A poll for those entering Everyday Mormon Writer’s upcoming contest

With just over 10 days left to enter Everyday Mormon Writer’s , I thought I’d see if we can get a sense of which centuries AMVers are focusing on. If you have entered or are planning on entering the contest, please answer the following question.

If you have no idea what I’m taking about, read my interview with James Goldberg on the contest. Or click the link in the first sentence of this post.

Full disclosure: I have entered the 20th, 21st and 22nd century contests.

[poll id=”8″]

Mormon Lit Blitz post-game

Wm congratulates the winners of the Mormon Lit Blitz, thanks those who made it happen, ruminates a bit on the experience, and makes a plea for submissions to Everyday Mormon Writer.

A few post-game thoughts on the Mormon Lit Blitz

1. Congratulations to Merrijane and the rest of the top 5! In case you didn’t know, Merrijane has a blog where every Friday she posts a poem (sometimes one by her; sometimes one by someone else) plus a few thoughts. Check it out.

2. I’m not going to reveal my ballot, but I will say that I voted for two of the five works that placed. And while the finalists didn’t get a complete breakdown of voting, the organizers did let us know that all of us got a good number of votes. What’s cool is that each of the finalists were able to bring in their readership, which meant we all benefited, in terms of readers, from each other’s efforts.

3. Many thanks to James, Nicole and Scott for running the contest and to my sister Katherine and Ben for hosting it at Mormon Artist and to anybody who helped with the graphics, which were very cool (Anneke and ??). I thought it was all very well managed and promoted and am pleased that I decided to participate. Continue reading “Mormon Lit Blitz post-game”

Marilyn Brown novel award: deadline is Oct. 1

There’s just over a month left to prepare your unpublished manuscript to enter the Marilyn Brown novel award. The winner receives a $1,000 stipend. For details, visit Marilyn Brown’s author site as well as the UVU page for the award.

Make sure you check the full list of requirements, but it does need to be mainstream fiction (past winners have ranged in their literariness), and it should either focus on cultural experiences (of any type) in the Utah region or on the LDS experience in the Utah region or elsewhere.

Jen Wahlquist, Associate Professor of English, at Utah Valley University is administering the award again this year, and as in the past, the winner will be honored at the English & Literature department’s spring banquet.

This award has gone to some excellent novels over the years so if you have a manuscript that needs a little work or a quick polish (or you’re a very fast writer), go for it.

We’ll be sure to publish the results next year here at AMV.

The Clear Voiced Individual: Melissa Leilani Larson and “Little Happy Secrets”: Reactions to Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project, Part Four

Mel Larson 2
Photo by Alisia Packard

POWERHOUSE PLAYWRIGHT

Throw in 3/4 a cube of Jane Austen. Add in equal amounts of Joss Whedon. A pinch of Aaron Sorkin. Oh, and don’t forget two cups of Joseph Smith. Stir evenly. Layer that on top of Merchant Ivory films, historical biopics, and BBC period pieces. Maybe, if you’re in the mood, fold in a little romantic comedy, but only the good stuff. Then mix and let stand. After that, throw in a lot of witty banter, contemporary flair, unflinching bravery, impressive style, moving spirituality, and really strong intelligence.  Toss it in the oven until it’s “shiny.” Take it out, let it cool, top it off with some genuine originality, sparkling dialogue, realistic plots, heart rending vulnerability, and achingly honest characters. Then let it cool and (voila!) you have the plays of Melissa Leilani Larson.

Before I ever met the witty and wonderful Melissa Leilani Larson, I was introduced to her through her plays Wake Me When Its Over (now Standing Still Standing) and Angels Unaware (now Martyrs’ Crossing). The work itself created some powerful responses in me and I have very fond memories of attending those shows. Angels Unaware, especially, re-sparked my spiritual love affair with Joan of Arc (Jean d’Arc), which originally started with my first reading of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. Both Shaw’s and Larson’s plays have led to independent inquiry and research on my part, which I hope leads to another Joan of Arc play (or two) someday from my end, although they will be very different than either Larson’s or Shaw’s… and definitely Shakespeare’s!… take on the Maid.

From the beginning Larson has engaged my mind, softened my heart, and spurred me into action. She has made me re-think certain worldviews, and review my own, not always pure intentions. She has made me see my fellow human beings more clearly and compassionately, as well as drawing me nearer to the heart of God. I don’t know how I can give higher praise to a writer, but Larson deserves every word of it. And in her most ground-breaking play (earth shattering, more like it!) Little Happy Secrets, all of Larson’s strengths are on display. Continue reading “The Clear Voiced Individual: Melissa Leilani Larson and “Little Happy Secrets”: Reactions to Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project, Part Four”

James Goldberg, Communal Narratives, plus Faith Lost and Faith Born in “Prodigal Son”: Reactions to _Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project_, Part Three

Photo bt Vilo Elisabeth Westwood
Photo by Vilo Elisabeth Westwood

Unlike many, I do not believe a text can truly be divorced from its author. Maybe it’s the historian in me, but the more I find out about an author, the more I am fascinated and enlightened by the text. So it’s difficult for me to address a work, when I have met the author, not to bring my experiences with, or knowledge of, the author to the text. So, first, I’ll talk about the author James Goldberg, as well as his relation to New Play Project. Then I’ll address his beautiful, award-winning play, “Prodigal Son.”

