Highlights from the Festival of Faith and Writing 2016

booksAh, the Festival of Faith and Writing—delightful, and also a blur. Over the course of those rapturous three days that only come every other year, I took 17 pages of notes, gawked at famous authors walking around on the very same ground I was walking on (who knew they did THAT?), and added at least a dozen books to my Amazon wish list. Whew.

So, two weeks post-Festival, I am taking some time to reflect on a few highlights. These writers said everything much more eloquently than my paraphrases here, but if you weren’t able to go yourself…well, read my highlights. You’re welcome. And mark your calendar for Festival 2018.


“A hunger for certainty may be one of the greatest spiritual problems of our time. It’s like the hunger for a perfect past, or a perfect home. Where might those hungers lead us? Often to arrogance.” —Tobias Wolff

“I raised six kids, taught full-time, and ran a commercial fishing business with my family. I didn’t have time to write. But I did. Resist the devaluing of your writing and reading, and find ways to write however you can.” —Leslie Leyland Fields

“Voices, both internal and external, will always be there saying, ‘Who are you to write?’ I let them say their piece, and then I say, ‘Yes, I am a sinner, but one whom God has chosen to use.’ Words can heal pieces of the world, starting with ourselves.” —Leslie Leyland Fields

“We are swimming in a culture of false urgency. Question that urgency. Create space for yourself to do the best work possible.” —Sara Zarr. (I hope this means I’m not a bad blogger for waiting a whole two weeks to get around to writing a post about the Festival!)

“We all want the valleys to be raised up, but we don’t necessarily want the mountains to be brought low.” —D.L. Mayfield. (Ouch.)

“Great content does more than touch people, it moves them—deeper into who they are meant to be. Your writing can be incarnated in the flesh of others.” —Stephanie S. Smith (a.k.a., my sister!!)

“Black churches have wondered not just, ‘Do black lives matter to white America?’ but also ‘Do black lives matter to God?’ This book is my refusal to be consoled until the justice of God becomes the justice of this world.” —Kelly Brown Douglas, author of “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God”

“When black parents have ‘The Talk,’ it’s not about sex! Black parents can’t get away with not talking to their kids about race. White parents need to talk to their kids about race too, and the church may need to help them if they don’t know how.” —Kelly Brown Douglas

“In my experience, a very good prayer is, ‘Hi.’ Which is another way of saying, ‘Abide with me.'” —Mallory Ortberg

“Don’t be too hard on religion. The Bible teaches girls that they can grow up to drive stakes through the heads of Canaanites.” —Mallory Ortberg. (My Sunday school teachers forgot to teach me this story, for some reason…)

“Negativity in sarcasm isn’t necessarily something to avoid, but it should be used judiciously. It’s great to be critical of things that are foolish. But that’s just one tool among many other tools, such as whimsy, frivolity, and gentle self-deprecation.” —Mallory Ortberg

“The future of the church looks ancient. Young people are not looking for liberation from ritual. They are looking for liberating rituals.” —James K.A. Smith

“How does literature change us? It habituates us to lives of interpretation, meaning-making, attention. It moves us toward other-absorption rather than self-absorption.” —Karen Swallow Prior

“We live in a world of material stuff that we manipulate for efficiency, utility, and pleasure. But the world is the material manifestation of God’s love—made visible, auditory, tactile, fragrant, and delicious. What would it take for us to see in creation God saying, ‘I love you. I want to nurture you’?” —Norman Wirzba

“Imagination helps us see possibility where we might see only inevitability. What would it look like for the love and redemption of God to be fully at work in this area of the world?” —Norman Wirzba

“‘Single’ is not a very Christian word. ‘Celibate’ has a connotation of commitment to God and to community. This word needs to be re-enchanted, re-imagined.” —Wesley Hill

“So much spirituality is about smoothing out our rough spots. But our jagged edges can connect us to God and each other, providing us with the texture to hold together. We’re not alone. … Your ideal self is not real. We’re all frustrated by the distance between our ideal selves and our real selves. But the self God loves is the real self, the broken, inelegant self.”  —Nadia Bolz-Weber

“My congregation likes that they have a pastor who is clearly preaching to herself, allowing them to listen in.” —Nadia Bolz-Weber



2 thoughts on “Highlights from the Festival of Faith and Writing 2016

    • Thanks so much, Mike! It was great getting to know you, too! I hope to post something about the quotable quotes we heard at the Frederick Buechner Writers Workshop, too. Keep in touch!

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