A Review of L.T. Downing’s Get That Gold

Get That Gold is a tale of the LDS Restoration, aimed at middle-grade readers (and for families to read together, according to the author.)

I started this story with some trepidation. I always feel that way about books written by writers in this LDS community. I once read something that Angela Hallstrom wrote about how, as a writer of LDS fiction, she didn’t feel she could be a reviewer of LDS fiction. The two were becoming less compatible for her.

I have determined to be both a writer and a reviewer because I feel that I have a kind of duty, if that makes sense. I love LDS fiction. I actually read it, and I read it growing up. Therefore, I am a legitimate part of the audience, and as a writer, I can provide good feedback and some relevant insights about books I read, mingled with real constructive criticism as someone who works hard at the craft myself.

The problem is, this means sometimes I’ll be reviewing the story  of someone who has reviewed mine. There can be a feeling, in this small community of “tit for tat,” etc, whether people mean that or not. So I’m just going to state up front, right now:  all of you people in this community who are reading my stories? And writing reviews of them? I expect your honesty, and I can handle it. If you did not like something about my story, say so. So that I can improve. If you found dialog disingenuous or forced. If you disliked a character. If you felt my plot fell apart, or my pacing was off. (Mark Penny pointed this out about Lightning Tree, and gave me only three stars because of it. See? I really can handle it.)

Not to say I don’t believe my stories are awesome. I think they are. And those of you who have appreciated and reviewed them, thank you for taking the time to write a review! It really helps motivate us as writers to get feedback not just from our audience but from our peers who are among that audience.

OK. Disclaimers aside. I’m going to say the stuff I’m dreading up front, like ripping off a bandaid.

I enjoyed both Island of the Stone Boy and Get That Gold, but I felt both could have benefited from another round of editing. Not sentence structure or grammar; I think Downing is flawless there. More for story flow, descriptions and dialog. Particularly when description and dialog mixed, I felt jarred a lot. There were some tag echoes, a bit too much description of character movement/action in the middle of dialog, and some of the character descriptions and actions were hard to picture in my head.

OK. I got that out of the way. Moving on:

Get That Gold is eminently worth your time. I loved this story, and I know my kids will love it, and I fully plan on reading it to them as a bedtime story for the next several nights. I was deeply touched by this story. I loved the depiction of Joseph, especially. I was moved to tears at times. I loved the depiction of Emma. I loved Joseph’s family. I can tell that Downing put a great deal of time and effort into her research, and as a reader I trust that. I really enjoyed being transported into the setting and time period of the restoration. Above all, I felt the excitement, the deep and spiritual profundity, of Joseph and his retrieval of the Gold Plates.

There is a slapstick feel about Downing’s fiction at times. Her humor runs to the bad-guys-being-silly-and-getting-hurt sort of thing. While I am not the biggest fan of slapstick, I know this will make my kids laugh a whole lot as I read it to them. As an adult, I probably need to loosen up and enjoy it more, too.

I know that this story has been waiting for a while to be published; that one of the big 3 LDS publishers finally turned it down several years ago because they felt the fiction made light of the sacredness of the Joseph Smith story. I felt the opposite. I felt, after reading this, excited to re-read Joseph Smith History in my scriptures, and the testimony of the witnesses. I felt excited to read the Book of Mormon. I think that this story is a jewel, to be honest. As I read it to my children, I expect it will engage them in the story of the Restoration, and help them to be interested in Joseph Smith as person. I find this to be a vital part of my own testimony and am grateful someone has taken the time to write a story that will help young people see the excitement, the danger, the fun and funny in such an important story.

Is the Demand for Mormon Literature Classes Increasing?

I’ve been following Margaret Young’s plans to teach the “Literature of the Latter-day Saints” class at BYU this coming semester, and I was pleased to see that she has posted her reading list for the course on her blog, and plans to post “parts of the class” on her blog also. I even suggested to my BYU student daughter that she take the class.

Nope. That won’t work. In addition to the students who have grabbed one of the 30 seats for the class, there is a waiting list of 63 (as of this morning).

Continue reading “Is the Demand for Mormon Literature Classes Increasing?”

On becoming the George Clooney of Mormon Lit

.

