On Sunday I returned from the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Writing. What a great event! If you love books, writing, poetry, theology, the arts, intellectual engagement, etc., you’ll dig this biennial conference. I had the privilege of doing one solo presentation about my book, and I took part in two panel discussions–“Writing Toward Social Justice,” with Charles Marsh and Helena Maria Viramontes, and “To Tell the Truth,” with Cathleen Falsani, Dorina Lazo Gilmore, and Bruce Umpstead. I felt out of my league at moments, but God gave me sufficient grace to speak (or at least enough to not look like a Book TV wannabe).
I’m thankful for the gracious response of the folks who came to my sessions. Someone sent me this humbling review (though it sort of scares me now to realize that folks actually write reviews of conference sessions 🙂 ). Plus, I had the opportunity to meet or reconnect with several friends—L. L. Barkat, Llama Momma, Ragamuffin Diva, Dr. Joseph Daniels, Nikki Grimes, Hugh Cook, Victoria Johnson, Richard Kauffman.
I also enjoyed sessions and talks featuring authors like Rob Bell, Krista Tippett, Edward P. Jones, Haven Kimmel, Carole Weatherford, Carlos Eire, and many others. Too many to mention, really. This festival is like an overdose of inspiration for word addicts.
I returned home with a renewed appreciation for the artistic endeavor—and a desperate need to finish a big project that will soon be due. Which means I probably shouldn’t be blogging right now. In fact, noting that I’ve been blogging more often than usual lately, Llama Momma wondered whether I was avoiding finishing that “big project.” Busted! (If you read Llama Momma’s blog, it’s no surprise to you that she’s so keenly perceptive.)
Anyway, here’s something else I discovered while at the Calvin Festival. During a trip to a nearby Barnes and Noble, an enchanting combination of violin and voice wafted from the store speakers. The sound led me to the music section. “Are you wondering who that artist is?” the young woman behind the service desk asked; I suppose I wear my curiosity rather prominently. “Yeah, who is that?” I said. Turns out it’s an artist named Lili Haydn, a singer/songwriter whom P-Funk maestro George Clinton once called “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin.” I picked up a copy of her new CD, Place Between Places, and resisted my usual practice of never buying new music until I’ve thoroughly researched the artist. Every now and then, however, I’ll take a risk and try a new CD on a whim. It paid off with Norah Jones, whose first album I picked up and purchased months before she became a sudden superstar. I also got into Amy Winehouse before I knew how terribly lost she is (ah, but she’s enormously talented when sober). I don’t think Lili Haydn will rocket to fame like Jones or Winehouse; her music is a bit too eccentric and hard to categorize—it’s classical, pop, jazz, funk, with dashes of folk. Still, I’m drawn to the uniqueness of her sound and her diversity of influences.
So that’s what I discovered at Calvin: God’s sufficiency, warm fellowship, creative inspiration, and Lili Haydn.