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lilly vocation discernment initiative

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Writers on Vocation

A series of lectures on writing and the writing life by nationally prominent writers.

Co-sponsored by the Lilly Vocation Discernment Initiative and the Creative Writing Program

In these talks writers will explore the topic of writing as vocation. They will engage issues of craft and language by reading sections from their own work and talking about their writing process. By definition, vocation means work that is carried out more for its altruistic benefit than its income, and even in secular terms implies a sense of calling. But what do writers mean when they say that writing is their life’s work?

Writers of all faiths and of all degrees of faith will be invited, but in various ways, all writers will be asked to consider the ways in which as artists they attempt to explore and engage questions of truth. Additionally they will be asked to consider the following questions:

Does the discipline of writing interact with the discipline of faith? And if so in what ways? Is the struggle to write well comparable to the struggle to maintain one’s faith? How does a writer’s sense of vocation shape their relationship to their work and to their faith?

Some of the writers invited into this series draw inspiration directly from religion, and they will talk about the ways in which their spiritual practice structures or informs their writing practice. Others may talk about the ways in which their chosen system of belief is in conflict with their art.

Each lecture will be followed by a question and answer period aimed at encouraging an ongoing dialogue.

past events

Thursday, February 18, 2010Brenda Miller has published collections of her essays in Season of the Body and Blessing of the Animals. She is co-author with Suzanne Paola of Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Non-fiction. She is associate professor of English at Western Washington University.

February 22, 2007 - Peter Balakian, author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and




October 26, 2006- Robin Hemley, author and Director of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Co-sponsored by the Creative Writing Program.



Thursday, March 30, 2006 Novelist, essayist, and National Book Award finalist Ron Hansen. Co-sponsored by the Creative Writing Program.