AML Awards 2010

2010 Richard Cracroft Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters The Association for Mormon Letters is especially pleased to present one of its founding members and past presidents, Richard Holton Cracroft, with the Smith-Pettit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters. The AML trusts that this award will represent for him a tangible symbol of his many administrative, scholarly, and even creative contributions to Mormon letters over the past forty years. With the 1973 publication of A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints, the first anthology of Mormon literature, followed by the 1974 publication of 22 Young Mormon Writers, Richard (with his colleague and coeditor, Neal E. Lambert) helped lay the foundation for the development of contemporary Mormon letters, which continues apace to this day. He served in various editorial capacities for numerous journals—including Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, BYU Studies, This People, and Literature and Belief—and wrote innumerable reviews of Mormon literature in a variety of venues, most recently BYU Magazine in his regular “Alumni Book Nook” column. His scholarly and devotional essays appeared in such divergent places as the Journal of Mormon History, BYU Studies, Irreantum, Dialogue, Sunstone, The New Era, and the Ensign. As a professor of English at Brigham Young University for many years, Richard nourished Mormon letters as a significant branch of Western Studies and mentored many students who subsequently made their own significant contributions to the field. Above all, Richard performed this great work with unfailing good humor, rigorous attention to detail, collaborative generosity, true enthusiasm, and sincere devotion—especially to the church and culture from which Mormon letters come. This award marks the enduring legacy of that work and of the man who produced it.
2010 Darlene Young Service to AML A volunteer organization can only survive if people of uncommon dedication give their time to it. But for an organization to thrive, other qualities are needed: good humor, patience, organizational skill, and an uncommon devotion to the organization’s ideals. The Association for Mormon Letters is blessed with just such a profusion of riches, in the person of AML secretary, Darlene Young. Darlene is our secretary, of course. She keeps the minutes, she keeps the Presidency and the board on task, and she gently encourages us when we falter. But the best descriptor of Darlene is, she’s a writer. She’s a real writer, a thoughtful, smart poet and critic. And minutes keeper. Her minutes are a joy to read, and like the weavers of a Navajo rug, she makes a deliberate, diabolically clever mistake every time. In writing this tribute, it’s difficult to describe everything Darlene means to AML. Adjectives like ‘patient’ and ‘funny’, and ‘smart’ hardly do her justice. Perhaps it’s best to simply allow her to speak for herself. Here, then, is the text to what some of us regard as one of the five finest poems ever written by a Mormon about Mormons. Angels of Mercy / Darlene Young The Seventh Ward Relief Society / presidency argued long and soft / whether Janie Goodmansen deserved / to have the sisters bring her family meals. / It seems that precedent was vague— / no one was sure if “boob job” qualified / as a legitimate call for aid. / Janie herself had never asked for help— / a fault they found it harder to forgive / even than the vanity behind / the worldliness of D-cup ambition. / But in the end charity did not fail. / The sisters marched on in grim duty / each evening clutching covered casseroles / (for, after all, it wasn’t the children’s fault). / More than once, though, by some oversight / the dessert came out a little short, as if / by some consensus they all knew / that Janie’s husband, Jim, could do / without a piece of pie that night. And so, for her poetry, her blog posts, her courage and devotion, and for almost single-handedly keeping AML alive for the last ten years, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor Darlene L. Young.
