AML Awards 2011

YEAR RECIPIENT TITLE AWARD CITATION
2011 Michael Dalton Allred his lifetime achievement in comics Special Award in Graphical Narrative Michael Allred is arguably the apotheosis of modern American comics. He can match Chris Ware in philosophy, Los Bros. Hernandez in family epic (even if his families tend toward the mutant-and-mad-scientist sort), and every pro added together in pure joy and pop verve. Nowhere are Mike’s artistic strengths better on display than in the adventures of his now-classic character Madman, who turns twenty this year — having introduced a broad audience to the Three Nephites as mysterious wise men who arrive in our hero’s moment of need, marriage ceremonies performed on alien planets over a prototypical Mormon altar, and a focus on the eternal nature of romantic relationships — once, the Madman of Snap City even meets a friend from the preexistence who teaches him about Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison, “our eldest brother [who] will raise us up,” blood replaced by spirit, Eternal Progression, opposition in all things, and “heavenly parents who live in glory on the celestial planet of Golob.” That depth of spiritual thought has been a hallmark of Mike’s work from the beginning — in the first issue of Madman the eponymous hero wonders, “Is God watching me now? I wonder when our sun will die. Will God pack up to watch someone else? Goodnight . . . God.” Frank even takes the opportunity to ask Superman if he believes in God during the only Superman/creator-owned character crossover in comics history. All the same, fans and journalists were shocked in 2004 when Mike announced he was leaving his commercially successful work in order to self-publish a comics adaptation of the Book of Mormon. The Golden Plates is currently interrupted, but in just three issues it set a new standard for Book of Mormon comics, one of the most enduring subjects in Mormon comics art. Allred’s pop-art sensibilities and his wide exposure through seminal titles like Sandman and Fables, massively popular titles like X-Statix (just rereleased as a 1200-page omnibus edition), and work with other artists from all ends of the comics spectrum (professionals and amateurs, big-publisher superheroes and indie weirdies), have made his work simultaneously recognizable and utterly eclectic. The twentieth anniversary of Madman has already seen the release of Madman: 20th Anniversary Monsters!, essentially a love letter to Mike from dozens upon dozens of the most reputed names in comics. For his formal experimentation with the art form and storytelling of comics, for his contributions to explicit and implicit Mormon comics, for his in-your-face Mormon religiosity, for his populist pop sensibilities (helped in great measure by his wife and longtime collaborator, colorist Laura Allred), and for simply his excellence as an artist, the Association for Mormon Letters joins those honoring Michael Dalton Allred for his body of work with this special award in graphical narrative.
2011 Robison Wells Variant Young Adult Literature Dystopia is hot in YA publishing right now. There’s a lot of it being published — some good, some not so good. Robison Wells’s Variant is very good. Benson Fisher is a 16 year old foster kid who thinks he’s found a way out of the endless stream of unsatisfying temporary homes. He’s received a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, a private boarding school. But this is an odd boarding school: isolated, without teachers, and run by unseen powers and the social maneuverings of three ‘gangs’, the Society, Havoc and the Variants. Each group is responsible for some part of the running of Maxfield, and they’ve established a tentative truce after the violently turbulent relationships between the students resulted in several deaths before Benson’s arrival. The students are essentially prisoners, held in by walls, razor wire and the security detail contracted to the Society. The rules are simple and straightforward, but the punishments are sinister and result on a number of kids just disappearing. Almost from the moment he arrives, Benson is looking for a way out. He’s a smart, tough kid — a convincing and likeable character. The story has a fast-paced, cinematic plot that will appeal to fans of James Dashner, Suzanne Collins, and Michael Grant, an undeniable appeal to teenage boys and especially reluctant readers, and a wild cliffhanger ending. Up against these favorable features, there is only one con: a wild cliffhanger ending that will drive you nutty until the concluding volume is published this year. Wells has written a stand-out YA debut, one that is deserving of acclaim both among LDS bibliophiles and book lovers of all denominations.
