This year, we are once again offering Festival Circles, small groups that will meet at least two times during the Festival to discuss a topic of common interest. Each circle, composed of approximately 12–15 attendees and led by a Festival participant, will meet during Thursday dinner and Saturday lunch. Because the circles are scheduled to meet at the same time, it's possible for attendees to participate in only one.
The circles will run from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday and from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Pre-registration for Festival Circles is closed. Circles noted by an asterisk will be open to participants who would like to join the conversation during the Festival.
*Book of Awakening – A Journey
This circle will use Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening to prompt our own daily practice of meditation and writing. His meditations are based on quotes. We will discuss how the quote led Mark to his insights, share our own insights in the circle, and invite each other to write/share insights on these and other pieces of writing.
Facilitator: Corrine Fisher
Bio: Corrine Fisher writes, leads retreats, and teaches at Western Michigan University.
*Chinese Teacher and Student Exchange Potential
This circle will provide an opportunity for Christian high school/college teachers and administrators to meet with Chinese FFW guests and discuss the potential for exchange opportunities. We’ll also explore the differences in Chinese and North American educational systems.
Facilitator: Emily Brink
Bio: Emily Brink is secretary of Knowledge Tree, Inc, a non-profit group that encourages cultural/educational exchange between the United States and China and that will host several Chinese educators at FFW; she is also a senior research fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
*College Literary Journals
This circle will provide a way for student literary journal editors and writers to meet and exchange notes, advice, and ideas.
Facilitators: Brett Foster, Nicole Mazzarella
Bios: Brett Foster recently published his first poetry collection, The Garbage Eater, and he serves as co-advisor for Kodon, the student literary journal at Wheaton College; Nicole Mazzarella is the author of the award-winning novel This Heavy Silence and teaches creative writing at Wheaton College.
Composition Teachers in Christian Colleges
This circle will explore ways to integrate creative writing and Christian faith into the composition class by using reading materials with Christian themes, engaging students in research that deals with issues of faith, exploring their world through the lens of a Christian world view, and providing venues for students to engage in "creative" writing assignments.
Facilitator: Donna Summerlin
Bio: After teaching in a public high school for thirteen years, Dr. Donna Summerlin came to Lee University in 1988 and enjoys the challenge of integrating faith into the teaching freshman composition and various major courses in her specialty areas of Appalachian and Young Adult literature.
*Defining the Purpose, Practices, and Participation Requirements for Writers’ Groups and Writing Partners
This circle will explore what to look for when joining a writing group or seeking a writing partner, common practices in writers’ groups, and how to participate in such groups.
Facilitator: Joyce Elferdink
Bio: Joyce lives to learn while learning to live as a progressive Presbyterian writer of a speculative novel and blog; also a communications college instructor and servant leader.
Editing for God’s Sake
What is God trying to say through your work of fiction? This circle will focus on the big-picture editing process of fiction manuscripts.
Facilitator: Mark Eddy Smith
Bio: Mark Eddy Smith is the fiction editor at WordFarm Press and the author of Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues and Aslan's Call. He lives in rural New Hampshire and is waiting to hear if he's been hired as the Marketing Coordinator at Remick Farm & Museum.
*Embracing Faith in the Secular College Classroom
This circle will discuss strategies, opportunities and challenges of making faith a focus in classrooms at secular colleges.
Facilitator: Talinn Phillips
Bio: Talinn Phillips is an Assistant Professor of English at Ohio University and an active member of Central Avenue Church, both in Athens, Ohio. She enjoys merging these two memberships by teaching composition courses on spiritual memoir and public religious rhetorics.
*Faith as a Verb: Writing as Spiritual Practice
Writing can be a form of prayer, a quiet practice of listening to the “still, small voice within.” This circle will explore how writing can be used as a spiritual practice.
Facilitator: Karen Hering
Bio: As a consulting literary minister, Rev. Karen Hering currently serves as writer-in-residence at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality in St. Paul, Minnesota, engaging writing as a spiritual practice and a tool for faith-based social action.
*Genres, Media, and Storytelling
This circle will provide an opportunity to explore how stories are affected by the constraints or expectations associated with different genres or media types.
Facilitator: Deborah Leiter Nyabuti
Bio: Deborah Leiter Nyabuti worked for seven years in the publishing industry, but now she reads, writes, studies, and discusses stories in a variety of forms while teaching communication studies at Indiana Wesleyan University.
*Graphic Novels: For Lovers and Those Writing and Drawing Them
This circle will explore the graphic novel genre – particularly the works of Craig Thompson and G. Willow Wilson – and discuss the creative process and challenges of working in this form.
Facilitator: Debbie Hoskins
Bio: Debbie Hoskins is a youth librarian, whose love of words and pictures together springs from sincere prayer, and leads her to lecture on cartooning and graphic novels for Calvin Youth Writing Festivals, since the early 2000's.