2010 Ardis Parshall “Beards” on Keepapitchinin Online Writing The Association for Mormon Letters presents Ardis Parshall its first award for a blog post, for her three-part “Best Beards” posts on her independent blog, Keepapitchinin. Complete with photographic illustrations, Ardis presents Mormon men from the past with their splendid (or at least interesting) beards, and invites readers to judge the best. With titles like “chin curtains,” featuring Jedediah Grant’s beard among others; “The Beard You’d Least Like to Meet in a Dark Alley,” including Porter Rockwell’s; and “Subbing for Santa,” with Orson Pratt’s remarkable showing, Ardis Parshall not only invites her readers to vote for the best beards, but subsequently supplies the winners with acceptance speeches. Orson Pratt, the ultimate “Best Beard” winner, says, “Oh, shucks, it wasn’t something I set out to do. My chin was as clean-shaven as the next missionary’s when I went on my first mission, and when I was called to the Quorum. But like most young men, I indulged myself once by not shaving during a fishing trip, and, well, I discovered I could grow whiskers purty fast and purty thick…” Ardis Parshall is a gift to Mormon community and particularly to the community of LDS blogs called the Bloggernacle. Keepapitchinin is consistently well-researched, with exceptional attention to detail, often poignant, and full of Ardis’s sharp wit and bountiful imagination.
2010 Angela Hallstrom Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction Editing Most readers who pick up a literary anthology have little notion of the challenges inherent in creating one. A successful anthology requires an editor with comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter who can skillfully analyze a diverse body of work as well as synthesize the unwieldy mass into a cohesive, engaging, and portable package. Few in the Mormon literary community are qualified to compile a representative collection of contemporary LDS short fiction, and of this select group, none are better suited to the task than Angela Hallstrom. Her considerable talents as a writer, teacher, and editor of creative writing are evident in her groundbreaking anthology, Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction. Published by Zarahemla Books in 2010, Dispensation features carefully chosen short stories which hold universal meaning even as they encapsulate the unique essence of a genre, subject, and era. The collection’s artistic potency heralds the talent of our best fiction writers — Hallstrom herself among them — and promises a bright future for Mormon literature, yet its relevance and appeal extend beyond cultural and religious borders. The Association for Mormon Letters awards this citation to Angela Hallstrom for her vision and skill in editing this literary anthology which engages the human mind, heart, and spirit in the finest Mormon tradition.
2010 Eric W. Jepson Comics! Sunstone #160 Editing For decades the comic form has languished as a derided genre, seemingly fit for only the fantasies of adolescent boys. But recently comics have come into their own, winning awards such as the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the Printz Award. In the hands of dedicated storytellers and artists, comics have become a potent medium for exploring what it means to be human in fresh, invigorating, and insightful ways. Art Spiegelman gave a startling new voice to the Holocaust in his gritty graphic novel Maus, where he portrayed Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Americans as dogs. Marjane Satrapi made Iran’s Islamic Revolution relevant to the Western world by drawing her girlhood lived beneath the shadow of fundamentalism. Though they are many, today’s Mormon comic artists have had few venues that encouraged them to draw creatively on their Mormon roots. No discourse had been established to nurture the creation and sophistication of Mormon comic narrative. Theric Jepson changed that when he guest-edited issue 160 of Sunstone. Drawing on years of research, networking, and interviews with Mormon comic artists, Jepson brought together a landmark collection of Latter-day-Saint-penned comics, most of them created especially for the collection. He gathered representation from all comic genres—from mainstream to underground to manga—highlighting the diversity and excellence of Mormon comic art. He also gathered articles covering past Mormon comic artists, portrayals of Mormonism in mainstream comics during the past century, and the effect of comics on the lives of everyday Latter-day Saints. Like A Believing People, the first collection of Mormon literature, this is the first publication to establish a discourse for Mormon graphic narrative art. It has created a foundation we hope will initiate a legacy of quality comics that takes Mormon literature in new and exciting directions.
