The burning question for a journalist who’d dare to chart the spiritual landscape is how, using the tools of the craft, do you toughen the fibers, sharpen the edges, of a subject that, by definition, is formless? How do you put hard-chiseled words to believing, indeterminate act that it is?

Editor's Note: Welcome to the newest installment of "Writing the Book," an occasional Storyboard feature in which journalists turned authors discuss the challenges of creating their work. In this essay, freelancer and 2013 Nieman affiliate Barbara Mahany explores how she approached writing about the sometimes uncomfortable issue of spirituality in her upcoming book, "Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door," which Publishers Weekly recently named one of the top 10 religion books of fall 2014. You can find the archive of "Writing the Book" here.

I’ve written about my mother’s cancer. And the string bean of an unborn baby who slipped through my fingers in the dark of the hollowest night, amid clots of blood and a wail of primal grief.

I’ve written about the abyss of the hour when I paced an emergency room, waiting to hear if my older son’s spinal cord had been severed when he flew from his bike to a trail in the woods. I even once dared to write — in the pages of the Chicago Tribune, my hometown newspaper — how I became anorexic my senior year of high school, and, in the flash of a few short spring months, plunged from glory to shame in my infamy as the homecoming queen who had to be hospitalized after dropping 50 pounds.

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Here are Storyboard’s three picks for your reading, viewing and dancing pleasure this weekend: In an essay entitled “Difference Maker: The childless, the parentless, and the Central Sadness,” Meghan Daum writes in the Sept. Read more

Finding the Tribe

September 11, 2014

First Listen

September 11, 2014

“Strangers” Host/Producer: Lea Thau Through conversations about life and death, love and heartbreak, and everything in between, people share the most intimate stories about their lives. Read more

Welcome to the second session of our discussion with narrative instructors about the stories they’re assigning students this fall. If you missed Monday’s recommendations from Alex Kotlowitz, Doug Foster and Kelley Benham French, you can … Read more

As the academic year gets underway, we decided to ask some top narrative journalism instructors what they’re assigning their students to study this semester and why. There are some tried-and-true favorites, certainly. You might expect … Read more

It’s time for Storyboard’s three weekend picks. Here they are: In honor of Roger Federer’s gritty performance in Thursday’s U.S. Open quarterfinal, it seems fitting to re-read David Foster Wallace’s 2006 essay … Read more

Registration is now open for “The Latest in Longform,” the new, small-scale narrative journalism conference at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Organized by former Nieman narrative maven Constance Hale, … Read more

In between those end-of-summer barbecues and final visits to the beach, make time for some good storytelling this Labor Day holiday. Here are Storyboard’s three weekend picks: Writing for GQ in “The Strange … Read more

Pam Colloff It’s one of the last weekends of the summer and a good time to relax on the front porch with some of the recent noteworthy stories … Read more

Tom Huang Tom Huang, the Sunday and enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News, offered some good ideas for sharpening storytelling skills during a writing panel at last … Read more

[Editor's note: John Jeremiah Sullivan's "Upon This Rock" is by now a modern classic of literary journalism: writer rents an RV, experiences a Christian rock festival (and certain revelations) with a bunch of … Read more