AML Awards 2008 – 2009

2009 James D’Arc Honorary Lifetime Membership The careful study of any art form, if it’s to be done with integrity and thoughtfulness, requires a proper acknowledgment of prior art in the field. It’s easy to take for granted the archives and libraries and collections and bibliographies and websites without which criticism and history would involve a good deal more ineffectual thrashing about than they do. Any walk through the woods is greatly aided by guidance from someone who knows where the paths are. It is essentially impossible to imagine current Mormon film study without the extraordinary contribution made over many years by James D’Arc. An archivist, a film restorationist, an historian and a scholar, Jim, through his work, transcends his formal role as Film Archivist at Brigham Young University. For all of us interested in film as an art form, and especially film by and about Mormonism, James D’Arc is the giant upon whose shoulders we all rest. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor James D’Arc for his many contributions to the study of Mormon film.
2009 Levi Peterson Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to award the Smith-Pettit Award for significant achievement in Mormon letters to Levi S. Peterson. Levi has played an inestimable role as one of the leading lights of Mormon fiction, biography, and criticism for over 40 years. With the publication of The Canyons of Grace, he presented all Mormondom with a new voice—a gifted, ironic, irreverent, and gentle voice that probed, analyzed, and demythologized conventional Mormon attitudes. He filled a space in the culture once reserved for writers like Juanita Brooks, Virginia Sorensen, or Maureen Whipple. At the same time, he seemed to borrow the Christian grotesque of Flannery O’Connor. He found grace in unlikely places and in unlikely people, places the Lord would be, but where the self-respecting Mormon would be less likely to fund herself. He was not about to affirm the propriety of Mormon complacency; instead, he was definitely out to find the grace that touches all of us. Levi would not have it any other way. His works, therefore, can never fully embrace only the center of Mormonism and its cultures and doctrines. There is no enmity, but there is a strong reminder that Mormons on the boundaries—the Mormon others—are always in God’s hands. He is an irreverent friend with a keen capacity to love the oddities of belief and practice he has found all around him in his home wards, his towns, and his family. At the same time, he is unafraid to tell the rest of us that our faith in ourselves is misplaced. But this has not been without controversy. The Mormon weakness for taking offense has sometimes dogged Peterson, even made him a polarizing figure. His response has been admirable. Through his biography of Juanita Brooks, his editorship of Dialogue, and his autobiography, Levi S. Peterson has sought to begin new conversations where it once seemed that common ground was lost. He has made his life’s work a true gift to the Latter-day Saints. To him we offer our heartfelt gratitiude.
2009 Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury Service to AML The Association for Mormon Letters is a volunteer organization that has gone through more than its share of adversity. After losing much of its leadership due to retirement and a series of minor and major personal and family catastrophes, the Association has been, at times, very precarious. In fact, at some points during the past seven or eight years, dissolution has seemed inevitable. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury, there would be no AML today. At times, Kathleen has singlehandedly carried the organization on, assuming at some time or another the work of a president (though she refused the title), executive secretary, treasurer, webmaster, public relations, mail clerk, list moderator, and many others. Her efforts were doubly heroic because they stayed largely behind the scenes and unrecognized. For her outstanding dedication and lifesaving work, we are proud to present a special award for service to AML to Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury.
2009 Todd Robert Petersen Rift Novel Sanpete County is a pretty quiet place; nothing ever really happens there. It is home to small towns, a junior college, millions of turkeys, and a collection of Scandinavian Mormons. The fictional Sanpete is no different, unless you happen to run across Jens Thorsen. When he’s around, doors get torn off their hinges, wives glare at you with paring knives in hand, and horses named Enoch are just about the best friend a person could have. Thorsen is larger than life, mostly because he knows only one way to do things. When he decides to move, when it’s time to do his “church work,” you had better get out of the way, especially if you are Bishop Darrell Bunker. Thorsen and the Bishop just don’t see eye to eye. Thorsen can’t stand being told what to do and how to do it. Bishop Bunker can’t seem to stop doing just that. There is a rift between them. Todd Robert Petersen’s novel explores the rift with tenderness, jollity, respect, and a wonderfully keen eye for all the nuances of character that make the best fiction. From the moment the novel begins, you know you’re where a good reader should be. Each sentence is artfully crafted—almost perfect. The language cajoles and entreats you to keep reading. In fact, it’s so beautiful you can’t stop. Each event, each conflict, each revelation of character speaks to the soul. And then the themes begin to coalesce. Grudges tear small communities and wards to pieces. Anger always seethes just beneath the surface of civility. Resolution seems impossible. This rift should make Sanpete about the last place you want to stay. But Petersen, with a great sense of humor, won’t let it happen. Instead, we come to respect the characters. As they find ways to heal wounds and repair damaged relationships, we find ourselves opening up to uncover the largeness of soul that seeks community rather than isolation. We discover that what we have in common, what “can’t be added to the batter but was brought with [us] from heaven,” can and ought to bind us together. Good novels make good people. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present the 2009 award in the novel to Todd Robert Petersen for Rift, published by Chris Bigelow’s wonderful Zarahemla Books.
