Everyday Mormon Writer contest submissions are due at midnight

Just a reminder: entries for Everyday Mormon Writer’s are due at midnight tonight to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com. You also can still donate to the contest. The dinners are over, but if you want to kick in $5-10 to support Mormon arts–or if you want an art print of one or all of the finalists, now is the time to step up and make that contribution.

The hard limit for contest submissions is 2,000 words — 1,000-word stories are preferred. Write 1k words on your lunch break and then revise tonight. I have it on good authority that the midnight deadline may be flexible so long as you can get your entries in before the editors check their email early tomorrow morning (but don’t push this flexibility; there will be a cut off. I’m just saying if 12 pm MDT arrives and you need 30 more minutes, you’ll be okay.).

I will admit that two of my three entries are closer to 2k than 1k and only of them is probably justified in going that long. But my laziness opens up the door for the rest of you to hit the editors’ sweet spot. And it can be done. For example, Everyday Mormon Writer recently re-published my Mormon Lit Blitz finalist “The Elder Who Wouldn’t Stop…“. That story started out around 1500 words, but by the time I submitted it to the Lit Blitz it was just under 1,000. Pruning 1/3 of the story was difficult, but I was able to do it. And it didn’t take more than a couple of hours. So get to it people. This is anyone’s competition to win.

Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Richard H. Cracroft on what makes a poem ‘Mormon’

Richard H. CracroftIt took me a little bit to find my head this week. It was only after Church today that it occurred to me that today’s “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon” should be from Richard Cracroft. While I had been searching my sources for an appropriate item, the answer was in the most recent news posted here on A Motley Vision. And in this excerpt, Cracroft doesn’t disappoint; diving into one of the most difficult issues in Mormon letters: What makes a work ‘Mormon’?

Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Richard H. Cracroft on what makes a poem ‘Mormon’”

In Memoriam: Richard H. Cracroft

Earlier today Margaret Young shared on her Facebook page that Richard H. Cracroft , Emeritus Professor of English at Brigham Young University, died yesterday evening. He was 76*.

For a brief biography and fairly comprehensive bibliography, I recommend his Mormon Literature Database entry.

There will be remembrances posted in the coming days from those who knew Prof. Cracroft. I never met him. But I know his work well and would like to pay tribute to him by talking about that relationship.

The landmark anthology A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints, which he put together along with Neal Lambert was one of my first introductions to Mormon literature. The two pieces of criticism of his posted on the Mormon literature website (which Gideon Burton created right before I became aware of Mormon literature as a field and which, along with the AML-List, became my introduction it) along with the other responses to it (something which I call the Mormon literaturstreit) is the key conversation that drew me into my ongoing process of engagement with what is, what should be and what we should say about Mormon literature.

Prof. Cracroft introduced several generations of young, talented BYU students to Mormon literature, especially Mormon fiction, quite a few of whom are now our best writers of fiction, poetry, criticism, personal essay and reviews. Through his long-running BYU Magazine column, he popularized Mormon-themed fiction and non-Mormon-themed work by LDS writers to the LDS audience.

We as a field owe him an immense debt.

I, personally, am most grateful for his often prickly, yet always well-articulated call for fiction that speaks to believing, practicing, modern, culturally orthodox Latter-day Saints. Fiction that expresses, as he states in his landmark AML presidential address, the Mantic  Mormon worldview. I have been grappling with that speech for almost 15 years now. It informs much of my own championing of the radical middle. I don’t agree with everything Prof. Cracroft has said on the topic. But I find myself unwilling and unable to dismiss his opinions. He was and will continue to be  a crucial, major voice in the field of Mormon literature. He is and will be greatly missed.

Fare thee well, Brother Cracroft. I’d love to listen in on the conversations you will soon be having with Brother Whitney and Sister Wells (and Brother England and Sister Snow).

*Or possibly 77. I have only been able to find his birth year.

A Mormon reference in Karen Joy Fowler’s short story collection

I’ve been reading What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler. I’m enjoying it very much — Fowler infuses the literary with the weird in a way that speaks to my particular tastes and obsessions. I plan on writing about it more on my author blog, but I also found a Mormon reference to document here at AMV. It’s found in the story “Familiar Birds”:

“The Mormons used to make tea from this,” Daisy said. She was pointing to a particularly leggy, stickery plant. “They picked the leaves and dried them and then put them in boiling water. They thought this tea stopped pregnancies. Any woman found with the dried leaves was excommunicated. Or thrown into prison.” (94)

Now Daisy is likely unreliable when she talks about nature. The story is about Clara, a young woman who makes an extended visit with Daisy and her parents every summer (so her parents don’t have to pay for child care). Daisy likes to menace Clara with rural knowledge. So all the details could be completely made up. I wonder, though, how Fowler came up with the anecdote, especially since it correctly uses the word “excommunication” which suggests some familiarity with Mormonism.

As far as I know Mormon tea is the same thing as what people in Kanab (the town in southern Utah where I spent my childhood) called Brigham tea. As I recall, Brigham tea was made with stems — not leaves. In fact, Ephedra (which is what Brigham tea is made from) doesn’t have leaves. It is leggy, though. I don’t know about stickery, though. It’s pointy at the top, but I don’t really associate that with stickery.

I’ve tasted Mormon tea once when I was a kid. It’s not very good.

More on Magdalene.


Because of my connection to Moriah Jovan’s Magdalene (I edited it), I’ve been loathe to promote it on AMV (even if I did think it was the best Mormon fiction of 2011). But now that it’s been out over a year, I feel less worried about images of impropriety. And the book is again on my mind for a pair of reasons.


Reason 1: Continue reading “More on Magdalene.”

Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: J. H. Paul on the Development of Literature

Joshua_H_PaulWhile it seems clear that J. H. Paul’s defense of Utah and Mormon artists and educators in 1931 was inadequate, there is one area where I think he got things right. Literature, like culture, can take a very long time to develop. If European cultures took centuries to produce the first of the most significant works of their literature, how much can be expected of Utah, with its then 80 years of existence, or of Mormonism with its then 100 years of existence. To put it in today’s terms we might say: Can we really expect major works of literature from a group of related sub-cultures that are, collectively, less than 200 years old?

Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: J. H. Paul on the Development of Literature”