The Festival of Faith and Writing

Stretching Outside My Zone with Shauna, Sarah and Wesley

Last week Thursday through Saturday I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’d never been to this festival, but I’d heard many great reviews of it over the two plus decades of its existence. Why did I go this year? Simple. I’m a writer. A full-time writer. For the first time since I began this writing journey three years ago, I’m able to work my schedule to my own benefit. I’m the boss. (Don’t tell my wife.)

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Looking through the mammoth program for the event (94 full pages), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many of the writers and presenters were new to me. As I tried to determine where my time and attention would be best spent, I tried to focus on the description of the presentations instead of the presenters. I didn’t want to automatically attend the sessions of the people I had heard of, even a little bit. I wanted to focus on what I felt would be best for me as a writer.

This plan of action led me to presenters like Makoto Fujimura, Zadie Smith, Ashely Bryan, and Wesley Hill.

Side note on Fujimura:
Even though I had never heard of, or read, anything from Fujimura, his topic immediately drew me in. His new book, out later this year, Silence and Beauty, is a direct result of the work of Shusaku Endo and his masterful novel, Silence. Endo’s novel is on the shelf in my house. I’ve probably read it at least a half-dozen times over the years. And don’t miss the soon to be released movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese.

When the conference was almost finished, I sat down to think about the sessions having the most impact on me, at least right then and there. Later I may see others as having a greater impact, but these three authors ended at the top of my list.

While I said earlier my intention was to pick the sessions by the topics, I ended up attending sessions of two of the more well-known authors. Shauna Niequist and Sarah Bessey. Their topics pulled me in.

Shauna’s topic: Discussing what has influenced her writing, paying attention to the little things, and creativity.
Shauna was one of the speakers I knew before the conference. She writes in the Memoir and Personal Narrative Genre. Exactly where I believe I’m going with my writing. Listening to her seemed like a natural fit. One of the key ideas I wrote down was about there being many “right ways” to write in the genre. I don’t have to hold fast to a particular method.

Sarah’s topic: “Unqualified: Why Everyone Can Write About Theology”
Yep. That’ll pull me in every single time. I have a love of theology. For years I spent more time on head knowledge (theology/doctrine) than I did on heart knowledge (love). One thought I wrote down excites me, “Be okay with my theology ‘addiction’. Theology can intersect with ordinary life.” Sarah’s idea of “everyone gets to play” intrigues me. I’ll definitely dive deeper into the idea.

But what about Wes? Yes, Wes. Wesley Hill.
Mr. Hill opened my eyes wider to a topic I now realize had been rolling around in my head for a while. Friendship. Wesley’s presentation title was, “Till Death Do us Part: Reimagining Christian Friendship”. Some of you may wonder why this was such a big deal for me. Well, friendship is elusive for many people. Wes discussed friendship outside the traditional family. C.S. Lewis and his fellow Inklings had a friendship to write about and to envy. Is that kind of friendship even possible in our culture today? Great question, and I don’t have near enough space to answer it in this short post.

Which brings me to a realization. I need to write at least three more posts about these topics. Next week look for more about the idea of friendship. I can’t wait to share more with you.

Be well my friends. Be well.



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