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2024 Festival of Faith and Writing – Pre-Reading Guide

The 2024 Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin University is just around the corner!

The Festival of Faith & Writing is a biennial celebration that draws more than 2,000 people from across the world to the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rooted in Reformed theology about common grace and the goodness of creation, the Festival of Faith & Writing creates space for meaningful discussion and shared discovery among people with different religious beliefs and practices. Over three days every other April, the Festival brings diverse voices together to offer thoughtful reflection through lectures, readings, conversations, workshops, and more. It’s an absolute feast for readers, including those who also write.

The 2024 Festival of Faith & Writing will be held in-person April 11-13, with optional workshops on April 10.

[ Learn more about the FFW and Register ]


In order to prime and prepare ourselves for this conference, we have put together a pre-reading guide that includes sixteen of our favorite writers who will be at the conference, including their anticipated topics of discussion.

PLENARY SPEAKERS

ANTHONY DOERR

Anthony Doerr is the author of the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, and the novels About Grace, All the Light We Cannot See, which was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and Cloud Cuckoo Land, which was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award, a finalist for Novel of the Year in the British Book Awards, and winner of the Grand prix de littérature américaine in France.

Doerr’s short stories and essays have won five O. Henry Prizes and have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, New American Stories, The Best American Essays, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, and many other places. His work has been translated into over forty different languages and won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, an Alex Award from the American Library Association, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, four Pushcart Prizes, three Pacific Northwest Book Awards, five Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. All the Light We Cannot See was a #1 New York Times bestseller, remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for over 200 weeks, and was released by Netflix as a limited series on November 2, 2023.

At FFW2024:

The topic of Anthony Doerr’s talk is still to be determined.

READ more about Doerr’s most recent novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land,
in a feature that we published in 2021.

Recommended FFW Pre-Reading:
All The Light We Cannot See 

(BONUS! Watch a Trailer of the Netflix 3 Episode Series based on Doerr’s book, All the Light We Cannot See)


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YAA GYASI

Novelist Yaa Gyasi is the author of two novels: Homegoing, a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America; and Transcendent Kingdom, a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama. Transcendent Kingdom was an instant New York Times bestseller.

Born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Yaa Gyasi is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and lives in Berkeley, California. She is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. Homegoing also was a winner at the 2017 Audie Awards.

Personable and intimate, Gyasi’s lectures explore contemporary craft, cultural identity, and the complex racial landscape of America’s past and present.

At FFW2024:

Gyasi’s session will take the form of an interview, addressing a myriad of topics.

READ our Review of Transcendent Kingdom

Recommended FFW Pre-Reading:

Transcendent Kingdom:
A Novel


TRACY K. SMITH 

Tracy K. Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, memoirist, editor, translator and librettist. She served as the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2017-19, during which time she spearheaded American Conversations: Celebrating Poetry in Rural Communities with the Library of Congress, launched the American Public Media podcast The Slowdown, and edited the anthology American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time.

Smith is the author of the poetry collections Such Color: New and Selected Poems; Wade in the Water, which was awarded the 2018 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; Life on Mars, which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize; Duende, winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets; and The Body’s Question, which received the 2003 Cave Canem Prize. Her memoir, Ordinary Light, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in nonfiction. She is the co-translator (with Changtai Bi) of My Name Will Grow Wide like a Tree: Selected Poems of Yi Lei, which was a finalist for the 2021 Griffin International Poetry Prize.  

Among her other honors are the Academy Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, the Harvard Arts Medal, the Columbia Medal for Excellence, a Smithsonian Ingenuity Award and an Essence Literary Award. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Smith teaches at Harvard University, where she is a professor of English and of African and African American Studies and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. 

At FFW2024:

Smith’s session will be based on her newest book, To Free the Captives.

Read our Feature of Tracy K. Smith’s book, To Free the Captives

Recommended FFW Pre-Reading:

To Free the Captives:
A Plea for the American Soul

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