This past weekend I went to Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY (apparently that’s pronounced “Lou-uh-vul”) with my friend Joey Cochran to the Word & Words Conference which shared Christian reflections on reading, writing, and storytelling.
The conference featured Christian writers Mike Cosper, Greg Thornbury, David Dark, Karen Swallow-Prior, Bret Lott, Gregory Wolf, among others, and was filled with reflection, candid conversation, practical insight, writers’ lament, and no shortage of comments bashing Star Wars Episodes I-III (for good reason).
The conference got my creative juices flowing in a number of ways. I also enjoyed being around other people much more creative and talented than me and being challenged to appreciate more deeply the beauty of good writing and storytelling.
I took notes on what I could during the conference and thought I would share a random smattering of quotes, tips, and resources mentioned to give you the flavor of the conference and help you as a reader, writer, and storyteller.
A Few Quotes (see #WordsConf14 for more):
“Love your reader.” Said by several presenters throughout the conference.
“People read pop-culture religiously.” Gregory Thornbury
“Our lives are all worship all the time…worship doesn’t have a start/stop time.” David Dark
“Christians have a weakness for turning stories into hollow vessels to cram a message into.” Gregory Wolfe
“The best way to impact culture: do what you’re good at to serve.” Coury Deeb commenting on 1 Peter 4:10
“It’s hard to write about sin in the literary world because it is a world where often sin doesn’t exist.” Dave Harrity
“Being a writer is the equivalent of having homework all the time.” Bret Lott
“Always be writing something you have no idea how to write.” Bret Lott
Bret Lott quoting Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Literature is not a mere science, to be studied; but an art, to be practised.”
“Let your faith emerge mysteriously as you write about human realities.” Gregory Wolfe
“Art lost its ability to thrive when it was separated from worship.” Gregory Wolfe
“If the Christian message is incarnate in you it will incarnate into your creativity as well.” Gregory Wolfe
“Part of the craft of writing a personal essay is giving the reader space to feel.” Gregory Wolfe
A Few Tips for Improving as a Writer:
- Write a lot. Read a lot. (If you’ve ever read anything on writing you will know this.)
- Your work cannot (usually) have more than two of the following qualities: Cheap, Fast, and Great. (HT Coury Deeb of moreartlessevil.com)
- Force constraints on your writing (i.e. a structure or model to copy) to sharpen your thinking. (HT Shannon Skelton)
- Practice writing a six-word memoir.
- Newspaper blackout activity
- Quit using the word “that” so often. Also, don’t use adverbs of manner (that end in -ly). Quit using the word “would” when describing actions. (HT Bret Lott)
Some Books and Resources:
Below are a few resources either recommended, quoted, or read at the conference. (I was told that some of the conference audio would be available. I will post when it is released or you can check wordandwords.com.)
- A short story that moved me: Tree House by Shannon Skelton (in Ruminate Magazine, volume 31)
- Donald Miller: How to Tell a Story (Free PDF)
- How Reading Makes Us Human by Karen Swallow-Prior in The Atlantic
- Documentary: Bboy for Life. From NadusFilms.com
- Book: How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K.A. Smith
- Book: The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper
- Book: The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Hyde
- Author (SciFi): Philip K Dick. Called by some “The Shakespeare of SciFi”
- Book: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
- Book: Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
- Book Series: C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy
- Book: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
- An example of artistic imitation: What We Talk About When We Talk about Anne Frank: Stories (also read What We Talk About When We Talk about Love)
- Example of creative stories: Robert Owen Butler’s Tabloid Dreams Signed
- Good poetry resource: Poets.org
- One book I’ll add: The Power of Words and the Wonder of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (as a free PDF or on Amazon)