Festival Welcomes Chabon, Martel and Community


Novelist Michael Chabon, Life of Pi author Yann Martel, and children’s author Katherine Paterson are among the constellation of novelists, poets, playwrights, illustrators, screenwriters, memoirists, graphic artists and others featured at the 2008 Festival of Faith and Writing, held at Calvin College Thursday through Saturday, April 17–19.

Award-Winning Authors

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon, Man Booker Prize-winning Martel and multiple Newbery Award-winning Paterson are good representatives of the depth of quality of the festival roster, said director Shelly LeMahieu Dunn. What makes the biennial event special, however, is the community that forms when the authors and the attendees—69 plus 1800 this year—gather together.

The Festival Oasis

“Many people talk about the festival as an oasis, and I think that’s a really appropriate metaphor,” said LeMahieu Dunn. “Writing and reading are such solitary activities, and the festival gives people a place to encourage one another and to reflect a little bit about what it means to be a Christian, a writer, a reader, and how to do those things faithfully.”

This year’s festival will welcome authors from every field of written endeavor. Plenary sessions will feature novelists Chabon, Martel, Paterson and Elizabeth Berg and religious authors Francine Rivers and Kathleen Norris. The event will also feature workshops, dramatic performances, concerts by Caedmon’s Call and Iron and Wine and even a poetry slam.

“We really do have something for everyone,” said Le Mahieu Dunn.

Authors Connect Off-Campus and On

Festival 2008 organizers have also created multiple opportunities for featured authors to spread the festival vibe both on and off campus, as various authors meet with area high school students, partner with a local gallery, connect with the staff of the college’s service-learning center, and meet with Calvin Russian literature, graphic novel and creative writing classes.

“We’re trying to share the wealth as much as we can, both in the Calvin community and the Grand Rapids community,” said LeMahieu Dunn.

The Women of Lockerbie

One such on-campus collaboration partners festival with the Calvin Theatre Company, which will give several performances of Deborah Brevoort’s play The Women of Lockerbie. The play, structured as a Greek tragedy, is loosely based on the true story of the women of Lockerbie, Scotland, who retrieved and washed the clothes of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 and returned them to their families.

Brevoort will speak following each performance of the play and at a session titled “Writing The Women of Lockerbie, from Inspiration to Completion,” at 11 a.m., Saturday, April 19 in the Gezon Auditorium. “She is a representative of what it’s like to be a writer in the face of the ultimate evil of terrorism—not only terrorism but the fear of terrorism. She’s dealing with that in her work,” said Sandberg. “She has a lot to say.”

“Beauty of the Spirit” at Center Art Gallery

Another vital on-campus collaboration is Beauty of the Spirit, an exhibition of the work of preeminent African-American artist and illustrator—and festival speaker—Kadir Nelson. The exhibition, which runs in the Center Art Gallery from March 17 through April 19, showcases paintings from five of Nelson’s books, including the Caldecott Honor-winning Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. The gallery will also host Nelson at a book signing and exhibition reception from 6:30–8 p.m. on Friday, April 18 in the lower Gezon lobby. (Books will be available for purchase.)

“This exhibition benefits the festival and the gallery as well as the people who visit campus,” said Calvin director of exhibitions Joel Zwart. “It’s one thing to hear someone talk about his work and another to actually see it. We’re giving people the opportunity to do both.”

Festival Hospitality

Key to the festival community is the hospitality that is part of the festival mission, said LeMahieu Dunn. “For many people who come to the festival, this is their only experience with Calvin College.” Key to the hospitality is the Calvin English department, the festival home base. “The festival is in every sense a departmental event, and everyone there contributes to its success,” she said.

Student Involvement Key

Alongside with the Calvin professors and alumni who will speak at this year’s event, LeMahieu Dunn singled out the 35-member student committee that handles so much of the festival logistics: maintaining the desk, driving the shuttle buses and shepherding authors, among other chores.

“It’s a profoundly influential experience for them, but also for the authors and visitors who meet them,” said LeMahieu Dunn. “Visitors to Calvin who don’t know about the college or what it means to be Reformed, meet all of these bright, engaged students. At the last festival, one of our authors said this to me about our students: “’They give me hope for the future.’”

For more information, including speaker bios and a schedule of events, visit the Festival of Faith and Writing Web site.

~written by senior writer Myrna Anderson


3 Responses to “Festival Welcomes Chabon, Martel and Community”

  1. This looks like an exciting line-up! I only wish I could be there for all of it 🙂


  2. This Festival truly is a feast of words, ideas, and wonderful people. I could not take in all its riches, which is one reason I plan to return for the next one.

    The students are fabulous. One of them walked me the whole way across campus to help me find a room.

    Thank you, Calvin College, and the Calvin English Department.

  3. How did I miss this?! I live in NE Indiana and would have severed a limb just to drag myself to this event.

    Chabon?! Martel?!

    I’m an idiot . . .


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