19 Writers Recap the Festival of Faith and Writing

19 Writers Recap the Festival of Faith and Writing

On April 14th–one month ago today–the biennial Festival of Faith and Writing began.

Writers inspired by all faiths descended onto the Calvin College campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan for workshops, panels, plenary sessions, and readings.

The Festival lasted only a few days. But during the month since, several attendees and speakers have taken the time to stop, reflect, and write about their experience, sharing with us from their personal blogs.

Whether you were there this year or only wishing you were there (or had no clue that this writing conference even existed), please enjoy the festival experience as recounted differently by each writer below.

(And so, in no particular order . . . )

Nicole T. Walters

You can find Nicole T. Walters writing on her beautiful website nicoletwalters.com, or tweeting from @NicoleTWalters. Be sure to like her Facebook page along the way.

Nicole found inspiration in the Festival of Faith and Writing community, sharing her thoughts in her post The Work of Living in Community:

Addie Zierman

Addie Zierman on www.sklinsley.com

Addie is the author of Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, and When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over. Her tagline? “Re-imagining faith one cliché at a time.” (Be sure to like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.)

In her “What I’m Into” post for April, Addie includes a short history of her involvement at the Festival, her love for the bi-annual tradition, and her role on two of the panels this year–one on writing in the age of social media, and one on writing about your spouse. Her love affair with the conference continues to evolve:

(Read the full recap here.)

Jeff Nelson

Jeff Nelson is a UCC pastor and author of Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday. He writes at www.coffeehousecontemplative.com and is highly active on his Twitter (so follow him!). You can count on Jeff to write a consistent stream of posts that are considerate and insightful. 

In his recap post on the festival, Jeff writes about his first-time experience–including new favorite authors and standing-room-only sessions. But Jeff made time for personal connections as well:

(Again, read the full post here.)


Ashley Hales is a writer at www.aahales.com and editor/contributor at The Mudroom. Join her following on Twitter and like her Facebook page.

In a post titled Lessons in Polkadots, Ashley makes the distinction between two kinds of unity she witnessed at the festival:

(To find out where the polkadots fit in, please do read the full post.)

Dani Shapiro

Dani Shapiro is a novelist, memoirist, and essayist. She has authored numerous books including Devotion: A Memoir and Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. She blogs occasionally on her website, and you can keep up with her on Twitter and Facebook

In her post To Insist that Sorrow Not Be Meaningless, Dani gives us some background on her part in the festival:

Kate James

Kate James is an editor for Crupress and a writer of essays, poetry, and short stories. You can find her blogging at www.northhillsdrive.com and Tweeting at @Kmj2011James

In Kate’s aptly-titled post–The Festival I Thought Would Be Different Than it Was But I’m Glad it Was What it Was–she shares her unique yet unfortunate festival experience, from lost luggage to swollen fingers. But her tone and reflections are lighthearted, written in her signature whimsical writing style like the excerpt here:

Rick Theule

Rick is a writer in Grand Rapids, Michigan who blogs at www.ricktheule.com and tweets on @RickTheule. (While you’re at it, like his Facebook page.)

In the recap post on his first time at the Festival of Faith and Writing, Rick explores the balance between attending sessions with big-name writers and choosing sessions based on topic alone.

Jessica Mesman-Griffith

Jessica Mesman Griffith is the co-author of Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters and blogs with Jonathan Ryan at Sick Pilgrim, “a space for fellow travelers to rest a while”. I love their invitation for those intrigued by the Catholic church: “We want to invite people in, encourage them to look around, raid the church for treasures, and claim what’s theirs.” Her personal website is www.jessicamesman.com, and you can follow her on Twitter as well. 

In Jessica’s reflection post on the Festival of Faith and Writing, she shares her experience of being a Catholic in the sea of protestant attendees:

She was delighted to have one protestant writer confess to being “Catholic-attracted” (I love that, too). Make sure to read the inspiring post in full.