2009 Jamie Ford Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is the author’s first published novel, but there is no sign of a beginner’s effort here. The exploration of prejudice and its sad legacy, as well as the exploration of the bonds that can overcome such prejudice, not only between Chinese and Japanese, or American and Oriental, but also between Black and White, give this novel a depth and power that resonates long after the ending. The book describes a sweet young romance that develops between a Japanese-American girl and a Chinese-American boy in the months before the Japanese are “evacuated” from Seattle to “relocation camps” further inland. It also shows that Chinese-American boy forty years later, after his Chinese-American wife has died, learning that the belongings of some of the evacuated Japanese-American families are still in the basement of the Panama Hotel. His search in that hotel for what his young Japanese-American friend and her family may have left behind brings him closer to his own son, and offers a chance to heal sorrows from years before. The writing moves from war-time Seattle to forty years later with ease and grace, and the characters become so real and so engaging that the book is hard to put down. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to award this novel an honorable mention.
2009 Melissa Leilani Larson Little Happy Secrets Drama In those dark and dangerous spaces where the political and personal collide, some works seem to flail around helplessly in the dark, as though the sheer heat of exertion might lead to illumination. Others prefer, in modesty and humor and affection, to simply light a candle. Such a work is Melissa Leilani Larson’s play Little Happy Secrets, particularly as seen in a marvelous production last year by the New Play Project in Provo. A young woman finds herself romantically obsessed with her dearest friend and roommate. She worries that revealing the truth will end the friendship—she also can’t stop herself, and the friendship is nearly destroyed. Is her culture thereby condemned? No, Larson has written a play, not a polemic. If anything, the play is a celebration, of a culture rooted in compassion, of a plan that requires heartbreak and loss and pain. A celebration of heartbreak. Larson writes dialogue with a directness and simple eloquence, in which the characters move from conversations with each other to a larger conversation with the audience and, through us, with Mormonism itself. How can we love, how can we persist in loving, knowing our hearts will be broken, our spirits made contrite? The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to be able to honor Melissa Leilani Larson for Little Happy Secrets.
2009 Jed Wells Fire Creek Film The film Fire Creek aspires to greatness. It eschews the easy idealism and sentimentality that have marred many recent LDS productions. It makes no apologies for inviting the audience to engage their minds and souls with most serious matters. European cinematic techniques combine to make the film intensely earnest, almost self-conscious about itself as art. The music, composed by Jay Packard, comes together with visual symbols to highlight the film’s concern with themes of being fallen and being raised up. As Fire Creek opens, we meet Jason Malek on the battlefield. In a single moment, his life is turned upside down as he is mysteriously prompted to move just before an explosion kills his best friend and leaves Jason seriously wounded. The question of who intervened and why motivates the rest of the drama. Jason comes back home, where he is gradually introduced to a number of people whose lives are at great risk. We experience firsthand the terrors of drug abuse, the anxiety of losing parents, and the brutal violence of no-holds-barred boxing. Each person struggles to recover what has been lost. Each is fallen and in the grip of forces so powerful that they alone cannot overcome them. Jason’s spirit comes slowly to life as he invests himself in these lost souls. Fire Creek does not shrink from death. It leaves us, rather, with the burden of finding hope for those who survive. The film, filled with opposition and adversity, threatens to crush the life out of its characters and the audience. But the cinematography and editing allow glimpses of grace, cleansing, and refining, even if the refining must happen in a furnace of near despair. Finally, as Jason and his mother agree to take in an orphan as brother and son, the film’s vision takes hold. Jason realizes the voice he heard in battle was indeed the voice of God. His life has profound meaning: its purpose is to love and care for others. Only then does Fire Creek present its commitment to redemption through our Savior, Jesus Christ. The promise of resurrection, the reality of spiritual communication, and the enlivening power of God’s love leave the audience exhausted and refreshed. This film aspires to great things. We laud its aspirations and hope others will be inspired to make even better films in the future. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present the 2009 award in cinema to Fire Creek, produced by Dennis Packard and directed and photographed by Jed Wells, based on a story by Nathan Chai.
