AML Awards 2002 – 2003

YEAR RECIPIENT TITLE AWARD CITATION
2003 Anne K. Black, Jason Faller, and Katherine Swigert Pride and Prejudice Film Adaptation Adapting a novel for the screen, particularly a well-loved and much-read novel, is a tricky business. In adapting Jane Austen’s classic work Pride and Prejudice, screenwriters Anne Black, Jason Faller, and Katherine Swigert have captured the essence of Austen’s novel by retelling the story in a modern setting among Latter-day Saint characters. The preoccupation Mormon culture has with marrying off its young adults is strangely similar to the rituals of meeting and marrying described with such insight and wit by Austen, which makes this contemporary version ring true. The screenplay translates the story from early-nineteenth-century society into a recognizable modern analogue, making it accessible to those who are unfamiliar with the book without sacrificing any of the authenticity demanded by lifelong fans. The result is a charming tribute to a great work of literature. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present its award for Film Adaptation to Anne K. Black, Jason Faller, and Katherine Swigert.
2003 BYU Studies Publishing Since its inception in 1959, BYU Studies has played a pivotal role in supporting and promoting Mormon literature and Mormon literary studies. In BYU Studies numerous Mormon historical writings of literary interest have first been edited for publication, including letters, journals, sermons, biographies, and other texts that document the long tradition of Mormon literary writing. Contemporary Mormon writers have also found a welcome place in the pages of BYU Studies, publishing widely and continuously in a variety of genres. Authors very familiar to Mormon literary history have appeared there, including fiction writers Eileen Gibbons Kump, Donald Marshall, and Douglas Thayer; poets Clinton Larson, Marden Clark, Laura Hamblin, John Harris, and Susan Howe. Noted personal essayists such as Tessa Meyer Santiago have also appeared in the journal, which continues to encourage the development of Mormon writing through its annual personal essay and poetry contests. Importantly, BYU Studies has promoted the necessary winnowing procedure that is literary criticism, featuring numerous book reviews by people such as Elouise Bell and Gladys Farmer, as well as in-depth literary analyses by such critics as Gloria Cronin, Ed Hart, Richard Cracroft, Eugene England, Edward Geary, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, and John Bennion. Moreover, the academic study of Mormon literature would not be possible without the subject bibliographies published in BYU Studies by Chad Flake, Scott Duvall, and others, which now form the basis of the Mormon Literature Database. BYU Studies has also been a place where Mormon literary critics have been able to discuss authors and works outside of Mormonism, from Tolstoy to Twain, from the Brontë sisters to Borges, from George Eliot to T. S. Eliot, from Dostoevsky to Arthur Conan Doyle. The authors and editors that have contributed to BYU Studies have made a lasting impact upon LDS literary studies. The Association for Mormon Letters wishes to recognize BYU Studies and its host institution for this ongoing contribution to Mormon literary writing.
2003 Chris Bigelow Irreantum Editing Five years ago the literary quarterly of the Association for Mormon Letters, Irreantum, was launched. Though every periodical is an ensemble creation, it has been Chris Bigelow who has had the vision, the practical knowledge, and the persistence to keep Irreantum going and growing. Irreantum has put AML and Mormon literature on the map, providing an important new outlet for new writers and key information about LDS publishing news and literary events. With no institutional support and almost no grant money, Chris Bigelow has produced on a shoestring budget and with a small group of contributing editors a periodical that anywhere else would consume a much greater budget and workforce to produce. There is an art to being a managing editor every bit as much as there is to being a novelist or playwright, and Chris has persistently and quietly handled most of the production and editorial oversight, subscriptions and promotion. To count his successes is largely to count AML’s successes in the last five years. Irreantum has broadened the scope and reach of AML. There now exists a sizable body of new stories, poems, and criticism that have helped to inform readers and inspire writers because of his efforts. Chris has been particularly proactive in seeking out and doing interviews with a variety of Mormon authors. Irreantum has featured lively interviews with authors as diverse and interesting as Levi Peterson, Rachel Nunes, Margaret Young, Dean Hughes, Richard Dutcher, Dave Wolverton, Robert Kirby, Anne Perry, Brady Udall, Robert Smith, Anita Stansfield, Terry Tempest Williams, Douglas Thayer, Rick Walton, and Douglas Alder. For launching and sustaining Irreantum, and for drawing attention to the many authors, publications, and events that constitute the world of Mormon literature, Christopher Bigelow has earned our profound thanks and created a lasting legacy.
