Writer's Notebook

Festival of Faith and Writing

Posted on August 17, 2015 at 1:00 PM




I went to the Festival of Faith and Writing for the first time in 2016, and absolutely loved it! The CCU English Department traveled (mostly) together, and I it was awesome to get to know my professors and fellow English majors better over the course of the weekend.The weekend was incredible, and as Dave Harrity put it, a bit like drinking out of a fire hose.


The sessions went by so fast! We had the first keynote session at noon on Thursday, with Tobias Wolff reading one of his short stories, and then describing what went into writing it. Then, I had the chance to listen to Makoto Fujimura discuss his book, Silence and Beauty, and how it relates to Endo's Silence. (Read both books and watch the movie!!! I cannot reccomend them enough!) It was really helpful with the paper I was currently writing for my Worldviews class at CCU, and I could talk about Silence for hours. A really challenging book for me, and it helped me grow so much. 


The second concurrent session I went to was on liturgy and poetry, and it was interesting to hear contemporary poets who are orthodox Christians talk about the two. I've decided I love Scott Cairn's poetry! I bought Idiot Psalms while at the Festival and am still reading it! Nightstand favorite!  For the last keynote of the first day, Zadie Smith began to answer the question, Why write? I have lots to think about for the next few months, and that was all just from one day!


I wish I had known about this conference in high school! I feel like I've missed out by not knowing. Oh well, I can go to future Festivals. Friday's first session this morning was on friendship, and how uncategorizable it is. It seems to always be the exception to rules placed on it. It was a very interesting discussion. My second session was on blogging, and whether or not authors should have a blog. Watch out for an upcoming post on why I blog.


After an extended lunch, I went to a ecological conversation which was, to put it nicely, quite interesting. Although I did not agree with everything being said, I came up with many writing ideas. Finally, I went to the travel story session, and came up with several more new writing ideas. I should be able to keep going for some time to come. Having been to Ukraine, Viet Nam, and France, currently living in a camper traveling the US,  I have a few travel essays I could write...Plus, Tara Isabella Burton is so great as a live speaker, and a writer, and if you don't already follow her on twitter, do it. Trust me, just do it!   (@NotoriousTIB)


The keynote at the end of Friday was with George Saunders and Tobias Wolff, and it was fantastic. Saunders read one of his short stories and had the audience rolling with laughter. I love hearing writers and poets read their own works. 


I went to an early morning session Saturday on writing book reviews. I am going to have to practice slow reading. After a coffee break, I went and met up with Hugh Cook! In preparing for the Festival, I read Hugh Cook's novel, Heron River. If you remember, I did an email interview with him as well. If you are attending the 2018 Festival, you may have seen my interview on his speaker bio.  I got to meet him and talk for a few minutes after his short story workshop (couldn't attend, seats go so quickly!) We bonded over hockey, and it was incredible to meet him in person after interviewing him. After that, I went to the art gallery at Calvin's Fine Art Center. I sat down and wrote a short story (The Hope Chest). It was not the only work to come out of the weekend, but it might become my weekend favorite. *This short story was published in Paragon 20, and won first place in the prose category!!! You can read it in my chapbook, Aesthetic Blindness



The last session of my first Festival experience was on teaching and writing, which was encouraging for me.Even though I am no longer pursuing a traditional teaching role, Seth and I are planning on homeschooling our kids (Baby #1 is on the way! Due in July!) and I am in the process of writing some e-courses. I just love teaching, and am passionate about helping others reach their goals.Hopefully my writing will encourage my students to better their own. 


We ended the weekend with an ice cream social back at the hotel, and a small morning service Sunday at Lake Michigan. So much fun to hang out with the CCU English department!


As you can imagine, I really, really wanted to attend the Festival in 2018, and was planning on it! I booked my hotel and flight, registered, and started doing some serious speaker research. I had my sessions planned out. And then we had a little scare, where Seth and I thought baby #1 might come too early, and even though we got checked out and everything was fine, we decided that it would be better if I didn't go this time. I would have hated to be states away from Seth and my doctor had anything happened at the Festival, and Seth had an event booked for that weekend, so he couldn't come with. 


So, I am planning on attending in 2020, toddler in tow! If you have been to the Festival (or anything like it) with small children, I am in need of advice and tips, so please help a mama out! (alexandriamaxwellwrites@gmail.com)


As a reader, it is obvious to see how useful and amazing the Festival is. You can meet your favorite writers (they'll sign your book!), listen to authors you have never heard but will definitely enjoy, and meet up with other readers who share your interests. You might even walk away from the Festival as a member of a new, long-distance book club! 


But what about writers who attend the Festival? 


Still so useful! Here is a list of all the great things that can come out of the Festival for writers who attend:


1. A renewed sense of purpose. Being a writer is often a lonely job, especially if you are having a hard time finishing a project, or growing a readership. Listening to writers who have made it in the genre that you work in is so refreshing and empowering. If writing really is what you want to do full-time, soak in all their advice and joy, and get back to writing.  


2. Networking. A lot of writers who are in the same place you are in are attending the Festival. Find them. Talk to them. Help each other out! If you both blog, you might be able to get some guest posts (and a bigger reach), book reviews, and social media shout outs. This can seem like a really competative industry, but you can be so much more successful if you collaborate. It would be great to start a long distance writer's group, and maybe meet up at the Festivals as they happen every other year.


3. Large gathering of readers. Grow your readership! Talk to everyone there! There will be hundreds of other readers, editors, and publishers there to meet. If you have a book out in print, give away free copies. Make new friends. Growing readership is a really slow, organic process, but attending this one event and working it can help give you a boost. 


If you are planning to be at the Festival 2020 and want to get in touch, email me at alexandriamaxwellwrites@gmail.com, and I would love to meet you and hang out!


p.s. Did you miss the Festival 2018? Come to the #FFWgr20! I did a lot of research and am preparing the ultimate planning sheet for this coming Festival. You will be able to download the free printable planning sheet Fall of 2019 and get started on getting to the Festival this next time! In order to access the printable (and a ton of other free awesome resources) you need to subscribe to my email list. Enjoy! And get planning!




I am self-publishing my second poetry chapbook, Already Almost Home in April 2019! You can get early access to it (as well as read my serialized novel, The One) by becoming a Reader on my Patreon! Check it out! 

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