I just got back from California after spending Easter with the family. Good times, restful, and important for reflecting on the distance traveled since last year, and the year before that.
Mt. Hermon was a blast. I met so many great people, people of passion, of ideas, and of incredible faith. I came back with one manuscript I really like, a nonfiction book I hope to acquire in the coming weeks, and some good possibilities for fiction as well. But mainly, I was excited to be representing a company with such a great reputation, a smaller, newer company with a diverse backlist and strong growth year after year.
And now I leave for the Calvin Faith and Arts Festival, my first time to this conference. It’s a huge, daunting place and I wonder if there can possibly be so many of my favorite people in one place–these writers I’ve loved and grown from over the years. I first heard Walter Wangerin when he came to Westmont and spoke. We’d read The Dun Cow, Ragman, and The Book of Sorrows, and everyone was so enamored in their collegiate-sophomoric way. I’m sure it will be no different for me this time. I’m so easily led into new areas of thought by writers like Wangerin, I can’t seem to help myself being a bit bedazzled by that mysterious ability they have to always know just what is the newest thing to discuss at the front of the wave.
I want to suppose though, just for a moment, that even if there was this universally held belief that whatever was newest was the most important thing, what would happen if writers didn’t care about it? Imagine if we all stopped wanting to know what Walter Wangerin or Luci Shaw or Marilynne Robinson thought about current affairs, the state of publishing, or the “emerging” newness of a new Christianity, whatever that might look like. What if we only listened to the old? In fact, if we’re honest, we have to admit there’s no such thing as new. If we lived seeking the old instead of the new, would that change how we’re writing, maybe what we’re writing? Maybe it would change for whom we’re writing too.
I don’t want to jump on a soapbox to denounce the cult of the new. I just think there may be something more to this Christian writing revolution than has really caught on yet. Getting back to the old is the new, and the inescapable fundamentals of life like those in our favorite quotes from Ecclesiastes–those are the real distinctives of a “Christian” kind of writing.
“For what does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world yet lose his soul?” I’m thinking I’ll seek my fortunes in the foundations of life and forget the baubles of the day for a while. See if I start to become irrelevant or out-of-touch. I guess that’s the real fear. But I wonder if that has to be the case–are these mutually exclusive terms?
Whenever I read a book, I try to pay attention to the state of mind I’m in since it has so much bearing on what I get out of the book. Everyone’s had the experience of reading some old book again and finding it completely changed. I wonder what the Calvin conference will have to say about this old vs. new debate. I’ll let you know what I find.