2003 Janean Justham House Dreams Marilyn Brown Novel Award Every two years, Marilyn Brown author and Co-Founder of Springville’s Villa Playhouse offers this award through the Association of Mormon Letters to encourage quality in fiction by, for, and about Mormons. In the stiff competition for this year, the five anonymous AML judges felt gratified to discover a new writer, a woman who has never published before, but has come to the core of some of the problems that seem to be inherent in “Mormondom.” One critic called the winning manuscript “exactly the kind of LDS literature I had hoped the contest would uncover and encourage in our culture. We are just beginning to tell the real truth about our LDS experiences. Here is the riveting voice of an active LDS woman caught inside of what seems to be, unfortunately, a somewhat familiar-looking patriarchal family relationship. And it’s a knock-out book. Describing step by step what happens inside this progressively suffocating marriage and its potential destruction to the children, the author is so honest and so graphic that the reader is hypnotically caught up in the struggle.” The other anonymous judges were also impressed with her work. “It’s an amazing achievement. I don’t know when I’ve felt so immersed in a character’s mind, her thoughts, her feelings . . . I couldn’t get this book out of my head. I found myself reevaluating my own life . . . .” Another judge stated: “I found it more profound and thought-provoking than any of the others and more to the core of the experience of Mormon women. A fascinating book for me. It portrays compellingly the life and trials of Laurel, the main character. . . . The narrative enters so much into her head, that you almost feel the book is being written in first person rather than third. The author is an excellent writer. . . .”
2003 Margaret Blair Young Standing on the Promises Historical Fiction The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present its first award for Historical Fiction to Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray for their trilogy Standing on the Promises. Over the course of three novels, the reader is taken on a journey from the early nineteenth century to the present day, following the paths of black pioneers who converted to the Mormon faith in is earliest days. The story is an unflinching in its portrayal of this period of American history, in which even free blacks were mistreated and condescended to, as it is gentle and understanding in tone, putting the actions of early Saints in the historical context of that day. As readers discover the perseverance of black men and women in the face of ongoing persecution, even at the hands of some of their fellow Saints, they also learn of the extraordinary strength of character that kept them going. Pioneers such as Jane Manning James, Elijah Abel, and Green Flake had a conviction of the truth of the restored gospel that gave them the strength and the humility and love to endure to the end. They were people of great trials, but also of great faith. This is not just the history of black Latter-day Saints. It is the history of our church, and in some ways the history of all its members—a pioneer story in the richest sense. Standing on the Promises not only brings this largely forgotten history to light; it also makes it entertaining and accessible to readers of all backgrounds. It is an important contribution to the literature of our people, and one which we hope will set a standard for stories yet to be told.
2003 Robert Van Wagoner “A Good Sign” Short Fiction
2003 William Shunn “The Day Pietro Coppino Spoke to the Mountain” Short Fiction
2003 Coke Newell “Toaster Road” Short Fiction “Toaster Road” is the compelling story of a new LDS convert and his experience in an alien, Mormon, environment—Rexburg, Idaho. The hero has a bumpy ride, unsure of what he should do, what he can do, and how to chart his course among a people so different from everything he is used to. The story is told with a strong and personal voice, authentic and engaging. The settings are vivid and moving, making the reader feel that they are, for example, in a twilit wilderness hearing the song “I am a Child of God” for the very first time. The story is not saccharine or predictable, however. Coke Newell is not oblivious to our flaws and hypocrisies. He does not hide or gloss over the conflicts young LDS people experience in their social and sexual relations-the mixed messages and emotional storms inherent in building romantic connections in a culture where physical relations are, at best, discouraged. And the characters are flawed, sometimes seriously. The protagonist has to come to terms with a culture that tells him he must change his attitudes, his pursuits, his music, and his nature-to choose a middle road between annihilating and improving himself. In the end, “Toaster Road” touches the heart and opens opportunities for stories of love and faith that are honest in their depictions of LDS life and relationships. This story is uniquely relevant to audiences both LDS and not. It is a wonderful extension of the LDS literary tradition and one we hope our artists continue to explore.
