A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with Jessie van Eerden over the phone from her home in West Virginia. Though our conversation was brief, it came as no surprise that her answers to my questions were charged with insight, humility, and humor. Her essay “Work Ethic,” which won Ruminate’s 2014 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, was the first piece of hers I’d ever read, and the lyrical, densely vivid blend of poetry and prose sent me searching for more of the same. What I found was similarly fascinating, but the breadth of her range as a poet, essayist, and fiction writer, is vast. Her fictional characters are as real as those in her personal essays, and her prose is as poetic as it is erudite. While many contemporary writers flinch at the thought of directly confronting religious themes, images, or settings, van Eerden often pitches her tent in the thick of that forest. The stark landscape of her work has, naturally, warranted comparisons to Flannery O’Connor, but there is a warmth to her authorial gaze that brings each piece a kind of lightness, too. One Ruminate editor once joked that she was like “Flannery O’Connor if she loved her characters.” Jokes aside, Jesse van Eerden’s work is worthy of such praise.