2010 Ally Condie Matched Young Adult Literature As I read the novels for this year’s AML Young Adult literature award, I noticed a recurring theme. Nearly all of the authors had created teenage characters who were, in one way or another, experiencing a transformation of perspective. They were young men and women who were questioning everything they thought they knew about themselves, their world, and their place in that world. I don’t think that’s accidental. For many of us, adolescence is the time when the bottom falls out of our mental and emotional assurances, when what we thought we knew becomes far less clear. The best of 2010’s crop of admirable young adult novels is Matched by Ally Condie. Condie places her protagonist, Cassia, in an uncomfortably comfortable spot. She is part of a manufactured utopia, the Society, where choice is severely limited to ensure a peaceful, uncomplicated existence for the majority of its citizens. Sixteen-year-old Cassia is thrilled to be matched to her childhood friend Xander, the arranged marriage further proof that the Society knows best. But when another young man’s face, an acquaintance named Ky, appears briefly on her match file, Cassia begins to question her carefully prescribed life. As she comes to know both Ky and the Society better, she is faced with a dilemma. Knowing both the cost and the reward of choice, Cassia must choose her own future. Ally Condie has created a “perfect” society that is both convincing and disturbing, populated it with recognizable characters that one can’t help but care about, and whetted readers’ appetites for the next chapter of this riveting story. The only problem? Crossed, the next novel in this trilogy, won’t be published until this November.
2010 Darin Cozzens Light of the New Day Short Fiction In the Mormon imagination Wyoming is a place to get through, to get trapped by unseasonal snow in, to be rescued from, or to die. In Darin Cozzens’ Light of the New Day, fictional Balford, Wyoming is a place to be, to live, to return to. In “Reap in Mercy” and “Signs of the Times,” Lyndon Haws tells his father “lately I’ve felt a real desire to have my kids see what I came from.” “Does what you came from ever include any mention of the Church?” “No more than I can help.” But he can help, and there is more. Characters from one story reappear in others, reminding us that though a story has a beginning and end as a literary form, the story extends endlessly in both directions, as our lives do. In “Elk on Chimborazo” 25-year-old Myron Haymore ponders his mission president’s question, “you’re starting this six years later than most and I’d really like to know why.” The answer is outside the president’s experience, or telling his story to “a lawyer with cufflinks” is outside the elder’s. By the end of his mission Myron has opened his world up. This hunter who has “eaten deer liver raw” shows a city boy who will likely wear cufflinks and “can’t see killing animals for any reason” what he has shown no one else. In return Elder Garth LaDell Virlinger gives Myron hope no one else has been able to. Where others give words of hope, he gives hope a name. Endless stories with well-wrought openings and closings leaving us hope for more stories from Balford. For a geographically groundbreaking book full of hope, full of mercy, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to award an honorable mention in short fiction to Darrin Cozzen for Light of the New Day, and Other Stories.
2010 Jack Harrell A Sense of Order and Other Stories Short Fiction Nephi’s invitation to liken the scriptures to ourselves is an invitation to speculate, an invitation Jack Harrell’s A Sense of Order, and Other Stories accepts richly. What if I were Adam or Eve in the “Lone and Dreary World”? What if I could glimpse into the hearts around me? Would the sorrow of “Godsight” kill me? What if Job was one of Hawthorne’s characters, but in a small Mormon town, and the messenger claiming to have a message from God (or the Brethren) had a firm bony handshake, but called himself Brother Lucy? Who is he, this light who takes you into the dark night and the deep water where prophets are wont to swim? What if Ethan Brand sought not the eternal burning of the lime kiln but some way to unmake his unpardonable choice? In the title story a character’s sense of order is askew, in others the culture’s is. What if Jesus went to a rock concert with a boy, and the people who called the boy a blasphemer for telling it were Mormons? What if a man received a testimony in front of The Christus and raised his arms and shouted “Hallelujah” and began testifying, how would Temple Square react? But these stories move beyond their setups, beyond terror and satire, to glimpse what else God sees besides our follies and sorrows, to show us as whole beings. In “Jerome and the Ends of the Universe” a black curtain painted with fluorescent constellations invites us to part the curtain of heaven and move into the promise of joy and divine chance. Harrell’s stories probe order and disorder, probe and reorder tradition, probe chance encounters and divine chaos as liberating forms for our lives. For this contribution The Association for Mormon letters is pleased to recognize Jack Harrell for A Sense of Order, and Other Stories with an award for short fiction for 2010.
