More than 3 months ago I announced here the first Portuguese-language Mormon short story contest. Now the period for making submissions has closed, and already the contest has exceeded expectations.
The nearly 40 submissions, from more than 2 dozen authors, totaled over 100,000 words, more than enough to produce a book-length anthology as planned for this fall.
Perhaps more importantly, the quality of the submissions is quite good. The best of them use rich, well-developed language and well-constructed phrasing. The stories also show great imagination, with plots varying from modern fables to poetic slices of life. Like early Mormon stories from the home literature period, many of the stories are a bit didactic or depend on Deus ex-machina plot devices, perhaps understandable given the fact that the only Mormon stories Portuguese-speaking readers are exposed to are those in the Liahona.
A three-person jury of academics, including a native speaker each from Brazil and Portugal and one familiar with the current LDS book industry, will now choose first, second and third-place winning stories and designate which stories should be included in the anthology to be published later this year. The prize-winners are scheduled to be announced on October 1st. I will translate the first-place story, and I’m seeking a venue where it can be published.
Perhaps more interesting could be the effects following this contest. I have already lined up 4 online LDS bookstores in Brazil to carry the anthology (there are a couple more, one a brick-and-mortar store, that haven’t yet responded to my queries), giving me hope of some distribution of the book beyond friends and family of the authors and whatever online audience I can contact. I expect to publish future volumes in Portuguese, and hope that some of these authors will participate.
In addition, I’m trying to figure out how to create a good forum for the group of authors this contest has attracted — a community that will encourage future writing and help authors to improve the quality of their writing. I’m sure that social media will be used, but I’m open to suggestions for further details. Perhaps some kind of online literary magazine?
Of course, given the response, the contest will likely be repeated next year (unless the sales of the anthology are so small that it isn’t financially viable). And I’m encouraged enough with the results to think that it may be a good idea to start a similar contest in other languages.
What do you think? Is there some aspect of this I’ve left out?
13 thoughts on “Status Report – Portuguese-language Mormon Short Story Contest”
Wow! That is very very cool, Kent. Congratulations on the contest’s success. I’m very impressed.
That’s fantastic, Kent.
I think that rather than committing to a magazine, it might be best to start out with some sort way for all the interested writers and readers to connect with each other — a forum, a Facebook group, etc. and then see what can bubble up out of that.
“I will translate the first-place story, and I’m seeking a venue where it can be published.”
Are you thinking of one of the LDS magazines/journals, or some other sort of venue?
I think William’s absolutely correct that the place to start in terms of community-building is simply a place for people to talk to each other. Let the projects arise naturally out of that.
If I were editor of any LDS literary rag, I would publish it in a second.
Katya, I was thinking of possibly Dialogue or Irreantum.
I’d settle for the New Yorker or the Atlantic or Paris Review, however.
If you must, I suppose.
Ditto (to both the sentiment and the caveat).
Good of you to be so humble. More seriously, does BYU Studies publish fiction? Would it be too long for Mormon Artist? (Something tells me Ben Crowder would be all over the international aspect of this.)
I’m also wondering how many languages have a critical mass of Mormon native speakers to make similar contests possible. Spanish, certainly. Probably French.
BYU Studies publishes fiction very infrequently — it looks like the last time was in 1998 (v39). The ‘short stories’ category on their website has just 32 items in 50 years.
Don’t know what Mormon Artist‘s requirements are — our restrictions limited the stories submitted to 1,000 to 10,000 words. The average is around 2,500 words.
Until the judges select the winner, I can’t tell you how long it will be — there are several stories that are near 10,000 words.
As for other languages, I have looked at this (someday I have to write up a full-blown study), and you are certainly right about Spanish (that much is a no-brainer). I’m not willing to say about the rest.
This is wonderful, Kent.
If I get the chance, I’ll definitely buy whatever comes out of it.
I’m not sure how much of this data is available, but you might look to the sumbissions from the Church’s international art competition as a guide for what other languages might be viable. That might be a wacky idea. I don’t know. In past years I’ve seen a LOT of entries from Africa. There might be a big enough Korean interest too, based on what my brother tells me.
I suspect that if you could get the word out both Korea and Japan would be safe bets. As well as the Philippines and possibly Taiwan.
Th., I’m not at all sure about any but possibly Japan. You probably need to get a good estimate of the number of active members that speak those languages. FWIW, I think Japan has perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 active members (out of 124,041 total members at year end). In contrast, Brazil has probably around 300,000 active members.
I think it’s more complicated than that (average level of education, number of LDS generations, etc), but your point is well taken.