Martin Luther’s theology emphasizes freedom, the freedom to engage the world and to educate oneself for meaningful and productive living in that world--in other words, to live vocationally. Festival writers strive for literary as well as psychological and spiritual depth in their work in order to illuminate the richness and complexity of human life. In these panels, Festival writers will explore their vocational dedication as they probe thematic focus and literary craft, as well as the practicalities of publication and distribution.
Art, Idea, and Belief. This Festival intentionally focuses on literary work rather than writing that subordinates art to message. Why might a writer choose to allow theme to emerge rather than having idea dictate a work’s parameters—what is the relationship, in other words, between the thematic and the didactic? How does a writer effectively explore belief or ideas about theology, religion, politics, or morality in literary work? Is there value in framing and articulating questions and not answering them? The panelists will use their own work as illustration as they discuss these issues.
The Past as a Foreign Country. Poetry, historical fiction, and creative nonfiction (including memoir) are based in factual realities and details. Some writers pore over family records or artifacts; others do scholarly research to authenticate their portrayal of past eras and figures. What kinds of historical figures and events lend themselves to creative work? What are the problems of exposition in this kind of creative work? How does a writer shape art out of the details of past lives? How does the writer remain true to historical fact and yet create a fully realized imaginative world? How can the past’s religious dimensions speak to the contemporary world? The panelists will use their own work as illustration as they discuss these issues.
Networking for Readers and Writers. Both the Lutheran Writers Project and the Lutheran Readers Project grew out of the 2007 Lutheran Festival of Writing. Paul Shepherd, one of the originators of the Festival, manages the website of the Lutheran Writers Project (lutheranwriters.org), based at Roanoke College. The website seeks to serve writers who strive for spiritual and literary depth, engage the Church’s imagination, enable dialogue, and provide resources for writers, readers, organizations, and institutions. The Lutheran Readers Project (formerly the Lutheran Book Club), directed by Mark Mustian, is a resource for readers interested in literature addressing Lutheran culture, history, and faith. The Readers Project selects books by featured authors (many are Festival presenters past and present), for which it provides background materials, study guides, and interviews with writers—all for individual readers or for reading groups. Got any more ideas you’d like to see for writers, readers, pastors, or churches? This roundtable will discuss these projects and brainstorm ideas for other future projects.
A Sense of Place. The presenters on this panel write about such disparate subjects as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Finnish Americans in the Upper Midwest, the human and natural ecosystems of Northeast Iowa, and plain folks in the Deep South. What are some of the challenges in writing about place? How does a writer avoid stereotyping regions and their people? What techniques translate the specificity of local detail into universal meaning and appeal? How important is religious practice in the understanding of place? The panelists will use their own work as illustration as they discuss these issues.
Thoughts on Editing and Publishing. This panel discussion of editing and publishing brings together editors and publishers of a range of publications, a writer who has been widely published, and a writer who has self-published. Some topics for discussion: What does an editor consider in selecting work for publication? What are the opportunities and roadblocks in peer-reviewed publication, and why might a writer choose to self-publish? Why might a writer choose a secular over a religious journal for publication? How receptive are secular publications to works that explore religious issues? With recent changes at Augsburg Fortress Press, the ELCA no longer has a literary publishing venue—what other opportunities are available for writers focused on Lutheran or wider religious concerns?