2010 Marilyn Bushman-Carlton Her Side of It: Poems Poetry Emerson in “The American Scholar” [1837] said: I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provençal minstrelsy; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and gait of the body; —show me the ultimate reason of these matters [. . .]—and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order [. . .]. Replace Emerson’s “the ultimate” with something more modest, like “a proximate” (which Emerson would not approve, as he would not approve the elision of “sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause” and “eternal law”), and you have something like the spirit that animates Marilyn Bushman-Carlton’s substantial collection Her Side of It. The book quietly but clearly announces its main project in a prosy-titled prologue poem, “In the small town of Spring City, Utah, during a plein air painting competition, my husband and I watch an artist”: the painter transforms the given world before her and thus reveals it in a composition that affords a “path [. . .] at the bottom edge [. . .] so anyone can ramble in,” and the speaker reflects, We two grew up together / in a small town such as this / where flies swooned over buckets of milk / and hay was trussed into what seemed then / just mundane shapes. So in the poems that follow, Bushman-Carlton attends to what seem “just mundane shapes” and details and moments of our temporal life, Emerson’s “familiar” and “low,” this world’s “miscellany,” and discovers “insight into today” and “form and order” among “the perfumes of Pledge and Joy,” a woman who “kept busy doing average things,” “feet itching inside three-inch heels,” “lips [. . .] perpetually carnal with color”; the members of a string quartet, “Just Men,” playing Smetana, whose “human breaths, / like those demanded by a doctor / when a patient’s shirt lies crumpled on the chair,” are “breaking out the phrasing / and swallowing up the music.” The poems “contemplat[e] ordinary notions” and call up the music and the wit glossed over in ordinary talk, as in the joke that lurks in lines that say “The Fallopian Tubes deserve / a standing ovation.” They notice the “almost” enviable “uncomeliness” and “unapologetic tenderness” of a couple “too full / of gratitude / to be foolish, // too dull / to want more / than happiness,” and thus nudge us to wonder complicatedly how we’ve been living and what for. Or they hear, in “Late March,” how “Winter, sonorous and weighty, / chugs through the park creek over frozen / black stones.” They know to ask “Ten Questions to the Tulip,” like “Do your lips ache / from smiling all day, // your toes from / clutching the soil?” And of sparrows, “numbered” but with “no apparent beauty,” they justly judge that “Being ordinary is their province.” One’s temptation is to cite title after title, quote line upon line—and thus spoil readers’ pleasures. Without pinning its Mormon-ness to its sleeve with doctrinal tags, Her Side of It embodies and enacts a pervading and perduring Mormon sensibility tuned attentively to “all these things” that “shall give [us] experience.” The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor Marilyn Bushman-Carlton for Her Side of It.
2010 Patrick Madden Quotidiana Personal Essay Appropriately, Madden’s title is a manufactured word, which means, according to his website of the same name, “The land of everyday, commonplace things.” According to the first essay, “The Infinite Suggestiveness of Common Things,” Madden first encountered the concept in Spanish, as la vida cotidiana or “everyday life.” Later he searched for a corollary in English, eventually discovering the word quotidian. Like Montaigne, his literary ancestor, Madden essays on the mundane, and tests language, stories, and ideas. The essays in Quotidiana roll like a drop of water across a surface. The pathway seems erratic, but when the reader looks back, the impulsive movement of Madden’s mind has created a tight form. In each the ordinary becomes a new revelation. And it all begins linguistically. Madden is a scientist of the word, a clown or coyote, one who plays with words and consequently with the nature of reality. He begins his essay “Remember Death” with the following: “My eleventh-grade language arts teacher, Mr. Lamb, was a Deadhead (former or ongoing, I do not know, nor could I divine the depth of this deadication), so he encouraged my vocal annotations beside many of our class vocabulary words. ‘Rush word!’ I would call out (in my more exclamatory days) when we happened across panacea or somnolent or unobtrusive.” Each essay begins as play with the mundane and ends with finding something powerful. For the last words on his Memento Mori essay, Madden imagines his dead friend’s mourning mother “crossing herself, kissing the silver crucifix hanging about her neck, between the breasts that knew his suck (My Lord and my God, she begins . . .” The essays are unabashedly spiritual as Madden draws profound insight from quotidian subjects such as hepatitis, laughter, death, garlic, gravity, singing, hepatitis, asymptosy, children, faith, music. Seldom has a Mormon writer had or deserved such national exposure. His essays are in The Best American Spiritual Writing 2007, Fourth Genre, The Best Creative Nonfiction, Mississippi Review, Hotel Amerika, The Iowa Review, and others. Many of our best essayists wrote for other Mormons or westerners: Madden writes for the world.
