AML awards for 2008

The Association for Mormon Letters has released the awards it presented at its Feb. 28 meeting:

Poetry:

Neil Aitken, The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga Press)

Warren Hatch, Mapping the Bones of the World (Signature Books)

Short Fiction:

Stephen Tuttle, Amanuensis“ (Hayden’s Ferry Review)

The Novel:

Angela Hallstrom, Bound on Earth (Parables)

Youth Fiction:

Brandon Mull, Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague (Shadow Mountain)

Drama:

James Goldberg, Prodigal Son (New Play Project)

Personal Essay:

Patrick Madden, “A Sudden Pull Behind the Heart” (The Best Creative Fiction, Volume 2, W. W. Norton and Company)
Stephen Carter, “Calling” (Sunstone)

Film:

Christian Vuissa, Errand of Angels

Ron Williams, Happy Valley

Special Award in Criticism

Alan F. Keele, Professor of German at BYU

Special Award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography:

Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Richard L. Jensen, The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals Series, vol. 1, Journals 1832-1839 (Church Historian’s Press)

Special Award in History:

Richard E. Turley, Jr., Glen M. Leonard, and Ronald W. Walker, Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press)

Smith-Petit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters:

Douglas H. Thayer

Lifetime AML Membership:

Terryl L. Givens

Don’t just show up for Terryl Givens (and who is going?)

The annual meeting of the Association for Mormon Letters will take place 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at the library at Utah Valley University in Orem. Attendance is free — although if you want to attend the luncheon, it’ll cost you $12 and you should either  R.S.V.P. today if you want to pay at the door or (no deadline given, but I’d imagine the sooner the better so they can get a count to the food service provider).

Terryl Givens will be the keynote speaker. Several people have asked in different venues* what time he is going to speak, perhaps suggesting that there may be a coterie of Givens admires out there who will show up for his keynote and then ditch the rest of the day. Please don’t. I know Saturdays are precious, but it’s always lame when people show up for the main event and then ditch out on the other presenters. Part of the point of a big draw is provide energy to the rest of the day.**

Also: Who is planning on attending? Unsurprisingly, I won’t be there. I promise, though, that if I ever do make it, I will announce it here weeks in advance and that there will be some sort of Grand Tour, and that I will be asking for places to crash and chauffeurs and free meals and all that.

* I’m not accusing any of those who have asked of anything — but the fact of asking raised the suspicion in my mind that some folks might have ditching inclinations.

** My apologies to the AML for this post. They’re a gracious bunch, and I’m sure they’ll welcome everyone — even those who can’t stay. And really, it’s best to ignore a rabble rouser, layabout and blogger like me.

A look at Irreantum 9.2/10.1

Irreantum 9.2./10.1 is a double issue, containing the fall/winter 2007 and the spring/summer 2008 editions. Edited by Angela Hallstrom, it contains seven pieces of fiction, two critical essays, two creative nonfiction essays, 11 poems and four reviews. It also features art work by Maralise Petersen.

With the abundance of short stories, the two critical essays and especially the original art, this double issue, in my mind, is the closest Irreantum has gotten to becoming the refreed, (utterly) literary journal that it claims it wants to be. These changes culminate a process that began several years ago when Laraine Wilkins took over the reins from Chris Bigelow. I have very mixed feelings about this process — and my reaction was made all the more complicated by the fact that this issue marks my debut in print. Continue reading “A look at Irreantum 9.2/10.1”

The Golden Citations

Opening (inverted) and closing question marks ...
Image via Wikipedia

When I was a youth, the Church encouraged us as members to engage our friends in conversation about the Church using the Golden Questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? and Where am I going to? My father even had a lapel pin for his suit that was in the shape of a question mark, meant to elicit conversations using these questions.

I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be good to have some similar system to elicit conversations about Mormon Culture and literature.

Continue reading “The Golden Citations”

LDS fiction; Mormon fiction (part two)

In part one, I discussed the terms LDS and Mormon and why various sectors of the field of LDS/Mormon culture choose to self-identify with one term or the other or use both — either interchangeably or to mean different things. I also drew some very blurred, porous lines between LDS fiction and Mormon fiction.

