New A Motley Vision email project—Deep Dive on Liberating Form

Sign up for William’s new email newsletter project — a deep dive on Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form

Remember when I put this blog on hiatus and said it was going to be a quarterly email newsletter instead? Well, I only managed to send out the newsletter once.

As it turned out, doing a quarterly email on bits and bobs related to Mormon literature wasn’t something I was able to deliver on.

So here’s what I’m going to do instead: an email newsletter that’s a one season deep dive on a specific Mormon literature topic.

Oddly enough, an ongoing quarterly commitment didn’t work for me. But a limited series is something I can do.

For season 1 of the AMV Deep Dive, we’ll be taking a look at all of the essays in Marden J. Clark’s Liberating Form: Mormon Essays on Religion and Literature.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I think you’ll find it quite interesting. Clark’s essays have only become more relevant since the collection was published back in 1992.

NOTE: you may need to confirm your subscription by clicking on a link from an email the Buttondown sends you. Check your promotions or spam or other folder/mailbox if you don’t see it in your inbox.

THE GIST + A DEEP DIVE FOR THOSE WHO WANT IT

I want you be able to enjoy each email without having to read all of it if if you just don’t have the time or capacity that week. So here’s how the emails will be structured:

Snapshot: A summary of that week’s essay in 50-100 words.

Best Line: The best line or two from the essay plus two or three sentences of why I think they’re the best lines.

Mormon Lit Recommendation: Exactly what it says. Generally will relate to the topic of that week’s essay but often in a tangential way.

Other Recommendation: Some other recommendation. Most often a piece of culture. So far that has included novels, films, music, and a work of literary criticism. May relate to the topic of the week’s essay; may not.

William Update: Announcements of work coming out. A sneak peak at something or other. A recipe. Something pulled out of the archives. Whatever I’m ready and/or in the mood to share.

Deep Dive: This is will be an in-depth look at that week’s essay from the collection. It’ll generally be 1,000 to 2,000 words.

Appropiately enough, the form each deep dive takes will vary depending on what I think the most interesting way to engage with the essay is. So far, we have everything from

  1. a numbered list of observations –to–
  2. three quotes + me riffing off of each of them –to–
  3. reconstructing Clark’s argument from the end back through the essay to the beginning.

Some weeks will include quite a bit of summary; some will pull out a few strands and focus more on the topics I think are most relevant to the here and now.

SCHEDULE (AND KEEPING TO IT)

The Liberating Form emails will arrive in subscribers inbox every other week. Most likely on Thursdays, starting March 31.

So why do I think I can make this work when I wasn’t able to do the quarterly AMV newsletter?

For one: there’s an end point. And when season 1 ends, we’ll see both what I decide to do for season 2 (I alread have some ideas) and when I launch it (there will be at least a two month hiatus between seasons—longer if I’m in the throes of my next novel, and it’s become all-consuming, which is quite possible since I’ll be starting it in late summer/early fall, and it’ll be my most ambitious fiction project to date).

I’m much better at projects with a specific focus and an end date.

More importanly: I’ve already written 6 of the 15 emails (and have notes on several others), which means I have a three month head start.

HOW LDS IS THIS GOING TO BE?

It’s Marden J. Clark, and he, like Eugene England, was pretty adamant about bringing his love for literature and his faith in the Restored Gospel and membership in the LDS Church together.

However, like England, Clark also identified quite ably a lot of the tensions in that project. Tensions that have become even more so over the years.

Some of the work I will be doing will be meeting Clark where he is. Some will focus more on where I think he’s missing elements or where things need to be updated for modern Mormonism.

A lot of the focus will be on creativity and creating art, both in a Mormon context and more generally.

I’m quite confident that you’ll find this email series valuable wherever you are in your Mormon-ness. But, honestly, some weeks may be more interesting to you than others, depending on the specific esssay and my reaction to it.

DO I NEED TO READ ALONG?

