Anticipating the 2018 Festival of Faith & Writing

In just over two weeks, I’ll be leading a workshop at Calvin College’s esteemed Festival of Faith & Writing. I’ll also be attending a number of sessions and panels that promise to be stimulating (and some of them possibly controversial).

If you are attending FFW2018 and want to connect in person, here are some likely places to find me!

 

THURSDAY

9:30 am – Self-Editing to Take Your Writing to the Next Level
I am leading this 2-hour workshop about revision and editing. Participants learn: how to do an effective, targeted revision; how to edit on sentence, paragraph, and chapter level; how rewriting can shape your voice; how planning on rewriting frees you to finish a first draft; and more.

1:45 pm – Navigating Faith and Religion in Writing
Explores how a writer can approach personal religious beliefs or those of others while writing for general audiences. How to show spiritual feeling rather than just telling the reader about it, how to use detail to evoke spiritual spaces, and how to demonstrate what religion means to a character without including the entire history of the religion. Also considers whether faith or lack of faith affects the stories writers choose to tell and how to navigate real or imagined religious restrictions on creative writing.

4:30 pm – The Risks of Writing on Race—and the Obligation to Continue
Do white writers have an obligation to use their influence and privilege to serve as allies to people of color? These writers argue yes, despite the fact that painful mistakes are inevitable. They discuss the personal cost, what it means to serve with an open and humble heart, and how to respond when things get ugly.

 

FRIDAY

8:30 am – On Finding and Growing Ideas for Fiction
Christian publishing needs new and exciting voices who are able to write outside the currently marketed boundaries. But fresh ideas for novels or short stories sometimes seem hard to come by. In this workshop each attendee cultivates their own ideas for fiction writing by beginning with character creation and then working through setting, conflict, and the formation of a plot.

10:00 am – Religious Readers and Sexually Transgressive Fiction: “What Does Your Husband Think?”
“What does your husband think about your work?” What inherently sexist assumptions are buried in this question? Why is art that depicts illicit sexual desire offensive, specifically, to the church? Does Matthew 5’s “thinking = doing” apply to the reading and writing of fiction? Explores these questions in the context of the current socio-political polarization in America, in which secular readers find serious treatment of Christian themes ludicrous, while readers on the “evangelical” right find explicit sexual content related to spirituality obscene, even blasphemous.

11:30 am – Truth Has Stumbled in the Streets: Writing Faithfully about Social Issues 
The prophet Jeremiah said that when truth stumbles in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Writing from Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, Eudora Welty pondered a question, “Must the novelist crusade?” When writers take up social and political issues, how do we aim to create art rather than propaganda? A narrative journalist, a novelist, and a poet grapple with the tension between conviction and proselytizing, frankly discussing times when they felt they succeeded as well as times when fear of stumbling made the work more difficult—and crucial.

2:00 pm – Why Don’t Men Read Women Writers? Closing the Gender Gap in Christian Publishing
Women read relatively equally between male and female authors (54%/46%), whereas men are much more likely to read male authors than female authors (90%/10%). This panel explores reasons for this gender gap as well as practical ways in which women writers might gain a broader readership among men.

3:30 pm – In Others’ Words, 
The co-writer is tasked with a particularly difficult form of writing: that of getting down some other person’s words, some other person’s story. How does one go about doing such a thing, practically speaking? Artistically speaking? This panel explores these questions plus the economics of co-writing and the ethics of ghostwriting.

 

SATURDAY

8:30 am – Do I Have to Be a “Christian Writer?”
If we believe in the exclusive claims of Christianity, are we obligated then to be “Christian writers”? How do we reconcile the command of Jesus to “go and make disciples ” with the aesthetic demands of good Art? Leslie shares her own wobbling path through the limits and the possibilities of writing from faith, offering a third path that honors and embodies both Art and Gospel.

