Speakers, Workshop Leaders and Facilitator

Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D.

     Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. From June of 1998 until June of 2008, she served as the 11th President of CTS. Prior to the Presidency, she had been a Professor of Theology at CTS for 20 years and director of the Ph.D. Center for five years. She has a Ph.D., from Duke University, a Masters of Divinity (Summa Cum Laude) from Duke Divinity School and a B.A. from Smith College. 

     An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ since 1974, she is the author or editor of thirteen books, including two different translations of the Bible.

     Dr. Thistlethwaite’s new book (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015) is called Women’s Bodies as Battlefield: Christian Theologies and the Global War on Women. The book has been #1 on Amazon’s “Hot New Bestsellers” in the Human Rights category.

     Thistlethwaite is the editor and a contributing author of the popular resource Interfaith JustPeacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), a multi-author volume with thirty contributors and advisors, ten from each of the Abrahamic faiths. This book has gained a wide audience through adoption as a classroom text in the teaching not only of interfaith studies, but also peace studies. In 2010 she also published Dreaming of Eden: American Religion and Politics in a Wired World with Palgrave Macmillan. She has also recently published #OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power with Wipf and Stock Publishers.

     Thistlethwaite has become widely known as a blogger on religion in the public square. She writes for several online news outlets. Some of her columns can be found on her Huffington Post author page: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-susan-brooks-thistlethwaite/

     Some of her twelve previously published works are: A Just Peace Church (1986), Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theology from the Underside, with Mary Potter Engel (1998, first edition, 1990), and Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States (1996) with Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock.

     In addition, Thistlethwaite has begun to publish mystery fiction. Her first novel, Where Drowned Things Live, was published by Resource Publication in March of 2017.

 CLICK HERE  to explore Susan’s mystery writing website!

     Thistlethwaite is also a frequent media commentator on religion and public events.  She is a regular guest on John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything” program on Sirius XM radio. She has had two appearances on ABC News NIGHTLINE, February 28, 2003 and March 4, 2003, opposing the Iraq War, and has written more than a dozen newspaper editorials that have appeared in The Chicago Tribune; the Chicago Sun-Times, and Dallas Morning News. She is also interviewed and quoted on various radio and television shows in the United States and in the Middle East.  For example, she appeared on ABC Nightly News in March, 2012, on the “War on Women.”

     In 1999, Orbis Press published the tenth anniversary edition of Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, a work Thistlethwaite edited with Mary Potter Engel.  This is one of the most widely used textbooks in the U.S. to teach theology.

     Among her many articles and book chapters, one example is the influential chapter on “Non-violent Direct Action” in Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War, edited by Glen Harold Stassen.  After the events of 2001, the book was rewritten, and a revised edition was released by Westminster John Knox Press. This was republished as Just Peacemaking: A New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War  in 2008.

     Thistlethwaite is a trustee of Renewal in the Wilderness since 2016, and. She is one of the founders and a former trustee of Faith in Public Life. She is also currently a consultant to the Carter Center “Scholars in Action” and the Women, Religion, Violence and Power program. She has been a Senior Fellow as well as a Board Member of the Center for American Progress, and of the Interfaith Youth Core, founded by Eboo Patel.

Her words on “writing space”:

“Different kinds of writing pose very different demands, at least for me. Academic writing for me can be done pretty much anywhere and at any time. It may be that I have done it for so long that I can sit down on a train or in a plane just as well as at my desk and write a coherent couple of paragraphs in half an hour, but that’s the case. Fiction writing requires both specific space and much more time. As I have noticed this, it occurs to me that to write fiction you have to create a world, and then every time you write you have to re-enter that world slowly and very deliberately. I need to be in my study with the door closed and have absolute quiet. Even a ringing phone can startle me enough that I drop out of the fiction world and can have a lot of trouble getting back in. I have been writing fiction for a couple of years now and this has not changed. One thing that overlaps the two types of writing, however, is catching an idea as it zips by. I almost always carry 3×5 cards and if I get an idea I jot it down immediately on one of the cards. This can be an academic argument or reference or it can be an idea for a character or a scene. I have been known to stand in the cereal aisle at the food store and write on several cards before I move on to the frozen foods! When the kids were little, I got a lot of my academic books written this way.”  

 Poet Paul Wiegel 

Paul Wiegel is a poet, high school English teacher and returning workshop leader.  He is originally from Green Bay, but now lives and writes from his home near the Fox River in central Wisconsin. He has taught poetry and writing workshops to students of all levels and believes that everyone has a little poetry inside of them somewhere, it just needs a little push. Sometimes he writes as a “street poet” on his Smith Corona manual typewriter for passersby at farmers’ markets and festivals.

     His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The English Journal, Eunoia Review, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal and Yellow Chair Review. He is a past winner of the John Gahagan Poetry Prize and the 2016 winner of the Lakefly Writers Conference Poetry Award.

His words on “showing up”:

“Sometimes the best way for me to produce some writing is to give myself permission to write something that is less-than-perfect or average…or even awful.  Just get it down. Sometimes I’m surprised at how something turns out even when it gets off to a really rocky start. If I think of that first draft as just raw material that I can revise or manipulate later, it frees me up to run with whatever I put down.”

…on “why I write”:

“I’ve always liked writing and literature because I think we have a lot to gain from others’ observations. Particularly with poetry, an author can winnow down their thoughts into a short bit of insight that, if done right, readers can make a clear connection with. Writing is about understanding. I think getting a peek into the thoughts and minds of other people can help us understand ourselves and our experiences better. I like it when another’s poem or novel or essay can give me perspective on something.” 

CLICK HERE to discover more about Paul and his poetry philosophy!

Julie Kramer – Workshop Leader

Julie is a molecular biologist/marketer/soccer mom who, in a shocking mid-life development, discovered that she is also a poet. After going through a period of not being able to do anything but write, real life set in, and she found myself going days, weeks, and even months without writing anything.

Her workshop (Getting Yourself to the Page) brings together several years’ worth of work trying different approaches to get herself to find the time to do the thing that she feels most called to do.  Writers will spend some time talking about  obstacles and blocks, identifying strategies, and making action plans for moving ahead with writing.


Debbie Hoogesteger

      THE RETREAT FACILITATOR is Debbie Hoogesteger. Debbie has experience organizing retreats and events for her local church, the United Church of Christ (UCC) Wisconsin Conference and the national setting of the UCC. Most of her working life was as a legal assistant and after retirement she graduated from the UCC Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy Four-Year Program. Debbie has written devotions and a blog for the national UCC website, and has contributed articles to the UCC’s Common Lot magazine. The Honored Lay Women’s Luncheon program at the UCC General Synod 28 in Tampa FL was Debbie’s creation, made possible by her position as the UCC Women’s Ministry Partner for the Great Lakes Region. Debbie is currently working on creative non-fiction essays and her first novel, a mystery. She and her husband Jim love spending their summers fishing on Lake Michigan and their winters walking the snow-white beaches of Destin FL.