AML Awards, Whitneys, LDS Publisher contest reveal and much more

I have a ton of updates for ya’ll so let’s get right to it:

AML Awards + Annual Meeting: Here’s a link to the AML Awards for 2009, including the award citations; Tyler has write ups of several sessions at chasing the long white cloud. I’ll reserve my take on this year’s awards for the comments section.

LDS Publisher’s Book of Mormon YA fiction contest: The results are in! Congrats to David and all the other winners. Here are the entries by AVVers and friends of AMV. Speak up in the comments if I missed you (and my  apologies if I did):

Wm may be a Whitney Awards voter: So Rob twisted my arm (amazing how forceful he can be in spite of the shards of glass injected in to his heart [kidding, Rob. I hope the treatment works.]), and I’m in a LDS-Fiction-y mood so I’m going to try and hit two or more categories as a Whitney Awards voter. Historical Fiction is my best bet, and I may be able to do Speculative Fiction as well. Sadly, General Fiction will likely not happen because of a lack of review copies and the fact I need to do put my time over the next 29 days in to categories where I’m going to be likely to contribute (you have to read all 5 finalists in order to vote). If you are interested in what I have to say about the finalists as I read them, check out my GoodReads account and friend me if you haven’t already or subscribe to the RSS feed if you don’t have/don’t want an account.

More Stuff You Should Check Out

  1. Gideon Burton is open sourcing his sonnets
  2. The Up Beat, a documentary on the Utah/LDS Ska scene, is now available on DVD (updated 3/3 — forgot to HT The Mormon Left for this item)
  3. This March 20 Mormon Artists Group concert looks like a not-to-be-missed event for anyone who can make it to NYC
  4. Yes, it went straight to DVD, but the New Yorker makes a case for (and provides a weird Mormon gloss on) Jared Hess’s Gentlemen Broncos
  5. Here’s a way to view all the Mormon fiction titles BYU Bookstore is currently selling

The Whitney Awards, Irreantum submissions and an Angolan artist

A quick look at the Whitney Awards

By now, I’m sure all of AMV’s readers have seen the announcement of this year’s finalists for the Whitney Awards. Congratulations to AMV’s Jonathan Langford for being selected as a finalist in the General Fiction category. He is also eligible for the best novel by a new author award. Full disclosure: I am not a Whitney voter. I believe Theric is. I don’t know if anybody else associated with AMV is. Updated disclosure, 3/21/2010: Rob Wells convinced me to be a Whitney Awards voter. I will be for sure voting in the Speculative Fiction and Historical Fiction categories. It is also quite likely that I will be able to finish reading the novels in the General Fiction category, as well.

I’ve compiled a quick breakdown of who published the finalists. It’s a pretty decent mix, actually: Continue reading “The Whitney Awards, Irreantum submissions and an Angolan artist”

A litany of excellent links

I’ve got a bunch of cool stuff piled up to share. Some of it’s fresh and new; some of it has aged a few weeks or even months. But it’s all good, and if you are looking for some good reading, right click on all the links below and open them up in new tabs and get lost for awhile in reading about fiction and poetry.

The chanson challenge

After reading and participating in the robust discussion on Kent’s Reaching the Market post, chanson wrote up a post featuring a bunch of Mormon-related works (some fiction, some nonfiction) and challenges Mormons and ExMormons alike to determine if they are anti-Mormon or not. Please note that the link is to the ExMo-oriented blog Main Street Plaza. There’s stuff that orthodox Mormons won’t like, but their cultural coverage is worth checking out for those interested in the middle market of Mormon culture.

Emily Milner on the poetics of LDS fiction

If you haven’t checked out Segullah Associate Editor Emily Milner’s LDS fiction-related posts on her personal blog Hearing Voices, then the link above will take you to a handy index of everything she’s written so far on the topic. There’s some great stuff there. My favorite post so far is on negation of negation, which takes Robert McKee’s principle of antagonism and applies it to LDS fiction. Good stuff. And much of her work is focused on the finalists for The Whitneys so if you are looking for more analysis/reviews of those titles, Emily’s blog is the best place to start (and her future posts in this category will appear on the Mormon Arts feed over there in the left sidebar). And speaking of The Whitneys… Continue reading “A litany of excellent links”

Whitney Awards 2008 Finalists announced (yep, that’s what I thought)

If you haven’t seen it yet, the finalists for the 2008 Whitney Awards have been posted. As expected, Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom is nominated in all three categories it was eligible for (novel of the year, new author, general fiction). And as expected, Angel Falling Softly was not a finalist in any category. And as expected, the presence of some national titles (in particular Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, Orson Scott Card’s Ender in Exile, and the final volume of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series) on the list seems a bit unfair even though such titles are sold in LDS bookstores and consumed by LDS readers and written by Mormon authors and so fit the basic parameters of what makes a work a piece of LDS/Mormon fiction.

And yet all of the above (as well as the characteristics of the other titles that made the cut) are in keeping with the audience for the Whitney’s and are about as good a portrait of what the field looks like in terms of reader popularity and sales as you are going to get.

Should Bound on Earth win Best Novel of the Year (and should it also win an AML award — which seems likely) it will join last year’s winner On the Road to Heaven as a) a strong indication of the type of domestic, plain-style Mormon literary realism that does well with middlebrow LDS readers and b) establish Parables and Zarahemla as the best bets for writers and readers interested in Mormon literary fiction.

For the record, I’m not interested in comments bemoaning or defending the finalists. The Whitney Awards is a positive development in the field and a class act (at least in terms of their marketing/pr efforts and products — I can’t speak to how it is run in other areas). But it’s one only one aspect of the past year in Mormon literature and as lovely as awards are, they are at best a reductive form of validation and criticism. Although let’s be honest: The Whitneys have way more credibility than the Grammys.

The Whitney Awards take place April 25 in Provo. Tickets (which are $35) are available here. Hopefully the awards committee arranges to liveblog the event again. The liveblogging was quite entertaining last year.

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)”