As tulips and redbuds blossomed, close to 2,000 people--publishers, authors, students, editors, book lovers--came together April 19-21 for the biannual Festival of Faith and Writing on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., the festival’s permanent home. Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie closed each of the festival days with evening plenary addresses, and 120 daytime sessions featured more than 100 writers discussing themes, techniques, and business.
Rookie Zondervan author Ann Voskamp (see profile in this issue) attracted Twitter buzz, a late evening concert by musician and songwriter Bruce Cockburn drew a crowd, and “festival circles”--small discussion groups on topics of common interest--helped engage attendees. Baker Publishing Group, Wm. B. Eerdmans, and Zondervan, all headquartered in the area, underwrote the festival, which provides an opportunity for publishers to scout the field, promote their authors, and sell books to committed readers.
“We have a role in making connections between talented authors and people who haven’t heard of them, who are hungry for new authors,” said Debra Rienstra, a member of the festival planning committee and of the college’s English department faculty. “We’re always reading.”
First-time attendee Joseph Durepos, executive editor for trade acquisitions at Loyola Press, voiced a sentiment common to other festival newcomers. “The program is excellent, even extraordinary,” he said. “There’s this rolling quality of wonderful presenters. I’ll definitely be back.”
Oregon-based publisher Wipf & Stock was promoting its new Poiema poetry series, inaugurated earlier this year with Six Sundays Toward a Seventh by Sydney Lea. Forthcoming titles include Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected, and Revised Poems by Paul Mariani. Acquisitions editor Rodney Clapp said the publisher, known primarily for academic titles, is expanding into literature. To that end the house is talking with others with connections in poetry and fiction—for example, arts groups and journals/magazines--about potential partnerships. “We’re in an expansion stage,” Clapp said.
Staff from Zondervan and Zonderkidz met with prospective authors and sold select titles in the exhibitor area, although the college’s bookstore was the principal venue for both sales and signings. “As long as someone is selling the book, it’s fine,” said Chriscynethia Floyd, v-p of marketing at Zonderkidz. Zondervan, Baker Publishing Group, and InterVarsity Press also made presentations to interested fest-goers.
The next Festival of Faith and Writing takes place in 2014.