I cannot begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to this writer’s conference after what seemed like a forever winter (ongoing?).
I kept checking the website at least once a week to see if new writers had been added as speakers. I signed up for the Festival newsletter and got updates. I read the recommended books—not all of them, but enough to tell you I loved Chris Beha’s Whatever Happened to Sophie Wilder. Please read this book—it is a mystery, not really, in a style that reminded me somewhat of Oscar Wilde (Pic of Dorian Grey). The mystery it turns out has to do more with incarnation and transmutation, about grace in the face of struggle.
I also needed this conference. I needed a piece of warmth in the midst of what felt like human coldness. It was a spark. A rekindling. What I hoped would be the start of spring.
Well . . . .
I’d been attending the FFW since 1994, twenty years. So I’ve gotten used to what to expect. The first person I ran into—and this is the kind of conference where it is possible to run into authors and actually say hi and have a quick conversation, in fact speakers often show up at other speakers sessions, oh the warmth, the new life springing!!—was poet Luci Shaw, who, and I don’t think I'm exaggerating, holds the cornerstone to this event. She is a stalwart presence. Yet I was still surprised that she was the first person I might run into. This was a very good sign of fresh air, what I’d been craving.
Later Luci would hit it out of the ballpark. At her session almost every seat was filled at the C-FAC. At the end of the hour I had to knock about a dozen people all over age 70 out of my way to get to the bookstore. We were ALL racing to buy her books. Within minutes, no joke, after picking up a copy of Adventure into Ascent (IVP) all her books were sold. I could have re-sold the copy in my hand, flipped it for more than I’d paid. The line for book signing stretched into next Sunday. Way to go, girl.
I sat in on Exclusion and Embrace Miroslav Volf, Scott Cairns, Marilyn Nelson (loved your necklace, girl!), Anne Lamott with her self-depreciating wit that empathizes with me, me in the upper deck, struggling to feel spring and sparks or a creative edge. Plus dozens more I’d never heard of, but was so glad I was finally finding out about. Right now my request queue at the Chicago Public Library is out of control.
There was the general conversation about: Are people still reading today? Huh, yeah. This is a conference, a particular group of attendees that have no qualms about reading, writing, and buying books. They find themselves in words. From words spring new life. Words made flesh. Words of bone and blood. Words that filled me up and pushed winter aside.
And mortality. And the all too frequent news that someone I know has died. It’s been that kind of winter—that tries the soul and makes us doubt. Am I still here?
I’ll be blogging more this week—because I’m BACK!