Julia Kasdorf shares "Ruin, Relic and Resurrection" at 2009 Ministry of Writing Colloquium

Julia Kasdorf opened the 2009 Ministry of Writing Colloquium with her keynote address Writing as Ruin, Relic, and Resurrection. “It’s Halloween,” she began. “Let me tell you a story that has been haunting and bewildering me lately—a gruesome story.” Her keynote presentation was the highlight of an inspiring day on the ESR campus, well attended by ESR friends and alumni, Earlham College students, and writers from the area and abroad.

Julia Kasdorf addresses Colloquium attendees
Nancy Faus remembers Tom Mullen
Patty Willis is awarded the 2010 Mullen Fellowship

The previous evening, attendees were given the opportunity to hear readings from all eight of the Colloquium presenters, including Kasdorf, ESR alumni Steven Cleaver and Amy Lyles Wilson, and current ESR student Patty Willis, among others.

During her keynote presentation, Kasdorf wove a tale from Book VI of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: the ruin of Philomela raped by her brother-in-law Tereus, the relic of tapestry she wove to depict her suffering, the revenge she and her sister bloodily enacted, the resurrection of all three into transformed, winged creatures.

Linking Ovid’s descriptions of metamorphosis with metaphor, a figure of speech which carries over points of resemblance between two different objects, she wondered at the continuities, the points carried over, between Ovid’s pagan world and Christianity, between the writer’s materials and the work created. 

Like Philomela, writers often create from suffering, and their works, their relics, can both ruin and resurrect, heal and destroy. Noting that text means a woven thing, once associated with a spinner of yarns, she argued that the true storyteller is a weaver who must be “alive and poised for flight, despite the burdens of memory and history.” Who must be, in the face of suffering and war and death, capable of rising up from the world’s weight; who must be capable of song like some feathered thing of hope.

Kasdorf’s thought-provoking address readied attendees for the day’s workshops and time to reflect on their own writing. A wide variety of workshop topics were offered, from marketing and publishing to crafting dialogue and writing narratives for children.

The day concluded with an emotional presentation of the 2010 Mullen Ministry of Writing Fellowship. The fellowship, named after the late Tom Mullen, was presented by his wife, Nancy Faus Mullen. Nancy shared a loving and fittingly humorous tribute to Tom and joined Susan Yanos in presenting the 2010 Fellowship to current ESR student Patty Willis. Patty’s fellowship project titled “Dancing Bird’s Apprentice”, will talk about the spiritual journey of Patty’s ancestor and namesake, a Mormon and midwife, and how her journey ties to Patty’s current spiritual path.

The variety of presenters and their genres, as well as the mix of participants made this year’s Colloquium a rich gathering. Thanks to everyone who made the 2009 Ministry of Writing Colloquium a great success!

Mandy Ford
Director of External Relations
Earlham School of Religion
228 College Avenue Richmond, IN 47374