Award Winners: Essayist Patrick Madden interview

Patrick Madden was the winner of the 2016 AML Creative Non-Fiction Award, for his essay collection Sublime Physick (University of Nebraska Press). Today we present an interview with Madden conducted by Elizabeth Tidwell, a fellow BYU faculty member.

Patrick teaches creative nonfiction at Brigham Young University. His essays have appeared in the Iowa Review, Portland Magazine, Fourth Genre, Hotel Amerika, and other journals, as well as in the Best Creative Nonfiction and the Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. His first essay collection, Quotidiana (Nebraska, 2010), also was given an AML award. He co-edited After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays (Georgia, 2015) with David Lazar and co-translated Eduardo Milán’s Selected Poems (Shearsman, 2012). He maintains an anthology of classical essays and essay resources at quotidiana.org.

As your second collection of essays, what was unique or new this go-round? Did you go about the process differently, mentally or otherwise? Take us into some of the behind-the-scenes elements ofSublime Physick.

This book is actually quite a lot like my first book from a big-picture point of view. They’re each collections of about a dozen essays that derive from my personal experience and meditate, sometimes humorously, always with research, on abstractions. They’re different in their specifics, though. Sublime Physick looks into repentance, loss, worry, empathy, middle-agedness, moments of time, mimicry, the ripple effect, unrecognized endings, points of reference, and originality (oh, boy, does it look into originality, for nearly 100 pages), plus a lot more (if you subdivide the essays, which you should; I do).

One element that carried over from your first collection, Quotidiana, is illustrations throughout the text, which is rather rare in books of essays. Can you talk about that choice? What effect do you hope illustrations have on readers’ experience of this collection?

I hope pictures will become less rare in essay collections (and books in general) for the simple reason that images give readers something different and interesting to focus on and puzzle about, as both supplement and complement, and even as subversion to the text. I include images because 1) it’s easy to do nowadays (with computers for typesetting, instead of lead blocks) and 2) W. G. Sebald and Eduardo Galeano, two of my favorite writers, did it in some of their books, and I found their use of images to be deeply enriching. I hope that readers will pause a bit at the pictures in my books and think of them not only as illustrations showing what the words are already saying, but as another language that accompanies the text in order to enhance and challenge it. For instance, in each book, I’ve included images that give the lie to, that betray, what the text claims. This is one of the little silly games I play when I make a book. Maybe nobody notices, but I have fun with it anyway. Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, July 2017

The Mormon Arts Center Festival in New York City was called, by Terryl Givens, “a seminal event in Mormonism’s coming of age artistically.” The Mormon Lit Blitz is a great opportunity to enjoy quality flash fiction on Mormon themes, and the latest issue of Dialogue provides us with a cascade of short stories, poems, essays, and reviews. New books include poetry collections from Claire Åkebrand and Lisa Bickmore, a Mormon alternative history story collection edited by William Morris, Dan Wells’ final John Cleaver horror novel, and well-reviewed juvenile fiction from Julie Berry, Ann Dee Ellis, Emily R. King, Sara B. Larson, Mackenzi Lee, Kate Watson, and Kiersten White. T. C. Christensen’s latest movie Love, Kennedy was released. Finally, BCC Press is swinging into high-gear in July, publishing four literary works with LDS themes: a Book of Mormon novel by Mette Harrison, plays by Melissa Leilani Larson, a memoir by Tracy McKay, and an illustrated poetry collection on Mother in Heaven by Rachel Hunt Steenblik and Ashley Mae Hoiland. Please send news and announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Mormon Arts Center Festival

The first Mormon Arts Center Festival was held June 29 to July 1 at the Riverside Church, New York City. Glen Nelson and Richard Bushman were the main organizers. Continue Reading →

Mormon missionary in Sweden inspires Jens Lekman to begin his “mission”

Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman opens up his latest album, with the song “To Know Your Mission”.

The song is based on an experience that Lekman had when he was approached by a Mormon missionary in Gothenburg when he was 16 years old. The first part of the song is told through the missionary’s eyes. Lekman has commented in an “Under the Radar” interview, “I was fascinated that he had this mission; he had this purpose already in life. He knew exactly what he was going to do, and I was this super confused 16-year-old. I think it’s not until right at this very moment [when the song was written] that I figured out where things were going and what my mission is.”

The article continues, “By the end of the song, Lekman has concluded that his mission is to be a musician who tells his and his fans’ stories through his songs. (Or, in the words of the song, ‘In a world of mouths, to be an ear.'”

