“For many years, I've been dreaming of organizing an event that would bring together a group of first-rate writers who deal seriously and honestly with the spiritual and religious life,” said Rick Chess, UNC Asheville’s Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences. That dream is becoming a reality on Oct. 21-22, when UNC Asheville and Wake Forest University School of Divinity jointly convene Faith in Literature: A Festival of Contemporary Writers of the Spirit.
“I don't know what it’s like for other folks who take their spiritual and religious lives seriously, but I've always turned to the work of poets, fiction and nonfiction writers as part of my own spiritual and artistic life,” Chess continued. “I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to feature the life of the spirit and literature in this festival.”
Fourteen writers whose work deeply engages a faith tradition or spiritual practice will gather at UNC Asheville for the festival; their work in prose and poetry may embrace, complicate or wrestle with those practices and traditions. The festival features writers from several faiths, and will include readings, panel discussions and guided conversations with audience members. The festival also features two open productions of On Being with Krista Tippett, which have sold out. However, many wonderful events remain free and open to everyone.
Highlights of the festival include a featured conversation with celebrated poet Marilyn Nelson on Friday, Oct. 21 and with Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson on Saturday, Oct. 22. Nelson is the author or translator of more than 24 books, and was awarded the 2012 Frost Medal, the Poetry Society of America's most prestigious award, for “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry,” and in January 2013, she was elected a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Wilkerson is the author of the award-winning The Warmth of Other Suns, and is the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win the Pulitzer Prize—and the first African-American to win for individual reporting. Wilkerson was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama.
The festival is supported in partnership with WCQS, Asheville’s NPR station, with additional support from Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café, Bob and Carol Deutsch, Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund, and Orison Books as well as UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies, Center for Diversity Education, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; and the NEH Distinguished Professor in the Humanities. This project is also made possible in part by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
The schedule for the Faith in Literature festival is filled with more readings, conversations and discussions by many more accomplished authors. Events will take place across campus, with some being held on the Quad in a special sukkah—a shelter constructed for use during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, during which the Faith in Literature festival takes place. For the full schedule and list of authors, visit the Faith in Literature website.