JAMES GOLDBERG AND THE COMMUNAL NARRATIVE

Now I wouldn’t call James Goldberg my best friend, although we are friends, and I certainly would love to be even friendlier. Yet there seems to have even been awkward tension during a few moments. We’ve seriously disagreed a couple of occasions. And I could tell that I annoyed him on at least a dozen occurrences..

However, I do think the world of him. And I think he is one of the best and unique writers Mormonism has. We should value him and the wealth of multiculturalism he brings to his Mormon faith and writing.  It’s interesting, the more and more I find truth in other religions, the more and more I believe in Mormonism. Comparing religions and cultures highlights the Gospel tinged truths whispered into the ears of every culture. And I get the sense from James that he believes the same thing.

James Goldberg comes from Jewish and Sikh heritages, while also happening to be a card carrying Mormon. When you talk to him, he isn’t shy about his diverse background and proudly celebrates his cultural past and freely intermingles it with his cultural present, not really distinguishing them. Because he shouldn’t distinguish them. Because Mormonism embraces all truth.  That is, if we should trust Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to be adequate spokesmen for Mormonism.

This idea of intermingling one’s diverse cultural and even religious identities is wonderfully evident in a good deal of Goldberg’s work, perhaps no where I have it seen so clearly so as in his fascinating and moving “Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenburgh.” In Mormon Artist’s first Contest Issue Goldberg mentions in an interview about the story , something that struck me:

Because the stories I was writing were so short, I didn’t have time to explain all the culture in them: the Jewish holidays that were thematically connected, the immigrant groups in each story. I figured in the age of Google, smart people could look up the stuff they didn’t get and discover the extra layers in the story, like mining for gems. Understandably, many of my class members didn’t take the time to look stuff up. What surprised me, though, was that the same people who hadn’t invested their time in the story were telling me to simplify it, to explain it more in terms they could understand. Some said they felt like I wasn’t including them because I wasn’t writing in their culture and explaining anything that came from anywhere else. And I thought, these stories wouldn’t be as beautiful if I explained them. And the best readers would get less out of them.

I also thought, I have unique stories to tell because of my own life heritage. Why should I only tell stories you can already fully understand? Isn’t one purpose of fiction to expand the reader? Continue reading “James Goldberg, Communal Narratives, plus Faith Lost and Faith Born in “Prodigal Son”: Reactions to _Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project_, Part Three”

Review: Coke Newell’s _On the Road to Heaven_

On the Road to HeavenWhen ordering a whole grouping of Zarahemla Books’ titles last Christmas, Coke Newell’s On the Road to Heaven was at the top of my list. Having won both the Association for M0rmon Letters Award for best novel AND the Whitney Awards’ prize for best novel proved that it had won universal praise from across the whole spectrum of Mormon writers and readers.  And every review I had read of the novel had pretty lofty praise for it. So I went in with the bar set high regarding my expectations. Coke Newell cleared that bar, and then some.

For those who are unaware, the autobiographical novel by LDS journalist and writer Coke Newell tells the story of “Kit” West (a Rocky Mountain loving name, if I ever heard one), who is a Zen believing, semi-hippie, pot smoking, vegetarian, guitar playing, hitch hiking, Colorado mountain man… who also happens to give up his life and lifestyle to follow Jesus and  join the Mormon Church. Kit, from the get go, had me invested in him. His narrative voice was engaging, his heart sincere, his principles rooted, his spirituality sublime, and his flaws beautifully human. His instinctual attraction to nature made me think of those rare moments in my life when I have been able to escape my predominantly suburban existence, and find myself in the wilderness, with millions more stars above me than I was used to and the wind swaying the mountain aspen peacefully. His inner romantic for the love of his life Annie was something that completely mirrored my own amorous strivings when I was younger. And his deep spirituality, even before his introduction to the Church, sealed my affection for this marvelous character.  He was a spiritual seeker, he was a lover, he was a poet. My kind of guy.   Continue reading “Review: Coke Newell’s _On the Road to Heaven_”

Winners of the Portuguese Short Story Contest Announced

The sponsors of the Concurso Mórmon Parley P. Pratt de Contos em Português (Parley P. Pratt Mormon Short Story Contest) are pleased to announce the stories and authors awarded in the contest’s first year, and the stories selected for inclusion in the contest short story collection to be released later this year.

Continue reading “Winners of the Portuguese Short Story Contest Announced”