2011 Emma Lou Thayne The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography Autobiography The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography, by Emma Lou Warner Thayne, both stimulates the mind and touches the heart. Not a traditional autobiography, this work centers on her death experience when an iron bar flying through the windshield struck her head. Insights radiate from that core experience, suffusing many events of her life with enhanced meaning. “The experience,” she reflects, “was far beyond ecstasy, joy, or even bliss. And I brought back a word I had intuited should exist — childness — not childlike or childish, but childness” (21). Her expanded understanding illuminates her varied experience, including Mormon women and the sense of her ancestral past, testimony and tolerance, the horrors of war and the quest for peace, death but also the vibrancy of life. And it deals with people, those who have enriched her life. Her husband, her children, her mother, and her ancestral mothers are lovingly enveloped into her story, but so also are Paul who died of AIDS, Ananda who teaches yoga and Hindu philosophy, Rachel who by reading chakras is clairvoyant, as well as her mentor Lowell Bennion who inspired her to “stay in touch vertically with the divine and horizontally with the human” (251). Her worldview spans the divine, the human and the interpenetration of the divine into the mortal world. Thayne acknowledges her journey cannot be completely captured by language, but rather her explorations are “word echoes of the ineffable that I have known and lived through and by” (91). Her explorations encompass the graceful retelling of episodes along that journey as well as poetry that distills and sharpens the impact of her experience. The encounter for the reader is perceived as points of light reflecting her enhanced knowledge, points that in their increasing intensity lift the mind and penetrate the soul. Elegant and enlightening, this is superb autobiography indeed.
2011 Douglas H. Thayer Wasatch: Mormon Stories and a Novella Short Fiction Back in the long-ago 1970s, Douglas Thayer (along with Donald Marshall) got the contemporary short story up and running as a viable genre in Mormon literature that continues to thrive right up to the day after tomorrow — enough individual stories and collections, both in LDS-related venues and elsewhere, that it’s an effort to keep up with them. And now, with Wasatch, Thayer adds to the ongoing life of the contemporary Mormon short story eleven stories and a novella: nine recent stories (four previously published in Dialogue, one in Irreantum, one in Proving Contraries; three appearing for the first time) and two stories and the novella revised from his second collection Mr Wahlquist in Yellowstone [1989]). A close look at Thayer’s revisions of “The Red-Tailed Hawk,” “The Gold Mine,” and the novella “Dolf” — sometimes large, sometimes small and delicate, always scrupulous — might yield useful lessons in fictional craft for any writer, or for any reader wanting to learn to read better; above all the lesson that a good writer never stops learning the craft, honing the sentences and paragraphs, re-thinking the words and syllables, re-living the characters’ experiences. Settings (as implied in the title Wasatch), characters, and thematic concerns familiar to Thayer’s readers will be met again in this collection: Provo, the mountains and high deserts of the West; male protagonists, adolescent or relatively young adult; a masculine ambivalence toward house and home and wife and kids, together with an equivocal hankering for wildness, pursued in fishing or in camping out, or for the tribal life of an Apache or Crow; the adventures of a Mountain Man like Hugh Glass. Some stories here — “Carterville,” “The Locker Room,” “Fathers and Sons” — may feel like fictional extensions or satellites of Hooligan, Thayer’s widely enjoyed memoir of boyhood and adolescence in a Provo of the thirties and forties that could hardly have imagined its present state. But there is a new Thayer here too; that is to say (not surprisingly) an older Thayer, who in the 1960s and 1970s might not have imagined himself writing stories of devastating trauma like “Wolves” (in which a seventeen-year-old Provo boy in 1940 rides the rails to Washington, D.C. and, on the way back, walks into the wrong hobo jungle in Nebraska), or like “The Locker Room” (in which another Provo boy, fifteen, an Eagle Scout, and innocent, takes a job sweeping up a machine shop where he works with a mean-mouthed and brutal foreman who also, incredibly and paradoxically, is a beloved husband); or stories of more somber maturity, like “Crow Basin,” or approaching old age, like “Ice Fishing.” This older Thayer, interestingly, seems to make his retrospective first-person narrators sound older, and sometimes wiser, even in the revised “Red-Tailed Hawk,” which regards its adolescent protagonist at what feels like a greater distance than in the earlier versions of the story. The new/older Thayer is also funnier (as readers of Hooligan will know), though you might have to listen up close for the dry humor, except in the “magical-realist” story “Brother Melrose,” in which an old man gets up out of his grave and walks back into town for an evening’s visit with his daughter’s family, and shakes hands with neighbors and townspeople who line up at the door, requiring some crowd control, all because his grandson has missed him and prayed to see him again. There’s a lot more dialogue in this story, and a lot more body language (it would adapt as a good short play or film). “Brother Melrose” is the second story in Wasatch, right after, or next to, the revised “Red-Tailed Hawk”: the two stories stand as pillars of the gateway to the collection, and, though sharply distinct in tone, one somber, the other hilarious, they lead us into a house of fictional rooms in which danger, damage, and death are taken seriously; a house of fiction in which we hear and know, outside, “the wind, the snow, and the cold.” The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor Douglas H. Thayer for Wasatch: Mormon Stories and a Novella.