2009 Carol Lynch Williams The Chosen One Young Adult Literature “If I was going to kill the prophet,” I say, not even keeping my voice low, “I’d do it in Africa.” This startling and powerful first line from The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams presents one of the most compelling openings in literature and introduces us to Kyra Carlson, the fifth child in her father’s modern-day polygamist family of 21 children and three wives. The Chosen One is set in a modern fundamentalist compound, a nightmare prison world where a corrupt theocracy intimidates members of its faith by railing against Gentiles and the outside world and by cleansing the impure out of its midst. Kyra’s mothers and father, like all faithful members of the Compound, say nothing in spite of their growing uneasiness with their religious leaders, and so Kyra is left helpless and alone to face her destiny as her sixty-year-old uncle’s newest wife. Williams’ distinct southern voice creates art from an old story—the story of struggle in the face of evil and the inevitable sacrifice required of young women like Kyra who know who they are and, in spite of their fears, choose to fight through oppression toward freedom rather than absorb into shadow as someone’s seventh wife. And Williams’ heart is in every word of this book. Every. Single. Word. For achievement in the field of young adult fiction, the Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present an award to Carol Lynch Williams for The Chosen One.
2009 Kathryn Lynard Soper The Year My Son and I Were Born Memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born begins with the premature birth of Thomas, author Kathryn Lynard Soper’s seventh child. Kathryn is shocked to learn that her tiny new son has Down syndrome, and this diagnosis sends her world spinning off its axis. In this beautifully crafted memoir, Kathryn Soper invites the reader inside her life during the tumultuous year following her son’s birth, and we worry and suffer and question and battle right along with her as the story unfolds. We come to love Thomas, too, as Soper expertly conveys the fierceness of her love for her son—and the ferociousness of her own doubts about her abilities to properly mother him—with candor, power, and grace. But this memoir is not just a story for mothers, or Mormons, or parents of children with disabilities. This is a universal story of courage in the face of shattered illusions, of tested faith and hard-won wisdom. Like all great memoirs, The Year My Son and I Were Born rings true. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present the 2009 award in Memoir to Kathryn Lynard Soper.
2009 Christopher Bigelow Zarahemla Books Publishing Since 2007, Zarahemla Books has sought to fill a niche in the Mormon market. With its mission to publish “provocative, unconventional, yet ultimately faith-affirming stories” firmly in mind, Zarahemla Books, with Christopher Bigelow at its helm, has published critically acclaimed and culturally relevant work that might not have been able to find a home with more conservative LDS publishers. Zarahemla’s fiction serves an important but often overlooked audience in Mormon publishing: readers who want well-written novels that don’t shy away from complexity, but that also embrace their Mormon characters and themes without apology. For serving this segment of the LDS market with diligence and enthusiasm, and for continuing to further the cause of excellence in Mormon literature, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present the 2009 award in Publishing to Christopher Bigelow and Zarahemla Books.
2009 Lance Larsen Backyard Alchemy Poetry Lance Larsen neither sees nor hears the world the way we do. Hence, we have come to savor the fresh delight of his remarkable poems. At first glance, these poems appear to do nothing more than retell a heightened version of the poet’s ordinary life. We hear the voices of children, see the common artifacts of our lives, witness the quotidian. We assume they are the poet’s children. The swings must reside in his backyard. The everyday is surely his everyday. Alert and disciplined reading soon enough reveals what we should have recognized all along: a re-created world in the image of the poet. Larsen’s Backyard Alchemy speaks softly and leads our souls where they yearn to wander. Each poem takes us to a familiar place, renders the place new, and seems to suggest that wisdom resides in the simplicity of the ordinary. The voices of children speak surprising words, carefully juxtaposed, like “Bird leaf.” Perhaps the child’s eye or ear is the source of wisdom? At the very moment we feel confident that the poet affirms our own complacency and that we therefore have comprehended him, however, Larsen undoes it all. This is especially true for Mormon readers. We speak blithely of becoming little children. We believe wisdom is common sense. In the ordinary we find salvation. This poet reveals the rich tensions of the ordinary. He awakens in our minds subtle new realizations about what we have taken for granted. He finds us at ease and leaves us upliftingly unsure with images of birds, flight, capture, and release. What were once pigeons suddenly “iridesce like jewels.” His poems release us from easy orthodoxy and carry us to the hopeful realms of uncertainty. He draws us toward the divine. The Association for Mormon letters is pleased to present the 2009 award in poetry to Lance Larsen for Backyard Alchemy, published by the University of Tampa Press and beautifully illustrated by Jacqui Larsen.
