\"It\'s not always easy to bring the priesthood and writing together\"

“…In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

We began this morning with a beautiful chapel speaker, writer Uwem Akpan. Uwem is originally from Nigeria and was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003. HIs short stories, “My Parent’s Bedroom”–a finalist for the Caine Prize for African Writing–and “An Ex-Mas Feast” have appeared in the New Yorker and will be inlcuded in his first short-story collection. Say You’re One of Them will be published this summer (note: most of this biographical information is taken from the Festival’s handbook).

The service was, of course, beautiful and I really connected with Uwem. He talked about how he had to dreams: to be a priest and to be a writer. Daniel 3:16-18 really spoke to God guiding him in bringing these two professions together. And then, once he became a writer, he went into formal training for the priesthood, where he encountered more complications. “But at that point, I was very proud… I’m a writer! I’m a writer!” Ironic, because I feel as if I am in the opposite position (I want to talk about faith! I want to talk about faith!) and I am getting the same resistance from The Academy as Uwem was experiencing in his position. Micah 6:8 is his life verse for that life time period.

“…do justice… love kindness… and walk humbly with your God.”

After chapel, I had a few minutes to talk with Uwem. I asked him to pray for me and it was everything beautiful and lovely and human. He held my hands, but because I wasn’t prepared for that, I was standing at an awkward angle, so during the prayer when I wasn’t agree with with him, “Yes, Jesus… Yes, God,” I kept praying, “Dear God, please don’t let me fall over!”

But, mostly, it was just beautiful.

At the end of the service when everyone was holding hands and praying… I am surprised I didn’t cry!

After chapel, I went to a reading by Nancy Hull, a teacher of children’s literature at Calvin College. Her first young-adult novel, On Rough Seas, has just been released and she is currently working on a second YA novel. We chatted about YA historical books for a while afterwards. Very kind and generous woman.

In between sessions, I met an ex-librarian for Grand Valley State University, K. Laurel Balkema and we chatted up library stuff. That was really enjoyable and an excellent connection to make!

And, finally, the key note speaker, Mary Gordon was LOVELY! Beyond lovely! Magnificent!!

\"Bad art does not create bad morals!\"

The title of her talk: Is Fiction Moral?

So, of course, everything I have EVER wanted to talk about (well besides dark chocolate M&Ms) in The Academy.

A random sketch of quotes/thoughts from her…

“If your primary purpose in life is to be moral, then your primary goal should be to do good works, not to write.”

“Bad art does not create bad morals.”


“When I am thinking about morals, I look to people I know, not fictional characters.”–probably why I have such a HARD time remembering to NOT put people on pedastals. Bummer.

Well, signing out for now. Have to get MORE coffee, and go to the next event.