Festival Circles

Festival Circles are small groups that meet twice during the Festival of Faith & Writing, over the dinner break on Thursday and lunch break on Saturday. Space is limited in each Circle, and is granted first come, first served. Review the descriptions of available circles below, and email the facilitator to sign up.

Remember, because all Festival Circles meet at the same time, you can join only one Circle.

Poets: Understood

Alexandra Barylski-Stott (literatureinthesoul@gmail.com)

Mary Karr gives it to us straight: "If you don't say what you mean in a readable way, you actually risk nothing." We write of the mind and spirit, but only the physical world grounds us and makes sayable what our own audience lacks words to speak. In this group, poets will look at poetry attempting this union and discuss their own process for making the abstract concrete.

Children's Picture Books and God

Barbara Bjelland (bjellandbarbara@gmail.com)

Picture books are a great way to inspire faith in people of all ages, and many people want to write picture books for children with theological themes. However, writing a good picture book that appears "seamless," is more difficult than many people realize. This circle will help readers and writers to be discerning.

It Really Happened

Diane Glancy (glancy@macalester.edu)

How to make an event a departure point for fiction. I pondered for several years on how to take an event-- in this case, the BTK murders in Wichita, Kansas, and write a novel. I didn't want to focus on the murders or murderer, who was a church member, but on the church itself that BTK left in his wake.

Poetry as Prayer

Marjorie Gray (marjgray3@gmail.com)

Retreat to the Nature Preserve with kindred spirits. Pray festival poets' and each others' poems aloud. Reflect on the whole creation "groaning" and inward "wordless groans" (Romans 8:22-26). Renew one another in the community of earth keepers and psalm writers.

East Meets West Meets Heart Meets Page

Melissa Gutierrez (melissa.m.gutierrez@gmail.com) 

This Circle is for those of us who have been affected or influenced by eastern art and writings as well as western art and writings. This Circle will be a space to discuss the contrast, overlap, history, and potential of cross-cultural faith -- as well as how we can explore that as readers and writers. In what ways do we reconcile different stories, both in our hearts, through our art, and within our communities?

The Life of Little Magazines

Adam Joyce (adam.c.joyce@gmail.com) & Meaghan Ritchey (meaghanritchey@gmail.com)

This circle will discuss what it involves to write for, edit, and sustain little magazines. What does it look like to have a little magazine, a conversation, that flourishes and impacts the community it is a part of? When it comes down to it, do little magazines matter?

Advance Your Writing through Giving and Getting Feedback

Ann Kroeker (ann@annkroeker.com) & Charity Singleton Craig (charitysingletoncraig@gmail.com)

This circle will focus on the need for feedback at every level of the writing process and at every stage of a writer’s creative journey. We will discuss what work needs input and at what stage, whom to ask (whether friend or paid professional), and the positives and negatives of feedback participants previously received. We’ll also talk about effective methods that both ease the pain for the writer and help the work advance. Discussing the need to give and receive feedback can dispel the myth of the flawless first draft and provide practical ideas to implement long after the Festival ends.

Dreams and Goal Setting For Writers

Lara Krupicka (lkrupicka@word-crafter.com)

Dreams of seeing our words in print, signing an agent, hitting the bestseller list, and making a difference in readers’ lives woo us along the writing journey. But the practical work of butt-in-chair writing can be discouraging when the end seems so far away. This circle will focus on both effective goal setting and how tapping into a sense of calling helps keep the dreams alive. Attendees can expect to address issues relating to discouragement, faith, and celebrating progress.

What is Christian Film Criticism?

Josh Larsen (jlarsen@crcna.org)

Critical engagement with film from a Christian perspective has evolved along with the art form. What are the approaches that have been taken? What does it look like today? Is there one definite way to do film criticism Christianly?

In the Waiting Room: Writing through Physical and Emotional Trauma

Marjorie Maddox (mmaddoxh@Lhup.edu)

As patients, caregivers, and/or writers of faith, participants in this Festival Circle will discuss how their writing intersects the medical and spiritual. By examining the physical and mental challenges that affect many of us and our families, participants will consider how faith and writing help to acknowledge suffering, embrace empathy, and search for unsentimental hope.

Christianity and Buddhism in Dialogue

Sarina Moore (SGMoore@gcc.edu)

The 2016 Festival offers festival-goers a number of opportunities to consider the ways Buddhism and Christianity might speak to each other. George Saunders is a practicing Buddhist whose most recent collection of short stories (Tenth of December) and 2013 convocation speech at Syracuse University (Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness) are deeply informed by his spiritual practice. Makoto Fujimura’s forthcoming book meditating on Shusaku Endo’s masterpiece Silence also engages the historical convergence of Buddhism and Catholicism in Japan.  This circle will meet twice during the Festival. Participants are encouraged to read in advance at least one book about Buddhism or interfaith dialogue. A list of resources and suggestions for reading will be provided.

From Blog to Book

Christie Purifoy (christiepurifoy@gmail.com)

Today, many writers who hope to write books begin with blogs. This circle is for those wondering how to forge a path from one to the other. We will discuss the practical ways blogging can help us realize our goals but also explore how these different forms of writing can sometimes feel incompatible within our writing practice.

A Sinewy Grace

Aimee Reid (areid@aimeereidbooks.com)

In keeping with the festival’s tradition of exploring the nexus of faith and art, this circle will focus on the particular questions that arise when writing for children. What, if any, special considerations exist with respect to the content of children’s books? How does the handling of theme, characterization, and plot development shape the very "bones and sinews" of a story? The importance of both truth and grace in children's books will provide the structure for this circle's discussions.

Poetry + Iconography + Meditation

Alessandra Simmons (arolffs@uwm.edu)

This circle is for writers interested in image-based poetry. Since icons have been called "windows into heaven," this circle would explore how writing ekphrasis poetry based on icons can be an entry into mediation and worship. The circle would provide space for both conversation and writing.

Memoir: Inviting the Reader into the Story

Craig Steffen (craig@craigasteffen.com)

This Festival Circle will focus on the increasing popularity of memoir and methods to tell your story that reveals faith and transformation while compelling the reader to travel the journey with you. During safe and engaging dialog, we'll discuss creative ways to animate the narrative in order to draw the reader in. Of course, memoir is about the author, but GOOD memoir is about everyone being able to find themselves within the author's compelling story.

Pastoring Through Book Tours

Cary Umhau (ccu@me.com)

What does it look like for a book tour to be more about the audience than the author? What does it look like to come alongside a reader who wants the book to come to life, bring hope, or produce change in the lives of his or her friends or community members? How can a book tour be "ministry" vs. self-promotion? Let's explore together using our books as tools to strike up catalytic conversation and action among those who come out to hear us read, leaving communities better for our having been there.

Writing Prompts: Surprise and Delight

Shelly Wildman (wildmom3@sbcglobal.net)

In this group, we will explore multiple writing prompts as a means to inspire and challenge our own writing ability. Then, we will share and discuss our responses, gleaning from one another's insights, choices, and inspirations. If you're looking for a enjoyable way to expand and strengthen your writing voice at the Festival, come join us!

Religious Syncretists

W. Brett Wiley (bwiley1@mvnu.edu)

With authors such as George Saunders and Christian Wiman at the Festival, writers who draw inspiration from and find connection to different religions and traditions, this circle will provide space to talk about the interplay of religious beliefs and philosophies within and without specific works of literature, the conference presentations, and our own lives.