2009 Larry Menlove “Path of Antelope, Pelican, and Moon” Short Fiction In his spiritually charged story, “The Path of Antelope, Pelican, and Moon,” Larry Menlove invites us into the liminal Mormon world of the Indian Placement Program. Gretchen Yazzie Kimball is incendiary. Wherever she goes, she inspires passion and attracts flame. She is filled with the spirit of the traditional ways of her people. She has spied on the mysteries of the sweat lodge. She can transform herself into an antelope, graceful and fast. Gretchen Kimball graduated from high school in Payson. She was married in the temple for time and all eternity. She embodies, like her namesake Spencer W. Kimball, all the confusing ambiguities of LDS Indian Student Placement. She makes her home on the top of Dry Mountain, not exactly in Payson and not quite the land of her ancestors. Menlove’s story transgresses the boundaries of time and place, as it travels from present to past to future, from Dry Mountain to Chinle to Payson. Gretchen herself draws the reader into her repeated transgressions. She cannot be confined. The Navajo in her seeks the unique freedom of nature: the antelope, the pelican, the moon. The Mormon in her seeks love, family, eternity. But Gretchen’s transgressions are not harmless. She’s too incendiary for that. She should love one man, but she loves three. Her daughter is not her husband’s child. She is never fully Mormon, never fully Navajo. Her unique passion, however, leads to spiritual power. Menlove’s beautiful conclusion, joyful world-filling laughter, leaves the reader deeply moved and delightfully connected to Gretchen Yazzie Kimball. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present the 2009 award in short fiction to Larry Menlove for “Path of Antelope, Pelican, and Moon,” published in Irreantum.
2009 Elna Baker The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance Humor Humor is serious business. The word wit derives from the Old High German wizzan, through the Old English witan which means “to know.” Wit and wisdom come from the same root; to have wit is to have knowledge. In The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Elna Baker’s wit enlightens us about the world of Mormon singles, but also shows us the world of a young Mormon woman trying to live in two worlds simultaneously: the world of her Mormon upbringing and the world of New York City. Whether dressed as a queen bee doing the macarena or salvaging a fortune-cookie costume gone awry, Elna Baker keeps returning to the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance to find her prince charming. But what happens when her prince turns out to be a non-Mormon atheist? Baker’s memoir is a galloping romp through one impossibly hilarious moment to another, all the while giving us new knowledge about the conflicts of being divided between two worlds. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to award Elna Baker the 2009 Award for Humor.
2009 Sandra Tayler One Cobble at a Time Online Writing How do you make meaning out your days? The mundane and the exciting, the things that make us laugh and make us cry, our struggles and our dreams—all of these contribute to who we are. Making meaning out of these daily things, including family, community, self, work, and spirituality, is the task of Sandra Tayler’s blog One Cobble at a Time ( ) . As Tayler writes, “A cobble by itself is just a small stone, but when many of them lay together they create a path…. This blog records some of the cobbles that create my path.” In 2009 Tayler posted an average of one entry per day. Her posts, which range from a paragraph to several pages in length, combine the genre of the blog with that of the personal essay, offering musings on masking tape, the adventures of pink butterfly flip flops, her husband’s Hugo Award nomination, and even on “Sitting Still on a Summer Afternoon.” Her individual posts each possess a literary quality, offering insight and reflection that give meaning to the daily experiences of life. For example, after a trying week, Tayler paints her experiences in light of the analogy of “a little oil and a handful of meal,” giving purpose to her experiences as she writes, “I have poured myself out to answer the needs of others and somehow I am not empty.” Yet the real power of One Cobble at a Time lies not in the individual posts, but in the collection of entries that interact with each other, participating in a daily building of meaning for her readers, a meaning filled with inspiration, humor, reflection, and insight. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to present Sandra Tayler with its first Award for Online Writing.
