After lunch, I heard Valerie Sayers talking about the genesis of her novel, The Powers, talking about the use of photographs, not only in the research for the book but in the final novel itself.
When asked about her timeline for her books, she said that she spends more time on them now, but when she first started out she had a two year timeline: the first year was dedicated to anxiety, research and procrastination; the second year was write write write.
The second session of the afternoon was “The future of Catholic literature in a secular age.”
This is, along with a similarly titled talk tomorrow morning, to me the centerpiece of the conference.
I did find myself wishing that there had been a working definition of “Catholic literature” offered. Back in the ‘90s, I attended a talk by a Fordham University Jesuit at the New York Catholic Worker on Catholic literature where he defined it as literature which deals specifically with some point of Catholic doctrine and he considered a fair amount of what was considered in the popular imagination as Catholic literature as being instead just supplied with “Catholic furniture.”
There were some interesting observations made. Kaya Oakes’s “Pope Francis keeps telling us to take our faith to the margins. Why don’t we take our literature there too?” Randy Boyagoda’s observation that Roman Catholic (as opposed to merely Catholic) carries with it the implication of a mixture of sacred and secular; and later his suggestion that maybe we need to direct young Catholic serious about literature into internships in publishing/agenting so that they might be in a position to start influencing the direction of literature down the line.
Asked for their suggestions as to who represents the future of Catholic literature now, they offered the following:
- Lisa Ampleman: Natalie Díaz, When My Brother Was an Aztec.
- Kaya Oakes: Rebecca Brown, American Romances.
- Joshua Hren: Glenn Arberry, Bearings and Distances
Lee Oser, The Oracles Fell Silent
- Randy Boyagoda: Elena Ferrante, Neapolitan Quartet.
After a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, we had the launch from Loyola University Press of Jessica Mesman Griffith’s and Jonathan Ryan’s Strange Journey from which both Ryan and Griffith read excerpts.
This was followed by Heather King speaking and then a concert of sacred music from the Notre Dame Vocale and then after a bit of wandering to find a suitable venue, the open mic night which ran past midnight.