While the biennial Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin draws upward of 2,000 registrants, that’s not nearly enough people who benefit from the rhetoric delivered there, according to Jennifer Holberg, Calvin English professor.
“Every year when I attend the festival, I think that it’s kind of a pity that only 2,000 people get to hear what’s going on,” Holberg said.
That is what prompted Holberg to collect some of the best of the previous eight festivals in Shouts and Whispers.
Holberg listened to hundreds of hours of previous festivals’ tapes to come up with the 21 interviews and essays that she then transcribed and edited for the book.
“I really wanted writers that talked as much about faith as about writing,” she said. “I wanted the essays to reflect the spirit of the festival, which is really about the intersection of faith and writing.”
The book includes interviews with such celebrated writers as Ann Lamott and Kathleen Norris and essays by such stalwarts as Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle, Bret Lott, Katherine Paterson, Luci Shaw and Walter Wangerin Jr.
“There is a lot of diversity in the book, from famous writers to midlevel writers to writers most of us haven’t heard of but maybe should have,” Holberg said.
The book also reflects a range of faith perspectives, writers from a variety of genres and some representation from every festival in its 16-year history.
“The authors use approaches that are as diverse as their biographies,” Holberg said, “from Bret Lott’s notes on reclaiming literary fiction to David James Duncan’s exploration of the collisions between faith and writing.
“Some equate Christian writing with ‘x’ and ‘only x,’” she said. “There is a lot of really vibrant conversation going on. Authors can have a very sincere approach to their faith, but their writing can still look very different.”
Holberg said the book is intended to celebrate and share the good conversation that occurs at the festival. “It would be interesting to the same audience as the festival itself: all the people who belong to book groups, who are interested in books, thinking Christians who want to know what they should be reading.
“People don’t necessarily understand how literature can help you be more faithful,” she said. “These writers offer a way to think about that.”
All royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the children’s literacy charity Reading Is Fundamental.
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