2003 LeeAnne Hill Adams Archipelago Drama As the lights come up on a gaunt and tattered chorus, we hear a chant: ‘We have a duty to the dead. We must tell their story.’ And thus begins LeeAnne Hill Adams’ powerful evocation of life in the Soviet Gulag, Archipelago. Adams’ play tells the story of an number of Russian intellectuals imprisoned in the Kolya labor camp at the height of Stalin’s power, primarily focusing on several female prisoners, in particular Russian poet Nina Hagen-Torn. Hagen-Torn and her fellow ‘counter-revolutionaries’ cling to their humanity by supporting each other in a daily fight for survival, but also by producing a play, Nikolai Gogol’s classic The Inspector General. The subject matter is as grim as a Siberian winter, but Adams’ approach to this material is as theatrically innovative as it is morally compelling. Alternating scenes of the grimmest naturalism with scenes of savagely grotesque cartoonishness, Adams’ work invokes the spirit of that great Russian theatrical experimentalist Vsevolod Meyerhold, who was himself murdered by order of the KGB. Stalin cavorts with beaming Russian children in Soviet propaganda commercials, and in an animated sequence, the cartoons of Marx and Lenin carry on a heated, nonsensical Monty Pythonesque ideological debate. In the meantime, the Kolya prisoners share their tiny rations of black bread, are worked to the breaking point, and fight off the unwelcome attentions of their guards. Like such great plays of the Jewish Holocaust as Charlotte Delbo’s Who Will Carry the Word, Adams seems particularly concerned with honoring the memory of those who died. Hagen-Torn helped her fellow prisoners retain their humanity and sanity through her love of poetry. Under her direction, the prisoners captured their experiences in poetry, and then memorized each other’s poems. Meanwhile, teeth chattering from the brutal cold and half-starved, the actors rehearsed and performed The Inspector General. What is the utility of art, of drama, of poetry? Archipelago reminds us that art can be the way we express our humanity, that it can remind us what it means to be human. Of course, art can also anesthetize us’the effete Kolya commander basks in his own benevolence by allowing the production to go forward, proud of his own cultured urbanity, all while the prisoners under his care starve and die. But art can also connect us to the best of what makes us human, the divine spark within. Adams has written a play as insightful as it is innovative, a play that employs all the resources of the theatre.to tell a story, to invoke an era, and to honor the dead. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to honor LeeAnne Hill Adams and Archipelago.
2003 Kristen D. Randle Slumming Young Adult Literature
2003 Shannon Hale The Goose Girl Young Adult Literature
2003 Kimberley Heuston Dante’s Daughter Young Adult Literature Though Dante’s Daughter is set in Italy and France in the early 1300s, and depicts a time and culture far removed from the lives of modern youth, it shows that people are the same throughout the ages, that family and home and love are important no matter when or where you live. This is a tender story of a girl who does not ask to be remembered, only to be loved. She is swept along by the choices her parents make until she is finally old enough to make choices of her own. Through all that, she manages to discover and develop her own talents and dreams and to touch the lives of others. Kimberley Heuston’s depiction of the life of a young girl who lived centuries ago is fresh and insightful. It resonates with the longings and frustrations of any time period and brings its readers closer to characters that would otherwise be perceived as foreign and inaccessible. History may not say much about the daughter of Dante Alighieri, but Kimberley Heuston gives her readers the chance to love her, and all the other girls no one remembers but who, like Bice, were on the fringes of recorded events where they dreamed their own dreams and found love and loss, just as we do.
