This Month in Mormon Literature, July 2016

We mourn the loss of former AML President Linda Hunter Adams. Michael Allred won an Eisner Award, and Theric and Trevor spoke about Mormons and comics at San Diego ComicCon International. Vault Books, a new specialty publisher, has opened its doors. Boadicea the Mormon Wife, the second critical edition in the “Mormon Image in Literature” series, has been released. Mirror Press, an independent publisher run by Mormons, got a book on the USA Today bestseller list. Michael Collings and Colin Douglas released new poetry collections. Please send any announcements or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

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News and blog posts

AdamsLinda-Hunter-215x275Linda Hunter Adams passed away on July 17, at the age of 75. Her obituary reads: “An associate professor at BYU for 30 years, Linda taught English and editing, and influenced thousands of students. She was director of the Humanities Publications Center, where she produced hundreds of books and journals. She was associate editor of BYU Studies for 15 years. She managed student journals, including Inscape and The Leading Edge, and helped organize conferences, including Life, the Universe, and Everything. She was an editor for Pioneer Magazine and also spent a number of years working on the Joseph Smith Papers.” Continue Reading →

Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—12

Spirit and Art: Orson Whitney

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Orson F. Whitney

**I have called this series “Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite” for two reasons. One is that I see the experiences of seeking and knowing a relationship with, communicating with, being transformed by, interpreting life in the light of knowledge obtained from, endeavoring with varying degrees of success to live in, the light of the Infinite (though we Latter-day Saints usually don’t call it that; we call it “God” or the “Spirit”) as being, in the view I have presented here, the defining “matter” of the Restorationist writer. The other reason is that the “quest for the Infinite” is a key point of contact for purposes of comparison and contrast of Restoration writers and writers of the world, and for exploring historical relationships between them. That is by way of reminding my readers where I have come from, why I am here, and where I am going with this series. In regard to that first reason, I have commented on, by way of section 93, aspects of the poetic practice of Joseph Smith. I want to say something in this and the three subsequent installments about the theories of Orson F. Whitney, Merrill Bradshaw, and Clinton F. Larson, and somewhat about Clinton Larson’s praxis, because I hope their ideas will remain alive in the Restorationist literary conversation.  Now, then….
**The idea that the Holy Ghost will have something to do with whatever is distinctive or characteristic of Restorationist art was, so far as I know, first stated outright by Orson F. Whitney, Continue Reading →

An Interview with Jennifer Quist, AML Novel Award Winner

An Interview with Jennifer Quist, Author of Sistering, Winner of the 2015 AML Novel Award

8e047be0dae03eca93ddee4aefedb52dJennifer Quist is a journalist and novelist from Edmonton, Alberta. Her first novel, Love Letters from the Angel of Death (2013), was a finalist for the Whitney Award and the basis of her Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award in 2014. Her second novel, Sistering, won the 2015 Association for Mormon Letters Award for the Novel, was long-listed for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award, and was named a “Must-Read” of the 2015 fall season by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation The interview was conducted by Michael Austin.

Let’s start with the biographical details. Could you briefly describe your life so far? Start from the beginning and go up to the point that you decided to become a rich and famous writer.

I was born in a remote pulp-mill town in the northern boreal forest. My father was ambitious and restless and moved our family all over the immense country of Canada. By the time I graduated from high school, I had gone to eleven different schools. It would have been lonely if it weren’t for my close sibling group of seven, our ward families, and the grace of God that unfailingly sent me the few good friends I prayed for everywhere we went. Continue Reading →

Mormon fiction: weird joke, serious paradox?

Pigs_When_They_Straddle_the_Air_FinalBy Julie J. Nichols

Julie J. Nichols is the author of the recent novel Pigs When They Straddle the Air (Zarahemla Books). Read about her and her work at her blog www.juliejnichols.com.

One Friday afternoon about five years ago I sat in extreme discomfort through a UVU English Department faculty meeting on whose agenda was the topic of development—or not—of a Mormon Lit curriculum. I wish you all had been there.

The UVU English Department faculty is a motley group, the largest department at the university. About half of us are from Mormon backgrounds, the other half decidedly not. Continue Reading →

On Writing and Editing for Deseret Book: An interview with Dennis Gaunt

As an acquisitions editor for the biggest LDS mainstream publisher, how do you see LDS fiction as a whole? What do we produce more of, what genres and types of fiction sell better? What’s most marketable to an LDS audience?

