Friday, April 16, 2010
Festival of Faith and Writing
Since I've been passing out business cards, I feel compelled to update this blog so that the top article isn't about Derrick Rose. Here at the Festival of Faith and Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I'm surrounded by Christian writers. Publishers, editors and aspiring literary types of all kinds trying to sell themselves. The funny thing is that most of them are so apprehensive, they may never actually get that book to a printer. Calvin College attracts the Christians who hate materialism, love art, and aren't sure how to reconcile the two.
I'm sitting behind the vendors table for the Burnside Writers Collective, telling visitors that it costs nothing to submit, but pays nothing either. Still they take pamphlets, maybe because they've heard of Donald Miller. Most of them are seasoned with gray hair and deep crow's feet. They're poets. And even though Burnside doesn't publish much poetry, I encourage them to submit anyway.
But another man has written a book. He meets an agnostic and Catholic in a hotel hot tub, and they become friends to the death. He has the same thin, blue jacket with the plaid lining as my granddad and a voice like a radio broadcaster from the 50s'. He grew up in Gurnee, where his family once owned the farmland that Six Flags Great America now incorporates, but moved to the Seattle suburbs to become a pastor, and now lives right here in Michigan. He has been trying to get his book published for years, and I can't help but doubt if God will answer his prayer before taking him up to heaven.
The information I do and do not need. I can't tell which is which at this festival. As a young writer, should I be pitching ideas to editors and publishers? Do I have any ideas? Maybe I should just stay behind the table, listen to the old man with the Masters in English tell me the story of his failure to get a book published by a Christian company. Do I have more to learn from that observation than an employee of Zondervan?
What place does a heretic have at this festival? I don't want to read any of these Christian books, I just want to tell people about Burnside because it's a place where writers can share ideas without having to fear mean remarks in the comments section. I don't want to sell myself, or my blog. I don't want anyone here to beat out another guy for a book deal, I just want us to listen to each other.
While I certainly don't fit in at a Christian festival, I think something about this trip is... right. There is a domino effect, and I don't know what stage I'm currently at. On the last day at Relevant, I talked on the phone with Burnside editor John Pattison about having him contribute to that for-profit Christian magazine. If I had gotten fired a day earlier, I may never talked to him, and may never have heard of Burnside. Had I not gotten involved with Burnside, I never would have gone to this festival. But I think what I had previously thought to be the last day, was actually my first. I'm looking at the fallen dominoes behind me, halfway between one falling, not yet struck. The chain reaction began with that phone conversation, and it's twisting down a table from Florida to Chicago to Michigan.
Dear reader, did you come to this blog because I gave you a card? Thanks. It was nice to meet you. Let's write for Burnside together.