George Clooney, I’m told, uses his star power for good. That is, he makes a blockbuster—say, Ocean’s Thirteen—to keep his box-office mojo shiny, then spends that star capital on getting Burn After Reading made. Or The Perfect Storm so O Brother, Where Art Thou? can exist. The Coens, it would seem, owe megamovies a great debt.

Continue reading “On becoming the George Clooney of Mormon Lit”

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute: Fiction (sf/f)

.

[background]

.

Today’s readings are:

“The Class That Wouldn’t Die” by Joe Vasicek

“Three Different Mormon Futures” by Eric James Stone

“Avek, Who is Distributed” Steven L. Peck

“Release” by Wm Morris

“Waiting” by Katherine Cowley

and, if we have time, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (free audio)

.

Please feel free to have your own seminar in the comments to this post.

.

Other posts in series:

Poetry

Fiction (lit)

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute: Fiction (lit)

.

[background]

.

Today’s readings are:

“Why Mormon culture is important to the future of Mormonism” by Wm Morris

“Name” by Heidi Naylor

“A Visit for Tregan” by Jack Harrell

.

Please feel free to have your own seminar in the comments to this post.

.

Other posts in series:

Poetry

Fiction (sf/f) — forthcoming

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute: Poetry

.

[background]

.

Today’s readings are:

“Wrestling with God: Invoking Scriptural Mythos and Language in LDS Literary Works” by James Goldberg

20 Poems from Fire in the Pasture edited by Tyler Chadwick

.

Please feel free to have your own seminar in the comments to this post.

.

Other posts in series:

Fiction (lit) — forthcoming

Fiction (sf/f) — forthcoming

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute

Mormonism and the Arts

.

Today at the Berkeley Ward we had a visitor from the Graduate Theological Union. He’s taking the class on Mormonism Bob Rees is teaching and part of the homework is watching a session of General Conference and attending a local ward. It was, I admit, a bit strange to have someone take notes as I taught high priests. That isn’t the sort of thing high priests usually do. Especially when I’m talking.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time in higher ed for Mormon Studies around here, in my opinion. Besides the growing interest at GTU ( where I once had the pleasure of being on a Normal Mormon Panel for a class taught by the Bloggernacle’s own Lynnette), there’s also the everfun activities over at the Berkeley Institute.

Sharpminded remembers and Theric completists may recall a few years ago when I gave a lecture (or, rather, led a discussion) on Mormon fiction at the Berkeley Institute of Religion. Happily, MJ Pritchett is running the arts series again with a slightly adjusted list of topics (and they have been adjusted again since the poster to your right was created, though I don’t know all the alterations).*

I’m making three visits this time around as the closest-thing-available-to-an-expert. In order, I will be discussing Poetry, Fiction (lit), and Fiction (sf/f).

Tomorrow is my first visit and I will be visiting each week for three weeks. Each of those Tuesdays I will post the reading assignment so you can pretend that you’re in your late teens or early twenties and as lucky as these kids. (Don’t try to be as cool as them though—seriously: don’t even try.)

For future dropbys’ sake, the links are (will be): Poetry, Fiction (lit)Fiction (sf/f).

.

*Because I know you can’t read that poster image too well, here’s the series as originally announced. I wish I felt comfortable crashing every single week.

1. Introduction:  Mormonism in the Arts vs. Mormons in Arts

2. City Planning:  The Plan for the City of Zion, the Mormon Village and Suburban Mormons

3. Architecture:  19th Century-Iconography of Early Temples

4. Architecture: 20th Century-Period Revivals, International Style and Standard Plans

5. Poetry:  Mormon Women Poets:  From Eliza R. Snow to Carol Lynn Pearson

6. Literature:  Mormon Fantasy Writers in the Mainstream:  Orson Scott Card and Stephanie Meyer

7. Literature:  A Short Look at Mormon Short Stories

8. Visual Arts:  Visualizing God:  Mormon Images of Jesus

9. Painting:  Two Visions of the Book of Mormon:  Minerva Teichert and Arnold Friberg

10. Dance:  Dancing with the Saints

11. Music:  From MoTab to Motown:  Music and Missionary Work from the Tabernacle Choir to Gladys Knight

12. Music:  Music in Mormon Worship:  God’s Music and the Devil’s

13. Drama:  Roadshows, Pageants and Plays

14. Film:  From Provo to Sundance:  Cipher n the Snow, Tom Trails and Napoleon Dynamite