Association for Mormon Letters issues call for papers

The Association for Mormon Letters in conjunction with the Religious Studies Program at UVSC has issued a call for papers to be presented at its annual conference to be held on April 7, 2007, at UVSC in Orem, Utah.  The theme of this year’s conference will be children’s and young adult literature, but papers on other topics focused on Mormon letters are invited as well.  This conference also promises sessions on LDS film; I think we can expect sessions on film at most if not all AML conferences from now on. 

Send your 250 word abstracts to Linda Hunter Adams, AML President, by February 19. 

The AML invites scholars affiliated with colleges and universities as well as independent scholars and authors to submit abstracts.  Students who wish to submit papers must be members of the AML Student Association.

For complete information on how to submit abstracts or papers, go here.

BOOK REVIEW: “Brother Brigham” by D. Michael Martindale

Brother Brigham, a supernatural thriller by D. Michael Martindale, is one of Zarahemla Books flagship titles for the year (in fact, one of its first titles). It is a book whose title I have heard bandied about for quite some time, had even read a segment of it which Martindale had put a teaser on the internet, but the novel seemed to be having a hard time finding a publisher to give it a home. And I can see why. It certainly has what I would deem very mature material, espcially for an LDS novel. A good deal of sexual material, a scene of Satan worship, drug use, spiritual possession, polygamy– yeah, it’s not going to be on the top of Deseret Book or Covenant’s acquisition list.

Fortunately, the newly christened Zarahemla Books, under their commitment to publish “adventurous” Mormon fiction, has taken a chance upon this book, to test whether there is a significant audience for daring Mormon fiction. Martindale certainly pushed my own sensibilities beyond a few limits. I didn’t mind that there was mature material, but I did think it could have been toned down a bit– sometimes a little too much detail for my taste. However, that being said, in the novel there is always a reason for vices to be included– ironcially, almost always a moral reason. Evil is never presented as good, and for every wrong decision a character makes, there are consequences– severe consequences. In many ways the novel is a morality tale. A warning against sin. Yet don’t expect some syrupy, cliched piece of propaganda here. It is skillfully written, creating a realistic, complex, difficult world where everything is not as it initially seems. It’s a page turner, the novel is a real heavy weight. Brother Brigham is a significant, thought provoking, faith affirming, intelligently written novel. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: “Brother Brigham” by D. Michael Martindale”

“The Enoch Letters” by Neal A. Maxwell

The Deseret Book Conference Sale circular arrived earlier this week. I was intrigued by the description of a book by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. It’s called The Enoch Letters. It turns out that it is a reprint — the original work was published in 1975 and republished in 1981 as Of One Heart: The Glory of the City of Enoch.
Here is the description:

“In the tradition of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis comes this fascination work of historical fiction from the mind of Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Letters from a man named Mahijah to a friend outside the city of Enoch vividly portray life inside a Zion society.” Continue reading ““The Enoch Letters” by Neal A. Maxwell”

Interview With Patricia Wiles, Part Two

In Part One, Patricia Wiles answered questions from A Motley Vision.  In this segment of the interview, Patricia fields questions from two admiring fans.  Saul, age 16, is interested in herpetology and is an aspiring writer himself.  Val, age 9, wants to be a naturalist when she grows up but has also begun writing stories.  Both kids enjoyed Patricia Wiles’s Kevin Kirk series tremendously and were excited to have an opportunity to ask her questions about her storylines, writing techniques, and … a few other things. Continue reading “Interview With Patricia Wiles, Part Two”

Interview With Patricia Wiles, Part One

Patricia Wiles is the author of three novels for young adults: My Mom’s a Mortician (2004 Covenant Communications), Funeral Home Evenings (2005 Covenant Communications), and Early Morning Cemetery (2006 Covenant Communications).  My Mom’s a Mortician and Funeral Home Evenings won the Association for Mormon Letters’s Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Continue reading “Interview With Patricia Wiles, Part One”

Dramatizing History

Last night we had a staged reading of my play “The Reluctant Convert” about C.S. Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity. It was a very productive, edifying experience, having given me a lot of food for thought about where to take my next draft of the script. Continue reading “Dramatizing History”

Laughing at the Sacred, Part 1: The Problem of Reverence.

I’m a non-discriminatory laugher. By that I mean that I’ll laugh at anything I think is funny. I don’t have any ideological limitations on my sense of humor. For example, I don’t need to “agree” with the point of a joke to think it’s funny. I mean, I laughed all the way through Fahrenheit 9/11 and I thought it was all a bunch of rubbish. I’ll also laugh at things that offend me and I’ll even laugh at things I think are mean. Continue reading “Laughing at the Sacred, Part 1: The Problem of Reverence.”

