but also to "dig deeper," a concept she is encouraged to carry out as a creative writer.
Jenni Harris names faith as her biggest inspiration and explains that she wants to be "candid about the faith" rather than succumb to offering short and easy answers that do not reflect the truth of reality. Jenni admires the works of Anne Lamott and Flannery O'Connor. "Anne Lamott sees faith and grace in everyday circumstances," she says, and Jenni strives to portray similar ideas in her own writing.
I ask if these authors influence her own writing style and Jenni pauses and clicks her pen before responding. "As far as style goes...the poetic prose of Sandra Cisneros...with the syntax of Lee Abbott," she laughs. However, Lamott heavily influences Jenni's content. She also cites C. S. Lewis's works The Screwtape Letters and The Abolition of Man for the way Lewis "wrestles with philosophy," something Jenni wants to continue to incorporate in her nonfiction essays.
In her own writing, Jenni hopes to "reconcile Christianity with the world" without shying away from the darker aspects of the human experience. In fact, after graduation, Jenni hopes to go on to graduate school and one day work for a ministry such as Samaritan's Purse or the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Jenni wants to lend a helping hand, and she wants to tell stories, true stories that might not be told without her. That sounds like a mission.