We aren’t breaking any new ground here, but we hope that the new format will accomplish a few things.

  • Increase the rate of commenting — hopefully the recent comments on the sidebar, the comments feed and the easier to use so-non-annoying-Blogger comments form will faciliate more dicussion. Not that we are gunning to spawn mega-threads. But it should be easier to carry on and/or track a conversation now. Please take a quick look at our comments policy.
  • Promote Mormon cultural news and events. I joke about the sideblog, but one of the strengths of AMV has been its strict focus on Mormon arts and culture. The sideblog will let us more easily bring readers the latest events and happenings in Mormon art. We believe there is a need for a selective yet frequently updated place for the kind of stuff you see over there in the left column. We hope you do too. And it will also allow us to do something we’ve (okay, I’ve) gotten away from — rewarding Bloggernaclites who post on Mormon arts topics with AMV linkage.
  • Provide easy access to the great content we have created. All of the old Blogger posts imported as uncategorized, but we hope to remedy that over the next few weeks and show off our robust, well-thought-out taxonomy. Because of AMV’s focus, our experience (i.e. queries and site stats) suggests that casual and new readers come here because of a specific interest. The categories combined with a better search means that if your only interested in film, or reviews or interviews, you can find what you want. In addition, if you visit our contributors page, you can click on each author and see a full list of what they have posted at AMV — because we know that there are fans of each of our individual contributors out there.
  • Branch out into other ways of delivering content. Our own domain plus WordPress means that the opportunity is there for us to do expand into publishing works that aren’t blog posts. No firm plans yet. But I’m kicking some ideas around. A lot depends on what the other AMV folks think is doable and worthwhile.

So welcome. We hope you like our new incarnation. Many thanks to my fellow AMVers and all of our commenters and readers. A special thanks to Eric Russell for his help in editing the theme and to J. Stapley for some of the code we are using. And, finally, special recognition to the Association for Mormon Letters. The check the AML sent us for winning the 2005 Award for Criticism is paying for the first six months of Web hosting.

Note: For those of you who use an RSS reader, please update your AMV site feed and add our comments feed.

8 thoughts on “Welcome!”

  1. Woohoo! Good job.

    Your first priority should be to get yourself a new banner. This one looks awfully familiar. Connections is a nice theme, but an arts and culture blog deserves its own unique look.

  2. Thanks, everybody.

    Dave — that’s quite possible. I’ll have to take a closer look the next time I’m over there.

    Bryce — It is a priority but it’s not our first priority. Yes, we’re using the default banner for now. The trick is going to be to find some unqiue art that we can then edit to work with the color scheme of the theme. We did play around with a Grand Canyon banner with another theme, but decided in the end that this theme just suited us better even though finding a banner for it is going to be more difficult.

  3. Hi, my name is John Allen and I just wanted to share some information about my holiday novel “Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices.”

    While the book is intended for a general reading audience, those who are LDS will recognize themes that are fundamental to the Mormon faith–such as the eternal nature of families. During the time that the book has been on the market, I’ve heard back from readers of various faiths”¦and it’s interesting that almost everyone, regardless of their faith, wants to believe that families truly are forever.

    A Catholic monsignor told me how he gave a copy of my book to a grieving mother who had just lost her daughter. He said he felt it would give comfort to her.

    Mark Victor (“Chicken Soup for the Soul”) Hansen has characterized my book as having “messages of love and wisdom to make your heart sing with the recognition of the miracle of life.”

    My book is also about the fragility of life and the one source of peace available to us all”¦

    I would not have written this book were it not for a terrible tragedy. We all know there are times you sit down and intend to write something. But then there are those things you HAVE to write. There are feelings and ideas you’ve simply got to get out of your system.

    Such was the case with “Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices.”

    The book, published by HCI Books, began as an outgrowth of a terrible tragedy I witnessed just a few days before Christmas.

    My family and I had moved temporarily from Salt Lake City to Moab so that I could work on an intensive technical writing project that required I work on the business premises with other writers. We loved small town life. We became close to a wonderful family consisting of several children. I became particularly close to two teenage sons from that family. These boys were an example of everything that great about youth. They were active in their church. They were high achievers in their high school. They loved music. And they were active in scouting and community affairs.

    They were the essence of everything that’s great about youth.

    Just before Christmas they were on their way to sing a special number at a missionary farewell. Riding with them were two teenage girls. (The four young people were to sing a quartet.)

    On the way to church they rounded a bend, came upon an unexpected icy patch on the road, and skidded into a river that ran parallel to the road. All four young people perished in this terrible accident. We were attending church when we heard the terrible news.

    It was hard for me to conceive what the parents must have been going through. The next evening my wife and I went to offer our condolences to the parents of the two boys.

    Words failed me. I held the father in a bear hug and shed some tears with him. When the tears stopped, he told me that he was at peace. He knew their sons were in a better place. And he knew that the Savior had made it possible that he would see his sons again.

    Talk about faith…

    The entire town shut down for the funeral. Three sets of grieving parents”¦and a church filled with mourners.

    From that point on I did some serious soul searching. I also became a better parent, and more appreciative of my wonderful daughters and wife.

    The unthinkable had happened to my friends. But their faith made them survive the ordeal.

    I did something admittedly foolish. But I think in times of stress you often do foolish things. Thinking about what happened to my friends, I realized just how vulnerable we all are. You look at the news, see terrible things, mutter “Too bad” but somehow reassure yourself that these extreme events happen to “the other person.” But then something terrible happens to someone you know–someone close to you. And then you realize that someday “the other person” could be you or a member of your family.

    So I tried to make a “bargain” with God. The terms I set were: I would be willing to go through virtually anything–bad health, money problems, etc–if I could just be assured of one thing: that I would never lose a member of my family. But as I went through this bargaining process, the impression came very strongly to me that you just don’t make bargains with God. Covenants–yes; bargains–no.

    And that left me with the realization that there are no guarantees, no sure things in life. And since earth life is perilous, you never know what may happen. And the worst of all possibilities could someday become a reality: the loss of a family member.

    And so you simply have to be thankful for every day you have with your family. You have to have faith. And you have to make the most of every moment.

    During this time, the story for my book began to take shape. The book deals with a man who suffers a terrible loss just before Christmas. Then it shows how he ultimately finds peace through a few simple acts of kindness.

    I appear in the book (in the guise of a minor character Brent Watkins) and express my thoughts about the tragedy.

    “Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices” is definitely a sobering story. But the ending gives the reader a sense of comfort and peace”¦and that there IS something out there bigger and more lasting than this temporary, sorrow-filled life”¦

    And it shows that good things can–incredibly–come from tragedy.

    “Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices” is more than a book about Christmas; it’s a book about loss, grieving, overcoming, and ultimately finding peace and comfort”¦which just happens to be set during the holiday season.

    I humbly recommend the book to anyone who has suffered a loss, or whose faith could use some recharging–as mine did.

    Best wishes,

    John Allen


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