We are excited to announce the finalists in the fourth group of categories of 2015 Association for Mormon Letters awards, Lyrics, Picture Book, and Poetry. We previously announced Creative Non-Fiction and Religious Non-Fiction, Novel, Short Fiction Collection, and Short Fiction, Young Adult and Middle Grade Novel, and soon will announce Comics, Criticism, Drama, and Film. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference on March 4 at BYU Hawaii. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, usually provided by the publishers or authors.
This is the first time AML has done a lyrics award.
Kristyn Crow. Zombelina Dances the Nutcracker. Bloomsbury. Illustrated by Molly Idle (a Calldecott Honoree).
“In another rhyming read-aloud tale full of delightful macabre humor Zombelina once again steals the show! This time Zombelina and her friend Lizzie are dancing in The Nutcracker. On the night of the big show, Zombelina is ready, but Grandpa Phantom has other plans for the opera house. Zombelina will need to think fast to save the show, and she’ll need Lizzie’s help. When best friends work together, the show will go on!”
Kristyn Crow loves to use rhythm, rhyme, and repetition to make reading snappy and fun. Her first book, Cool Daddy Rat, received starred reviews and was named a “Blue Ribbon Book” for 2008 by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Other titles include Bedtime at the Swamp, The Middle-Child Blues, and Skeleton Cat. Kristyn enjoys visiting elementary schools, where she directs eager young readers in a “swamp rhythm symphony” using a variety of percussion instruments.
Auntie M (McArthur Krishna). Talon Wrestles an Anaconda. Amberjack.
“Talon explores everyday. He creeps around his yard to see what bugs he can spot, he spies on lizards and scrambles up trees to see the world from a new place. He has boundless curiosity and a delight in discovering. When he explores the zoo one day he makes a new discovery-the Green Anaconda from South America. Learning about the massive snake (and its eating habits!) opens a whole new world of imaginary play. He’s not daunted by a humongous mammal-eating snake-after all, he’s an explorer! Talon Wrestles An Anaconda celebrates the delight of exploration, learning, and letting our imaginations run wild.”
McArthur Krishna, Bethany Brady Spalding, and Kathleen Peterson. Girls Who Choose God: Stories of strong women from the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book.
Shining light on strong women from the Book of Mormon, this groundbreaking book shares well-known stories alongside others that may be less familiar. Come to better know and love Sariah, the heroic daughters from Zeniff, Nephi s wife, the maidservant spy, and other women from the Book of Mormon who chose God with all their might. These faith-filled women defended their families, protected their husbands, and risked their lives for others providing powerful role models for us all. With stunning illustrations, ten compelling narratives, and thought-provoking family discussion questions, this follow-up to the Bible volume of Girls Who Choose God will give you a new perspective on the Book of Mormon. Reading and reflecting on these brave women s stories, girls and boys will learn that they too can be strong and choose God.
McArthur, Bethany, and Kathleen won the AML Picture Book Award in 2014 for the first volume, Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible.
McArthur Krishna comes from Utah pioneer stock . . . she graduated with a masters degree in Communications from BYU and then co-owned an ideas-marketing business for thirteen years to tell stories focusing on the most important issues facing the world today. With offices in Washington, DC and Oakland, CA, her studio of 30 people won national awards and recognition for their social justice work. In 2011, she retired from that business, moved to the Magic Land of India, became a Mom, and started writing books. She continues to forge new paths in her life in India — maybe she is a pioneer stock woman after all.
Bethany Brady Spalding has a knack for stirring things up in the kitchen and in the community. She likes to cook up change wherever she goes. In Salt Lake City, she founded an innovative partnership to provide health care for immigrants and refugees. In Washington DC, she established a mentoring program to improve graduation rates of inner-city students. Bethany and her daughter started a program to bring creative learning experiences to children living in the slums of Mumbai, India. And in Cape Town, South Africa, she helped build a health promotion partnership to reduce childhood infectious disease. Currently, Bethany leads a regional coalition in Richmond, Virginia creating a healthier food environment for at-risk children. She mothers three fiery girls, loves to cycle with her husband, Andy, and digs cooking spicy vegetarian food to share with neighbors.
Kathleen Peterson has illustrated twenty books, mostly for young people, on topics ranging from world religions to Hawaiian legends. Her art can be found in galleries throughout the West. She and her husband, Steve, live on a farm in Spring City, Utah.
Teresa Bateman. Job Wanted. Holiday House. Illustrated by Chris Sheban.
“A sorry-looking hound plods up to a farmer to ask for a job. ‘Dogs just eat and don’t give anything back,’ the farmer gripes. Most animals would be on their way, but this dog dreams up a plucky plan. Why not try to work alongside the cows? The Farmer is thankful but unmoved. Still undeterred, Dog tries to convince the farmer that he could be a good stand-in for a horse and a chicken. It isn’t until Dog shines in a role that only a canine could fill that the farmer is finally won over.”