Nope. If you want to track down a copy of Liberating Form, go for it. But I’ll be providing enough summary that you don’t need to read it, and any discussions we have will be fairly general. This also works because Clark’s essays tend to be on fairly broad topics.

Speaking of which…

DISCUSSION POSSIBILITIES

Although A Motley Vision is on permanent hiatus as an active blog, the platform still exists so at the same time as the email goes out a post will go live here at AMV with some discussions questions in case any of you want to drop by and talk about that week’s topic.

Heck, feel free to drop by and participate even if you don’t subscribe to the email.

And, of course, you can also reply to me on Twitter if you prefer to talk there. Or if you want to have a private conversation, feel free to reply to the email with a comment or question or request.

SWITCHING EMAIL SERVICES TO BUTTONDOWN

Please note that I switched email services from Mailchimp to Buttondown.

The reason for that is simple: Mailchimp engages in data practices that I don’t approve of, including selling data on to second party entities. Frankly, it sucks that so many of the platforms for writers right now are engaging in skeezy, unethical, and/or simply stupid practices.

Buttondown doesn’t do that.

No judgement for whatever you or your favorite writers use. I’d say I’m quite a bit more tech savvy than most writers so I seek out tools

For example: if you know what Markdown is, all of these emails and all of my fiction gets written in Markdown using either the Typora or Atom text editor and then either copy and pasted into an editor or exported using Pandoc.

IS THIS GOING TO TURN INTO A PAID THING LIKE ALL THOSE PEOPLE WITH SUBSTACKS?

No.

Again: no judgement for writers who do that. I too like getting paid for my writing, but my Mormon literary criticism is a labor of love and will remain so.

I will be letting you know about any of my fiction that is published, of course, and where it can be read for free or purchased (from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.).

I may also add a way to tip me if you so desire—and that will also be a platform I approve of. Probably: Buy Me A Coffee (Postum!).

Any money that comes in will be plowed back into paying for AMV hosting, books for research/inspiration on future MoLitCrit projects, and production costs for publishing any of my fiction that isn’t being published by someone else—I’ve got both types in the pipeline.

In fact, I’m hoping to be able to share news with you on several completed/brewing projects over the next six months or so. Oddly enough, I’ve had a prolific past couple of years writing what I believe to be not only some of my best Mormon fiction, but also stuff that is pretty groundbreaking for the field.

QUESTIONS?

I think that’s everything. If you have any questions or comments, leave a comment below.

I really hope you’ll sign up for the email and take this journey with me. I think you’ll find it—to use a rather Mormon word—nourishing.

States of Deseret is now available

Cover of States of Deseret featuring a Casey Jex Smith pen and ink illustration of a Mormon temple with the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate bridge in the backgroundPeculiar Pages in collaboration with A Motley Vision is pleased to announce the release of States of Deseret. With a foreword by Theric Jepson, cover illustration by Casey Jex Smith and 8 pieces of short and short short fiction, States of Deseret is, as far as I can tell, the first anthology devoted solely to Mormon alternate history.

It was a ton of fun to edit. My thanks to the eight contributors who authored such interesting and varied stories and who put up with my editing notes. This is a short anthology–it’s about 26,000 total words of fiction. It’s lean and mean and packs a punch. But that means that we’ve by no means exhausted this particular patch of the garden. I hope that it’ll inspire other Mormon authors to tackle the genre of alternate history.

Here’s the blurb:

What if the territory of Deseret had never joined the Union and instead became its own nation? What if Leo Tolstoy or Nikola Tesla had converted to the LDS Church? What if Brigham Young had gone all the way to California instead of stopping in Utah? The genre of alternate history invites us to imagine how the past (and thus our present and future) would be different if different choices had been made. These eight stories provide glimpses at alternate historical trajectories for Mormons and Mormonism—of other states of Deseret.

States of Deseret is available in several different ebook formats worldwide for $2.99* from: Amazon/Kindle | B&N/Nook | Kobo | iBooks

We don’t plan on offering a print version at this time, but if things change, I’ll be sure to let you know.

