STUDENTS HEAR FROM AUTHORS
It was a brisk April morning in 2016 when senior English major Victoria Horn first fell in love. Surrounded by towering trees and a wide expanse of blue-gray sky, Horn relished every moment traversing across the Calvin College campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wandering through what she described as a “Narnia-like” realm, Horn’s thoughts turned from this fleeting affair with nature to a more pressing romance: the prospect of a weekend at Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing.
A biennial celebration of words, religious beliefs and the intersection of the two, the Festival of Faith and Writing offers three days of creative writing workshops, engaging literary discussions and lectures by experts in the writing field. Hosted by Calvin College, this year’s festival takes place April 12-14 and will feature esteemed writers Kwame Alexander, Edwidge Danticat and Jen Hatmaker, among others.
The English Department has actively participated in the festival since 2012 and this year, 11 students and four faculty members are eagerly anticipating their involvement in the event.
NW English professor Samuel Martin appreciates the festival’s inclusion of diverse religious and cultural perspectives.
“For students, the festival is a way to introduce them to a broader world of people who are engaged with questions of art and faith,” Martin said. “The exciting thing about the festival is, even though traditional names keep returning, I am always being introduced to new and young writers with different faith and ethnic backgrounds. It gets a little more diverse and richer each year.”
Horn spoke of how the festival speakers impacted her personal writing style, particularly when it came to writing about her faith.
“I realized that writing from a Christian perspective doesn’t necessarily equate the types of books you would pick up in a drug store,” Horn said. “Many of the Christian authors from the festival are so subtle when they write about their faith, they don’t shove their beliefs in your face but make you think about how faith intersects with your everyday life. There were so many authors there that changed my perspective on whether or not I could write more faith-based literature.”
Another one of the festival’s more distinguishing features is the opportunity to participate in a Festival Circle. Each circle is comprised of 12-15 attendees and meets at least two times to discuss a common topic of interest. Past topics have included poetry as prayer, film criticism and even children’s picture books.
At this year’s festival, Martin will be co-leading a Festival Circle with Dordt College English professor Luke Hawley. Entitled “Genre Bending Fiction for Misfit Writers,” Martin’s circle will focus on fiction writing that “seeks to transcend” genre and will offer writers guidance on how to effectively market their work for publication.
Martin also reflected on how the festival empowers students to read deeply and engage ideas that are both challenging and provocative.
“The festival is broad enough and ecumenical enough that you will probably end up hearing someone say something that is radically new,” Martin said. “You’ll need to use the tools of engagement that you’ve learned at college to engage with others intellectually and creatively.”
NW English students departed for the festival Thursday, April 12 and will return to campus Sunday, April 15.