2008 Stephen Carter “Calling” (Sunstone) Personal Essay Missions are filled with pressure. You commit yourself to work hard. You set high goals. You push and push to achieve them. Nothing, however, prepares you for the disappointment of not baptizing, especially in the face of so many promises that baptizing is the certain reward for your labors. The deliberate assertion of this nearly scientific, cause-effect relationship between missionary effort and convert baptizing can result in spiritual confusion for young Elders in countries where baptismal rates are very low. It can also create an unhealthy cynicism in seasoned missionaries about the blind optimism and open striving exhibited by younger elders determined to move onto the fast track to become zone leaders and assistants to the president. What is such a slightly amused and bemused elder to do? Stephen Carter recounts, with a lightly cynical tone and some satisfaction, the rededication of grizzled missionaries to spending time they might have used to help meet the goal of giving 100 first discussions per week to love and serve more genuinely the people they have been sent to teach. In an explosion of spiritual synergy, the nearly washed-up companions use the last month of their missions to find, teach, and baptize without any concerns for goals they now find superficial. They know how to love and the Lord blesses others through them. For a sweet reminder of the power of love in the process of conversion, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present an award in the personal essay to Stephen Carter for “Calling,” published in Sunstone.
2008 Terryl L. Givens Honorary Lifetime Membership
2008 Douglas H. Thayer Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters
2008 Richard E. Turley, Jr., Glen M. Leonard, and Ronald W. Walker Massacre at Mountain Meadows Special Award in History No event is so distant from the Mormon experience; nothing so haunts the Mormon soul as the journey into the valley of the shadow of death at the Meadows. For years, historians have struggled to interpret, analyze, and organize the events leading up to the massacre of 120 men, women, and children in “las vegas de Santa Clara,” as John C. Fremont called the Mountain Meadows. While there is no final explanation for such a brutal eruption of evil, Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, Jr., and Glen M. Leonard have produced the most complete, thoughtful, and balanced account of the murders to date. Their painstaking research has allowed them to piece together a timeline of events and a multitude of perspectives from which to explain the unexplainable. The Association admires the skill with which interlocking, parallel narratives have been crafted, a nuanced and balanced tone achieved, genuine compassion for the victims evinced, and no excuses sought or given for the perpetrators. Massacre at Mountain Meadows is a narrative of discovery, a journey backward in time, in which we experience fear, anger, rhetorical excess, and murder from an appropriate distance. There is no exploitation of the violence, no investigative journalistic voyeurism in the text. Neither is the telling simply matter of fact. The authors’ pain and dismay are tangible. The book is a fine example of the art of history. The Association for Mormon letters is pleased to recognize with a special award in history, Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, Jr., and Glen M. Leonard for Massacre at Mountain Meadows, published by Oxford University Press.
2008 Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Richard L. Jensen The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals Series, vol. 1, Journals 1832-1839 Special Award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present a special award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography to Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst McGee, and Richard L. Jensen for The Joseph Smith Papers: The Journals 1832-1839, published by The Church Historians Press. Textual criticism is the painstaking and careful process of examining and transcribing primary texts. Its goal is to make available for scholars and other interested readers texts of lasting interest and value. These critical editions also contain additional information gathered by scholars that sheds valuable light on both the meaning and the production of the transcribed texts. For Latter-day Saints, outside of scripture itself, no project could be more important than The Joseph Smith Papers. And nothing could be more important to the project than precision and accuracy. Jessee, Ashurst McGee, and Jensen have more than lived up to the highest scholarly standards in this inaugural volume. The thorough historical introduction and copiously accurate notes rival the same tools in any other collections of the papers of important Americns yet published. These editors’ work completely justifies the faith of the Church leadership in this project. Joseph Smith’s actual words and teachings will now be available to all interested readers worldwide. Each successive volume will only enhance awareness of Joseph as a revelatory genius, engaged in the divine work of restoring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bringing its blessings and covenants to all who are willing to accept it.
