In the English department here at Calvin College, we’re getting pretty excited about the upcoming Festival of Faith and Writing. Mark your calendars: this iteration of the FFW is slated for 14-16 April 2016—and registration will begin mid-November. (That’s just a couple of weeks, y’all.)
Begun in 1990, the Festival is therefore (sort of) celebrating its silver anniversary. And what a celebration we have planned. In 2004, Joyce Carol Oates remarked that the FFW program was like “a menu at a fine restaurant.” It is indeed a bit of a literary feast, so I thought I’d use today’s blog to whet your appetite, as it were, for what’s to come. And to encourage you to use these next 161 days to stock your larder with some choice selections from this year’s writers.
Let me give you just a sampling. You’ll want to check out the Festival of Faith and Writing’s website for complete list of all the authors who’ll be attending as well as a wonderful gathering of resources about each of them.
Here’s some writers on my list…so far:
Writer That I Teach Who I’m Most Excited to See
Zadie Smith: amazing British novelist. I teach her novel, White Teeth, in two of my courses (sometimes 3), but I also especially love her later novel, On Beauty, and find her novels and her non-fiction prose both absolutely stunning.
Returning Poet Who Awes Me with His Insight
Christian Wiman: back for another appearance at FFW, Wiman is, in my opinion, perhaps the most thoughtful poet today thinking about faith and suffering and language and being fully alive, even in the face of mortality. I come back to his poems again and again.
Two Famous Writers Who Were Teacher and Student
What a delight that Tobias Wolfe and George Saunders, both significant figures in American letters, are coming to Festival. In a recent New Yorker, Saunders wrote a beautiful piece about Wolfe’s role as his teacher. If you read nothing else from this blog, do read that. It’s a moving testimony of gratitude. It’s going to be cool to see them in conversation together.
A Poet Whose Work I Find Intriguing and An Artist Whose Work I Think is Beautiful
I’m just discovering and appreciating Mary Ruefle, especially her intriguing “erasure” poems (here’s an example). On the other hand, I’m a longtime fan of Makoto Fujimura’s art, which I find beyond gorgeous—and his writing, even in short pieces like his commencement address at Belhaven University a few years ago, is equally enchanting.
A Partial List of Kick-Ass Women (not how they will be officially referred to at FFW, of course)
This really is only a partial list—I have a feeling all are women writers are probably all quite kick-ass in their own way. But let me just tell you a few: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarah Bessey, Lorene Carey, Mallory Ortbert, and Janisse Ray.
Mother-Daughter Combo, Talking about the Hard Stuff
I met Patricia Raybon when she came to FFW in the 2000s to talk about her books, I Told the Mountain to Move, and My First White Friend. She was deeply insightful—and also deeply kind. Fast forward a decade, and now Patricia has partnered with her daughter, Alana, to write about Alana’s conversion to Islam. Together, they write about navigating the joys and challenges of a now inter-faith family.
Three Award Winners I Need to Discover What the Buzz is About
Chigozie Obioma’s novel, The Fisherman, was short-listed for the 2015 Booker Award; Zia Haider Rahman won Britain’s oldest literary prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, in 2014; and Paul Harding won the Pulitzer for his novel, Tinkers.
My Inner Children’s Lit Fan
It’s probably not even that “inner,” to be honest. As always, the FFW is bringing award-winning children’s and YA writers: M.T. Anderson, Ashley Bryan, Debby Dahl Edwardson, just to name a few.
And I’ve only scratched the surface. Time to visit the FFW website and put together that reading list! In the comments, share who you’re excited to see at FFW.