Festival of Faith and Writing 2018: I think we need a password

I’m back from three days in Grand Rapids, where I reconnected with spiritual writing friends and colleagues from all over the country for the 2018 Festival of Faith and Writing. The weather was pitiful, because Michigan, but the company was as delightful as ever. I don’t know how they do it, but the festival organizers (including the brilliant Lisa Cockrel) manage to make a writing conference that’s an occasion of joy, not cynicism. We leave feeling lifted up, encouraged, connected, and happily exhausted by all the extroverting.

I spoke with Rachel Marie Stone and Marlena Proper Graves on the panel “How We Still Need a Room of Our Own,” about what the writing life really requires of us, and how so few of us have the privilege of living fully into artistic vocations. I revisited Tillie Olsen’s comforting/sobering essay “Silences”–about the voices missing from the literary canon–and, I hope, encouraged writers to help each other get through the gates.

a room of our own
Women with three names: Rachel Marie Stone, Me, Marlena Proper Graves

I was also part of the panel “Women Writers Who Won’t Stay in Their Inspirational Lane” with DL Mayfield, Lyz Lenz, Karen Gonzalez, and Christiana Peterson. As promised, we swerved all over the place, from jokes about St Catherine of Siena (she had the BEST diet plan) to real talk about the serious consequences of truth-telling among Christians (including divorce and being ostracized from your faith community). It was funny and heartbreaking and maybe even accidentally inspirational. I hope the audience had as good a time as I did.

stay in your lane
Peterson, Lenz, Gonzalez, Mayfield, and me

After Bill McKibben‘s thoroughly depressing report of how we’ve destroyed the planet (love that guy), some of us braved the bananas winter storm that blew through town and stranded many of the festival goers to meet at a tapas restaurant downtown, where writer Hannah Shanks gave us this benediction from the 14th century mystic Hafiz (via Daniel Lidinsky), reminding us that in case of emergency, we need only remember one thing.

I THINK WE NEED A PASSWORD

I think we need a password, or let’s make that a pass-sentence.

That way, in case you ever come to my door in an emergency and God and I are busy inside,

we could then just shout, Tell us the password! if you really want to snuggle.

And part of the password will be you knowing it is really… a pass-sentence. And here it is in all its glory and truth:

Love kicks the ass of time and space.

Upon hearing that God and I would look at each bewildered, but with delight. We would be glad someone had reached us… with the golden key of their tongue.

Though just to make sure we heard you right we might say in unison, Sing it loudly, baby! Cut loose! We need to double check!

And then if you did, a strength and smile might rise inside of you, and right next to my heart you might be for a moment… beaming like an eye that knows.

Don’t forget now: LKTAOTAS

Maybe even tattoo that somewhere so you will remember.

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