2008 Alan F. Keele Special Award in Criticism “I am only sorry that in my last hour I have to break the Word of Wisdom.” So concludes the final letter written by Helmut Huebener before he was beheaded by the Nazi regime. One suspects that Alan Keele never thought, as he began the process of introducing Helmut to his Mormon brothers and sisters and expounding on the moral courage of Helmut’s small resistance group that the effects would still be so profoundly with us. Only the skills of a consummate literary critic and a man of deep moral conviction, abiding faith, and optimistic hope in the righteous potential of humanity could have produced Keele’s legacy as a politically engaged and idealistic critic, a student of righteous resistance to wicked regimes. These same virtues and skills have informed and inspired his work in German studies. His lifetime of intellectual engagement has also produced the best critical study of “the artistic universality and vitality of certain ‘peculiar’ Latter-day Saint doctrines” in German literature, opera, and cinema. (One might add, in any literature, opera, or cinema.) The range of Keele’s experience and his insight into the inspiration of great German art are simply staggering. His ability to draw rich parallels between the truths discovered under artistic inspiration and the most supernal restoration doctrines is unmatched in Mormon criticism. We have seen nothing like In Search of the Supernal. Mormons once seemed to believe that great art and great revelation feed off of each other. Keele has fought the good fight to keep this singular truth alive. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to recognize the achievement of LDS critical excellence by Alan F. Keele, Professor of German Language and Literature at Brigham Young University.
2008 Ron Williams Happy Valley Film
2008 Christian Vuissa Errand of Angels Film
2008 Patrick Madden “A Sudden Pull behind the Heart” Best Literary Non-fiction, vol. 2 Personal Essay
2008 James Goldberg Prodigal Son Drama “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father. . . and a man’s foes shall be of they of his own household. He that loveth father and mother more then me, shall not be worthy of me.” In Matthew chapter 10, Christ says this, our loving savior says this difficult and terrible thing, lays out bluntly in somber prophecy, a possible grim consequence of conversion. We would rather not believe him. We would rather believe that conversion and familial bonds strengthen each other, that love transcends and smoothes over even the most deeply seated differences. James Goldberg’s play Prodigal Son unerringly and compassionately shows just how rocky the path to conversion can be for even the most loving families. A single father, utterly devoted to his son, a brilliant and thoughtful and damaged man. A son, committed to honoring a father completely worthy his respect, but also committed, fully and completely, to a new revelation. Goldberg’s play takes these two superbly drawn characters, and sets them at odds with a compassion and intelligence that earns and rewards every moment of an audience’s rapt attention. The play never once vilifies the agnostic father, and never takes the easy way out, suggesting his eventual conversion and testimony. The play shows us two proud, smart men, who will never agree and who will never stop loving each other. A hopeless situation, perhaps, but the play is full of hope as well, and the possibility of redemption and transcendence. For this extraordinary dramatic achievement, the Association for Mormon Letters is proud to honor James Goldberg’s Prodigal Son.
2008 Brandon Mull Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague Youth Literature Does anyone out there not know Kendra Sorenson and her intrepid little brother Seth? Fablehaven, where their grandparents are caretakers, is filled with secrets to be discovered and mysteries to be solved. But Fablehaven is also more than that. While we delight in the antics of Newel and Doren,are frightened by powerful spells and terrifying creatures, are entranced by the infinite beauty of the fairies, Fablehaven also engages us at other enchanting levels. The main characters are richly drawn. Each possesses core strengths and weaknesses that we explore as we follow them into danger. Brandon Mull allows this depth of character to emerge as Seth and Kendra must make life-threateningly difficult decisions about themselves and others. The discovery of who these two children really can become lies at the heart of the stories. Grip of the Shadow Plague brings them, and us, closer to genuine evil—someone who pretends to want to protect us, all the while seeking the proper place and moment to seal our destruction. Death seems always just a breath away. Nevertheless, Kendra’s capacity to love and heal continues to grow. Seth cannot always control his impulsiveness, but he does discover things on his illicit journeys that seem to save the day. Finally, Fablehaven is about agency and accountability, love and family, progress and becoming, the battle between good and evil. We can hardly wait for the next volume. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present an award in youth fiction to Brandon Mull for Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague, published by Shadow Mountain.
