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Center for Faith and Writing

Photo+courtesy+Calvin.edu.
Photo courtesy Calvin.edu.

Photo courtesy Calvin.edu.

Photo courtesy Calvin.edu.

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Created to serve the community through literary opportunities, the Calvin College Center for Faith and Writing is the newest addition to Calvin’s centers and institutions. Professor Jennifer Holberg, co-director of the center along with Professor Jane Zwart, stated that “The centers are really about service, about serving the community. We really want to see it as a gift to the community.”

The center promotes ideas of faith and literature through a number of initiatives.

 

The Festival of Faith and Writing

The backbone of the center is the Festival of Faith and Writing, the popular biannual conference bringing authors and readers together for three days of workshops, readings and lectures since the 1990s; part of the purpose of the center is to help continue funding the festival. Holberg said that through the center they are able to take the English department and the festival and “connect it with people in our department, people across campus, people in the community.”

The festival serves as a sort of power source for the center. Lisa Cockrel, managing director of the center, said “the Festival of Faith & Writing is a kind of engine for much of what we do at the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing.” Cockrel said the festival “informs our plans for the future, including doing more for young writers and readers.”

 

Hudson-Townsend Publishing Institute

On May 24-27, the center is debuting one of its biggest initiatives, the Hudson-Townsend Publishing Institute (HPI). The institute will introduce participants to the world of publishing, a great stepping stone for those interested in publishing. Holberg said that it’s open up to everybody, but she hopes many Calvin students will come. “It’s a great opportunity for students who have either just graduated or are going to graduate,” she said, not only just for English majors, but also students studying in business, strategic communication and other fields.

The institute is designed to give a clearer picture of what a job in publishing consists of. Cockrel said “The word ‘editor’ can mean can mean fifteen different things across different publishing contexts. The HPI Introduction to Editing and Publishing class will provide students a clearer picture of this work so they can better assess what jobs they want to pursue, and what skills they would need to develop.”

Attendees will learn more about copy editing, as they “dig into the Chicago Manual of Style, a kind of Bible for many editors,” said Cockrel, who used to work as an editor for a couple different publishing houses.

Professionals from major publishers, such as CNN, The Washington Post and the New York Times, as well as local publishers, will be speaking. Attendees will get to attend “panel conversations with award-winning professionals working in book, magazine and digital media publishing,” Cockrel said. There will also be opportunities for one on one conversations with editors or publishers about the attendee’s own career path.

 

Regional Literary Arts Calendar

The regional literary arts calendar, hosted on the center’s new website — ccfw.calvin.edu — is a service and resource for the community the center is hosting. Holberg said it has “anything that has to do with literature: at other colleges, at libraries, at bookstores, at pubs” within “a three hour radius from Grand Rapids, excluding Chicago.”

The calendar is very inclusive, including just about anything related to literature. Holberg said, “We want people to know that we live in such an amazing area for writers, and speakers, and opportunities if you’re interested in literature in any way.” Events put on the calendar do not necessarily mean the center is endorsing it. “It’s mostly to help with the bigger literary culture really thrive,” Holberg said. “We see ourselves as a service, we’re not necessarily recommending or not.”

 

Rewrite Radio and Author Talks

Rewrite Radio is a podcast put on by the center. The majority of each episode is recordings of past festival sessions.

“Our podcast is a way of getting recordings of sessions that happened at the festival to the broader public,” said Cockrel. The recordings are first introduced by another author who is familiar with the speaker’s work. “Each episode of Rewrite Radio opens with a quick introduction that provides writers — though in the future we’ll be including avid readers in these conversations — an opportunity to geek out about other writers they really like,” Cockrel said. “Writers often have to talk about themselves when they’re in promotion mode, but really enjoy talking about people they love to read.”

The center put on a series of author talks on race this fall. Cockrel said it started when they “had an opportunity to bring in Jim Wallis” and through the talk they “were able to expand that into a full series on race in America.”

The series was a great success, and could continue in the future. Cockrel said “The 2016 Fall Writers Series was a lot of fun and well received, and so we’re hoping to make that an annual thing.”

 

Future Initiatives

The center will continue to expand with future initiatives. Holberg said that “One of the things we’re going to be doing this summer is a workshop for area high school teachers.” Through the workshop, Holberg said they’d like to get help with developing a track for high school students at the festival.

Holberg is also hoping they will reactivate something like the Youth Writing Festival: a day-long conference of lectures and workshops for area high school students, held opposite the years of the Festival of Faith and Writing. She said they are also hoping to bring in a “writer in residence, someone to work with our own writing students.”

 

Student Involvement

Calvin Students can get involved through the Hudson-Townsend Student Fellows. Each year the center will hire four student fellows, and Cockrel said “Their help is crucial to what we do.” They help with many things, including putting events on the calendar, going through archives to find old talks and planning events. Recently the student fellows put on a used book sale event, and in this fall they put on a few talks for English Majors. “It’s a lot of different things, they get a lot of different experience,” said Cockrel.

Another way students can get involved is through the Festival Student Committee, open to all students. “That’s something students can apply for from any major; in fact, we like it if there are people who are not all English majors” Holberg said. The committee is a great opportunity for students, especially since each student is paired up with an author to host.

The Calvin Center for Faith and Writing offers many great resources for Calvin students and the surrounding community. It offers a great service in connecting people to a literary culture.

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