2003 Douglas Thayer The Conversion of Jeff Williams Novel Reading a book that touches the heart and stimulates the imagination is cause for celebration. When this book leaves you wanting more, such a book, and its author, merit the highest praise. The Conversion of Jeff Williams tells the story of a Mormon teen, lost in the adventure of growing-up, unfocused and unsure, reaching out for meaning and direction. He finds all this in a visit to a cousin in Provo. Jeff’s immersion in Mormon culture, so different from his life in California, causes him to look deeply into his own soul, sorting the important from the trivial, and defining his own life’s journey. But this comes with a price. Jeff must now re-evaluate his life, his attitudes and beliefs, and the strength of his testimony. Standing side by side with his cousin Christopher, he realizes he still has much growing up- and growing out-to do. Jeff’s journey to wholeness is the meat of this story. And in that story we each may find echoes of our own experience. This is what good fiction writing is all about. It narrows the distance between the characters and the reader, and draws the reader into the plot. It makes imaginary things seem real. And although the characters are invented, the reader finds echoes of reality in the lives of those characters. Douglas Thayer’s fine sense of irony, his adept pacing and sensitive writing, are once again demonstrated in this fine novel. Mormon writing is truly coming into full flower, and Thayer is part of this process. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present its award in the Novel to The Conversion of Jeff Williams.
2002 Bruce Wayne Jorgensen Honorary Lifetime Membership As an author, Bruce Jorgensen’s publications have ranged broadly both in genre and in audience. His poetry has appeared in Mormon journals such as BYU Studies, Dialogue, Sunstone, and Irreantum, but also in national journals, such as the Carolina Quarterly. His poems are probingly occasional, or lyrical and personal; sometimes colloquial, sometimes historical. In every case they show acute sensitivity to form: image, cadence, length of line. That same precision of diction and vividness of image is carried into his short stories, which focus on the tensions and the pleasures of domestic life, man and wife especially, where the erotic and routine are mingled in a subtle and productive tension. One such story, perhaps the finest literary story ever published in that magazine, appeared in 1979 in The Ensign. But Jorgensen excels within the essay: sometimes of the personal variety, more often of the critical variety. He is one of the architects of contemporary Mormon literary history, probing the literary nature of the Book of Mormon, examining the major Mormon fiction writers-Whipple, Sorensen, Peterson, Thayer-and doing so from the vantage point not only of a studied appreciation of Mormon belief, but from a broad and deep knowledge of American and world literature. He models a type of careful and charitable reading that inspires readers to respect the potency of Mormon doctrine and to likewise know and feel the vividness of imaginative writing from within and outside our religion. As a teacher Jorgensen has brought to Mormon readers an acute appreciation of important writers and thinkers such as Reynolds Price, George P. Elliott, and Gina Berriault. And his painstaking critiques of student writing have required that they give due appreciation to the medium in which they work. As President of the Association for Mormon Letters in 1990, Bruce Jorgensen gave a landmark address, “To Tell and Hear Stories: Let the Stranger Say,” in which he introduced the master metaphor of hospitality as a main course for Mormon criticism, grounding his argument in scripture and in the ancient traditions of honoring guests and strangers that was customary to the Greeks. This essay, urging Latter-day Saints to broadened awareness of storytelling beyond our culture, has sparked the sort of ongoing critical debate that demonstrates the robust nature of Mormon criticism and the health of AML itself. Jorgensen has built a bridge from the Mormon literary world to a larger one, both taking Mormons meaningfully into genres, texts, and authors that deserve the careful reading he directs them to, but also taking those beyond Mormonism into Mormon texts by publishing criticism about LDS authors in national literary journals such as Western American Literature, where he analyzed the lyric form of Douglas Thayer’s work. Bruce Jorgensen is the only author to appear in all three of the important Mormon literary anthologies published in recent years: Harvest, for his poetry; Bright Angels and Familiars, for his fiction, and Tending the Garden, for his criticism. For modeling such breadth, for teaching us the vital relationship between reading well and writing well, for his years of playing such a genial host at the banquet of Mormon literary life, the Association for Mormon Letters, proudly bestows on him honorary lifetime membership.
2002 Neila C. Seshachari In Memoriam Neila Seshachari died March 10, 2002, the week following her election as president-elect of The Association for Mormon Letters. As teacher, scholar, editor, Neila helped promote and interpret Mormon letters during her career at Weber State University, since coming to the United States with her husband Candidai Seshachari in the late 1960s. “Sesh” was a former president of AML. Neila received a Distinguished Service Award from AML in 1994, honoring the tenth anniversary issue of Weber Studies, which she as editor devoted to Mormon letters. Neila set standards and then worked with others to bring us up to these standards. During her year on the board of AML she wrote a grant for AML which sets a model for future grant writing to private foundations. She devotedly responded to AML board discussions with detailed e-mails full of insights. And at last year’s Annual Meeting she delivered an interpretative paper on Leap by Terry Tempest Williams that was to be just the beginning of study of writing from a Mormon background. Although she was Hindu, not Mormon, she loved this literature. With thousands of co-workers, students, and scholars we mourn her passing. Today we dedicate these sessions to her memory.