2011 Steven L. Peck The Scholar of Moab Novel Picaresque in its progress, in its pilgrimage epistolary, The Scholar of Moab repays the careful reading it requires, even while giving the reader a periodic noogie with the stubble of the scholar’s cheek. Any novel given birth by something called the Gala Cotillion Club has an uphill trudge in its future. Peck produces sections of the novel in four main voices: Hyrum LeRoy Thayne, Dora Daphne Tanner, William & Edward Babcock and the self-effacing Redactor. He also identifies four members of the Gala Cotillion Club (himself included) in his dedication. He writes the different voices so well that I wondered whether he had plundered the archives of the Club, but when I went to Amazon in search of works of the poet Dora Daphne Tanner, the only hit I got was Peck’s novel. It is a mark of the skill with which he has written this novel that Peck is able to portray the Mormon hunger to be taken seriously, especially in the late Sixties and mid Seventies, as being hilariously unbalanced by the Mormon unwillingness to pay the price in scholarship to earn serious regard. He does that while producing an engaging portrait of death by misadventure, and exploring the mysteries and madness of love. There are many mysteries in the world of post-Watergate Moab. One of them is the paranoid style of local politics, which is responsible for one death. A second is the belief of a principal character in abductions by aliens, which features prominently in another death. A third is the lingering presence of what was called “black comedy” in the Sixties, in which the death of yet a third principal is enmeshed. That any of this is still funny is a cause of concern for the health of our culture; that all of it is hilarious is its diagnosis of health.
2011 David G. Pace American Trinity Short Fiction Dialogue 44.2 (Summer 2011): 161–76. Suppose you are one of the Three Nephites, “born in Zarahemla, twenty-five years before Jesus made His New World appearance,” a temple scribe in “a library of worn parchments [. . .] attempting to abridge them to something more permanent and [having] to compete with the armory for gold and other metals”; a scribe who “actually paid attention to all the old tales [he] was transcribing” and “imagined what it was like to be one of [his own] Hebrew ancestors, clambering into a ship and making the great journey from the Old World.” You “made a point of infusing the accounts with the requisite miracles” because “There are worse things than doing that.” You “didn’t think we needed another sword, another shield, however beautifully wrought. What we needed was the story.” Suppose your name is Zedekiah, Zed for short (last and least), and now, thanks to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, the Nephite God, granting your wish, you’ve wandered and ministered for two thousand years. What a tale you could tell. Or what tales, since no one could stay awake long enough to hear the whole two millennia in one stretch, supposing you could stay awake long enough to tell it. Of course you’ve become fluent in American English, no need to speak or write in pseudo-King James style. But by now you’re weary of being “mortal but unable to die,” to “taste of death”; you’re tired of living a story you once thought would not last long but that now seems still far from its promised end when Jesus “shall come in glory with the powers of heaven.” You’ve been spared pain, but you’ve had two thousand years of the “sorrow” that Jesus also promised “for the sins of the world,” and you’re still waiting for the “fulness of joy” and the chance to “sit down in the kingdom of [the] Father.” Stories that do end began to fascinate you, so you’ve spent a lot of evenings in the theaters of Old New York, where a century ago your colleague Jonas, “the senior one,” knew he would find you, where he told you “You’ve lost your faith” and you told him “I’ve lost my life.” That’s part of a short story you can tell. And you can bear your witness of “the Triangle Fire twenty years later,” after that conversation with Jonas: no miracles there, though you did minister as you could to a dying twelve-year-old girl. And what since, what now? David Pace’s “American Trinity” is a remarkable, even startling addition to what might be called Book of Mormon midrashic literature (and film), a tradition that includes B. H. Roberts’s novel Corianton (later a stage play and a film recently recovered and shown), some of the plays of Clinton F. Larson (Coriantumr, Moroni, Third Nephi), and other fictions that sound, on the face of it, frivolous (like Chris Heimerdinger’s Tennis Shoes among the Nephites and all its ilk). Indeed, Pace’s story appeared in Dialogue just one issue ahead of Robert A. Rees’s article “The Midrashic Imagination and the Book of Mormon” (44.3 [Fall 2011]: 44–66), as if to answer, before it was given, Rees’s call for “Latter-Day Saints [to] consider writing midrashim based on Restoration scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon,” “a source, like the Torah, not only for interpretation but for invention, expansion, and imagination.” Pace’s “American Trinity” is not only midrashic but also (as is inherent in the never-ending activity of midrash) historical comical tragical folkorical philosophical metafictional and perhaps postmodern and more. Maybe it’s a one-shot deal, as good short stories are singular and unrepeatable. Yet, since the end is not yet, we might hope that Zed, or his colleagues Jonas and Kumen, will have more to tell. The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor David G. Pace for “American Trinity.”