*or local currency equivalent

Enter the Poetarium: On the Problem and Promise of Alex Caldiero’s Sonosophy

After nine years of doctoral study, I’m finally putting my PhD to bed. I defend my dissertation the morning of May 1 and will be presenting some of my research in a colloquium that afternoon. If anyone’s in the Pocatello area and would like to drop in for my presentation, here are the details:

  • Title: “Enter the Poetarium: On the Problem and Promise of Alex Caldiero’s Sonosophy”
  • When: Monday, May 1st, 3-4pm
  • Where: Room 329, C H Kegel Liberal Arts Building, Idaho State University (880 South 5th Street, Pocatello, Idaho)

Here’s a rundown of what I’ll be discussing:

Utah-based poet Alex Caldiero calls his performative poetry and poetics “sonosophy.” This mode of poiesis calls upon various cultural figures and performance traditions to explore and practice language as a process of communion and relationship-making; I call this intermingling of figures and traditions Caldiero’s performance ecology. In this colloquium, I will introduce sonosophy and discuss this ecology of influences, which include Caldiero’s Sicilian cultural heritage; his mystical experience; his participation in Catholic and Latter-day Saint faith communities and religious rites; the embodied poetics of the Beat generation; the playfulness of Dada plastic, performance, and language arts; and a tradition of seers that contains (among others) the Paleolithic shaman, the premodern bard, and ancient Hebrew prophets. I will focus specifically on how this ecology was cued in Caldiero‘s 2010 “Poetarium” performance at the Utah Arts Festival and explore ways that an understanding of his performance ecology can both shed light on and provide a lens through which to interpret what Caldiero seems to be doing with sonosophy.

(The event poster.)

(Cross-posted here.)

Association for Mormon Letters 2017 Conference Call for Papers

Writing the Past:

Intersections of Literature and History in Mormon Letters

Utah Valley University

April 22, 2017

Mormons have long made recording and preserving their history a priority. On the day Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ in 1830, he revealed that “there shall be a record kept” in the new church. Almost a year later, John Whitmer became the first person tasked with “writ[ing] and keep[ing] a regular history” of the Mormon people. Since then, Mormons have sought to preserve not only their institutional history, but their cultural and personal histories as well.

Mormon creative writers have likewise sought to engage the Mormon past. Among the earliest works of Mormon fiction, poetry, and drama were texts that retold and memorialized the epic story of the Mormon pioneers and their efforts to establish a foothold in the Intermountain West. In subsequent years, Mormon writers have continued to show interest in their history, producing texts that explore the history of the Latter-day Saint experience across the globe.

These works, while grounded in the events of the past, often offer insight into the present as well, creating multi-layered texts that give insight not only into Mormon understandings of history and memory, but also into the historical moment of the text itself.

For the 2017 Association for Mormon Letters Conference, we invite proposals for papers, panels, and readings that explore the intersections of literature and history in Mormon letters. We will also consider proposals on other subjects that fall within the boundaries of Mormon Letters.

Send proposals to scotthales80@gmail.com by 1 February 2017. Proposals should be no more than 300 words and include the title of the presentation as well as audio-visual needs.

Announcing the States of Deseret table of contents

I’m delighted to announce the table of contents for the forthcoming Peculiar Pages alternate Mormon history anthology States of Deseret:

The Guns of Perdition by D. J. Butler
Latter-Day Confederacy of Nations by Lori Taylor
Richard Meets the Missionaries by Anneke Garcia
Not Even the Names Have Been Changed by Marion Jensen
Another Meadow by Eric A. Eliason
The Father by Inari Porkka
The Electric Apostle by David J. West
Subject to Kings by Lee Allred

It’s a fascinating, fun set of stories that range in time period from not too long after the death of Joseph Smith all the way to the modern day. More importantly, our authors tackles the idea of alternate Mormon history in very different ways, both in terms of concept and storytelling.