2002 Lavina Fielding Anderson Honorary Lifetime Membership As one of the founding foremothers of the Association for Mormon Letters, Lavina Fielding Anderson has probably done more cumulatively for AML than any of its many members. From the earliest days of AML Lavina has created bridges between Mormon literature and history and among the various organizations and publications that take seriously Mormon culture, from her work at the Ensign to her work at Dialogue. She knows everyone that writes seriously on Mormon subjects, and has brokered her knowledge freely to all throughout her lifetime of service. She has contributed generously to Mormon criticism in her various articles surveying Mormon missionary fiction, adventure novels, romances, etc. Of special note is her 1985 article “Making ‘the Good’ Good for Something: A Direction for Mormon Literature.” But her service to Mormon literary criticism has been of special merit through her career as an editor. With Eugene England she edited the first anthology of Mormon criticism, Tending the Garden, and throughout the history of the Association for Mormon Letters she has patiently and competently edited this association’s many volumes of annual proceedings. This is no small feat, especially given the reluctance of authors to meet deadlines or to respond to her coaxing for drafts and revisions. Today the AML has a strong academic footing, an admirable body of criticism in its annuals that has often been refined and republished in other venues. The number of authors who owe debts to her can be numbered on every table of contents of every AML annual. Lavina consistently went beyond copy editing and responded to authors with encouragement and with specific suggestions not just for better wording, but for better arguments, bringing to light writings and connections authors may not have thought of. And for all of this, she received no formal credit or acknowledgment. Recognizing the need for and supplying the needed talent for accurate records of our critical conversations, Lavina has exemplified the spirit of this organization and has worked tirelessly and behind the scenes for over two decades. Lavina has been loyal to Mormons literature and to Mormonism itself, even when this arrangement has not been entirely reciprocal. For her indefatigable dedication to Mormon letters, for helping to found and to ground the Association for Mormon Letters, AML proudly bestows on Lavina Fielding Anderson honorary lifetime membership.
2002 Janine Whetton Gilbert Charly Film Adaptation The Association for Mormon Letters presents its first Award in Adaptation for 2002 to Janine Whetten-Gilbert for Charly. Writers face special difficulties within the medium of film, since they must write in such a way that their themes and scenes will fit the actors, directors, budgets, locations, and the inevitable changes and rearrangements that are part and parcel to the collaborative nature of film production. Moreover, in the nascent Mormon film market, new sensitivities come into play, especially in adapting a very well known young adult novel not immediately suited for translation to the medium of cinema. The movie Charly has succeeded well in reaching and pleasing its audience this past year, and in so doing has marked a milestone in LDS Cinema. While credit for this accomplishment must be shared with actors, director, and others, this success could not have happened if Janine Whetten-Gilbert had not carefully updated Jack Weyland’s novel, pruning some of its excesses, and fitting its dramatic structure to the conventions of film. She has improved upon the original property, reinvigorating both the story and the medium for which she has written, and in turn, improving the quality of Mormon film by taking its literary dimension seriously. The Association for Mormon Letters only hopes that future Mormon filmmakers will use the care and skill that Gilbert has shown as other Mormon fiction is transferred to the screen.