The song opens the alternative dance-pop album titled Life Will See You Now. It’s a good song, take a listen.

Here is the song as it appears on the album.

Here is a live acoustic version of the song. Continue Reading →

AML History: The Founding, 1976-1978

I was asked to be the secretary of the Association for Mormon Letters last year. There had not been anyone filling that post for a few years, and there were no records that were passed down to me. I felt a responsibility to try to get the organization back in touch with its records, so while in Utah for the AML Conference, I discovered that there are three major deposits of organization records. They are:

  1. Association for Mormon Letters Records, 1975-1983. Utah Historical Society. Utah State History: MSS B 47, Box 1. 8 folders. Deposited by Lavina Fielding Anderson and Linda Hatcher.
  2. Association for Mormon Letters Records. 20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. MSS 2205/1. 4 boxes, containing 25 folders. Records for the years 1979-2000, including the AML Newsletters, correspondence, incorporating documents and bylaws, board minutes, and emails. Deposited by John Bennion.
  3. Records in the possession of Darlene Young, covering the years 2004-2012.

I visited the BYU Library, and copied many of the documents in that collection. In August I plan to visit the Utah Historical Society and access those records. Darlene showed me her records, and she plans on organizing them for archiving.

Based on these records, as well as other sources, I am going to do a series of posts about the history of AML. I will start with the founding in 1976, and its earliest years. The Utah Historical Society achieves should have the best records on this period, so this post may be altered after I read them. There is enough information available, however, to at least make a start of it.

The Founding of AML

Although Mormon literature goes back to the start of the movement, serious study of Mormon literature was beginning in the decade before AML was created. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought was founded in 1966, and it provided the first stable independent platform for Mormon literary work and criticism. Sunstone magazine joined Dialogue in 1974, and it published Mormon plays, as well as short stories and poetry. Also, in 1974 the first Mormon literature anthology, A Believing People,[1] was produced by BYU professors Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert for the BYU Mormon Literature course. [2]

Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (1935-), a scholar then working at the LDS Historical Department in Salt Lake City, sketched the start of AML in an introduction to the first Proceedings of the Association for Mormon Letters, which appeared in Dialogue in 1978.[3] Continue Reading →

An interview with Anthony Holden, AML Comics Award winner

An interview with Anthony Holden, the winner of the 2016 AML Comics Award for his collection Precious Rascals. The interview is conducted by Brittany Long Olsen, the winner of the 2015 AML Comics Award. Precious Rascals is a collection of comics chronicling the life and times of the Holden family, encapsulating the last 8 years of their lives raising a house full of wild children. Anthony Holden lives in Oregon, where he spends his daytime hours trying to balance playing with children while making art for film, television, comics, and books. His favorite breakfast food is waffles. His comics  and drawings can be found at: twitterfacebookinstagram, and tumblr.
As seen in Precious Rascals, you’ve been making comics about your family for many years. What made you decide to collect them into a book at this point in time?
I’ve shared the strips with family and friends for years and years. Many of those people have prompted me to consider putting them in a book for some time. I never felt like the audience was large enough until recently when my online following had grown to a point that I felt like I could justify having boxes of books taking up half our garage.

Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, May 2017

It has been two months since my last month in review, and a lot has happened. The AML and Storymakers conferences were held, the upcoming Mormon Arts Center Festival was announced, and the Mormon Lit Blitz stories were announced. Mormon literature, the kind that is actually about Mormons, had a huge boost when By Common Consent announced a new publishing house with a strong literary bent, and the New York-based Mormon Artists Group published its first work of fiction, Luisa Perkins’ Prayers in Bath. Other new novels include Richard Paul Evans’ tale of redemption The Broken Road, Rosalyn Eves’ YA fantasy Blood Rose Rebellion, Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s middle grade graphic novel/memoir Real Friends, and The Duke of Bannerman Prep, Katie A. Nelson’s YA reworking of The Great Gatsby. Please send news and announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Awards and News

The AML Conference was held on April 21-22 at Utah Valley University and Writ & Vision. The AML Awards were presented, Orson Scott Card was presented with the Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters, and Susan Elizabeth Howe was presented with a AML Lifetime Achievement Award. Both authors were able to attend the awards ceremony and panel discussions of their works. Phyllis Barber presented the keystone address. A Gofundme fundraiser was held for AML, which raised $2685. One of the uses AML will put the money towards is the restart of our literary journal Irreantum.  A committee of interested volunteers are currently working on how to restart the journal as an online magazine, hopefully before the end of this year. If you are interested in participating in the process, please contact Andrew at mormonlit AT gmail DOT com. Continue Reading →

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Orson Scott Card and Susan Elizabeth Howe

The Association for Mormon Letters will present two lifetime achievement awards at the AML Conference on April 22, held at Utah Valley University (CB101A) at 12:45-1:30pm. Orson Scott Card will be presented with the Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters, and Susan Elizabeth Howe will be presented with the Association for Mormon Letters Lifetime Achievement Award. Both authors will be attending the conference in person. Panel discussion about both authors’ careers will also be held in the afternoon after the award ceremony.

