Ten Highlights from My First Festival of Faith and Writing

This weekend, I attended my first Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, MI.  It is a pretty safe bet to call this my first, as it was such an amazing and well-planned event.  I am definitely planning to return.  The quality of the speakers, writers, and authors was beyond impressive.  And while my head is still in that fog-like state that results from such whirlwind weekends and such overloading of inspiration,  I have tried here to piece together a highlight reel of sorts while the “highs” are still fresh.


1.  Singing Happy Birthday to Anne Lamott.  Although I am so not blessed with a voice for song, it felt somehow wonderful to be able to participate in this act – singing to Anne with some 2,000+ writers, friends, and fans for her 60th birthday. It were as if we recognized and cherished this unique opportunity to give her some small gift in return for the many she has given us.

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{Also, this.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t beyond thrilled about my copy of Bird by Bird which is now back on my nightstand, freshly inked.}

2.  The diversity of the presenters.  The roster for this festival was wonderfully deep and diverse.  I so appreciated the grace, composure and perspective of presenters such as Jeff Chu (Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America) and G. Willow Wilson (Alif the Unseen, Ms. Marvel).  And the key note lecture by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) was fantastic.  I will forever hear his words about the act of creating art – and allow myself a smile – whenever my own children reach their fingers under the office, or the bathroom, door…”Mooooooomm!!!”  (So refreshing to hear this from a “Daaaaaadddd’s” perspective as well!)


3.  Meeting twitter and Facebook friends in real life.  Even if it took Abi and I nearly tweeting one another while standing right next to one another in line. It was so great to be able to put warm and smiling faces to Abi, Cara, Sarah, Susie (My Mother’s Chamomile), Addie (When We Were on Fire) and other’s names.

4.  Dinner with my pastor.  While the festival boxed lunches were surprisingly good, it was a treat to have the chance to go out to dinner with my pastor.  (She was also attending her first Festival of Faith and Writing.)  We hopped off campus for a lovely Ethiopian meal and made it back just in time to hear (and sing to) Anne Lamott.  How lovely to try something new in the company of a familiar face and warm conversation.

5. Coffee.  Lots of {good} coffee.  At all hours of the day.  And great coffee mugs.


6. Festival Circles.  I attended the Motherhood and Writing circle in which we discussed motherhood and…writing.  And how ohmygoodness we all get it.  Many thanks to Mom Seeks God author  Julia Roller for sharing her expertise and creating such a great and supportive space for sharing.   I look forward to keeping in touch with the wonderful women from our circle.

7.  Books.  So.  Many.  Books.  {Smile.}  I was good-ish.  I only came home with about 5 new friends.  Or so.


8.  Meeting authors.  And {usually} sort of keeping my composure while doing so.  {With apologies to Rachel Held Evansmy intention was not to hug/tackle you upon meeting you during the book signing, but I was somewhat overcome.  I do realize that you don’t actually know so many of us although we feel like we have gone through some serious ups and downs and wrestling of our faith along with you.  Thank you for your grace and kindness…and for not looking at me strangely as I’m sure I spoke so extremely fast…even for a Northerner.}

9.  Quoted Quotables.  Oh, this weekend was a quote fest to be sure.  I wrote down so many inspiring and thought-provoking ideas over the course of the festival.  However, one that sticks with me came mid-way through yet another moving session when my husband sent me an update on his “Boys’ Weekend” via text:

Proclaimed boldly while running toward the soccer ball, “I got it!  I got it, Dad!  Cause I’m the man!”  -My 3-Year-Old Son

And, many kudos to my husband for bravely taking on a full three days of “Dadsolo” twin parenting.  I can’t help but have this version of Proverbs 31 swirling in my head, only it is for him, my Proverbs 31 Husband.  “A capable husband, I have found, he is far more precious than power tools…”

10.  The weather.  In a word, B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.  Beautiful.


Especially when many of us returned home to this.


In April.  As if to remind us what a breath of fresh, warm air this weekend had truly been.

And finally, a bonus highlight which is probably worthy of the number one spot on this list…

11.  The hospitality of Calvin College.  The students, staff, and Festival Committee are to be commended.  This was truly a lovely event.   It was so evident the amount of hours and the level of care put into making this such a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Thank you, so much.  I will be back.

And so now, the question is simply this:  Who will be coming with me in 2016?  



  1. I’m SO mad I wasn’t paying attention to this – I live ACROSS THE STREET from Calvin, and I didn’t realize this was happening. ALL my favorite bloggers were in one place, and I was so close, yet oh so far. :(

    • Oh man. What a bummer. I think it happens there every two years. You can follow on social media and get the updates for registration…that is the only way I remember. That and google calendar alerts. :)

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed the conference, Holli! Next time, let’s exchange numbers so we can meet up for dinner.

  3. Looks like a fun and encouraging time. I REALLY like that coffee mug- I collect (read: hoard) coffee mugs. :) Joining from the Little R&R Wedneday Blog Hop!

  4. I totally wish that I had picked up a mug! This was my second FFW and I had such an amazing time! We had 3 inches of snow here–near Detroit–yesterday.

  5. Bruce Stambaugh says:

    Well said. It was my first experience with the Festival of Faith and Writing, but it won’t be my last. Hopefully, I’ll be there with my own book in hand one day.

  6. Cody Raak says:

    It was also my first time (there were a lot of us!) and I agree. I also really appreciated the diversity of faith traditions and artistic callings of the presenters. An excellent weekend!

  7. HisFireFly says:

    sounds delightful! and to escape the freeze – priceless. Spring will come, I believe!

  8. BTac_blog says:

    Wow, that sounds like a great time! I want to go there.


  1. […] (see my signed copy of Bird by Bird there).  Many of these came from my shopping spree at the Festival of Faith and Writing.  Others are on my good reads “WANT TO READ ALREADY!!!!” […]

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