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March 5, 2002

Faith & Writing

The Calvin College Festival of Faith & Writing is six weeks away. This event, held every other year on Calvin's campus, brings both readers and authors to Grand Rapids for a weekend of conversations and celebrations centered on words and faith.

The 2002 event, to be held April 18-20, will be no different. The keynote speakers are impressive (see below). And so are the host of authors who will conduct workshops, seminars and more. In addition publishers and editors will attend the Festival, looking to connect to writers (Christian publishing is becoming a signifiant industry).

Attendance is expected to be close to 1,700 people. Right now there are about 1,300 registrants with room for about 400 more. But once registration closes there is still a chance for the general public to hear keynote addresses, several of which are at Sunshine Church (see below).

Calvin will also expand its film track in 2002 and add a drama by playwright Arlene Hutton. Musician Michael Card will talk about the writing of lyrics in a session. As in past years, writers will have a chance to meet with editors for manuscript reviews.

Calvin's Dale Brown (above) says it’s important to note that Calvin calls this event a "festival." He says: "That’s a key word for us. We have academics, writers, students, publishers, lots and lots of people under a very big tent. We intentionally say 'let's celebrate words from all kinds of directions.' Let's get everybody that has anything to do with this writing business under one tent."

Criteria for selecting Festival participants are pretty simple. "We're interested," Brown says, "in writers that show respect for and understanding of a faith tradition. Some of the writers may, in fact, have left that tradition, but they’re still reacting to it, they’re aware of it, and they’re respectful of it."


Kaye Gibbons will kick off the public lectures on Thursday, April 18 at 8 p.m. at Sunshine Church. Gibbons first novel was the critically acclaimed Ellen Foster, a tale of the life of a child in foster care. It is now taught in high schools and universities alongside such other "coming of age" stories as Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. Both Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman, by Gibbons, were Oprah Book Club selections and New York Times bestsellers.

On Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m. The Wiersma Memorial Lecture will be delivered at Sunshine Church by Ernest Gaines, author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The black community in which Gaines grew up was the setting for his novel, A Lesson Before Dying. The cane fields of the book were fields that Gaines himself worked as a child. In fact one reviewer noted that Gaines has drawn considerably on the mores of black culture and the storytelling traditions of rural Louisiana. "The result is a prose that is at once exact, idiomatic, stately, and true to the spoken language of actual people."

The public lectures conclude with a flourish on Saturday, April 20 with a trio of talks, the first two at Calvin Fieldhouse and the last at Sunshine Church. First, at 9 a.m. on April 20 will be a talk by Kathleen Norris in the Fieldhouse. A non-fiction writer, Norris has written such best-sellers as Amazing Grace, The Cloister Walk and Dakota. Her most recent book is The Virgin of Bennington which explores her years at Bennington College in Vermont.

At 4 p.m. on April 20, again in the Fieldhouse, Jan Karon will speak. She is author of the popular "Mitford" series and has thousands of loyal fans. She won the 1996 American Booksellers Book of the Year Honor Book for At Home in Mitford. Her newest book is A Common Life: The Wedding Story. This book takes readers back in time to the wedding of Father Tim and Cynthia Coppersmith.

Finally, at 8 p.m. on April 20, at Sunshine Church, will be the capstone to the 2002 Festival: a kyenote address by Oscar Hijuelos. He is a New York City native, the son of Cuban American working class parents and the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. His novel, Mr. Ives’ Christmas is a powerful study of spiritual strength in the face of horror.

Tickets are available through the Calvin Box Office (957-6282). Individual ticket prices are $15 (regular) or $8 (student). There also are package deals in which all five lectures can be purchased for $60 (regular) or $30 (students) or any three of the five lectures can be had for $40 (regular) or $20 (students). Students must show ID to get student ticket prices.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)