I thing the best place to begin part two is with a brief, hastily sketched and probably wrong in places history of how Mormon fiction has been defined. Not the whole thing. But the field as it has developed to where it is at today. For a full history of Mormon literature up until the mid-90s, see Eugene England’s “Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects.”

The field of Mormon fiction as we know it today really begins to take form in the 1970s. In the early ’70s, Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert created the anthology A Believing People and taught the first course in Mormon literature at BYU. In 1976, the Association for Mormon Letters was formed. Since that time the AML and the Mormon literature courses taught at BYU have been the main producers of work that is about the field of Mormon literature (along with contributions from Dialogue and Sunstone — often written by authors who are also involved in the AML). The AML defined Mormon literature (and thus by extension Mormon fiction) as literature by, for and/or about Mormons.

The AML has always taken a big tent approach to things, considering everything from works published by Deseret Book to Signature to national publishers and works by authors who are active LDS to non-LDS to Jack Mormons to cultural Mormons to those whose religious tradition comes from any one of the off-shoots of Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry (Community of Christ, for example). However, it has also placed a priority on literary works (although the young adult and speculative fiction genres have always had a strong presence among the people involved and the awards handed out and papers presented by the AML).

There has been some dissent from this big-tent approach over the years. Most notably, Richard Crafcroft, who has pushed for a more LDS-oriented approach to Mormon literature. And, in fact, his main statement on the subject is an AML paper called “Attuning the Authentic Mormon Voice: Stemming the Sophic Tide in LDS Literature.” Note the use of “LDS” in the title. But note also that Cracroft expressed his opinions within the AML community. Continue reading “LDS fiction; Mormon fiction (part two)”

LDS fiction; Mormon fiction (part 1)

In one of the very early AMV posts, I wrote:

“Mormon artists” above refers to artists who seek to live a life of LDS orthodoxy. In keeping with the big tent definition of Mormon literature, A Motley Vision will, at other times, use the term “Mormon artists” in a broader sense to include those, for instance, who identify themselves as cultural Mormons but are not active LDS.

Since then I and my co-bloggers (and commenters) have used the term LDS on this blog 918 times; we have used Mormon 1,240 times (according to a Google site search). I haven’t analyzed my co-bloggers posts, but I tend to use the two terms almost-but-not-always interchangeably.

Others, however, don’t. One of the most interesting things to come out of the brouhaha over Angel Falling Softly over at LDS Publisher was the idea that LDS fiction is a genre unto itself. I’ll be honest: this label had never really occurred to me. Certainly, I was aware that Deseret Book and Covenant have certain standards (and sometimes double standards) when it comes to what they publish and sell, but it never occurred me to that the term “LDS fiction” applied only to works that would find their way on to the shelves of DB and Seagull. Continue reading “LDS fiction; Mormon fiction (part 1)”

A look at Irreantum 9.1

It’s good to see the Association for Mormon Letters working to get caught up with publication of its literary journal Irreantum. I always find it a bit puzzling and sad when a new issue is published and is not mentioned in the Bloggernacle, on the AML-List, etc. So I’m going to take a stab at a quick, subjective review of Volume 9, Number 1 (which I guess would be the spring 2007 issue).

Short Stories

I admit it. The major reason I keep my AML membership (and I did let it lapse for a while because I was unhappy about the delays with Irreantum and the lack of AML Annuals — which are very important to me because I’m not able to attend the yearly conference) is because I want access to short stories written for the Mormon market. I would be very happy if every issue, regardless of theme/focus, published 5-7 short stories.

This issue features four — the winners of the 2006 Irreantum Fiction Contest* (there was a tie for third place). I enjoyed them. I wish that there wasn’t such a bias towards your standard American literary realism short story. But I can’t really complain — two out of the four stories knocked my socks off, and I think that’s a pretty good ratio (the other two were just okay).

“Light of the New Day” by Darin Cozzens is the first place winner. It’s easy to see why. About a middle-age unmarried man who lives with his ancient, irascible, well-meaning-but-controlling mother on a farm, it is a polished, complete story with a couple of amazing images and all those small details and moments that literary readers enjoy. It’s a very good story that has some interesting things to say about the Mormon experience. Very anthology worthy. But it doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of Mormon literature — or rather it doesn’t do anything with form or content that really surprised me. And yet,  I really like it. Continue reading “A look at Irreantum 9.1”