Mormon Lit: Heaven Knows Why

Jackson Whitetop, a no-account loafer, lives alone in the home that his grandfather Moroni built. Moroni is no longer with us, but he has a good job in the Compiling Office of the Accounting Section of the Current History Division of the Records Department. After several requests, Moroni gets clearance to pay Jackson a visit to deliver a message from beyond: Continue reading “Mormon Lit: Heaven Knows Why”

Commentary: Katherine Morris on AML Conference 2006 — Youth Literature

My sister Katherine was kind enough to write up her notes and impressions on the “Youth Literature” panel at the 2006 annual meeting of the Association for Mormon Letters:

The panel included Chris Crowe, John Bennion, Shanna Butler, Dean Hughes, and AnnDee Ellis, with Laura Card moderating.

Laura Card began the discussion by asking the question, “How have you seen LDS young adult literature evolve?” The panelists immediately deferred to Dean Hughes, who started out by mentioning how just thirty years ago Deseret Book didn’t publish fiction. It wasn’t until 1979 that Deseret Book finally published a work of fiction, which was Dean’s book Under the Same Stars, a young adult novel. “It’s significant,” Dean said, “that the first breakthrough in LDS fiction was in youth literature.”

Since Dean published Under the Same Stars, several other authors have successfully broken into the market (Jack Weyland and Chris Heimerdinger, notably). However, Dean noted, no one has made a living publishing children’s books in an exclusively LDS market. One reason the LDS market can’t sustain authors who write for children is that, although adults in the Church tend to be wary of adult best sellers, they don’t show the same hesitancy toward best-selling children’s books. This being the case, Latter-day Saint authors who write for children have to compete with the national market and so usually end up writing for the national market.

Moving on to recent trends in LDS youth literature, Dean said, “Things are picking up. Every few years now, there’s a new sensation” (this said with an accompanying nod to fellow panelist AnnDee Ellis). Latter-day Saint writers are becoming increasingly recognized in the national youth market, and Mormon themes are becoming more acceptable. Just in the last several years, Dean said, he’s not only been allowed to write about LDS themes, but he’s been invited to do so. While this indicates that publishers see the potential for new voices and perspectives in LDS authors, part of the reason publishers are interested in Mormon-themed books is because it’s becoming clear there’s an LDS market. President Hinckley’s books are always on the best seller list. Latter-day Saints might be the only ones buying them, but they certainly are buying them.

Chris Crowe talked mainly about why he believes youth literature appeals to Latter-day Saints. After briefly mentioning that LDS culture is generally quite child-friendly (meaning that we like children and we have a lot of them), Chris waxed theoretical. He said some people have observed that American culture is in its adolescence, and so it’s rather fitting that Americans would be interested in children’s books. He believes there’s a similar sort of phenomenon with LDS culture. We’re coming of age as a people, and so we like coming-of-age stories.

John Bennion said he believes that some of the best LDS literary fiction is youth fiction. He mentioned the Delacorte Press Prize–how several LDS writers have won it or achieved an honorable mention. John said he believes Louise Plummer is the best LDS youth writer.

Shanna Butler is an editor for the New Era, which stopped publishing fiction about five years ago. Dispensing with fiction apparently didn’t increase readership, so recently the New Era has made the decision to reintroduce fiction with a short story by Jack Weyland on pornography. The magazine is currently accepting submissions, but they don’t have many specific guidelines to help authors out. Though now open to publishing fiction, the New Era doesn’t necessarily have any set plans to, so submissions will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Stories must be on a specific gospel topic and no longer than 2,500 words. Since the stories have to go through several levels of approval, anything sent in now wouldn’t be published for about a year. Shanna says the New Era is the only magazine, as far as she knows, that tries to hit such a large demographic (twelve- to eighteen-year-olds). She said that online magazines created by LDS teens for other LDS teens are filling in places the New Era leaves gaps. You’ll see things about makeup and dressing modestly that you won’t see in the New Era.

AnnDee Ellis is an up-and-coming LDS author who writes for youth. She got a publishing deal by showing her manuscript to an editor while she was volunteering at a “Writers for Young Readers” conference. The book she is currently working on is about a young LDS boy who is trying to make his way through Scouts and jr. high. The book is Mormon-themed but is written for a wider audience than LDS youth. Having overheard AnnDee telling someone the first line of her novel, I would have to say it sounds like her book will be an original addition to the corpus of LDS youth literature.

Idea: In the wake of The Work and the Glory.

The world of historical fiction seems to be alive and thriving in the LDS community, but I’d be interested in seeing the sales figures for all these series. Are they actually selling that well, or are publishers just putting them out in hopes of hitting the same popularity jackpot snagged by The Work and the Glory series? Whatever the case, historical fiction currently makes up an astoundingly large share of the LDS fiction market. Continue reading “Idea: In the wake of The Work and the Glory.”