Friday, April 28, 2006

Role Models Found at Festival of Faith & Writing

When attending writers' conferences, I'm looking for inspiration and publishers and agents. But I'm also looking for role models. And unfortunately, so many writers turn out to be just as flawed as the general population, and sometimes even more so: crankily antisocial or wide-hipped or militantly anti-attractive.
So, this year I was so pleased to find not just one pleasant, attractive, talented female writer, but four. These four are all intelligent, humorous, dark-haired, slender literary women writers who also happen to be Christian:
  • Leslie Leyland Fields, raising five boys with a fisherman husband on an Alaskan
    island, writes nonfiction and memoir, such as her book about female commercial
    fishermen, "The Entangled Net."

  • Lauren Winner, a recent convert from Judiasm to Christianity, wrote the memoir "Girl
    Meets God."

  • Alice McDermott, a lapsed Catholic who returned to her faith, is author of the
    novel Charming Billy.

  • Mary Karr, a recent convert to Catholicism, is a poet/memoirist known for her
    memoir The Liars' Club.

At reading from her most recent book, Surprise Child, which tells about her
emotional struggles when finding out that she was pregnant with her fifth son
at age 45, Leslie Leyland Fields says that the child was a surprise to her,
but not to God. "My pregnancy became a constant lesson in relinquishment."

What Lauren Winner misses most about Orthodox Judiasm, besides the people,
is the daily-life sense that we're living in a sacred universe. She recaptures
some of that sense by belonging to a church which reveres the sacrament of Holy

Alice McDermott believes that the artist reveals how something in our nature
rebels against our destiny. We are hopeful despite impending death. In the face
of our suffering, there is the hope of redemption. Every creative act is an
act of faith.

Mary Karr was a literary community member-in-good-standing before she became
a Christian. When she converted to Catholicism, her literary friends acted like
she'd admitted to something kinkier than a perverted sex act.

How do Leslie, Lauren, Alice, and Mary integrate their spiritual and artistic
lives, in a culture that tends to separate the two? Alice sees her job as a
novelist to lead her characters to the point where they realize that they need
redemption, but doesn't try to wrap up their stories with tidy solutions.

Leslie, Lauren, Alice, and Mary all have a great sense of humor and are pragmatic
about hard work. "You have to be willing to fail," Mary says, noting
that even if God directs her to write a book, that doesn't mean that that particular
book will be successful. "Maybe God wants me to learn about failure and

Photo: Lesley Leyland Fields

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Novelist Wannabe to Work for Food

I’ve arrived in Grand Rapids to attend the 2006 Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College. I almost didn’t attend, because I’m a failed novelist. There’s something a little sad about a woman who has never made a cent from her fiction writing still spending hundreds of dollars on writing conferences.

But, the biennial Festival of Faith & Writing is an inspirational event, even for writers who have to keep their day job. And that’s why I’ve returned, for the fifth time.

Fortunately, given the fact that attending yet another writing conference is in some ways a brutal reminder that I’ve never published a novel, my ego was saved by a last-minute invitation to host a lunch discussion. This fits my new mantra: If you can’t dazzle people, at least make yourself useful. I still don’t even know why I was invited to spearhead the discussion – Good, Bad, and Ugly Blogs – since I’m not a writing conference insider, and is my first-ever attempt at blogging. Therefore, any insights from more experienced bloggers are most welcome.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that for playing hostess, I not only get bragging rights, but also a free box lunch. Maybe my writing IS feeding me!

(Photo: A view from my hotel window in Grand Rapids, Michigan. No leaves on the trees yet!)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Grand Rapids Tulips

I'm looking forward to seeing the tulips in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Passport Photo

I don't need a passport to attend the Festival of Faith & Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But nevertheless, here's my passport photo.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Going to Festival of Faith & Writing

This is my first attempt to use a blog. I'm getting ready for my trip to Grand Rapids, for the 2006 Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College.