The English novelist Zadie Smith issued a profound challenge to writers in her keynote address on Thursday evening. She noted how creative work these days is often a self-interested way of promoting a personal brand. To push against this temptation, she enlisted Kafka and Orwell to encourage writers to critique and subvert the “false realities” that surround us. –BB
David Dark, theology professor at Belmont University, spoke of the opportunities writers have to “mine their attention collection,” to ask “what do I have in me right now that might be of help to someone.” Dancing through an incredible array of pop culture references, Dark argued that writing is not only a practice of self care, but has the potential to extend care to others, too. –BB
David H. Kim
Kim urged writers to exercise their imaginations, what C. S. Lewis called “the organ of meaning-making.” We strengthen this organ by being grounded in Scripture, unhampered by rigid churchy categories, and pressing through brokenness and conflict towards the elegance and hope of the new creation. Kim, editor of the NIV Bible: Faith and Work Edition, is the Pastor of Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York city. –PS
Taylor waxes philosophical, and his presentation is spotted with quotes from Wiesel, Hemingway and Lewis. His vocation is to help people tell their story well. “Stay away from abstractions and the laziness of clichés,” he warned. “Write craftily, sparingly, with revelatory detail. Show, don’t tell.” His Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist wrestles with faith, doubt and the call to stick to your story. –PS
“I’m a strange character,” Covington said in his self-introduction. “I’m drawn to danger.” Covington wrote about a snake-handling church in Appalachia in 1995 and his latest work, Revelation: Searching for Faith in a Violent Religious World, documents his travels in places like war-torn Syria, and it’s a heart-wrenching read that still offers some hints of hope: hope for peace between religious folks, and hope for tormented humanity. –PS
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
McEntyre is a peripatetic medical school professor, teaching students to “recognize being at a death bed is a sacred moment that helps us face the reality of our own deaths.” As well, with the political air full of shouting, Christians need to “disengage from charged contexts,” must speak and write civilly, being vulnerable, without ad hominem attacks, spin, hyperbole or euphemism. Otherwise listeners and readers will be overwhelmed, discouraged and lean to cynicism. –JD
Hill champions friendship in a world driven to autonomy, promiscuity or holy matrimony and family. While friendship for us is voluntary and often disposable, in Spiritual Friendship Hill describes friendship more like kinship – as binding and life-long. As a gay Christian who believes that celibacy is not a life-sentence of loneliness, Hill sees spiritual friendship in the church as an opportunity to forge a lasting love that says, “Wait. You’ve thought that, too?” and promises “You are mine.” –PS
With ebullience and flair, polymath and children’s, YA and adult author M.T. Anderson enraptured the FFW crowd with the historical Russian composer and pianist, Dimitri Shostakovich, subject for Anderson’s first YA nonfiction piece and most recent book, Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dimitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. Winner of numerous awards and recognitions, Anderson is known for his capacity to craft dark matter into brilliant story. –KH
Tim Bascom, Susanna Childress, Daniel Coleman, Faith Eidse
In an intense hour, four former Missionary Kids described life as Westerners in the developing world. Bascom’s upbringing amounted to seeing “two hemispheres of life,” like a chameleon with eyes on opposite sides of the head. In grad school Childress was called “the colonizer’s hand,” an epithet still haunting her. Eidse suffered sexual abuse at boarding school and later quit Fundamentalism. Daniel Coleman sublimated long-time “placenessness” by focusing on his Hamilton backyard: “Any piece of ground becomes more astounding as terrestrial meets divine.” –JD
Writer and educator Jennifer Mathieu draws from personal and teaching experience to craft YA novels that treat young adults as “real people.” Her first novel, The Truth About Alice, garnered acclaim for its deft handling of sensitive issues. Based on years of research and primary source material, Mathieu’s most recent novel, Devoted, explores the oft-neglected topic of faith development in adolescence through the perspective of a young female protagonist being raised in a “Christian Patriarchy” home. –KH
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