2011 Adam Miller the body of his work published in 2011 Essay This award goes to Adam Miller for his several essays, in print and online, during 2011 (including especially “Take No Thought,” “Recompense,” and “Faith, Philosophy, Scripture”) which achieve an unprecedented and superb combination of philosophical depth and poetic expression. Adam Miller’s work represents an original contribution to Mormon letters for its deep theological probings of experience, its nuanced readings of scripture, and its unique transformation of the review essay into its own creative and improvisational articulation of philosophical principles in prose that reads like poetry. In these essays, Miller raises the task of reading and of writing philosophy to a high art. Often directed at the reader in the second person, his voice manages to be pedagogically powerful and transcendent as well as intimate and grounded in personality. These essays are a more generous and more expansive treatment of Mormon thought than any merely expository writing or standard review could accomplish, and they advance a new way of thinking collectively as a people, challenging his readers to rise to the deepest ethical and intellectual implications of doctrinal belief.
2011 Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten Sons of Perdition Film In discussing the nature of faith with Boyd K. Packer, Harold B. Lee once said, “You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.” Documentary filmmaking is frequently an act of faith, often motivated far more by compassion, the hunger for knowledge and an impulse to act on the doctrinal injunction that “it becometh every man who hath been warned to warned his neighbor,” than by any artistic or commercial ambitions. That explains in part why The Association for Mormon Letters chooses to recognize Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten for their extraordinary film Sons of Perdition. Few Latter-day Saints — few people of any caste or creed living outside southwestern Utah — are likely to know about the plight of the teenage runaways and exiles from the Hildale/Colorado City polygamous enclave formerly presided over by Warren Jeffs. Chased out of their childhood homes in some cases, and fleeing from them in others, these disarmingly young men and women face a difficult process of integration into a society as befuddled by them as they are by it. Sons of Perdition may not alter their uncertain future directly. It tells their story powerfully and honestly, however, leading viewers to the edge of the familiar and a few steps into the darkness, inviting viewers to look for a light that shows the way before them. It’s a remarkable voice of warning that could touch the hearts of neighbors equipped to make a difference, and if recognition by the AML convinces a few more people to seek it out, then we’ll consider our respect and admiration well bestowed.
2011 Andrew Hall Mormon Literature Year in Review Special Award in Literary Journalism Documenting a community, especially one as far-flung and diverse as that of Mormon letters, is a time-consuming, thankless task. And yet, every January since 2001, Andrew Hall has compiled and published online a Mormon Literature Year in Review, summarizing publishing events, trends, reviews, and news of popular, literary, and mainstream-published fiction, drama, film and personal essays by, for, and about Mormons. This body of work is invaluable to anyone seeking to understand the current state of Mormon narrative art — and will continue to be for future scholars in the field of Mormon Studies. In 2011, Andrew expanded his service to the community by supplementing these annual reports with his “This Week in Mormon Literature” summary posts to the AML blog, which have become a must-read for anyone with an ongoing interest in the current shape and future directions of Mormon letters. For these services, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to recognize Andrew Hall with a special award for literary journalism.
2011 Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism Biography Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism, by Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, is an outstanding Mormon biography, not just within biographies published in 2011, but also among Mormon biographies in general. Undaunted by the task of tackling the life of a man whose autobiography has become a classic in Mormon literature, these two co-authors have moved well beyond the autobiography — in their research, in providing the intellectual context of Pratt’s works and the historical context of his life, and in understanding the importance of Pratt’s achievements in the making of early Mormonism. Givens and Grow are persuasive in arguing that “By 1853, [Pratt] had already become, after Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the most influential figure in shaping early Mormon history, culture, and theology” (3-4). The range and depth of their research and analysis in support of their thesis is impressive. Putting Pratt’s works within the context of “Baconism, millennialism and antebellum America’s oratorical culture” (104), Givens and Grow cogently paint Pratt as not only a popularizer of Mormon theology but also as a shaper of it. Detailing Pratt’s leadership in missionary work, they convincingly show how crucial proselytizing on the periphery was to the Church’s center. Recounting Pratt’s exploration and colonizing efforts, they also establish his importance in the Church’s move west. Deeply learned as the biography is, it is also written with grace. Although Pratt’s achievements were varied, the biography is chronological. It is a tribute to their style that the threads of these various achievements run smoothly throughout the narrative. Their careful editing has resulted in a blending of their two contributions into one voice. Moreover, potentially difficult theological concepts are explained clearly, while Pratt’s life, full of riveting episodes, is vividly portrayed. In short, Givens and Grow have beautifully blended an intellectually stimulating analysis of Parley P. Pratt’s writings with an absorbing narrative of the adventurous life of this significant leader in Mormon history.
