Festivities for literature and faith

A CELEBRATION OF LEARNING AND COMMUNITY — George Saunders, Festival speaker of 2016, shared “Literature is a form of fondness-for-life. It is love for life taking verbal form.” (Calvin College)


Hope College’s English Department invites students interested in writing to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing  in April. The Festival is a three- day celebration of literature and  belief in Grand Rapids.

The Festival of Faith & Writing is a biennial celebration of literature and belief, both broadly construed. Drawing more than 2,000 people from around the world, the festival offers opportunities for lively lectures, readings, conversations, films, workshops, concerts, plays and more, all fueled by coffee and good food. It’s a feast for readers, including those who write.

Rooted in the Christian Reformed belief in common grace, the Festival of Faith & Writing creates space for meaningful discussion and shared discovery amongst people with different religious beliefs and practices.

Since the festival’s first gathering in 1990, the event has been privileged to host hundreds of writers, including Maya Angelou, John Updike, Elie Wiesel, Marilynne Robinson, Zadie Smith, Miroslav Volf, Salman Rushdie and  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The event has had a total of 13,000 attendees and speakers over its lifetime.

Over the last 28 years, the festival has grown from an event into a community. The connections made during each festival over coffee, during small affinity groups called Festival Circles, at booths in the Exhibit  Hall and in lecture halls play out year-round in book clubs and publishing houses, writing desks and reading chairs. Festival-goers stay connected to each other and the writers they’ve met at the festival via the bimonthly newsletter, Bookkeeping. Everyone can listen to past presentations via the podcast Rewrite Radio. This year’s program offers an array of speakers, panelists and workshop leaders, including opening keynote speaker Kwame Alexander. To hear more upcoming events, tune in to Rewrite Radio.

The festival originally grew out of Calvin College’s English department. The department sought to increase student conversation and interaction with both literature and faith. The festival explores literature’s overlap and intersection with faith, creating discussions that can come comfortably for some but uneasily for others. Calvin extends a hand to Hope to explore a dialogue together along with many others from around the globe, reaching out to a number of diverse communities. The festival is centered on learning and seeks to help students explore and hone their skills in writing. There are workshops for students to practice their craft and learn about the world of publishing. Students get to work with experienced and successful individuals. The Festival of Faith and Writing offers a celebration of community. It is foremost a party for book lovers, with more than 150 different sessions. Festival-goers have multiple options during almost every hour of the day. They can come together to talk about their favorite books, read poems, drink coffee and write their own essays. Students are able to submit their own manuscripts and have a chance to be  reviewed by names in publishing along with the festival’s planned programs.

The Festival has also planned delicious boxed meals. These meals include a sandwich selection of a lemon fresh quinoa wrap with a lemon vinaigrette tempeh, kale, quinoa, red grapes and roasted red peppers. Salad selections include a cherry chicken salad with spring mix and romaine greens, marinated asparagus, edamame, cucumbers, beets and apples. The festival offers a number of quiet and relaxing spots around their venues for lunch breaks and perfect meeting spots as new introductions are made. The benefits of attending the festival stretch from learning to taking time to get lost in literature and new people.

The English department is seeking funding from the provost’s office, but to qualify for free registration, students are asked to attend at least one full day of the festival. With so many things to do and treats to eat, a day at the festival would be a superb chance to explore your love for literature while showcasing your talents. The event will take place April 12-14. Students are asked to email childress@hope.edu with decisions or questions by March 15.

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