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Three 2016 Midwestern Literary Conferences


Writers and readers, the spring of 2016 has fantastic conference opportunities in store. Yes, the marquee art and faith event in the nation, the Festival of Faith and Writing, is back, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But we wanted to alert you to several other local gatherings as well. Mark your calendars!


Sat, Feb 13, 2016 – Living in the Kiln (Cedarville University, OH) / Submission deadline: Jan 25

“Living in the Kiln: Refining the Self through Literary Conversation” is the title of the forthcoming undergraduate conference at Cedarville University. Here’s the description of what they’re looking for:

Broad interpretations of the theme are welcome and even encouraged. We look forward to interacting with all kinds of scholarly approaches including interdisciplinary studies, as well as all forms of creative writing. To be considered for the conference, please send a 300-word abstract of scholarly work or a complete work of creative writing appropriate for a 15-minute presentation to alphakap[at] Send questions to wilfongp[at] Please include your complete contact information and use “Conference: [submission title]” as your subject line.

Polish up your best work that fits the theme, and submit! In the past, several Taylor English and creative writing majors have had work accepted and made very successful presentations at this excellent conference.


In addition to the undergraduate presentations, the conference features a keynote address by poet Karen An-hwei Lee. An-hwei Lee is winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award and the author of Phyla of Joy, Ardor, and a book of literary criticism involving the Asian Diaspora. She is also a Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist’s Grant and is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle.


Sat, March 12, 2016 – Voices of the Middle West (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

Voices of the Middle West held its inaugural conference in 2015, and it was a wonderful experience. Here’s a description from the website:

The goal of the festival is to bring together students and faculty of the university, as well as writers and presses from all over the Midwest, in order to provide a perspective of this region and to showcase the magnificent work being produced here, the stories that need to be told…the voices that need to be heard.

The conference features excellent presentations by some of the Midwest’s finest writers, and a book fair that runs all day, providing an opportunity to connect with literary journals, presses, and their writers and editors.

ross gay

The conference keynote speaker will be Ross Gay, the author of Against Which, Bringing the Shovel Down, and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry. He is a founding editor of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. He is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches at Indiana University.


April 14-16 – Festival of Faith and Writing (Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI)

When it comes to art and faith, this is the Big One, the largest literary conference of its kind and a joy and wonder. From the website:

The Festival of Faith & Writing began in 1990 as an exploration of the communities made and served by religious writing. Since its inception, the Festival has brought both new and established talent to speak about a variety of issues related to faith, ethics, justice, and the craft of storytelling. The Festival has welcomed to Calvin more than 13,000 attendees and hundreds of renowned speakers, including Maya Angelou, John Updike, Yann Martel, Elie Wiesel, Marilynne Robinson, Donald Hall, Eugene Peterson, Katherine Paterson, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Kate DiCamillo, Luci Shaw, and many more.

zadie smith
Zadie Smith

Feast on just a few of 2016’s speakers: Zadie Smith, whose debut White Teeth was named to TIME magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Pulitzer prize winner Paul Harding. George Saunders, widely considered one of the finest living American short story writers. Critically acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chigoze Obiama, whom the New York Times hailed as “the heir to Chinua Achebe.” Tobias Wolff, who received a National Medal of the Arts from President Obama in September of 2015. And well over forty other luminaries, from celebrated veterans to up-and-comers in every genre, not to mention the book fair, workshops, off-site gatherings, and a concert.

Suffice it to say that FFW is a can’t-miss event for the literary person of faith.


English and creative writing majors: Professor Bowman has attended all three of these conferences in the past and plans to drive to and attend them this spring. Email him at dnbowman[at] if you’re interested in going.

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