Calvin hosts ‘Literary Lollapalooza’

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Photo courtesy Festival of Faith and Writing

From Thursday to Saturday, April 14-16, Calvin will host the 14th Festival of Faith and Writing (FFW), marking the 25th year of the festival’s running. The festival invites a unique and prestigious line up of novelists, filmmakers, musicians, poets and writers from a wide range of faith backgrounds to engage in a diverse, “truly liberal arts conversation,”  said FFW director Lisa Cockrel.“This is the Lollapalooza of literary festivals. …There is nothing like the festival anywhere else,” said Cockrel.

The festival brings in over 100 speakers, and around 2,000 literarily minded readers and writers converge on Calvin’s campus for three packed and dynamic days.

Tickets for Calvin students are cheaper than they were last year: Calvin students have access to the festival for $50, and honors students can apply for $30 tickets, while standard ticket price stands at $215 dollars.

“The festival is a real perk of being a student at Calvin. I think it is easy to take something like the festival for granted and only realize later what a great opportunity it is,” said Cockrel.

Since its genesis in 1990, the FFW has served “as an exploration of the communities made and served by religious writing,” as the festival website puts it. Past festival speakers have included literary giants like Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, John Updike, Elie Wiesel and Marilynne Robinson.

This year, Calvin will welcome keynote speakers Tobias Wolff, Zadie Smith, George Saunders and Nadia Bolz-Weber. Tobias Wolff wrote the memoir “This Boy’s Life,” which recounts his childhood wandering across the country with his mother. Just last September, Wolff was awarded a National Medal of Arts from President Obama.

Wolff will speak alongside George Saunders, who was a student of his at Syracuse University. Saunders is a New York Times bestselling writer of short stories (most recently “Tenth of December: Stories”), screenplays and novels. He won a MacArthur fellowship in 2006.

Novelist Zadie Smith is the Orange Prize-winning author of “White Teeth” and “On Beauty.” In 2005, Time magazine listed “White Teeth” as one of the 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005.

Another in this all-star lineup will be Nadia Bolz-Weber, the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, based in Denver. She most recently published “Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People.” Tickets for plenary events can be purchased by Calvin students for $12 each.

Other notable speakers this year include Andrew Clements, children’s book author of “Frindle” (among many others), poet Scott Cairns, artist Makoto Fujimura, fantasy author Saladin Ahmed, Calvin grad and Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty and Nigerian novelist Chigoze Obioma.

“I love the festival because it is so diverse,” said FFW intern Bekah Waalkes. “Even if you have no interest in literature, there are people here thoughtfully engaging topics as different as the theology of food, science, racism, technology or Muslims in the media.”