Trying to Say ‘God,’: Re-enchanting Catholic Literature

Randy Boyagoda is a writer and scholar and Vice-President of St. Michael’s College, the Catholic College of the University of Toronto. He teaches in the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Christianity and Culture program, and has been named to the inaugural Basilian Chair in Christianity, Arts, and Letters at the University of St. Michael’s College. His first novel, Governor of the Northern Province, was a finalist for the ScotiaBank Giller Prize, and his second, Beggar’s Feast, has been published around the world to international acclaim and was named a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection, and also nominated for the 2012 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize.


Joseph A. Brown, S.J., Fr. Brown is a Catholic priest with an extensive academic and pastoral career. He received Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University. After his ordination to the priesthood (1972) he taught Theater and Poetry at Creighton University for several years (eventually becoming artist-in-residence in 1978). Later, after receiving both the Master’s degree in Afro-American Studies and the Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University, Fr. Brown taught at the University of Virginia and at Xavier University in New Orleans. Presently he is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.


Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. Br. Guy is Director of the Vatican Observatory and fan and reader of science fiction. He received his B.A. (1974) and M.A. (1975) degrees at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. (1978) at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, all in planetary science. Consolmagno is a popular speaker as well as a writer of popular science. He has been a guest of honor at several science fiction conventions, including DucKon in 2000, ConFusion in Michigan in 2002, Boskone in 2007, and ConClave in 2009. In 2014, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.


Natalie Diaz is a Native American poet and author of When My Brother Was an Aztec. Her honors and awards include the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Diaz is a convert to the Catholic Church. Diaz currently lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona where she works with the last Elder speakers of the Mojave language on the revitalization of the language. She is a convert to the Catholic Church.


Kenneth Garcia is Associate Director of the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame, where he received a PhD in Theology in 2008. His book Academic Freedom and the Telos of the Catholic University (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), won the award for “Best Book Published in Theology in 2012” from the College Theology Society. His

literary essays have been published in The Gettysburg Review (2014), The Southwest Review (2015), Saint Katherine Review (2015), Notre Dame Magazine (2015 and 2016), and Hunger Mountain (2015). His essay “The Hollow Places of the World” was runner up in the 2014 Hunger Mountain Nonfiction Essay contest, and a finalist for the Waterston Desert Writing Prize. Two of his recent essays have been selected as “Notable Essays” in The Best American Essays (2015 and 2016).


David Griffith is the director of the creative writing at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame and his M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America, and his essays and reviews have appeared in the Utne Reader, The Normal School, IMAGE, Creative Nonfiction, Killing the Buddha, and The Mammoth, as well as in national and international anthologies.


Jessica Mesman Griffith is the co-founder of Sick Pilgrim, a blog and online community for the spiritually challenged, and a widely published writer whose work has been noted in Best American Essays. Her memoir, Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters, co-authored with Amy Andrews, won the 2014 Christopher Award for “literature that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” A book written with her Sick Pilgrim co-founder, novelist Jonathan Ryan, is forthcoming in 2017. Griffith is cultural columnist for US Catholic Magazine, where she has written about Green Nuns, Stranger Things, and Princess Leia. She often writes about the intersections of faith and psychology and creativity. Her articles and essays have also appeared in Elle, Image, America, Christianity Today, Notre Dame Magazine, Busted Halo, and Living Faith, among others.


Jerry Harp is the author of poetry books Creature (Salt Publishing 2003), Gatherings (Ashland Poetry Press 2004), and Urban Flowers, Concrete Plains (Salt 2006). With Jan Weissmiller he co-edited A Poetry Criticism Reader (U. of Iowa Press 2006). He has also written Constant Motion: Ongian Hermeneutics and the Shifting Ground of Early Modern Understanding (Hampton Press 2010) and For Us, What Music?: The Life and Poetry of Donald Justice (U. of Iowa Press 2010). His degrees are from St. Meinrad College (BA 1983), St. Louis University (MA 1985), The University of Florida (MFA 1991), and The University of Iowa (PhD 2002). He is married to the poet Mary Szybist. They teach at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.


Paula Huston is the author of two novels and seven works of spiritual nonfiction. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines. A former writing and literature teacher in the California State University system, she currently mentors graduate students in creative nonfiction for the Seattle Pacific MFA program. A wife, mother, and grandmother, she is an oblate, or vowed lay member, of a Camaldolese Benedictine monastic community in Big Sur, California.


Mary Karr is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Syracuse University, and is the author of NY Times bestselling memoirs The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit: A Memoir. She is also the winner of Guggenheim, NEA, Radcliffe, and Whiting fellowships. She has won prizes from Best American Poetry as well as Pushcart Prizes for both poetry and essays. She she has given distinguished talks at prestigious universities, libraries, and writers' festivals, including Harvard University, Oxford University, Princeton University, Brown University, Syracuse University ("On Salman Rushdie" with Salman Rushdie), the New York Public Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Folger Library (Poetry Society of America/Emily Dickinson Lecture), The New Yorker Literary Festival, PEN/Faulkner, and the Festival of Faith and Writing.


