A Feast of Words

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Festivals often include music, street dancing, and lots of food. The Festival of Faith and Writing serves up music through words singing from the page, action via imagination, and abundant food for thought. The biennial celebration will soon blanket the campus of Calvin College. Since 1990, this unique festival has invited a diverse group of writers whose faith informs their writing from many countries, religions, regions, and races.

Book lovers join writers and publishers at presentations of fiction, memoir, nonfiction, and poetry. As the late Dale Brown, former festival director, put it: “Let’s celebrate words from all kinds of directions.” Previous festivals have featured such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Frederick Buechner, Annie Dillard, John Updike, and Eugene Peterson.

There was a time when imagination was suspect in religious circles; this festival celebrates the many ways authors grapple with faith and life through imaginative writing. As longtime attendee and speaker Luci Shaw writes in Breath for Bones, “If our lives are centered in God’s reality, we can risk working out from the center in new directions, each of which may hold the excitement of a fresh adventure.”

Noted authors will deliver plenary sessions, which are open to the public: George Saunders (short story: Tenth of December, Persuasion Nation); Zadie Smith (fiction: White Teeth, NW); Tobias Wolff (memoir: This Boy’s Life, Pharaoh’s Army) and Nadia Bolz-Weber (see Otto Selles’s review here of Accidental Saints). Among new voices this year are screenwriter Paul Harrill, artists/authors Makoto Fujimura and Arree Chung, and young adult writer M.T. Anderson.

For those who have anticipated Festival for two years, this year’s lineup is especially intriguing: a mother and daughter of different faiths (the Raybons), a teacher and mentor turned colleagues (Wolff and Saunders), and the writer of a modern parable, Chigozie Obioma. Festival goers will have opportunity to hear the authors of works about discrimination (Chris Hoke, Kelly Brown Douglas), the gay Christian experience (Wesley Hill), and lament (Scott Cairns, Christian Wiman).

Veteran attendees and newcomers will enjoy abundant music, action, and food for thought—perhaps enough to last 730 days until Festival 2018.

Festival runs April 14-16, 2016. To register go toffw.calvin.edu. Tickets for public events can be purchased at the Calvin box office.

About the Author

Carol J. Rottman (caroljrottman@gmail.com) is a retired teacher and author.

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