Festival of Faith and Writing

I’ve been in Michigan for most of this week, attending the Festival of Faith and Writing which is held every two years at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

The first time I attended the festival, four years ago, my book was still a year from being published and I…. Well, I was a kid in a candy store with Dad’s wallet and no budget. Except I didn’t have Dad’s wallet. And I should have had a budget.

I enjoyed it so much I came back again two years ago. And, this year, when Mike and I were trying to decide upon a timeline for our move to Laos – would he go alone first in mid April or would we go together? – the festival was one reason we put him on a plane alone last Sunday. While I’ve been shivering my way around a blustery Michigan these last few days he’s been in Vientiane in the middle of Laos New Year (which, from what I can work out from his emails, seems to involve 105 degree temperatures and a lot of Lao youth running around throwing buckets of water on random passer-byes as well as on the Buddhas in many temples). I guess Buddhas might get hot too.

Anyway, here in Michigan I’ve been doused repeatedly this week as well. Doused with ideas and passion and humour. Inspired by people’s stewardship of their talents. Refreshed by long talks with my writing BFF Nicole Baart and the vivid dance of tulips in the breeze (ok, in the biting wind). Reminded that I am looking forward to having more time to write after Mike and I arrive in Laos together in July.

There was so much to enjoy at this feast that I’m still too overwhelmed to properly sift and sort, but here were a few highlights…

Steve McCurry’s session on his photography for National Geographic. Sitting in a dark theatre for an hour while he projected some of his favorite photos onto the screen and talked about the story behind the image… wow. Talk about power in a picture.

Rhoda Janzen on memoir.

Parker Palmer on writing as a vocation.

Scott Russell Sanders on the essay as a way of discovery.

Jeanne Murray Walker, Leslie Leyland Fields, and Paul Willis on writing about great personal suffering.

Chip MacGregor on making a living as a writer.

Sara Zarr on pain in young adult fiction.

Richard Rodriguez (who I think gave the best keynote, hands down) on loneliness, memory, and intentionality in writing.

And Wally Lamb and Mary Karr on, well, mostly themselves. But they were very entertaining.

I’m publishing this from Grand Rapids airport on my way back to California and I’ll be glad to be home. Glad for some more sleep. And glad to still have time to place another big order on Amazon and pick up some more books to take to Laos. Now, if I just had Dad’s wallet…

But, on the bright side, I don’t have a budget yet either.

This issue of budget is one I am sure Mike and I will need to address at some point in the near future. But in the meantime, as Jesus once said, why borrow tomorrow’s trouble today?

And, today, there is Amazon.com.

Thanks for stopping by,


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