2011 Brant A. Gardner The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon Criticism It is a commonplace that translators translate not only words but a culture, that some words or concepts have no exact match in another language or culture, that something always gets lost in the translation — which leads to a second commonplace, expressed in the Italian phrase “traduttore, traditore!” In The Gift and Power Brant A. Gardner dismisses that second commonplace. The translator is not a traitor, he says. The translator enlarges a work’s audience and memory. As for the first commonplace, Gardner is more interested in the fact that the translator translates into a culture. So he spends considerable time exploring Joseph Smith’s culture, the relationships between science and religion and magic, and Joseph’s transformation from village seer of lost objects to prophet and seer of lost records. And not a seer only but a translator. The Gift and Power reminds us how much we take for granted in the word translation when we have access to the original source, questions we often don’t think to ask of a translation seen through a stone in a hat. Word for word, conceptual, paraphrase, midrash, what kind of translation is the Book of Mormon? Or is it a dictation to Joseph Smith and through him to his scribes, and if so, who translated the plate text? In thinking about these questions, the relationship of Joseph’s translation to the plate text, and his Bible translations, Gardner ranges widely through religion, science and optics, magic, anthropology, and textual criticism, and suggests how much is involved in just getting the text, before a critic can begin a full critique of a book. His disagreements with other scholars also give a model of civil discourse — rather than uncivil culture war. What little Joseph Smith had to say about how he translated the Book of Mormon is captured in Gardner’s title: It came through the gift and power of God. For a book that shows us how much is packed into that short phrase, that reminds us how much can be found in translation, and what a faithful translator can do, the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor Brant A. Gardner’s The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon with an award for Criticism in 2011.
2011 Tyler Chadwick editing Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets Poetry Fire in the Pasture is the first anthology of Mormon poets since the groundbreaking Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems was published in 1989 — over 20 years ago. Its title carries on an agricultural metaphor begun with the short-story anthology Greening Wheat published in 1983 — and in fact fulfills the old prophecy about that anthology, that it was the first of three planned by Levi Peterson, with the next two having the titles Nodding Heads and Burning Stubble. Chadwick, however, drew his title from the poem “Finding Place,” one of several by Doug Talley in the collection, which begins: A fire in the pasture undulates / of blue and white and yellow flower, / a fire like a snake, iridescent by sunlight / and undulant in the wind. Further on, Talley expands on the metaphor in these words: The kingdom of heaven found on earth / is like a pasture, a strange, little kingdom / full of spicery, the undulant and speluncular, / and all the other words by which we frame it. Fire in the Pasture records the changes, movements, and new and old themes that Mormon poets are and have been struggling with. The collection is highly representative of the various types of Mormon poets, with many up-and-coming poets included. That generosity alone merits the award. But the themes, styles and forms show great variety, and manifold interests. Although the poems in Fire in the Pasture do not uniquely deal with Mormon themes, anyone wanting to become more familiar with contemporary Mormon poets would benefit by reading this diverse collection of poems generated from Mormon cultural and religious expressions of both the sacred and the mundane.
