Notes From A Conference

In Miscellaneous by Caris Adel5 Comments

This past weekend, I went to my first writing conference, the Festival of Faith and Writing.  It was amazing.  I loved eavesdropping on conversations that were about books and authors and writing.

To listen to people enthuse about books and words was very soul-satisfying.

Here are most of my notes from day 1, from some amazing writers and speakers.

Where the Servants Dwell – Gary Schmidt

We have to practice reading to make us humane, even human.  Story suggests our own place in our own story.  It gives us more to be human with.

“Anything worth saying is unsayable.  That’s why we have story.” – Kevin Moffatt

The world is messy, with complicated interests.  How do we make sense of it?  How do we live?  That is where the servants dwell.  That is where the writer, artist, dwells.

(He tells the most amazing story of Naaman.  I can’t wait for the mp3 to listen to it again.  It was master story-telling. -C.A.)

The story of Naaman is the writer’s world.  {I worship with the king in the temple of Rimmon, can I still work there?} Stories are not about having the right answers – they’re about having the right questions.  Stories that often give easy answers are lies.

The hardest part for the writer is to find that question that pierces the complexity of the world.

“Why don’t you try this?”

“You will never love art well until you love what she mirrors better” – Ruskin

Love the world, and then ask questions.  We can bring our own emotions – anger, bitterness, etc…or we can bring love.

The writer must attend to the world.  The writer who is a servant beings with loving the world, and the craft.  You have to love words.  The writer works stubborn word by stubborn word and stubborn sentence by stubborn sentence.

Serve wittily in the tangle of your mind.

Curiosity – Amy Frykholm and Judith Shulevitz

Follow the fear.

The most uncomfortable things are the things you have to write about.

The stuff that is unpleasant is the stuff that’s important.

It starts with an obsession that you can’t understand.  You have to learn about it and cultivate the questions.  Find the story, ask how to turn it into a story.

“All writers are filled with self-pity.”

Start with questions instead of an audience.

Difference between curiosity and information:

Go into the dark corners. Learn to know how much you don’t know.  When interviewing, create vulnerability.  Act like you don’t know.  Vulnerability is the difference between curiosity and information.  When asking, open up space and they will step into it.  Information is a lack of vulnerability – it’s knowing.  Real curiosity costs effort.  It’s work to find out.  Work to go where you don’t want to.

Go from the idea to the embodiment.  You think you find an answer but it’s really a question.   Anything you discover can be rethought.  No answer should fail to provoke.  When you write, leave the reader asking more questions.

It’s all about pain – the place you are cut off from.  You become curious about the place they won’t let you go.

Curiosity and imagination – ‘What if you tried this?’  It leads to a chain of questions.

Imagination has to be grounded in detail, facts.  Give one believable detail and the readers will imagine the rest.  Being dissatisfied with a place can be an engine for creativity and productivity.

Interview with Bruce Cockburn

The urge to self-destruct is in us all.  It’s a fight between that and the awareness of the inter-connectedness between us all.

Does love go all the way down?  We hope.

Material things are illusions, and they they aren’t.  They’re made of waves and particles.  Love is a force, wave, particle.  It penetrates more than life.

He called sin terrorism, and sinners terrorists.  (The crowd did not like that.)

We become attached to our addictions.

If I’m going to love my neighbor, I should know who they are.

Relationships are essential to knowing God.  God is boundless.

When you write, you’re addressing yourself.

“The songs are my vehicle to share myself with the audience.  I weave a world and hopefully they recognize themselves in it.”

You can turn your back on love and it will run you over.

Jonathan Safren Foer 

Meaningful change is a rare thing.  Not all change is wanted or good.  Sometimes we change too much.

How do we bind ourselves to our ancestors without being bound?

Sometimes there is a limited window of time for change.

The people we speak to become coffins for our words, and this shouldn’t be.

Be frustrated, romantic, not satisfied with boredom, but be adults.  Man is outside time, we are the past and moving forward.

We would all believe in God if we knew he existed.  But would that be fun?

When people ask, ‘how is work?’, the answer is ‘Always the same’.  ‘Never the same‘.

Have less to announce, and more to say.

As a pencil disappears with use, so does an artist.  Giving a word to a thing is to give it life.

Expression is generative.

Art is to participate in the ongoing creation of the world.

We are generating the world, creating it, filling it out.  We disappear into the world to create more world.

He told stories about knowing Yehuda Amichai, and read a poem he had written, A Man In His Life.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment, to laugh and cry with the same eyes, with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them, to make love in war and war in love.

Day 2 Notes

Day 3 Notes




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