I was a senior at college in Chicago when I first heard of the Festival of Faith & Writing. A mentor kindly offered to pay my way to the event in a town called Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I took him up on the offer as soon as I saw that Chaim Potok, Maya Angelou, and Anne Lamott were among the speakers. Little did I know that weekend would affect the course of my life.
One of the sentiments I often hear from people who attend the Festival of Faith & Writing is this: I’ve found my people. I know what they mean. It’s how I felt that first Festival as I wandered in and out of rooms and conversations filled with big questions and beautiful words and a spirit of joyful, fearless inquiry. In this place I found the embodied potential of reading: fellow travelers celebrating the experience of understanding and being understood—and the equally important experience of failing at both—through words and stories.
By the time I was named director of the Festival in 2015, I hadn’t missed one since that first trip I made as a college senior. I’d spent the intervening 15 years in publishing, and during that time the Festival only grew as a source of personal and professional inspiration and community. It’s an incredible honor to continue the work of my predecessors—Henry Baron, Dale Brown, and Shelly LeMahieu Dunn. And it’s also a delight to now work alongside a talented team to cultivate the same experience for others.
I hope you see yourself in the stories we consider and celebrate. I also hope you meet strangers in these stories. Above all, I hope you feel welcome here. You are among friends; you are among readers.
Lisa Ann Cockrel
director, Festival of Faith & Writing