2008 Angela Hallstrom Bound on Earth Novel The mission of the Association for Mormon Letters is to foster the production and promotion of quality literature by, for, and about Mormons. We have awarded many great novels that have been produced by Mormons, but many of them are not necessarily Mormon works. There couldn’t be a more appropriate work for the AML to recognize than Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom. Here is great literature that is also Mormon literature. Hallstrom’s Mormon characters have real problems, the kinds of struggles that everyone has, regardless of religion. But they also have a Mormon worldview, and they view their problems from a background of belief. Part of Hallstrom’s genius lies in her ability to present this faithful background without either mockery or defensiveness—the way many of us feel about our own faith. With her un-erring eye for situation and skillful use of varying points of view, Hallstrom expertly weaves the characters’ faith into the stories in a way that makes their motivations clear and their faith believable. For its complex, well-crafted, and truthful look at Mormon life, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present the 2008 Award in the Novel to Bound on Earth.
2008 Stephen Tuttle “Amanuensis” (Hayden’s Ferry Review) Short Fiction An amanuensis is a scribe, a secretary, who carefully writes what others dictate. When we find a record or document detailing the events of a particular place or time, an amanuensis is often responsible. Without him, we do not know what really happened. After a long snowstorm, the residents of a small town discover that Dumond has disappeared. Dumond is a man of science, beloved by nearly all his eighth grade students. He is a keen observer of all things natural. He is rumored to have gone out to photograph “ice crystals and falling flakes.” The events of Stephen Tuttle’s tale rest on these facts. Like a grotesque story by Shirley Jackson, “Amanuensis” chronicles the response of the town once Dumond is gone. At first he’s remembered fondly. But after his wife also leaves, the townspeople’s curiosity draws them into the vacant house. There they discover Dumond’s hobby—in his basement, he had built a nearly perfect replica of their town. Closer inspection reveals how much he actually knew about them. Too much, it seems. Curiosity is replaced by suspicion; suspicion by fear; fear by destruction and finally by the return of softly falling snow bringing with it once again the peace of forgetfulness. Why are we humans so small minded? Why do our imaginations lead to ignorance, fear, and violence? Can this part of our nature truly change? Should we blame the amanuensis? The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present an award in Short Fiction to Stephen Tuttle for “Amanuensis,” which was published in Hayden’s Ferry Review.
2008 Warren Hatch Mapping the Bones of the World Poetry Warren Hatch possesses what he calls “The Fine and Dying Art of Shaping Light into Words.” He is a surveyor, one who maps the human condition and lovingly bequeaths us poetic traces of that terrain. He has the impressive ability to create unforgettable images of the ordinary, awakening in us the sense of our own mortality, our anxiety about death. Hatch calls death the “seed of knowing”: a burden always accompanying us wherever we may go. These poems are filled with specific and intimate images of landscape, that which persists in our absence. We hear the voice of water, wander along Gneiss ridges, and view a knotted fall of ponderosa. We stand on the edge of a canyon, surveying with the surveyor the variegated beauties of a wilderness so like and yet so unlike us. To see it clearly is to know ourselves. We, however, need poetic lenses, the eyes of a guide, to draw the beauty into our souls. Anxiously, we hope such intimacy will not kill us but instead reveal the dying art of shaping light. The Association for Mormon letters is pleased to present an award in poetry to Warren Hatch for “Mapping the bones of the world” published by Signature Books.
2008 Neil Aitken The Lost Country of Sight Poetry Neil Aitken’s poems refine our sight. Instead of birds in flight, we survey “the dark exit of crows;” instead of nightfall, we witness “the stars slipping in / and settling down for the night.” All things are in motion. They travel across prairie landscapes, endless seashores, and the vastness of the skies. Travel enmeshes the reader in the passage of time, the trouble it makes, and the death it inevitably brings. Yet it also leads to mercy, memory, and love. Aitken’s vision seeks beauty in the concrete and discovers clouds “forming pearls” above Taipei. He sees ghosts whose presence enlivens grey shadows effacing stark boundaries: day and night, past and present, life and death. Loss lives in his poetic memory. The reader sees in the lines echoes of a father’s voice, the shriveling of aging bodies, and the fall of love’s “ashes . . . catching sunlight.” The soft light of memory illuminates eternal bonds never broken and connections never severed. As long as the words cling to the page, our eyes will see the pure depth of eternity. Family links Buddhism, mission, and Mormonism. Aitken’s poems bring them to our sight. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present an award in poetry to Neil Aitken for Lost Country of Sight, published by Anhinga Press.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *