The Rapidian

Festival of Faith and Writing aims to offer encouragement to hopeful writers

Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing runs April 19-21, bringing in dozens of contemporary writers.
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/Courtesy of Calvin College

/Courtesy of Calvin College

Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing is gearing up for another year of authors, editors, publishers, artists and readers coming together for three days of discussion. This year's festival will take place April 19-21, bringing to Grand Rapids dozens of well-known names in the writing world. 

On the comittee for festival planning is Lew Klatt, Associate Professor of English at Calvin. Klatt's experience the festival as an attendee resulted in him wanting to teach there. "Calvin became an attractive place for me to land as a professor ever since, as a fledgling poet, I first attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in 1996. There I encountered Annie Dillard, poets Donald Hall and Robert Siegel, and other attendees like myself—aspiring authors looking to be encouraged in the writing life. The fact that here were writers invested in spiritual reflection only made the Festival that much more appealing," said Klatt.

"Over the years, we've invited authors as diverse as Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carol Oates, Barbara Brown Taylor, Madeline L'Engle, Michael Chabon, Katherine Paterson, Yann Martel, Thomas Lynch, Fanny Howe, Maya Angelou and John Updike," said Klatt, and this year is no different. "There are so many talented writers coming to campus this year. Jonathan Safran Foer, for example, is a dazzling, young experimental novelist whose stories—'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' and 'Everything Is Illuminated'—have captured the imagination of Hollywood and have made it onto the big screen."

Lew and his fellow festival planners are always in the market for unique twists on the event. "For example, this year we've asked Judith Shulevitz, a Jewish author who has recently published a book on observing the Sabbath, to exchange ideas with Amy Frykholm, a journalist who writes about religion, culture and spirituality for The Christian Century. What might come of such a conversation? Who knows? That’s what’s exciting! But our experience tells us that these two, because of their literary sensibilities and because of their particular habits of thoughtfulness, will discover ways to talk about religious practices, such as a ritualized day of rest, that will illuminate and invigorate the traditions of which they are a part."

As a part of the committee, Klatt always hopes to, "introduce our attendees to new writers that are pushing the envelope artistically and yet asking serious questions- this is why I have served on the committee for the last four years."

"As great as the opportunity is to sit at the feet of some of the most significant writers of our time, what makes the Festival so incredible are the conversations that go on among the attendees as they reflect on the sessions, ask each other difficult questions and journey together as pilgrims in reading and in faith."

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