First off, I’m not an acquisitions editor. My technical title is “manuscript evaluator,” and I work with the editors to cull the slushpile. I’ve been doing this since 2000. Continue Reading →

“If You Want a Future, Darlin,’ Why Don’t You Get a Past?”: Mormon Literature and the Importance of Canon-Building

In order to have Mormon literary criticism, Mormon literary critics need something to criticize. That is how the process works, and it is why constructing (and deconstructing) literary canons is one of the most important jobs that literary critics do. Canon-building, of course, is messy, controversial, and inexact, but that’s OK. These things are supposed to be fluid and controversial; indeed, the controversy itself gives us something to write about. Without a manageable body of texts to study, though, Mormon literary criticism generally descends into self-referential arguments about whether or not Mormon literature exists.  Continue Reading →

Teaching Mormon Literature

Hi everyone, I’m new here at Dawning of a Brighter Day. My name is Shelah Miner, and if my name sounds familiar, it’s likely because my Mormon Lit students’ book reviews have been featured on the blog quite frequently over the last year.

It’s my role as a Mormon Lit teacher that brings me to writing for the blog. I’ve now taught the English 268 course at BYU-Salt Lake for two years, and this year I’m already signed up to teach it for the next two semesters. I’ve taught English at the college level for most of the last fifteen years, and this is by far the most fun class I’ve ever taught.

Since it’s my first day here, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the first day of class. At BYU, “Literature of the LDS” is an elective course, and the vast majority of the students in my classes are not English majors. My course meets once a week for two and a half hours on Thursday afternoons. At the Salt Lake Center, the class caps in the low twenties. I had 19 students in my class the first time I taught it, and 13 last semester. I think the class is similarly-sized on the main campus at BYU, where two sections are on the fall 2016 schedule, a day class taught by Kylie Turley (which has 55 on the waiting list!) and a night class taught by Cheri Earl. Continue Reading →

In Tents 67 How Prophets Behave Rhetorically, or Don’t Part VII

Isaiah Reads The Book of Mormon, continued

Garbage has always fascinated me, things that get left behind, ruined, discarded. Trips to Hovenweep and Mesa Verde were highlights of my childhood. In junior high my archaeological interests turned to The Book of Mormon, pictures mostly–the words didn’t hold my attention, unlike the words in Robert Payne’s biography of Heinrich Schliemann, The Gold of Troy.

My father cautioned me one night that fascinating as the books were they were not a sufficient basis for a testimony of The Book of Mormon. He may have been remembering “The Archaeological Problem,” Appendix 1 to Hugh Nibley’s 1957 Melchizedeck Priesthood manual, An Approach to The Book of Mormon. But he was also saying a testimony needs to be based on familiarity with the book itself, on study and prayer.

(Incidentally, one of the surprises in Charles C. Mann’s 1491 was that the ruins whose pictures I had been looking at were closer in time to the Conquistadores than the Nephites and Lamanites. Indeed, the most ancient ruins he talks about barely got back to AD 400–the end of their civilization, let alone going back a thousand years earlier to the beginning, or two thousand to the early Jaredites.)

My father wasn’t the first suggest that external confirmation is not sufficient, and Stephen Mitchell, whose comment on the baptism of Jesus I recently came across in The Gospel According to Jesus won’t be the last.

Continue Reading →

Award Winners: Middle Grade Novelist Christine Hayes interview

Mothmans-Curse-Final-Cover1-350x524We continue our series of interviews with recent AML Award winners, with Rebecca J. Carlson’s interview of Christine Hayes, who won the 2015 AML Middle Grade Novel Award, for her debut novel, Mothman’s Curse. Hayes was also a finalist for the Whitney Middle Grade and Best Novel by a New Artist awards, and won the Friends of American Writers Young People’s Literary Award. Rebecca J. Carlson is an instructor at BYU-Hawaii.

On your blog you mention several of your favorite middle grade authors, like Cleary and Blume, and on the fantasy side Lloyd Alexander and C. S. Lewis. When I read Mothman’s Curse I thought it had a great classic children’s lit feel to it. Was that by design, or do you think you wrote it that way because that’s what you love to read?

Maybe a little of both! I was obsessed with reading as a child, but after taking a children’s literature course in college I was introduced to all kinds of authors I had somehow missed growing up—Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, John Bellairs, and so many more. That class definitely influenced my taste in books, so it makes sense that it also heavily influenced my preferred style of writing. Continue Reading →

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