Last week, along with a few thousand other writers, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing and Calvin College.
Can I tell you a secret? As I much as I wanted to go when I registered when the actual Festival arrived? I was terrified. I didn’t want to go.
I wanted to scalp my ticket, craft a lame excuse stay home in my bleach stained tyoga pants. I could hide from my online friends who’d be soon arriving in my town and ignore the internet with all it’s hashtag glory. Clearly everyone would be tweeting things like… #FFWGRisawesomesauce #gettingallthebookdealsatFFWGR #myfriendsareawesomesoamI (as I suspected…)
I was exhausted, I had a chest cold and I was awkwardly pregnant. The sort where nothing fits you so instead you just look fat. This was no state in which to present my real live self to the internet world. “I always thought @LeannePenny was slim, Boy was I wrong…#layoffthebagelslady”
The issue with my stay home and hide plan was that my friend Abby was coming to stay with us and I couldn’t very well bail on my houseguest. I was that sure she would spill into my house full of excitement, ready to learn, be challenged meet all the people and rock all the networking.
However, after her arrival, over a plate of my friend Anne’s chocolate cake, I realized that she was (almost) as angsty about the Festival as I was. We sat around my battered kitchen table and confessed fears, talked about mean tweets, meeting people who’ve blown us off, publishers, proposals and fear that no one would want to sit with us at lunch… or anywhere else for that matter.
I don’t know about other industries but I’m finding that the writing feels a more than a little Teen Spirity.
On the day of the actual festival I pieced myself together in my most gracious clothing and we made our way downtown.
The best thing I did before going was make peace that I wasn’t nearly as prepared to meet with publishers as other, non-pregnant people were and that this was okay. I had cute business cards, my
mostly whole self and an aqua Moleskine, this was all I needed to receive what festival had to give me.
And in the end? I am so glad I was able to
mostly leave nervous, teenage Leanne in the van. I really did find refreshment in my experiences at Festival. Here are 6 thoughts and 7 quotes that I’m taking away, gems I collected to put above my desk.
1) Poetry that resonates deeply within you can fix your perspective with the world, with God and with writing, and shalom requires that these things be aligned.
“The Poem is opaque, you see yourself in it. Poetry contains no single, obscured, meaning to be gleaned and beat people over the head with.” ~Scott Cairns.
(Poetry is for everyone, it is what you glean from it!)
2) Living in fear of who you’re not in light of everyone else will destroy you and steal your perspective, your joy and your life. Live with eyes open, notice the world, listen upward at all God is whispering.
“I am a seeker, but not always a finder.” ~ Luci Shaw.
3) Lament and grief are something God never asked us to hide from or pretend away. More and more people, churches and writers are getting on board here. This brings me unspeakable joy as my experience 4 years ago was very different, I found little space for lament in Christian culture. I am happy to be a small part of this movement.
“You have to have Good Friday to have Easter.” ~Shannon Huffman Polson
4) Not all of the fruit and yogurt parfaits at Calvin College contain actual fruit. In fact. in the blueberry ones the fruit is just a chopped up blueberry muffin. Also they are top heavy, watch out or you might awkwardly spill them in front of a table of peers you were hoping to impress, at least a little.
“Dammit! Sorry for saying dammit…. I just spilled my yogurt on the carpet, do you guys have any napkins?” ~Leanne Penny
5) Writing is difficult for everyone, and it brings out your worst neurosis.
“You sit to write & all your unresolved psychiatric issues come to help you. They sit on your desk & they have some worries” ~ Anne Lammott
6) I don’t have to rely on my strength figure it all out, to find the right words. I do have to show up, but beyond that God can do things with my words that are beyond my ability alone. The Holy Spirit is a powerful agent between readers and writers.
“My insufficiency is the point, It’s about my getting out of the way for Jesus.”
~Rachel Held Evans
“God didn’t say “take and figure it all out” he said “take and eat.” ~Anne Lammott
So this is what I brought home from the Festival of Faith and Writing.
Were you there? What did you love, take home?
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