An Interview with Festival Director Shelly LeMahieu Dunn

Am I correct in stating this is the 14th year of the conference?
The Festival started in 1990, albeit under a different name. It also didn’t happen in 1992 (I believe), but has happened every two years since then.

What brought you the most joy working on this year’s conference?
It’s often the small moments that bring us the most joy—a kind word spoken at the registration desk, a student volunteer eagerly assisting a technology-challenged attendee, a presenter expressing such joy at being able to talk about being both a writer and a Christian, an attendee receiving encouragement to continue writing, and on and on.

What surprised you the most about the conference this year?
Our greatest surprise, always, is simply that we’re able to pull it off. To make even just one Festival session happen requires not only a room and a speaker and a microphone, but an audience and a tech crew and a building services crew and a student host and a session introducer. Multiply that by over one hundred sessions, and it’s clear just how much the Festival depends on a large number of people doing their jobs exceptionally well. And we’re grateful for each one of them.

What was the most serendipitous experience?
I’m not sure we’ll know the answer to this question for a while. We know that the Festival facilitates the kinds of connections that lead to new projects and ideas and partnerships. The ripples will extend for some time, probably in directions that we can’t even fathom yet. So yes, I imagine that there were lots of serendipitous experiences happening all around us, and I hope we get to see the fruit of those experiences down the road.

What are you most proud of pertaining to this year’s conference.
I am always most proud of our group of student volunteers (or, as Anne Lamott calls them, “caseworkers”). They are forty-six of the most gracious, capable, hard-working, hospitable people on this campus, and we could not run the Festival without them.

Note from Paulette:
I sincerely thank Shelly LeMahieu Dunn for giving us an inside perspective of this engaging conference, and for her time and thoughtfulness. I know many of us look forward to the next Festival of Faith and Writing even as this one is wrapping up.

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