Idea saturated and book laden

Calvin College hosted the 2008 Festival of Faith and Writing on April 16-18 and I was one of the 2000+ attendees. Spending a couple minutes on Google should link you up to many fine reviews of the conference and of specific presentations. Personally, I recommend the reviews on Life In the Slow Lane as a good place to start. I’ll not reinvent the wheel here and so will take a different tack, because I don’t want to let the event go wholly undocumented on this site.

At this conference, the exchange of ideas is so massive--as evidenced by the multitude of presentations to choose from and the stacks of books and periodicals in the exhibit hall--it is amost paralyzing. Like a tourist in New York City, one could never hope to sample all the offerings. It must be sufficient to absorb the overall milieu and pick a few paths to explore at closer range.

The milieu to be absorbed was one of reading, writing, thinking, and studying. Despite the fact that multiple presenting authors made a point of saying their work and life were about the heart/soul and not the mind, no one translates life--personal or universal--onto the page with integrity without generous application of mental power. And self-discipline. The joy was in seeing such an outpouring of work, from multiple faith traditions, that was an organic product of mind and heart/soul. I came home with a fresh supply of role models.

A major tenant of modern literary writing is ‘no ideas but in things,’ but I find ideas/concepts in and of themselves exciting. Here are some ideas or snippets of ideas from various presentations that I brought home like souvenirs: the deep and necessary connection between prayer and writing (Mary Karr); what makes writing moral? (Mary Gordon); confession alone does not equal truth (Leslie Leyland Fields); living and finding meaning in life is to bear the burden of mystery (Elizabeth Strout); whether or not your dreams come true, God is God (Uwem Akpa); stillness, silence, waiting (Haven Kimmel); "narrative theology" in the lives of the many instead of the headlines of the few (Krista Tippett).

I also came home with five new books, all but one purchased from the Eighth Day Books table: Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett; She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven Kimmel; Outlands, Robert Finch; Thirty Days, Paul Mariani; and Looking Before and After, Alan Jacobs.

The conference’s website offers links to author websites, lists of publications, and other resources.