2010 Brady Udall The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel Novel Golden Richards is lonely. A modern-day polygamist living in Southern Utah, this father of twenty-eight children and husband of four wives is simultaneously surrounded by chaos and utterly alone. As his construction business founders and his family spins further out of control, Golden struggles to keep his grief from a daughter’s death and his guilt over an adulterous attraction at bay. Meanwhile, Golden’s youngest wife, Trish, begins to second-guess her choice to join this sprawling polygamous clan, and Golden’s son Rusty, “the family terrorist,” feels invisible amidst the clamor of relatives, and hatches a revenge plot with unintentionally devastating consequences. By turns heart-breaking and hilarious, The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall is an ambitious, generous, expertly crafted work of fiction. Although contemporary mainstream Mormons and modern-day polygamists have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from one another, this book bridges that distance as only a well-wrought novel can: by introducing readers to complex, lovingly rendered characters and immersing us in their world. In fact, this book is neither a “Mormon” novel nor a “polygamy” novel, but is instead the story of a peculiar American family that has resonated with a broad array of readers and critics alike. The Lonely Polygamist has been named one of the best books of 2010 by newspaper columnists and literary commentators across the United States. The Associated Press called The Lonely Polygamist “a potential classic,” and Publisher’s Weekly proclaimed the novel “a serious contender for Great American novel status.” Never before has a Mormon writer produced a literary novel for adults to such wide, and well deserved, acclaim. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to add its voice to this chorus of praise by presenting its 2010 novel award to Brady Udall for The Lonely Polygamist.
2010 George Handley Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River Memoir Handley draws his title from what fly fishermen call a stretch of water they return to again and again, and his subtitle from Isaiah’s prophecy of “a year of recompenses.” Handley sees this as a prediction of “payback” for humanity’s obedience or disobedience to ecological law, whether we receive a blossoming desert or desolation. In the preface he writes that recompense means to “weigh together, to bring back into balance.” Through twelve chapters, Handley records his personal recompenses during four seasons on the Provo River watershed, but his essaying also strives to make sense of and judge his own and other’s acts. He further describes his responses as idiosyncrasies, or subjective impressions. The book is an “exercise in thinking like a river.” He writes that watersheds “gather tributaries from upstream and connect all that is above, beneath, and beside and give life through unseen processes of exchange.” Through the book he essays his own life’s stream. This is not pure natural history, but also personal essay, human history, spiritual autobiography, social commentary, and analysis of theology from the perspective of a literary critic. He writes, “I found myself unable to separate place from story, outdoor recreation from ecological and spiritual restoration, the present from the past, and even against my will, the historical from the personal.” Everything is included: losing a friend, surviving his brother’s suicide, loving a woman, raising children, settling into a place, fishing the river, and meditating on the nature of his relationship to God. The essays are holistic in that he considers his being as if thinking is bound to breathing and to sensing the spiritual nature of the world. They are synthetic in that they create new thoughts from rubbing old ones against each other. He reads his own life with remarkable objectivity, and through articulate and graceful sentences. He writes these are my “songs of praise and my lamentations—Isaiah’s recompenses, then—for a watershed I undyingly love.” Home Waters is a unique manifestation of the best memoiristic writing Mormons have produced.