2011 Gideon Burton Honorary Lifetime Membership All members of the Association for Mormon Letters know the many things Gideon Burton has done for Mormon letters, things such as: serving on the board, and as president, of AML (more than once); / co-editing the BYU Studies special number “Mormons and Film” (2007), which is the definitive volume of Mormon film criticism to date; / editing the Mormon Literary Library; / contributing many works of criticism to help define Mormon literature, including his essay “Towards a Mormon Criticism” published in Dialogue, which won an AML award for criticism in 1994; / contributing many creative works, published in Irreantum, BYU Studies and Dialogue — including 5 sonnets set to music and performed at a bicentennial celebration of the birth of Joseph Smith in 2005; / teaching and mentoring youth interested in Mormon literature and cinema at BYU; / making and sustaining the Mormon Literature and Creative Arts website, one of the most useful online resources for researching creative Mormon work. But what I remember when I think of Gideon’s contributions to the field is how I felt when I heard his Presidential Address given in 2004. It was entitled “Our Mormon Renaissance,” and it wasn’t just an anacephalæosis of the exciting things that are being done in the field but rather a peroratio summoning me and anyone else who has ever thought of participating in the creation of Mormon art: “So let the Mormon Renaissance begin within each of us! Enough of this hand-wringing and timidness, this reluctance to compose ourselves in ink, to do that work with words that is worth of the Word, the Son of God, who descended below all things, tracing for us the necessary trajectory of our souls and our art. Enough of worrying ourselves into mumbling and stumbling, when we have so much to say, so much to express, inspired doubly by a living faith and our faith in the lively, godly nature of the arts. We hold back our personal salvation and we mock the progress of Zion by not consecrating our æsthetic sensibilities, our drafts and redrafts, our stories, our narratives of life in all its vibrant vicissitudes, its mystifying contradictions, its souring ecstasies and soul-wrenching defeats. Eternity is within us and before us; we have tasted the goodness of God. Yet we are mired in ignorance and mortality and sin and self-doubt and the misgivings and misfirings of a million sordid sorts. And in the middle of this mess God has slapped us on the cheeks, has shoved a paintbrush or a keyboard in our hands, presented us with canvas and paper and stolen scraps of time and told us Be like me, create.” Now if that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what would. For all of his work in collecting, cataloguing, critiquing, teaching, defending and inspiring Mormon literature, the Association for Mormon Letters is proud to bestow on Gideon Burton honorary lifetime membership. Darlene Young, Secretary / Association for Mormon Letters
2011 Marilyn Brown Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters I was introduced to Marilyn Brown’s work when I was in ninth grade and suffering all the traumas that come with Middle School and puberty. My mother, who realized that I needed beauty and inspiration in my life, gave me a lovely book of poetry titled Rainflowers. I loved it. I learned a new word: Mudfuddled. Over forty years have gone by and I remember little phrases from the book, which I read many times. Poems like this one grabbed me: Who Are You? If you are not / An Avatar / What is it then / That curls in your eyes / Beneath the evanescing sun / A thousand flames are not enough / Piling light into the shell of a walnut / To imitate these spheres / Hung from god strings. / Empty, I am measuring up / With yours: / What is it then / That parts company with men / And soars? Marilyn continued publishing, and I continued growing up, and was cast as Aldonza in a 1975 production of Man of La Mancha. Marilyn was also in the play. I was still in awe of her. I think it took me a few days of rehearsal to tell her that I had read Rainflowers. As for Marilyn, she was extremely humble about her accomplishments, caring, encouraging, kind. After I performed one scene in the play, Marilyn would always be waiting for me, ready to say: “Oh Maggie! That was wonderful!” She was one of my main mentors in writing and also in grace. She went on to publish three poetry books, fourteen novels, a history of Provo—her wonderful Earthkeepers — and two musical plays. (Her musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be playing this coming August, 2012.) Nor did she hesitate to take on difficult subjects, as she did in The Wine Dark Sea of Grass, contextualized within the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Her awards, from the Utah Humanities Council and the Association for Mormon Letters, are too numerous to mention. The best news, though, is what she told to me a few weeks ago—that she thinks her current project will be her best yet. My connections with Marilyn continued beyond our experience in La Mancha, as she and her husband purchased an old movie theater in Springville and transformed it to a splendid place for plays. My play, I Am Jane, was performed there, and I saw my son perform in five plays on the Brown stage. Those performances were validating to him and deeply important for his own growth. So Marilyn’s artistic gifts to me went far beyond my first experience with her poetry. Marilyn has served the AML community in ways many might not know of. She was the president in 2000, and created and funded the Marilyn Brown Novel award. Yes, she continues to support Mormon art and artists in every way she can. I wish the winners of the Brown award could hear her voice as they receive it — because her voice is there, saying, “Oh, that was wonderful!” As I look at Marilyn, I see a life full of beauty and giving, full of offerings to the future of Mormon letters — including her own fiction and poetry. I am happy to repeat the words she said to me every night when we performed together years ago, with just a bit of modification: “Oh Marilyn, YOU are wonderful.” It is my personal honor to present Marilyn Brown with the Smith-Pettit award for her contributions to Mormon letters. Margaret Blair Young / President—Association for Mormon Letters

Leave a Reply

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