Friday, April 16, 2010

Fresh from the Festival!

If you haven't heard about the Festival of Faith and Writing (see my previous post), it is a conference hosted by Calvin College in Michigan where authors, readers, writers, librarians, publishers, and more gather in community for three days to celebrate the art of language. It is a biennial conference, so the last time I attended was two years ago. And you would think, with a two-year head-start, that I would have been all read up on the authors and their books speaking this year. know how that goes. But as I listened to the lectures of Tim Stafford, the senior writer of Christianity Today, Wally Lamb, novelist of the bestseller She's Come Undone, and Lisa Samson, author of over twenty Christian Fiction novels, I cannot help but put them on my never-ending list of things to read.

Some fun things that have happened so far:

First, remember what I said about rubbing elbows with literary luminaries? Well, it happened. My sister and I walked into the first session with an older couple twenty minutes early, who joked with us about the crazy 80s-styled carpet of the meeting hall. Later in the session, the speaker referred to the man by his name: Eugene Peterson. The man who translated The Message, pastoring and authoring other books since. We had no idea.

We also heard from Wally Lamb, author of She's Come Undone (featured on Oprah's Book Club) and three other novels. He informed us that when he was a boy, he once told the nun who taught his catechism class a tall tale that began with a truth and ended with a completely fabricated story including a volcano and the Pope. "And that," he said, "is when I knew that I wanted to write fiction."

How does this author get his inspiration for new books? His characters start talking to him while he's in the shower. And then, because he wants to get to know them and find out more about them, he writes. He confessed that he also feels somewhat "parental" toward his characters, saying, "I write about my characters because I worry about them."

This afternoon, I heard from Kate DiCamillo, the children's author who has penned The Tale of Desperaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Magician's Elephant. Kate explained that she wound up writing children's books because she worked at a book warehouse on the 3rd floor where they packed and shipped the Children's Books (and she spent a large part of her time there reading on the job!).
She also told a story of her friend who picked up E. B. White's Charlotte's Web and read it over and over again. Kate finally asked, "Why do you keep reading? Are you hoping that if you read it again, Charlotte won't actually die?" "No," Tracy answered, "I read it because it feels like someone is telling me the truth. And I read it not because I believe Charlotte might not die this time, but because I know that she will, but in reading I find that I can bear that." Kate told us this to illustrate that, "Stories help us to bear life." Her parting words to all the aspiring writers in her audience were, "It is not easy [to be a writer] and it is a privilege and words do not fail."

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