A special treat at Seattle University

By Joanne Peterson | Mar 14, 2013

Once in a while, I participate in an event that causes my heart to sing.  Last Saturday I attended the fifth annual Seattle University “Search for Meaning Book Festival.”

It’s billed as “an annual festival and a nationwide network surrounding the human search for meaning, hosted by Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry.” I’ve attended three years in a row, and each year I’ve found much to appreciate.

For one thing, I attend with some of my writing sisters, which makes the event a special treat. It’s good to share something of such significance, knowing we can compare notes later.

Mostly, though, it’s an amazing privilege to attend a 9 to 5 Saturday gathering of 3000 or so folks who’ve responded to Seattle U’s invitation to a day of exposure to various notable authors and speakers—at no charge.

Generous benefactors make the festival possible, but the investment SU makes must be tremendous. An unimaginable amount of work must go into making the huge conference a success every year.

The past couple of years, I’ve been delighted to hear as keynote speakers author Anne Lamott, poet Mary Oliver and Jesuit priest and author Fr. James Martin. It was a pleasure to hear them speak, and I continue to enjoy their work.

The conference this year featured a morning keynote appearance by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Michael Chabon, interviewed by his friend National Book Award winning author, poet and screenwriter Sherman Alexie.  The two were obvious crowd favorites.

The final event of the day was another keynote speech, this one by Reza Aslan, author of (among other things) the international bestseller “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam,” named one of the most important books of the past decade. His informative and thought-provoking address probably impressed me the most of anything all day.

Over 40 other authors, poets and theologians presented workshops.  I was delighted to see on the program a respected and admired Edmonds Community College faculty member and noted poet, Holly Hughes. Her workshop, entitled “The Pen & the Bell: Making Space in a Crowded World for Contemplation and Creativity,” definitely was another highlight of my day.

Holly was told to expect a maximum of 35 participants. She shared with us her personal expectation that there would be perhaps eight or ten people—and found herself facing 50 or so eager learners, some of whom stood or sat on the floor.

Another highlight of the day was the simple pleasure of walking around the Seattle University campus with my friends enjoying sunshine, listening to birds singing, smelling the fragrance of various flowering bushes beginning to bloom.

A college campus in springtime is a treat.

Watch for this free Seattle University event next year if you’re interested in books and spirituality.



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