If you’re in Ohio, there’s a new workshop of Writing Faith starting up at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton. A collaboration with First Baptist Dayton and Temple Israel, the workshop is going to be 13 weeks, Tuesdays, 5:30-8:30.
The workshop is designed to teach you how to write about Faith–a tricky subject to begin with–but with a long history. Come explore your faith and learn techniques found in Annie Dillard, Langston Hughes, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, Andre Dubus, John Updike, Frederika Mathews-Green, Kathleen Norris and others. While the core may be Jewish and Christian based, there will be readings from other faiths. We hope to create a lasting workshop of multi-faith writers who will continue to write and workshop together.
Follow us on www.writingfaith.net where I’ll be posting short articles about “How to Write about Faith” as we go.
Buddhist, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist—we all have a belief system–“faith” in something, a set of beliefs, a god, gods, guiding principles, morality. It’s hard to express sometimes WHY we believe these things, or HOW they guide us, or how we know they are TRUE. Sometimes we’ve been hurt by religion, disappointed by faith. We want to talk about that too. Maybe we want to pass our beliefs, our experiences down to our kids. We want to explain it to ourselves, sometimes. We’d like to keep a record. But pinning down the inexpressible nature of faith and belief is difficult.
WRITING FAITH SEMINAR AND WORKSHOP
Come join a writing workshop that explores how we talk about faith. Starting this Saturday, Feb 2, we’ll have a one day seminar/workshop from 10-4 that explores Writing Faith with writing tips, games, exercises, and a few readings that map out the basic writing techniques of writing about Faith. Then Feb 8-March 22, join us on Fridays from 5-8 (potluck snacks), at the Whitehorse United Church to explore more in depth how others write
about their faith and get some good feedback on writings you may write about your faith. The group is always ecumenical and eclectic and supportive of new writers. It has been a successful group four times now, three in the Yukon. We teach mostly memoir, but fiction as well.
We don’t teach theology here; we teach writing. We are including writings beyond Christian writings this time around—mostly from the Best Spiritual Writing 2013 that just came out. We aim to be inclusive. We have readings from Pulitzer prize winning author, Annie Dillard, as well as Anne Lamott, Andre Dubus, E.O. Wilson, Langston Hughes, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ron Hansen, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other writers covering a broad spectrum of spirituality—for techniques. We play writing games. We’re kind of like a summer camp for writers. Only in the winter.
How do you write about your “faith”? How do you describe the indescribable, the ineffable, the otherworldly? the grief or joy or miracle or peace or disappointment that you have because of your faith? Everyone can argue about the value or lack of value in “religion”–and it’s an easy connect-the-dots to create your own pictures of what organized religion has done in the world. It’s harder to write about personal faith or your personal interactions with religion–what keeps you going, what happened to you that you know no one would believe, about the anguish of trying to live in a real, faulty, fragile world, when others ask you to strive for peace, patience, happiness, even joy.
This writing workshop will explore how people write about these very personal experiences, or their thoughts about faith and religion and its very real presence in their lives, or the lives of those around them. We’ve had students write about their relationships with their parents, their children, their grandchildren, experiences in nature, in confronting others who aren’t on the same page. We have had students who are believers, non-believers, unsure, people of various faiths. All faiths are welcome–come with what’s important to you, open to what is important to others. This isn’t a dogma class. It’s not a class to teach you from the top down. It’s for you to teach us from the ground up through your experiences, your writing.
What is Faith to you? How do you think about it? How do you put it into words–to tell someone else what it means to you? Does it only appear when you are going through struggles? Is it constant like gravity? I like this photograph by Grigory Kravchenko. The woman looks up, but it looks as if she’s giving God a good talking to. Faith seems to take place over coffee, and in a gritty real-world setting.
Starting January 21st (it was the 14th, but we canceled the first class due to extreme temps, -38C), the Whitehorse United Church and I have teamed up to offer a class in Writing Your Faith. How do we put into words what is ineffable?
We’ll be looking at a lot of writers who have done just that. Some you will find more effective for your style of writing than others.
While the majority of works that we look at will be of the Christian variety, they will not be texts that marginalize you. They will be authors who struggle with the same kinds of questions that most people do when they are talking about a greater being in the world and how they interact with that being. We’re not reading the selections to pick up content—it’s not an evangelical endeavor. What we’re doing is looking at how people talk about their Faith, whatever their Faith might be. So we’re picking up tips. And those tips are good to use whether you are writing about yourself as a Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or Agnostic.