Most of the readers of this blog are not writers. You politely read my enthusiasm for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference last October. You cheer me on to attend Litt-World conferences of Christian writers and publishers around the world. But those conferences weren't anything you would consider attending yourself.
This conference is for you because all of you are readers.
Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing is a student-organized, bi-annual conference celebrating books that deal in some way with faith. ACFW is strictly evangelical. Even my born-again Catholic writer-friends feel shut out at times. The Calvin Festival is far more open. Sandy Sasso, a reformed Jewish rabbi from Indianapolis, spoke the first time I attended. One year Salmon Rushdie was a plenary speaker. He is an avowed atheist, but as he said, "You can't write about my part of the world without writing about faith."
ACFW is strictly writers. Calvin is writers… and librarians… and English teachers… and just plain readers--about 2000 of us! We all come together to talk about our favorite subject--books, books that speak about more than the surface issues of our lives, books that push us to think about the way we perceive God and the world we find ourselves in.
I love the atmosphere at Calvin. I feel perfectly comfortable as an evangelical. No one is looking down their nose at me because I believe a quaint book written thousands of years ago and weigh the actions of characters against Biblical, rather than cultural, standards. But neither is anyone judging me because I read mainstream books that contain language and activities that are not honoring to God, but reflect how a lost world lives and thinks. Too often Christian literature is ready with quick answers--the right answers, perhaps, but arrived at too quickly before the pain of the question has been adequately resolved. Mainstream literature lacks a satisfying answer, but the question is often much clearer.
One year at Calvin during a question and answer time, I recall a young woman in the plain flowered dress and white net cap of a Mennonite taking the mike to thank an unbelieving writer for his book that had pushed her to think about things she never would have considered otherwise. That's what I like about Calvin. I feel stretched. It makes me think. It doesn't let me settle for easy answers.
This year's conference is April 19-21 in Grand Rapids, MI. Because the conference is student organized, it will not be the same as previous conferences. This year lists far fewer writers workshops than previous conferences although I'm sure Christian publishers will be well-represented at the book tables. I was thrilled when I saw that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will be the plenary speaker the last night, which is open to the general public. Hearing her in person will be worth the trip to Michigan. I have been combing my local library catalog to find books by other authors who will be at the conference and read as many as possible ahead of time. (Audio-books help. I can "read" while I drive or do other things.)
Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing is a bi-annual conference. That means if you miss this year (like I did two years ago), you have to wait two before you have another chance. Registration closes the end of March. See you there!<!
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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