More news to come, including a release date, as we work through the stages of production. Most likely it’ll come out in the first quarter of 2017. May 2017 at the latest. I can’t wait for you all to read these stories.

On a personal note: I went into the task of editing this anthology with selfish reasons — I wanted the community of authors who are interested in Mormon fiction to pick up this genre and play with it in a way that’d be interesting to me because it’s something I’ve been thinking about (and even tried writing myself) over the past couple of years. So thanks again to all those who submitted and especially our contributors. It’s always nice to get what you want.

Vote in the 2016 Mormon Lit Blitz and you will be blessed

Voting for the twelve finalist of the 2016 Mormon Lit Blitz is now open through this Saturday, June 11. The editors have made it super easy to vote this year. Just click on the link above, open up the links to each of the eligible works in a new tab, narrow your choice down to four, rank those four and then fill out the form on the original page.

Also: if you feel compelled to publicly comment on any or some or all of the entries, do leave a comment on the discussion post. We authors appreciate it when readers engage with what we wrote.

It’s a fascinating group of finalists this year — some names that are familiar from LitBlitzes of yore; some that are new. And quite the eclectic mix of poetry, personal essay and poetry. Kathy Cowley and James and Nicole Goldberg have done a wonderful job. So much so that I’m going to say something about each of the entries. You might want to wait to read the commentary below until you’ve read all of the entries. But I’m not kidding when I claim that you will be blessed if you do the reading required to vote for the finalists. I was:

“Foolish and Wise” by Lisa Barker: Lisa gets at something that I can really relate to — parables often present contrasts of two or three types of individuals. But most of us don’t fall cleanly into one of those types. We’re both or all.

“Fresh Courage Take” by Bradeigh Godfrey: when it comes to flash fiction the most difficult thing to do is fit a robust premise into 1,000 words. Bradeigh chooses the right situation for his story. We’re so familiar with the post-apocalyptic/trek back to Zion tropes that he doesn’t need to worldbuild those out. Instead he shows us the emotional impact and let’s us fill in the blanks to add even more weight to the story.

 “Leaving Egypt” by Tyler Chadwick: When I taught the Old Testament, I was a bit harsh on the Children of Israel at points, but I also tried to show how they weren’t all that different from us and tried to provide context for their experience. Tyler captures in a few lines what weeks of clumsy lecturing on my part barely got across. That’s the power of poetry, folks.

“Ghost” by Merrijane Rice: I’m going to repeat a comment I left on the discussion post — If “Ghost” is about what I think it’s about, then Merrijane has given me quite the bittersweet view of the future (my daughter is currently 12). Actually: already starting to glimpse it. But then again: isn’t that exactly a type and shadow of our relationship to our Heavenly Parents? — and then add that this line continues to resonate with me: “let me haunt the corners of your mind”

 “Requiem for Those People Who Lived Briefly in Your Ward” by Rose Green: Transient ward members are such a pain. The ones who live in a place too long to be visitors but not long enough to settle in. The ones who you have to reorganize home and visiting teaching around. Who you want to get to know, but not too well because, well, it’s painful when people you love leave. Read that third to last paragraph again. What a perfectly observed metaphor with a multitude of meanings.

 “The Gift of Tongues“ by Annaliese Lemmon: I love, love, love that Annaliese takes this initial (very interesting and unique) conceit and then complicates it in a way that is so very Mormon.

 “Branch 9 ¾” by Kaki Olsen: I have a thing about the personal essay form. I so often find it frustrating. Too crafted. Too earnest. Not fiction. But here Kaki takes one of the major themes that preoccupies me on an abstract level — that of the interaction between Mormonism and the broader culture — and presents us with something very real and meaningful.

“Golden Contact” by Lee Allred: Lee’s story is a joke. I mean that literally not as a commentary on the story. But I like that even in a story that is a joke Lee can include lines like “There’s sort of a unnatural sharkskin texture to them that almost glows.” He’s one of our best at expressing the uniqueness of Mormonism in a unique way.

