Festival of Faith and Writing attracts readers and writers to Calvin

On April 10, 2014, over 60 writers and speakers will be flocking to Calvin for the Festival of Faith and Writing. The Festival is one of this college’s biggest events and draws over a thousand people every other year. Debra Rienstra, a member of the Festival planning committee, said that “the excitement grows by the day” in the Festival office as April approaches.

The Festival of Faith and Writing invites writers — both inspired and haunted by Christianity — to share their experiences on topics ranging from theological criticism to young adult poetry in sessions that will run from Thursday, April 10 through Saturday, April 12.

A number of small group workshops will also be available for writers interested in receiving group feedback on manuscripts and poetry drafts.

“As usual,” Rienstra said, “we have a terrific assortment of guest authors — novelists, poets, memoirists, screenwriters, children’s and young adult authors and many more. Add to that dozens of publishers and about 1,800 eager and enthusiastic attendees. What unique alchemy this will produce.”

Calvin students are quite excited for the event. Sophomore Lydia Beukelman said, “I’m expecting to have a chance to listen to a few very talented writers. I’m especially excited to host Richard J. Foster, whose books on spirituality are some of the best I have ever read.”

Despite all this enthusiasm, the planning committee has experienced a number of problems, the main issue being a couple authors turning down invitations after initially agreeing to come.

“We were disappointed, as each author we invite represents an investment of research and energy,” Rienstra explained, “and we try to create a pleasing variety on our roster, so every loss leaves a gap.”  Still, the authors not attending have expressed interest in coming to the 2016 Festival, so Rienstra maintains hope.

While the Festival has an obvious allure for writers, it should appeal to all serious Christians who enjoy good literature as well. This is the chance to hear award-winning authors such as Anne Lamott, Miroslav Volf and James McBride talk about issues of faith that they have faced while writing.

Genres range from poetry to graphic novel to Amish romance, so attendees will be able to branch out and explore styles they are not necessarily used to.

“Students who love books should not miss the chance to climb right inside the vital world of faith and writing!” Rienstra said.

For Beukelman, the Festival is an important event because it “serves as a reminder that God is praised through the arts, and not just by those that happen to end up on the shelves in the Christian section of the bookstore.” Beukelman is also looking forward to dialogue between authors that we do not experience while reading books.

“There is nothing quite like this Festival, anywhere,” Rienstra said, “nothing this big, and nothing with this beautiful combination of readers, publishers and authors all gathered for a common conversation about faith.”