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an international network of Quaker booksellers - authors - publishers concerned with the ministry of the written word

No Friend is an Island – QUIP Meets in Birmingham, England

by Chel Avery, Publications Manager, Friends General Conference

As the eyes of the world focused on a royal wedding in London, 120 miles to the northwest, Quaker writers and publishers paid little attention. Ensconced in the gracious hospitality of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, 33 Friends from the UK, Ireland, the U.S. and France turned their attention to a mutual fascination with and dedication to the written word.

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No Friend is an Island was the theme of this year’s annual meeting of QUIP (Quakers Uniting in Publications), where Friends explored the challenges of writing and publishing and the changing technologies and business practices in the world of books, as well as celebrating emerging opportunities and achievements.

Sibyl Ruth, poet Poet Sibyl Ruth, in a workshop titled “Publish and Be Damned,” asked participants to reflect on these queries: Does being a Quaker affect how we speak? Does being a Quaker affect how we listen? Does being a Quaker affect how we read? Does being a Quaker affect how we write? How can acts of publication create disunity? How can acts of publication unite us? Such questions permeated discussions throughout the event.

A highlight of the four-day conference was the dramatic European launch of Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices. Sarah Hoggatt and Harriet Hart, two members of 10-member, 5-nationality editorial board that solicited and selected contributions to an anthology of writings by young adult Friends worldwide, offered a dramatic re-enactment of their adventures in creating this book, which QUIP co-published with Friends General Conference. Sarah emphasized that the book is by young adult Friends, but for all ages, and Harriet insisted that it is more than a book – it is a project, as some members of the editorial board continue to travel and encourage meetings to use the book to engage Friends in dialogue. QUIP plans a Spanish translation in coming months.

Ian Kirk-Smith, new editor of The Friend, was interviewed by fellow staff Trish Carn about his vision of integrity and independence in publication. From a previous career in documentary filmmaking, he is alert to how we connect with one another through the visible and palpable aspects of our stories. He is initiating a series of articles reflecting on walks that Friends from different meetings enjoy taking – what those walks invoke in terms of history, experience, and spirituality.

Ben Pink Dandelion Ben Pink Dandelion, sometimes described as the most prolific living Quaker writer, confessed that his personal library consists of only 31 books. In a plenary address he compared his academic writing about Quakers (in the voice of an objective observer) to his writing for Quakers (in the voice of a participating Friend), showing how the former work has opened the way to legitimacy for his “insider” writings.

Terry SoRelle Terry SoRelle discussed what he has observed about development of the internet, what it is turning out to be good for, and where it fails to deliver. He encouraged users to be aware of the limitations of the web, while exploiting to the full its advantages. Friends discussed the promise of emerging technologies, such as ebooks, while expressing sorrow for diminishment of the printed word. Harvey Gilman noted that a modern spiritual discipline, equivalent to fasting, could take the form of giving up email for “lenten” period.

A minute approved in business session said, in part, “We hope that Quaker institutions will continue to see it as part of their mission to encourage and support Quaker writing and publishing, even when such an enterprise seems unprofitable in the world’s terms.” Participants affirmed their appreciation for and dependence on publications as a way that Friends remain connected with each other and in dialogue, across distance and across generations.