*Holy Grounds: The Role of Place in Your Spiritual and Literary Life
By looking at what the Bible has to say about the setting of a story, this circle will encourage participants to carefully consider the role of place in their writing, and challenge them to see how different locations affect a story’s style and content.
Facilitator: Stephanie Nikolopoulos
Bio: Stephanie Nikolopoulos (www.StephanieNikolopoulos.com) has worked in book publishing in Manhattan for ten years, is the visual arts editor for Burnside Writers Collective, and is a co-leader of the Writers Group at the Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York; her writing has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books across the country.
*In the Gap: Creative Nonfiction Techniques to Use When You’re Short on Material
How can nonfiction writers create a rich, full narrative when research fails and they face gaps in the story? This circle will discuss this problem and share solutions and techniques for creating a more engaging read.
Facilitator: Wendy Bilen
Bio: Wendy Bilen is an award-winning creative nonfiction writer who teaches English at Trinity College in Washington, DC.
*Journaling for Pastors
Struggling to find illustrations or fresh approaches to your sermons? Bring your struggles and successes with writing to this circle, and share with others who understand your daily and weekly challenges.
Facilitator: Mary S. Trainor
Bio: Pastor Mary S. Trainor, is an Episcopal Priest, a Biologist, a retreat leader, an amateur poet, and Christian educator who lives on a Wisconsin pond enjoying an abundance of wildlife viewing.
This circle will focus on Christian Mysticism, exploring the mysteries of this contemplative spiritual practice and how it can enhance the creative process of writing.
Facilitator: Stacie Longwell Hill
Bio: Stacie Longwell Hill is a science communications professional, college biology and bioethics instructor, and contemplative Christian.
*The Part-Time Writer
This circle will bring together those who feel a calling to write, but must earn their livelihood by other means. We’ll discuss time management and how to achieve a life/work/writing balance.
Facilitator: J. Brent Bill
Bio: Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, photographer, and not-for-profit executive whose recent book, Awaken Your Senses: Exercises in Experiencing the Wonder of God, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
*The Poet as Healer
This circle will create a conversation about the role of poetry as a therapeutic tool in medicine, as well as a means for discovery, healing, or forgiveness.
Facilitator: Mary Van Denend
Bio: Mary Van Denend is a poet living in western Oregon and alumna of Calvin College (1977), who works in the field of arts-in-healthcare.
*Practical Creation, Revision, and Publication: A Look at Poetry Craft Through the Lens of William Stafford’s Writing
This circle will discuss three phases of writing life: creation of new work, revision techniques, and publication strategies. The discussion will be framed by William Stafford’s writings and his suggestions on how to see each stage.
Facilitator: Dave Harrity
Bio: Dave Harrity is co-founder of Antler (thisisantler.com), a publishing, workshop, and community building platform dedicated to teaching people in religious institutions how to use writing as a practice for spiritual formation.
Preaching and Creativity
This circle, intended for pastors, chaplains, and Christian educators, will focus on the relationships between imaginative reading, creative writing, and different approaches to writing and delivering sermons.
Facilitator: Meghan Florian
Bio: Meghan Florian, MTS, is a writer, a member of the board of trustees of the Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South, and a deacon at Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship where she preaches regularly.
*Reading Literature Devotionally
Many readers have been moved to pray or worship God while reading fiction or poetry—even if the literature in question was not necessarily "Christian." In this circle we will explore some approaches to reading literature devotionally, and we'll consider some works that lend themselves to this kind of reading.
Facilitator: Sarah Arthur
Bio: Sarah Arthur is a Michigan resident and the author of numerous resources on faith and literature, including At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time.
*Re-formed Life: Writing as a Spiritual Discipline
Writing can be an important component of classical spiritual disciplines such as fasting, worship, service, or generosity. This circle will help participants better understand how to integrate writing into these practices.
Facilitator: Michelle Van Loon
Bio: Michelle Van Loon is the author of two books about the parables of Christ, a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog, and serves as the communications director for a church networking ministry.
*The Relevance of the Arts in Personal Worship
This circle, led by a singer/songwriter, a poet, and a blogger, will encourage participants to uncover their creative talents and use their gifts to the glory of God.
Facilitators: Jane Hertenstein, Nancy Hughes, and Jan Krist
Bios: Jane Hertenstein is the author of numerous short stories. She blogs at www.memoirouswrite.blogspot.com; Jan Krist, an award-winning singer/songwriter, teaches songwriting workshops and has been a church worship leader for nine years. Her essays have appeared in Image Journal and been anthologized in More Like the Master: A Christian Musician’s Reader. Her current release is “When Planets Collide”; Nancy Hughes currently works as the Executive Director of St. Louis Poetry Center. She has worked closely with both visual and spoken word artists within the community as well as at Grace and Peace Fellowship (PCA) in St. Louis.
*Self-Publishing: Myths and Realities
This circle will discuss how to successfully navigate the self-publishing world by exploring various economic, legal, and other realities.
Facilitators: Hannah Crawford and Carol VanKlompenburg
Bios: Hannah Crawford is a publishing consultant at The Write Place, a company that helps authors self-publish their books; Carol Van Klompenburg is the company's owner and a published author.