“The Back Row” by Kelli Swofford Nielsen: Kelli’s essay does for me some of the same things that “Branch 9 3/4” and “Requiem for Those People Who Lived Briefly in Your Ward” did but with the added bonus that because I’m a back row sitter (who underwent a similar process to that described in the essay), I can very much identify with her observations.

“Rumors of Wars” by Zachary Lunn: An impactful poem because it connects the wars of today with the Church of today with the Church and wars of before and does so with some simple, powerful imagery.  

 “Last Tuesday” by William Morris: I hope other readers find that it balances the things I wanted to balance; otherwise, it’s kind of ridiculous. But what am I if not a leading Mormon purveyor of the ridiculous and the sublime?

 “From the East” by Merrijane Rice: While up until this year Steve Peck might have some claim to the crown, I think it’s now obvious that Merrijane owns the Mormon Lit Blitz contest. This poem is another proof why. Pay especial attention to the rhythm of it and the use of alliteration which seems profligate in its abundance until you read it out loud and then it seems perfect.

Call for Papers — Mormonism & Spec Fiction (LTUE 2017)

The Association for Mormon Letters is calling for papers relating to the connections between speculative fiction and Mormonism, to be delivered at Life, the Universe and Everything 2017, to be held February 16-18 in Provo, Utah.

Presentations can be shorter (10-15 minutes) or longer (20-25 minutes), and can address any area of intersection between speculative fiction and Mormonism, including any of the following:

  • Works by LDS authors of speculative fiction
  • Depictions of Mormons and Mormonism in speculative fiction
  • History of the Mormon speculative fiction community
  • Thematic and cultural affinities, connections, and tensions between Mormonism and speculative fiction as ways of viewing human life and the universe in general

Student papers are welcome.

Proposals are due by August 31, and complete papers are due by October 1. Papers can be submitted without previously submitting a proposal, but we prefer the advance notice. Papers will be considered for publication in Deep Thoughts, the proceedings volume for LTUE.

In addition to submitted papers, there will be a panel on the appeal of science fiction and fantasy for Mormons. Please let us know if you would be interested in being on that panel.

Queries, proposals, and papers should be sent to Jonathan Langford, email jonathan AT langfordwriter DOT com.

We have a name for the Mormon alternate history mini-anthology (plus submissions update)

I have two updates in relation to the Mormon alternate history anthology I’m editing.

A name!

With Monsters & Mormons the name came first and the commitment to doing the actual anthology later so it was clear what to call it. With this one, I’ve been bouncing various ideas off of Theric and none have really worked until now (that’s why in the call for submissions, there’s no title stated). But I think I finally have it: States of Deseret will be the name of the anthology (unless I change my name between now and publication [but I don’t think I will–I like this one]).

Submissions!

I am reading them. Thanks again to all those who submitted. I hope to have my initial read through completed by the end of the month and then responses to everyone in the latter part of May. Thanks for your patience. I know it’s not fun to wait.

Dark Watch and other Mormon-American stories on sale

To celebrate it being one of three AML Awards finalists for short story collection, I have dropped the price of Dark Watch and other Mormon-American stories to $2.99. Buy it from your online store of choice: Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

I’m also hoping to bring in a few more sales to plump up the pool of funds for contributors to my upcoming Mormon alternate history anthology. We’re currently at $165. I will supplement that total out of my own pocket to get to what we need to in order to pay the contributors to the anthology (likely somewhere $225-275). But it’d be nice to be able to fund some or all the rest of it from book sales.

If you bought the story collection at the higher price, you’re the best and a true patron of Mormon arts. Please consider nudging other people in your life to buy it. Or gift it to someone who might enjoy it.

If you haven’t bought it, I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it — but I can say that it’ll be one of the most interesting bits of Mormon culture you’ve ever spent $3 on.