2002 Tim Slover Hancock County Drama
2002 Melissa Leilani Larson Wake Me When It’s Over Drama
2002 Reed McColm Hole in the Sky Drama The Association for Mormon Letters presents its Award in Drama for 2002 to Reed McColm for Hole in the Sky and for his body of dramatic works produced since 1987. The terrorism of 2001 has played so largely in the public mind that any dramatic enactment of those events might seem redundant or maudlin. And yet the BYU-Idaho production of Hole in the Sky by Reed McColm (directed by John Bidwell) invited its audience into a space in which our fears could be transformed into compassion. Though the audience was re-paralyzed by pyrotechnics that too well suggested all the deafening chaos of those final minutes in the World Trade Center, McColm’s characters, fictional and realistic composites of the actual victims, achieved both individual and combined humanity. At the play’s conclusion, as the words and images of leaders, both national and Mormon, mingled with the dust and broken girders of the falling building, instead of a curtain call and customary applause, an elegiac silence of several minutes’ length punctuated the catharsis—a fitting tribute to the play’s fitting tribute to this sobering event. McColm’s play was movingly redemptive, and the production was extended to accommodate the many who responded to its emotional richness. It has been McColm’s habit in the last 15 years to stage ensemble dramas fraught not so much with physical as with human wreckage: dysfunctional families in Together Again for the First Time and his dark musical, Could You Leave the Door Open; or strangers in an airport in Holding Patterns. And yet in each of these McColm redirects the directionless toward more human interaction than they’d thought possible. His characters unburden themselves of their baggage without burdening the audience. This playwright sobers us through unflinching examination of broken lives, and celebrates, though mutely, how life is only reconstructed in communities, redeemed in twos and threes, and in those potent minutes of communion McColm constructs with such consistency and force within the intimacy of the theater.
2002 Ryan Little Out of Step Film
2002 Andrew Black The Snell Show Film
2002 Christian Vuissa Roots and Wings Film With Roots and Wings, the Association for Mormon Letters honors a film that is thematically groundbreaking, a film that takes perhaps the most familiar and cherished of Mormon cultural narratives, a conversion story, and asks us to view it anew. Directed by Christian Vuissa, based on an original screenplay by Agustina Perez, Roots and Wings is a deceptively simple film. The filmmaking is straightforwardly realistic in its depiction of a Hispanic-American family and its interaction with Mormonism. Every detail in David Graham’s superb production design invokes what seems initially an almost quotidian reality. And yet the specific images of the film-a hand planting a garden, a soccer match, coffee table knick-knacks-supports a story of loss, heart break, and reconciliation. Heartbreak and loss are, in fact, at the center of this film about conversion. What matters in this film is perspective, point of view, and in this case, the perspective is that of a man who fears the loss of his family precisely because of what Mormons otherwise celebrate, a conversion. A conversion implies a turning, from one course of life to another. And, as a wife and daughter turn towards Mormonism, they also turn, inevitably, from previous paths, previous cultural verities. And a husband and father mourns that turning. What makes this film extraordinary is its exploration of the cost of conversion, the pain of it. And yet, the film simultaneously celebrates conversion, shows the growth and joy that are also part of the conversion experience. Best of all, the film ends with reconciliation, a family restored, but without a suggestion of further conversion. It hurts to see loved ones turn from cherished paths into new, strange ones. Roots and Wings explores that pain. But at no time does Roots and Wings provide facile or easy answers to the questions it raises. At the end of the film, tensions and questions remain. Further growth is suggested, and we see its necessity. In honoring Roots and Wings, we honor the work of many artists, including an outstanding cast of actors and team of technicians. But we honor the work of two artists in particular. First, Agustina Perez, whose superb screenplay provided the blueprint followed by the other artists in the filmmaking process. And second, Christian Vuissa, whose firm and steady direction of the film realized Perez’ original vision. Roots and Wings is a short film, made by students. It is also an accomplished and intelligent work of cinematic art. As Mormon filmmaking continues to mature, this fine film marks a major step forward.
2002 Kimberly Johnson Leviathan with a Hook Poetry The Association for Mormon Letters presents its Award in Poetry for 2002 to Kimberly Johnson for Leviathan With a Hook. Though in her poems “The Land Desolation” and “The Land Bountiful” Johnson gives exquisite renderings of desert landscapes well known in Mormon tradition, it is within a broader spiritual geography that her voice resonates, one that sometimes borders the formalities of Latin prayers (paternoster and te deum), and sometimes makes allusive forays to the Christian epic voice of Milton. Johnson’s paradise is not lost upon her, but finds itself (and those who read her) waking in the gyre and thrum of rhythmic, concrete diction. She is unafraid to name her world in terms both fresh and old, updating without loss the metaphysical devotions of another age when language could still awe us with its Christian mystery. This is a Mormon voice attuned to latent powers in the worth of words, and we are grateful for the stirring.
