2019 ESR Ministry of Writing Colloquium

Love & Revelation: Songs and Stories from the Heartland
Featuring Plenary Presentations from:
Over the Rhine
& Sister Simone Campbell

Incarnation and Provocation: Toward New Languages of Fai


November 1-2, 2019
Co-sponsored by Bethany Theological Seminary
& the launch of Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing

Registration for this event is closed

PDF brochure

Friday Plenary - Over the Rhine

After 30 years of making music together – and 23 years of marriage – Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler have built a fiercely devoted following with music that finds “transcendence in the subtle,” as a recent reviewer put it.  Their commitment to their Ohio roots first showed up in their band’s name – borrowed from Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood.  It continues in the Nowhere Else Festival, an event they host at their farm in Clinton County, Ohio – where they are also transforming a historic, 170-year-old barn into a performing arts center.  Placed among the top 100 living songwriters by Paste Magazine, Over the Rhine released their 15th studio album, Love & Revelation, earlier this year.  At their keynote for the Writing Colloquium, Bergquist and Detweiler will discuss how their spirituality infuses their music – which, of course, they’ll also play.  Keenly aware of the troubles of our time, Over the Rhine also offers hope.  “We still believe in love and revelation,” as Detweiler puts it.  “We still believe in meaningful work. We keep going, and with the darkness falling, we still find reason to dance."

Saturday Plenary - Sister Simone Campbell

Surprising Truths: Stories of Rural America (and What We Learn if We Listen)

Since January, Sister Simone Campbell has been on the road. As executive director of NETWORK Advocates for Catholic Social Justice, she has convened rural roundtables from New Mexico to New York, learning about the spiritual, economic, and emotional lives of people residing outside major cities. In our Saturday morning plenary session, she’ll describe what she’s found: stories of resilience, faith, and community that defy urban and media stereotypes.  These stories, Sister Simone believes, can seed a more nuanced and community-centered conversation about the state of rural life than we’ve had to date.

Sister Simone Campell is the Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice – a federal advocacy organization founded by Catholic Sisters to lobby in Washington, D.C. for policies that mend the gaps in income and wealth in the United States. She has led six cross-country “Nuns on the Bus” trips focused on tax justice, healthcare, economic justice, comprehensive immigration reform, voter turnout, bridging divides in politics and society, and mending the gaps. Sister Simone Campbell wrote the famous “Nuns’ Letter,” considered by many as critically important in convincing Congress to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and is the author of “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community,” published by HarperCollins. She has received numerous awards, spoken at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and appeared on 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She is a religious leader, attorney, and poet with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change.


Telling Our Stories – and Why It Matters Politically with Sister Simone Campbell and Dr. Sharon Groves, Auburn Seminary
(Saturday morning session ONLY) 

How can our own stories of Midwestern and rural life cut against simplified narratives?  How can we make them heard in ways that might remake the national conversation?  Along with Sharon Groves, vice president of partner engagement at Auburn Seminary, Sister Simone Campbell will lead a discussion exploring the power and potential of our own stories. 

Dr. Sharon Groves is vice president for partner engagement at Auburn Seminary – a New York-based organization that equips diverse faith leaders to build communities, bridge divides, pursue justice, and heal the world. Before coming to Auburn, she directed the Religion and Faith Program for the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ+ equality.  She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Maryland.

Betting on the Muse: A Songwriting Workshop with Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine
(Saturday afternoon session ONLY)

This workshop experience aims to help you take a few steps forward in your songwriting life, regardless of whether you are just starting out or have been recording for years.  Linford and Karin will share lessons from 30 years of songwriting together, using recent songs as examples.  With high hopes for camaraderie, laughter, and the occasional surprising insight, this workshop should be of help to all writers engaged in the lifelong journey of exploring their craft.  And if you just love music and records, the workshop will deepen your ability to listen.  So, join us, no musical expertise required: we need good listeners, too!

Writing from the Heart: Soulful Creativity with Brent Bill

Do you wish to write in a way that touches readers and yourself? That’s the kind of writing that many readers find appealing.  Brent Bill’s own writing has been described by Publishers Weekly as being “like a neighborly conversation across a kitchen table.” Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you want to write from the heart and not just from the head. This workshop offers tips and techniques for connecting with your writer’s heart, then putting your heart on paper. You will spend time writing, using exercises that will help you uncover the deep themes and concerns that will bring your writing to life. 

With more than twenty books and numerous articles and short stories published since the 1980s, Brent has learned a thing or three about writing. His books include Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace and Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality.  His newest book, Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Essentials for the Abundant Life, will be released on November 5.   He's a writing coach, editor, photographer, and popular writing retreat leader.  His home is Ploughshares Farm – fifty acres of Indiana farmland being returned to native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.

Bridging the Writing Worlds: Why You Need a Blend of Writing Communities (and How to Build Them) with Steve Cleaver

Writers mainly work alone, except for the characters in our heads.  At the same time, most of us want to take our work into the world – which means we need supportive communities.  It’s not just that we need others to respond to our work – though we do – but that we need spaces where we can claim our identities as writers.  This workshop will teach you how to create and sustain a supportive writing group; how to create spaces to meet and network with other writers; and how to find – or create! – continuing education opportunities.  Bring your own ideas for this collaborative workshop. 