Teresa Bateman cites her teacher Donnell Hunter at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, as having a big influence on her and her writing. He published a class magazine to which the class submitted their work under pen names. Their grades depended on how many stories were included in the magazine. Teresa submitted under about 15 different pen names–just to be annoying! But she knew her work was being judged on its merits alone. Mr. Hunter encouraged her journal writing and instilled in Teresa good writing habits that she continues to this day. Teresa served an 18-month mission in Argentina, and taught school for a year in Honduras. She also taught school briefly in St. Mary’s, Alaska — a little bush village with a population of 500 in the winter and 50 in the summer. She currently is the librarian at Brigadoon Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington. She has written over 30 picture books since 1997.
Colin Douglas. Glyphs. Waking Lion Press/Editorium.
“Glyphs includes poems (some revised) from his first book, First Light, First Water, along with fifty-six new pieces, all stunningly dreamlike, disturbing, and beautiful. Douglas writes: “Readers will find the poems in the first part of this collection, approximately through ‘Outside the Longhouse,’ to be readily accessible, but those in the latter part of the book may seem puzzling and strange-‘surrealistic.’ If the reader finds a beauty in those poems, despite their seeming irrationality, and though it be a mysterious beauty, then I call them successful. To my mind, poems of this kind can be merest glimpses through a window on the infinite and eternal and marvelous and rationally, literally unspeakable mystery of being, of ‘that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth,’ in the words of Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 93:23); of the utter freedom-agency-of Being; of the erotic and convulsively beautiful ecstasy of Eternal Life and Creation.””
Colin Douglas earned his M.A. in English at Brigham Young University.
Justin Evans. Lake of Fire: Landscape Meditations from the Great Basin Deserts of Nevada. Aldrich Press.
“In Lake of Fire, Justin Evans takes us on the circular (annual) journey “of clouds and birds.” From the drive south on a two lane road, we see the “high mesa” in winter, where “small spikes of yellow sage” poke through snow. Toward spring, “the sky becomes flush with rose-petal clouds.” And in summer, the fragrances of “fireworks [and] pears,” greet us. We hear “the squeal of brakes in the dark” (as he misses a deer by inches). Then it is fall again, and we are back to the cold, where “peace of night is a myth,” and reality is the wind and “old trees and their creaking bones.” —Helen Losse, author of Facing a Lonely West and Associate Poetry Editor of Kentucky Review
Justin Evans was born and raised in Utah. After serving in the army, he graduated from Southern Utah University in History and English Education. He has published four books of poetry, and a fifth book is forthcoming from Foothills Press. He lives with his wife and sons in rural Nevada, where he teaches English at the local high school.
James Goldberg. Let Me Drown With Moses. Self.
“The forty-nine poems in Let Me Drown With Moses are not for those who think of religion as another name for self-help. They are for those who still believe in a God who wrestles. For those who think faith should challenge as much as it comforts. For those who would follow a prophet chest-deep into the Red Sea, even before the waters part. Drawing on imagery from scripture and Mormon history, Let Me Drown With Moses gives voice to the spiritual longing of a people and does its own small part to keep religion a living language in the 21st century.” See several of the poems, with commentary by Scott Hales, here.
James Goldberg‘s family is Jewish on one side, Sikh on the other, and Mormon in the middle. His plays, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Shofar, Drash, The Best of Mormonism: 2009, and Jattan Da Pracheen Ithas. He founded the Provo-based New Play Project, and several of his plays can be found in the anthology Out of The Mount. He has won AML Awards for Drama (The Prodigal Son, 2008) and Novel (The Five Books of Jesus, 2012). Goldberg has taught persuasive and creative writing at Brigham Young University and now writes web content for the LDS Church History Department.
Christina Stoddard. Hive. University of Wisconsin Press.
“Hive is a remarkable debut collection of poems about brutality, exaltation, rebellion, and allegiance. Written in the voice of a teenage Mormon girl, these poems chronicle an inheritance of daily violence and closely guarded secrets. A conflicting cast of recurring characters—best friends, sisters, serial killers, and the ominous Elders—move through these poems as the speaker begins to struggle with the widening gulf between her impulse toward faith and her growing doubts about the people who claim to know God’s will. Ultimately she must confront what it means to believe and what it costs to save ourselves.” See one of the poems and an interview here.
Christina Stoddard grew up in Tacoma, WA, as a member of the Mormon church. Her poems have appeared in various journals including storySouth, DIAGRAM, and Spoon River Poetry Review. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow. Christina is an Associate Editor at Tupelo Quarterly and a Contributing Editor at Cave Wall. She currently lives in Nashville, TN where she is the Managing Editor of a scholarly journal in economics and decision theory.
About the Awards
The AML Awards have been presented annually since 1977. You can see the list of past awards here. Besides the main categories, there are also the Smith–Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
I am the Awards Committee chair this year, which means I picked the judges, a mixture of authors, scholars, and reviewers, who at least during the judging process remain anonymous. The judges and I worked together to come up with long lists of potential finalists, but I am not involved in any of the decisions on finalists and winners. Works “by, for, or about Mormons” were considered. Authors/creators who are non-Mormon or ex-Mormon are considered if their works deal with Mormonism. Many of the judges created their own panel of assistant judges who shifted through the many applicable works. Then the judges and their panels chose the finalists. Those same judges/panels will pick the final awards this month.
There was previously an established AML practice that an author/creator could not be awarded in the same category two years in a row. That practice was discontinued this year.
Congratulations to all of the finalists!