Award citations will be read at the conference and published soon thereafter. For now, here are previously written biographies of the two authors. Card’s is adapted from his own Hatrack River website. Howe’s is adapted from a biography published on the Poetry Foundation website.

Orson Scott Card

Best known for his science fiction novels Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, Orson Scott Card has written in many other forms and genres. Beginning with dozens of plays and musical comedies produced in the 1960s and 70s (including many Mormon and scriptural themed plays), Card’s first published fiction appeared in 1977 — the short story “Gert Fram” in the July issue of The Ensign, and the novelet version of “Ender’s Game” in the August issue of Analog. Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Jonathan Langford

We are shocked and saddened to hear that our friend Jonathan D. Langford passed away on March 31 at the age of 55, apparently suffering a sudden heart attack. Jonathan has been the coordinator for this blog since 2010, soon after its founding. Jonathan was also an author, editor, and a key leader and participant for many years of the Life, the Universe, and Everything conference, The Leading Edge magazine, and the Association for Mormon Letters. The funeral will be held Saturday, April 8, at the LDS Church at 545 Stageline Rd in Hudson, WI. The viewing will be at 1 pm and the funeral at 2 pm.

Jonathan grew up in western Oregon. His first published work was a poem which appeared in The Children’s Friend when he was 8. He enrolled at Brigham Young University as a 16-year old in 1978, intending to study politics. During the Winter of 1980 he became involved in Quark, a science fiction club at BYU that was less than a year old. From 1981 to 1983 he served a mission in Italy for the LDS Church. “One of the many insights on my mission”, he wrote, “had been the realization that while in Italy, I’d had no problem setting aside my interest in politics—but that everything I saw made me think of art, literature, and culture in general. And so I decided I should follow my love, and go into literature.” Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, Mid-March 2017

Several conferences are coming up, including the AML Conference on April 22. New books include the third in the “Mormon Image in Literature” series, a collection of essays from Matthew James Babcock, fantasy novels by D. J. Butler, Brian McClellan, Bryce Moore, and Brandon Mull, the latest YA novel from Jeff Zentner, and a series of Thomas F. Rogers’ collected plays. New plays by Morag Shepherd and Eric Samuelsen are being staged soon. I got this out in less than a month in the first time in a while. Please send announcements and corrections to: mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blogs

The Association for Mormon Letters Conference will be held at Utah Valley University on April 22. The conference schedule will be released soon. A major national author will be among the participants in the conference. Be sure and check out the AML Award finalists in twelve categories.

The schedule for the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Conference, May 25-27, in Boston, has been released. The theme is “Wisdom”, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Terryl Givens are the keynote speakers. Continue Reading →

2016 AML Awards Finalists #5: Drama, Film, and Video Series

We are excited to announce the 2016 Association for Mormon Letters awards finalists in the Drama, Film, and Video Series categories. Middle Grade Novel, Young Adult NovelPoetry, Short FictionComics, Novel, Picture BooksCreative Non-fiction, and Religious Non-fiction finalists were announced previously. There will also be a Criticism award, but there will not be finalists for that category. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference at Utah Valley University on April 22. The Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters and the AML Lifetime Achievement awards will also be presented there. The finalists and winners are chosen by juries of authors and critics. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, taken from the author and publisher websites.

Drama

The judges for the Drama award considered only the written scripts, not the production, or any music that might have been part of the play.

Matthew Greene. Gregorian. Working Artist Theatre Project, New York City.  August.

Gregorian portrays one family’s journey through the bloodiest century in human history as four generations discover the gravity of a name passed from father to son. The play explores the cyclical effects of genocide on humanity, the consequences of denial, and the essential place these stories hold in our existence. Beginning with the Gregorian family’s own tragic roots in the Armenian Genocide, through the rise of the Nazi Party, across the killing fields of Cambodia, and the continuing crisis in Africa, they do all they can to hold on to heritage, history, and hope. Continue Reading →

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