2010 Jeffrey Parkin & Jared Cardon The Book of Jer3miah (web series) DramaWebFilm The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor The Book of Jer3miah for outstanding achievement in Drama. Or Film. Or Web series. Or perhaps, just, Amazing, Genre-defying Narrative. In this brave new world of transmedia storytelling, of internet interactivity, in which narrative delivery systems expand and proliferate, possibilities multiply and opportunities abound, The Book of Jer3miah is something genuinely original, combining the best possibilities of a murder mystery, a conspiracy plot, some Book of Mormon lore, a story paralleling LDS history, and a coming-of-age drama. Its twenty episodes varied in length from two minutes to fifteen, and the series came complete with an alternate-reality on-line game. Viewers were drawn in through Facebook and Twitter. College freshman Jeremiah Whitney is given an ancient Mesoamerican box, and told to keep it safe. His parents are murdered, and he discovers that he is trapped in a frightening conspiracy, and a desperate struggle for survival and redemption. But this bald description can’t begin to describe the experience of following it, the breathless excitement as new pieces to the puzzle were revealed. Watching it became hopelessly addictive, not only for Mormons or BYU students, but all across the world — though to solve the mystery, it helped if you knew your way around the BYU campus. Fridays became Jer3miah day, a day devoted to watching and re-watching the latest installment. Some Jer3miah junkies even took field trips to Provo and Manti, looking for clues. The Book of Jer3miah was created by BYU faculty members Jeffr3y Parkin & Jar3d Cardon with a class of some thirty students. Working with almost no budget, Parkin & Cardon and their students created something genuinely original, something incredibly addictive and fun, but also a profound examination of the plan of salvation and our search for meaning. The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to honor The Book of Jer3miah. We may not be entirely sure what to call it, what category to honor it in; all we know is, we loved it
2010 Grant Hardy Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide Criticism Grant Hardy calls his book “a reader’s guide,” and it deserves that indefinite pronoun. He specifies neither the reader nor the nature of the guide, because he is after any reader willing to take the book seriously, and his approach to the Book of Mormon is literary. He welcomes you to study the book as a nineteenth-century American literary artifact — and then proceeds to show you how strange this put-offering is. He does this by focusing on three putative narrators of the book: Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. What, if anything, new can he say about that trio? A lot, as it turns out, 273 pages worth, as well as offering new insights into Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and the Omni-narrators that precede the Words of Mormon. By directing the reader’s attention to the narrators, he brings them face-to-face with the people in the story, not the people external to it. Hardy presents a fine example of how those writers function as both characters and narrators on pages 16 through 23, where he discusses Nephi’s account of his return to his father’s encampment with the booty of Laban, and how his telling of the story makes his father an accessory after the fact to the killing and looting. Hardy introduces the reader to a stranger book than most Mormons know, a book far more unusual, involved and compelling than most non-Mormons imagine. It’s all one to Hardy: he offers a guide to the Book of Mormon, a reader’s guide, to complement the reader’s edition of the Book of Mormon he published in 2003. This guide wants you to read.
2010 Marilyn Arnold Bittersweet: A Daughter’s Memoir Biography In Bittersweet: A Daughter’s Memoir, Marilyn Arnold presents a humane history of her relationship with her mother. Professor Arnold exhibits an uncanny ability to captivate readers who can identify both painfully and joyfully with her. The book reveals a relationship whose dimensions are unique to the author and her mother but also strikingly common to mothers and daughters everywhere. It resonates with readers. It is a healing book, a therapeutic read. It helps readers cope with necessary losses. For literary power and grace, for candor and compassion, for uncommon insight and expression, the Association for Mormon Letters awards its 2011 prize for Biography to Marilyn Arnold for Bittersweet: A Daughter’s Memoir.

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