The short story is unlike any other art form; this circle will explore the genre and discuss how one creates a short work of fiction.
Facilitator: Linda McCullough Moore
Bio: Linda McCullough Moore has more than 100 published stories and a new collection: This Road Will Take Us Closer to the Moon, and has taught creative writing for adults for 20 years and won national short fiction awards.
*So You Have a Story to Tell
This circle will provide a discussion forum for people who have not yet written or published a book, but know they have a worthwhile tale to tell.
Facilitator: Jan Klooster
Bio: Jan Klooster is an ordinary “fierce” mother, Canadian high school teacher, journalist, and first-time author of Dance at My Funeral: Dan Steven, a living prophet in a dying age—a personal story about miracles, grace, and encouragement for others who are considering setting down their stories.
*What Makes Good Religious Poetry?
This circle will discuss what characteristics make spiritual poetry effective. Participants will also share their own favorite religious poems.
Facilitator: Janet Ruth Heller
Bio: Janet Ruth Heller, Ph.D., has published the poetry book Traffic Stop, the award-winning picture book for children How the Moon Regained Her Shape, and the scholarly book Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama; she is president of the Michigan College English Association.
*Women Writing in Online Community
This circle, led by the co-founder of Christianity Today’s blog for women, Her.meneutics, will discuss the value of creating and joining an online writers’ community. It is intended for women who primarily write for an online audience.
Facilitator: Katelyn Beaty
Bio: Katelyn Beaty is associate editor at Christianity Today magazine, where she manages the women's blog Her.meneutics and oversees the This Is Our City project.
*Words and the Word: Poetry, Incarnation, and the Mystical Life
Working in words can become a sacramental practice, using ordinary “stuff of life” material to show God’s presence. In this circle, poets will reflect together on poetic practice and the divine mystery.
Facilitator: Kathleen Staudt
Bio: The author of two books of poems and a scholarly study of the artist and poet David Jones, Kathleen Henderson Staudt works as a spiritual director, teacher, and retreat leader in the Washington DC area, offering courses at Wesley Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary.
*Writing About Nature and Spirit
We engage nature every moment of our day, with every breath we breathe and every step we take. This circle invites you to share and hear ways writers bring nature into their spiritual writing, and bring spirit into their nature writing.
Facilitator: Katherine Murray
Bio: Katherine Murray is the author of Listening to the Earth: Meditations on Experiencing and Belonging to Nature and A Simple Guide to Eco-Spirituality, and she teaches Eco-Spirituality, Supervised Ministry, and Writing as Ministry as adjunct faculty at Earlham School of Religion.
(CLOSED) Writing for Children and Young Adults: Up, Not Down
E.B. White claimed that "Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down." This circle invites participants to consider what it means to "write up" to young readers, and how we might encourage the growth of literature that challenges and delights them.
Facilitator: Heather Bouwman
Bio: Heather Bouwman is the author of the middle grade novel The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap, mom of two avid middle grade readers, and a college English professor in St. Paul, MN.
Writing for Social Justice
This circle will explore the emerging social justice genre and how writers can effectively share passion for a cause without overwhelming or alienating readers.
Facilitators: Tracey Bianchi, Shayne Moore, and Margot Starbuck
Bios: Shayne Moore is an author with an HIV/AIDS platform, activist, and mom; Tracey Bianchi is a pastor, author with an environmental justice platform, and parent; Margot Starbuck is an author with a social justice platform, activist, and parent.
Writing for the Upbuilding of God’s Kingdom
This circle will discuss how the art of storytelling, both in memoir and creative nonfiction forms, can help to engage communal issues and build God’s kingdom.
Facilitator: Enuma Okoro
Bio: Enuma Okoro (www.enumaokoro.com) holds a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School where she served as Director for the Center for Theological Writing. She is a speaker, spiritual director, workshop leader, and author of the memoir Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community.
Writing From Scripture
This circle will present some practical entry points to get started writing poetry based on, or inspired by, Biblical texts.
Facilitator: Tania Runyan
Bio: Tania Runyan, a recent NEA fellow in poetry, is the author of A Thousand Vessels, Simple Weight, and Delicious Air, which won the 2007 Book of the Year from the Conference on Christianity and Literature.
*Writing in Community
This circle will discuss a broad range of community writing opportunities, including online writing projects, collaboration, writer’s groups, social media, writing partners, and more.
Facilitators: Ann Kroeker, Charity Singleton
Bios: Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton write in community as content editors of TheHighCalling.org—Ann has blogged since 2003 and authored two books; Charity has blogged since 2006 and written several articles.
*Writing the Bible
As a collection of literary texts, the influence of the Bible on literature is enduring. This circle will spark conversation among writers about the Bible’s influence on their own work.
Facilitator: Travis Scholl
Bio: Travis Scholl writes from St. Louis, MO, where he is an editor at Concordia Seminary and teaches at Washington University.