Sandra Glahn

Sandra Glahn is an author of numerous books and writer at www.aspire2.com. She often explores issues revolving around women, gender, and justice. You can learn more about her on Twitter and be one of the many who have liked her Facebook page

Sandra’s blog post Call a Friend, Watch a Sunset was inspired by a session with Makoto Fujimura. She briefly explores the difference between the digital and the real experience, opening with this humorous anecdote:

(Read the rest)

Wesley Hill

Wesley Hill is the author of Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian and Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. He blogs at spiritualfriendship.org and tweets from @wesleyhill.

In Wesley’s post following the conference, he summarizes his session on writing about friendship:

Read the rest of the post here.


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, writing coach, editor, and content marketer. She blogs at www.charitysingletoncraig.com and tweets under the handle @charityscraig. Make sure to like her Facebook page.

In Charity’s post on the conference, she realizes that–despite the hectic bustle of the festival crowds–she experienced a “call to stillness”:

A doing that allows for more being. I think we can all attest to searching for the same.

Ramona M. Payne

Ramona Payne is a creative nonfiction writer and essayist writing at www.ramonapayne.com. Be sure to follow her on Twitter

Ramona summarizes her festival experience through the eyes of attendees beyond just herself:

A.S. “Pete” Peterson

A.S. “Pete” Peterson is a fiction author residing in Tennessee. With brother Andrew Peterson, he also runs and contributes to The Rabbit Room, described as “an online version of the Oxford pub where the Inklings met”. You can join Pete’s following on Twitter here and the Rabbit Room on Twitter here

In his post Liturgy in the Garden (Thoughts from the Festival of Faith & Writing), Pete hones in on the session by Norman Wirzba, author of the book Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating (among others). Pete takes this inspiration all the way home:


Eric Clapp

Eric Clapp is a pastor and writer in Iowa. You can find  him exploring the intersections of faith and culture on his blog and his Twitter

In his post titled Faith, Writing, and Insane Amounts of Coffee, Eric shares his Grand Rapids experience and festival workshop highlights. His reflections began on the drive home:


Brenda Wilkerson

Brenda Wilkerson is a contributing writer to Memphis Type History and blogs at dontstopbelieving.me. She is an avid book reviewer and likely your new best friend on Goodreads. But make sure to meet her half-way on Twitter and Facebook as well. 

As a first-time attendee at the Festival of Faith and Writing, Brenda had plenty of reflecting to share in a blog post dedicated to the event. She writes about “writing depression”, meeting her favorite bloggers, the calling to write, and more. Her concluding thoughts:


Heather Caliri

Heather Caliri writes at heathercaliri.com and contributes to The Mudroom. Take a quick second to like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

In Heather’s shared post with Nicole T. Walters, Ashley Hales, and Tammy Perlmutter on the Mudroom blog, her overwhelming feeling towards the festival was gratitude:

Traci Rhoades

Traci is a Grand Rapids writer who has been blogging at www.tracesoffaith.com since January 2014. The post categories on her website are Book Reviews (etc.), Doing God’s Work, Friday Conversations, Guest Posts, Lessons from Bible Study, and Preparing You. Add her as a friend on Facebook or follow her Twitter account. 

In Traci’s blog post “Festivals are for Feasting”, she touches on her conference anxiety, treasure-trove of new books to read, and more. (Notice: later in the post, she graciously offers to share those books if you’re in the area. Just saying.) She begins with some background:

 Catherine Guiles

Catherine Guiles is a copy editor in Washington, D.C. and blogger at catherineguiles.com

Catherine had so many reflections post-festival that she had to split her post into two parts: #FFWgr16, Part 1: Anglicans, Muslims and social media, and even a whole post dedicated to journalism, titled #FFWgr16, Part 2: “Media work that’s missional”:

Charlotte B. Getz

Charlotte B. Getz is a writer and contributor for Mockingbird as well as editor for Rooted Ministry. You can find her on Twitter @charlottebgetz

In her beautiful post You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual), Charlotte takes inspiration from a statement made by Nadia Bolz-Weber during the festival: “So many of us are tormented by the distance between our ideal self and our actual self”.

Charlotte’s entire post reminded me of something I tried to capture in my own post Inventing the Moment: what dancers can teach us about the inner life (only Charlotte writes it better!).



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Here’s to the inner life, the outer life and the writing life. 

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