A graduate of Earlham School of Religion, Steven Cleaver wrote his award-winning book, Saving Erasmus (Paraclete 2007) with the guidance of Tom Mullen – founder of ESR’s writing program.  He is a founding member of The Richmond Writers, creator of WayneWrites (a yearly writing conference), and the coordinator of Music at the Meltdown, a yearly event. He also hosts Leave It to Cleaver, a weekly radio show on WECI 91.5, a forum he uses to give local artists a voice.  More: www.stevecleaver.com.

The Inside Scoop: What Publishers are Looking For with Lil Copan

When publishing houses review nonfiction proposals and manuscripts, they are looking for certain “markers” —things that make a book stand out, certain elements that suggest a book might sell well. This workshop offers the inside scoop on what publishers care about and how to ensure your own proposal pitch combines the right elements to give your project its best chance with a press. 

Lil Copan serves as senior acquisitions editor for trade books at Fortress Press.  She previously worked in acquisitions for several religious publishing houses: Eerdmans, Abingdon Press, Ave Maria Press, and Paraclete Press.  Among her areas of expertise are author and platform cultivation, substantive editing, and cross-platform content development. Copan has worked with an array of award-winning authors, including Madeleine L’Engle, Frederick Buechner, Lauren Winner, Jana Riess, Debbie Blue, Amy Frykholm, and Thomas Lynch. 

Get Here Early, Talk with An Acquisitions Editor:
Lil Copan is offering a limited number of one-on-one sessions with conference attendees on Friday, Nov. 1, before the colloquium starts.  To sign up, email Kristen Laws at kmlaws14@earlham.edu or call 765-983-1423.

The Intersection of Fact with Fiction with Angela Jackson-Brown

There is a very fine line between the intersection between fact and fiction and writers have been crossing those lines continuously since writing and publishing became “a thing.” The goal of this workshop is to illustrate the importance of research and how it will elevate a story to a new level. Workshop attendees will be given tools for conducting their own research and they will do exercises that will illustrate how to incorporate research into fictional and nonfictional works without making their literary works feel like research projects. This workshop is open to all types of writers at all levels. 

Angela Jackson-Brown is an award-winning writer, poet, and playwright who teaches creative writing and English at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She is also the Artistic Director of Jackson Brown Entertainment, a nonprofit organization that produces original plays and provides educational opportunities to individuals interested in a career in the theatre. She is the author of the novel Drinking From A Bitter Cup and has published in numerous literary journals. In the fall of 2018, she released a poetry collection entitled House Repairs, published by Negative Capability Press. She has written and directed numerous plays including It is Well, Anna’s Wings and Still Singing Those Weary Blues.  Jackson-Brown also co-wrote Dear Bobby: the Musical, which appeared in the 2018 OnyxFest in Indianapolis and a soon-to-be released play called Voices of Yesteryear she is co-directing with her son Justin Bean.

Outside the Lines: Cultivating a Courageous Writing Practice with Mihee Kim-Kort

When we write about our lives, we're often fearful of revealing aspects of ourselves that others might judge.  Drawing on her experience of writing Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith, Mihee Kim-Kort will lead a workshop that encourages participants to write about their whole selves - and offers tools to resist the censoring power of fear. 

Mihee Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian minister, agitator, speaker, writer, and slinger of hopeful stories about faith and church. Her writing and commentary can be found at TIME, BBC World Service, USA Today, Huffington Post, Christian Century, On Being, Sojourners, and Faith and Leadership. She is a PhD student in Religious Studies at Indiana University where she and her Presbyterian minister-spouse live with their three kids in Hoosier country. Her website is www.miheekimkort.org.

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds: Writing the Lyric Poem with Dr. Paul Kareem Tayyar

From the work of Walt Whitman onward, the lyric poem has been a mainstay of American poetry, and for good reason: it is a form that lends itself to prioritizing the intimate, the personal, and the spiritual in a manner that eschews dogma and sweeping generalizations. This workshop will focus on the necessary components that comprise a good lyric poem, which include a defined sense of place, an original narrative voice, and an embrace of the transcendent beauty to be found in life’s daily experiences. 

Paul Kareem Tayyar’s most recent books are the poetry collection Immigrant Songs (WordTech, 2019) and the novel The Prince of Orange County (Pelekinesis, 2018), the latter of which was a finalist for an Independent Book Award. His poetry and fiction has been published in a wide variety of journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Arkansas Review, Brilliant Corners, The Santa Monica Review, and The Writer’s Almanac. He is a Professor of English at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, and he holds a Ph.D. in literature from U.C. Riverside. He is a recipient of a 2019 Wurlitzer Poetry Fellowship.

Closing Panel:
More than Flyover Country: Arts and Community Renewal in the Midwest

As small communities in the Midwest face economic challenges and simplified national narratives, the arts offer a source of strength, joy, and renewal.  The Nowhere Else Festival, hosted by Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist on their farm in rural Ohio, is one example.  At a roundtable with other presenters, they’ll discuss their vision for the arts in the region they call home.


All Day   One-on-one sessions with Lil Copan (pre-registration  required)
6 pm   Registration Opens
6:45 pm   Love & Revelation: An Evening with Over the Rhine



8 am       Check-in/Registration & Breakfast  
8:40 am      Optional open worship
9 am   Greeting and Welcome
9:15 am   Plenary: Sister Simone Campbell
10:45 am    Break
11 am   Workshop Session I
12:30 pm   Lunch
1:45 pm   Workshop Session II 
3:15 pm   Break
3:30 pm   Plenary Panel
5 pm   Benediction