2002 Linda Paulson Adams “First” Short Fiction
2002 Karen Rosenbaum “Out of the Woods” Short Fiction
2002 Susan Palmer “Breakthrough” Short Fiction The Association for Mormon Letters presents its Award in Short Fiction to Susan Palmer for “Breakthrough” (Sunstone #122, April 2002). Palmer has crafted a delightful story, full of humor and good sense, in which she presents a unique perspective on the way the Spirit (or at least the wiser parts of our inner nature) communicates. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor this story as representative of the best short fiction published today.
2002 Rick Walton Bertie Was a Watchdog Picture Book Over the last sixteen years, Rick Walton has published over 50 children’s books with both national and regional publishers, with several more to be published soon. One might suspect that such prolificacy would detract from the quality of his work, but Walton’s books have maintained a consistent level of literary excellence that continues to make them popular with readers. Bertie Was a Watchdog perfectly represents the high caliber of Walton’s work. In clever, simple language enhanced by dynamic artwork, this story of a dog no bigger than a watch is entertaining to look at and excellent to read aloud. The tale harks back to a certain kind of fairy tale recorded by the Grimms in which a weak but clever individual outsmarts the huge, terrifying giant; the book dresses this old story up in sharp new clothes and sends it out into the world to captivate a new generation of children. We applaud Rick Walton’s continuing efforts to create excellent fiction for children of all ages.
2002 Kimberley Heuston The Shakeress Young Adult Literature
2002 Martine Leavitt The Dollmage Young Adult Literature
2002 Ann Edwards Cannon Charlotte’s Rose Young Adult Literature Young adulthood is a trying time; no longer children, but not yet adults, boys and girls of this age yearn for both states at once. Young adult fiction in its purest form gives shape to that yearning and makes sense of that confusion. In Charlotte’s Rose Ann Cannon has taken the framework of the familiar pioneer journey and rewoven it into a unique tale of love, commitment, heartbreak, and understanding. While Charlotte’s physical journey from Wales to the Salt Lake Valley, pushing a handcart and carrying an infant not her own, cannot be replicated by the reader, her spiritual journey from selfish childhood to the brink of mature adulthood is one that every human being must eventually make. Cannon’s account of the pioneer experience does not manipulate the reader’s emotions by lingering over-long on the worst tragedies that befell the early Saints, though she also does not shrink from depicting them. Instead, she tells a story of daily loves and losses, little jealousies and small kindnesses, the flowering of young love and the unexpected gift of second chances. While this book may be appreciated by readers of many ages, it is the young whom Cannon directly addresses at the end when she writes: “Like Charlotte, you have stories of your own. Funny ones, sad ones, dramatic ones. Treasure them and remember them’.Your stories will matter in the future because you matter now.” It is the truest lesson anyone can learn.
2002 Chris Crowe Mississippi Trial 1955 Novel In August of 1955, a 14-year-old black boy named Emmett Till was tortured and murdered by white men for the so-called crime of whistling at a white woman. His murderers were subsequently tried and acquitted, despite vast evidence against them. Crowe’s novel places a teenaged white boy at the center of this conflict, torn between his loyalty to his beloved grandfather, an avowed racist, and the teachings of his father, who left the South to escape a society he despised. This very personal story of a young man’s gradual awakening to the truth about the town and the grandfather he has always loved adds emotional depth to the factual account of this too-little-known episode in the struggle for civil rights. Blending contemporary newspaper accounts with his fictional narrative, Crowe’s depiction of the racial attitudes endemic to the South at the time is chillingly accurate. Evocative descriptive passages and a superb grasp of dialect make the story eminently readable, but it is the characterization that makes it extraordinary. In a novel fraught with tension between races, it is no easy task to humanize rather than demonize, and Crowe has succeeded in making even the worst villain frighteningly comprehensible. How much more comforting to believe that those motivated by such unreasoning hatred are devoid of all virtues; yet Crowe leaves the reader no such comfort as he depicts a man who genuinely believes in the inferiority of other races, and yet who deeply loves his wife, his grandson, and his community. We are reminded that even the most abstract struggles have, at their heart, people who are simply trying to understand what is right-even the ones who get it wrong. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present its award in the Novel to Mississippi Trial, 1955.

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