11:30 am – Writing the Wrinkles in Time
Sarah Arthur, author of the forthcoming A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, explores what Madeleine’s life and books have taught her about writing from the stuff of your life when life doesn’t go as planned—whether it’s surprises about your topic, plot twists in your personal circumstances, or feedback that requires rebuilding a project from the ground up. Special guests include Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughters, Léna Roy and Charlotte Jones Voiklis, coauthors of Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters.

2:00 pm – Sentiment without Sentimentality: Women Writers Who Won’t Stay in Their (Inspirational) Lane
For those who don’t fit the standard definition of what it means to be a religious writer in this day and age, this panel explores how to get published when you are religious but not inspirational, how to be sad in a publishing world that rewards tidy solutions, and transcending the traditional boundaries of genre, religion, class, and gender.

My New Office Space

Finally, I had some time to take real pictures with a real camera of my real new office space! If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may remember when I posted these pictures of my office on the main floor of our house (which I shared with my husband’s desk and my son’s desk, which is not pictured because these are old photos). Anyone who has been to our house can attest to the fact that it was NEVER this clean and orderly.

You may also remember seeing pictures of my son’s room the one day it has ever been clean. (He has been in a twin bed for years now, but since then his room has never been clean enough to photograph.)

After MUCH toil and cleaning and painting and hauling of furniture up and down ladders outside, we emerged triumphant in the bid to move my office into my son’s old bedroom.

One of my bookshelves moved up onto the landing (getting it upright after getting it through the door sideways was a miracle of geometry).

The medium blue walls have been repainted with a cool, calm blue called Tropical Surf. The rug came from Target.

My desk is part of a shelving unit I found at a secondhand furniture store here in town (which we call Bikes! Bikes! Bikes! because of the sign outside the store proclaiming same). Oddly enough, this shelving unit weighs five tons. More oddly enough, it was made in Yugoslavia. It’s the only thing I’ve ever seen that was made in Yugoslavia. And I can’t imagine us importing this kind of basic furniture from Yugoslavia of all places. However, I am glad it ended up here.

Now I have room for more of my books — especially my writing books — to be right at my fingertips rather than in another room or even on another floor.

The printer sits under the desk. In the top drawer are all my desky things — pens, stapler, various cords for various devices, etc. The bottom drawer is completely full of my little notebooks, about half of them full of notes and ideas for various writing projects and the other half full of blank pieces of paper ready to receive my ideas.

One of my shelves is graced with my son’s artwork, my souvenir from our trip to Disneyworld last year, my little Bob Ross mini-figure, and other memorabilia.

In one corner, Alistair the canary has taken up residence next to my sewing box full of notions and, at the moment, the wooden elephant statue from my grandparents’ house, which has been mine since my grandfather died in 1986. He won’t stay right there in the long run, but I haven’t quite decided on the best place for him.

In the other corner is my craft area, currently set up for painting but easily switched over to a sewing space.

By the way, behind that little door is a closet that currently houses my big file drawers, blank canvases, my dress form, my spools of thread, my guitar case, and other random items I need but don’t necessarily need to look at all the time.

You may have noticed that most of the walls are bare and that the wall that does have art on it is rather hodge-podgey and random. That’s because I intend to fill most of the walls up with an eclectic collection of paintings, prints, and posters, and even some needlework done by my sister and the super-’70s framed puzzle I got off the side of the road that everyone in the world loves (except my husband). However, I don’t have enough at the moment to fill all the space.

I’m going antiquing with a friend this Saturday and hope to find one or two things to add to the collection. And I have a great poster of an old map of Detroit that I need to get framed. Basically, I’ll be on the lookout for items with lots of green, teal, blue, and coral.

So that’s the office for now. A room of my own. With a door that shuts all the way. And with nothing in it that anyone else ever needs to access (save the printer, which is rare and generally not when I’m in there).

I’ve been completely happy with it so far.

Stay tuned for what the old office looks like now as the master bedroom. And maybe I’ll even take a picture of my son’s new room in all its messy glory.