Every two years, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., hosts the Festival of Faith and Writing, a conference in which readers, writers, editors and literature enthusiasts alike are able to come together to learn. This year, Kim Van Es, Northwestern English professor, took 12 students to the festival.
Van Es has taken NW students to this conference five times, beginning in 2004. At the conference, students can choose different sessions to attend during the day, go to book signings or even get coffee with their favorite author. Every evening, there was a keynote speaker that the students got to listen to.
Van Es expressed great excitement in bringing students who share a common interest to the festival and showing them the city of Grand Rapids.
“I got to spend two and a half days with people who understand at a deep level that power of words and the connection between words and faith,” Van Es said.
Another professor from the NW English department, Samuel Martin, found the event to be an inspiring experience that helped fuel his writing life.
“The festival was a life-changing literary event that explored faith and writing,” Martin said.
Along with attending the festival, Martin was featured on a panel in a session titled “Rendering the Body in Art and Words.” Martin shared his experience in writing his current novel about crime and discussed how to write about dead bodies in detective fiction and still honor those bodies with human meaning and qualities.
As an English teaching major and avid reader, Megan Cummings was eager to experience a conference with a bunch of English lovers and avid readers. The most interesting session for Megan was “A Conversation with Paul Harding.”
“I enjoyed Paul Harding’s advice about expanding metaphors and finding your voice in creative writing,” Cummings said.
For Leigh Carson, this Festival of Faith and Writing was her first time attending a writing conference since switching to a Writing and Rhetoric major. A highlight of the event for Carson was getting to listen to people in a profession she wishes to take part in.
“I loved getting to hear affirmations from people in the same career as I was and just hearing their personal stories, what writing continually means to them,” Carson said.
Carson wants to be a librarian but loves writing and enjoyed speaking with author Andrew Clements and buying a copy of his book “Frindle.”
““Frindle” came out in the year that I was born and my dad was already a huge fan of him because he wrote a lot of children’s books,” Carson said. “My dad got a copy of it for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 and got it signed by Andrew Clements, and it was one of my favorite books but I lost it on an airplane.”
The most impactful story for Leigh was about Andrew Clements reading “Frindle” to the children at Sandy Hook Elementary shortly after the shooting. The school wanted to embrace the phrase, “We choose love,” and they wanted a book that had no violence in it and would help embrace that theme, so they chose to read “Frindle.”
“To watch a man so passionate about kids reading and doing restorative reading is such a beautiful thing, and the opportunity that he had shows that writing is affirmed in its powerfulness,” Carson said.