Heather King is a Catholic writer, ex-lawyer, and former barfly based in Los Angeles. Raised on the coast of New Hampshire, she struggled with alcoholism before getting sober in 1987. In 1996, she converted to Catholicism, receiving her first Communion and confirmation at Blessed Sacrament Jesuit parish in Hollywood, California. She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire (1977) and Suffolk University Law School (1984). King is the author of numerous essays and memoirs, including Parched, Redeemed, and Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux, She blogs at Heather King: Mystery, Smarts, Laughs. She speaks about spirituality at venues all over the country. She also writes a weekly column on arts and culture for The Tidings, the archdiocesan newspaper of Los Angeles, and is a regular contributor to Magnificat magazine. Her latest book, Loaded: Money and the Spirituality of Enough, is forthcoming from Franciscan Media.

Kaya Oakes is the author of four books, including Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture (Henry Holt, 2009); Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church (Counterpoint Press, 2012); and the forthcoming The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Seekers, Believers, and Those In Between (Orbis Books, 2015). She is an editor and contributing writer at the website Killing the Buddha and on the editorial advisory board at the website Religion Dispatches. Oakes was the co-founder and senior editor of the Utne Independent Press award-winning arts and culture magazine Kitchen Sink. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian (UK), Religion News Service, Cross Currents, America Magazine, Commonweal, National Catholic Reporter, and many other publications. Since 1999, she has taught creative nonfiction, literary journalism, research and expository writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tim Powers is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Powers has won the World Fantasy Award twice for his critically acclaimed novels Last Call and Declare. Powers receive a B.A. in English Literature at Cal State Fullerton. He now teaches part-time in his role as Writer in Residence for the Orange County High School of the Arts in the Creative Writing Conservatory, and Chapman University.


Jonathan Ryan is co-founder of Sick Pilgrim and an author, columnist, and blogger. Library Journal called his debut paranormal thriller, 3 Gates of the Dead (Open Road Media), “a real attraction for fans of The Exorcist and the darker fiction of C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.” Book two in the series, Dark Bride (Open Road Media), was released in April 2015, a book that New York Times Best Selling author, Robert Mosello recommended “For those who like to mix deep theological debate with full-throttle horror, there’s no better bet than Dark Bride and the works of Jonathan Ryan.” Along with his novel writing, Ryan has written for Christianity Today, Huffington Post and Notre Dame Magazine. In 2013, he started The Rogue on the interfaith site, Patheos, where he interviewed Kirk Cameron, Ken Ham, Vera Faminga, and director James Wan. He produced live coverage of the Ken Ham/Bill Nye the Science Guy Creation Museum debate. Just recently, he was asked by the Charles Williams estate to write an introduction for the famous Inkling’s novels on e-book through Open Road, the first person since the renowned poet, T.S. Eliot, to introduce Williams’ work to the world. Jonathan received his Masters of Divinity from Covenant Seminary and was a pastor for twelve years before he was confirmed in the Catholic Church. He just signed a deal with Month 9 books for his Young Adult series that he co-wrote with Jo Schaffer, Stanley and Hazel, which will be out in the Spring of 2018. He has spoken to a wide variety of crowds about writing, faith, religion, and the weird. His audiences have included The CCO Jubilee conference, Salt Lake City Comic Con, Teen Author Boot Camp, Get Inked Writer’s conference, Women in Publishing (Chicago), and the Festival of Faith and Writing. Jonathan currently lives in South Bend, Indiana, where he is an editor at Ave Maria Press.


Mary Szybist is most recently the author of Incarnadine, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. Her work has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes and has been supported by residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy. Her first book Granted won the 2004 GLCA New Writers Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, she now lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches at Lewis & Clark College.


Gregory Wolfe is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture at Seattle University. He has been a pioneer in the resurgence of interest in the relationship between art and religion—a resurgence that has had widespread impact both on religious communities and the public square. As an advocate for the tradition of Christian Humanism, Wolfe has established a reputation as an independent, non-ideological thinker. From 2000-2016, he served as Writer in Residence at Seattle Pacific University, where he taught English literature and creative writing. He was the founding director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at SPU, the first program of its kind to integrate a studio writing degree with intensive reflection upon the literary and aesthetic riches of the Judeo-Christian tradition.


Suzanne Wolfe received her B.A. and M.A. in English language and literature from Oxford University. She is an Instructor in English and Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University and executive editor of Image journal which she and her husband, Greg Wolfe, founded in 1989. Her first novel Unveiling, published in 2004 by Paraclete Press, received a Christianity Today Book Award. Her essay “This is My Body,” a memoir of her grandfather and growing up with an eating disorder, was published in Image issue 64 and included in an anthology of essays entitled The Spirit of Food (Cascade Books, 2010). She has just published her second novel, The Confessions of X (Thomas Nelson, 2016), an historical novel based on the woman who was St. Augustine’s (unnamed) lover.