Reconciling Fiction and Truth: Phyllis Barber’s Keynote Address at the 2017 AML Conference


by Phyllis Barber

Keynote Address for the Association of Mormon Letters, April 21, 2017, at Writ & Vision,  Provo, Utah

Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on. Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story. -Ursula K. LeGuin

A note of warning: there will be many questions in this paper. Most are questions I’ve asked myself, but hopefully, some will resonate with you. But be prepared for questions!  The main one that comes to mind when thinking about this paper—“Reconciling Fiction and Truth”—is this:  There are history books galore, more published every day. There are lesson manuals. There are Sunday School discussions every week. Mormons give careful, unremitting attention to Truth with a capital T, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” it seems, discussing scriptures endlessly, but is our culture, and are we, comfortable with the creation of art?

Yes, of course, most of us would say. There’s the Harris Fine Arts Center. The Springville Art Museum. The Church History Museum with its vast collection of Mormon art. And look at LDS Authors on the Internet—our best-selling writers. Most would say the Mormon culture is in good shape, nothing to worry or think about. However, I’m always one to ask questions, chief among them:  (1) What is the role of fiction and truth? and (2) Do we believe that art has value? Continue Reading →

The Beginning of a Mormon literature in Spanish? Part 2, Mexico, Uruguay, and elsewhere

By Gabriel González Núñez

Part I of this article can be accessed here. In it, some introductory thoughts were presented, and Argentine authors were surveyed.

Besides Argentina, another country where Mormon authors are beginning to publish is Mexico. There are two Mormon authors that I know of in this country. The first goes by the pen name Elisabet Zapiæn, but she also publishes under her real name Elizabeth González Torres. She debuted with a novel in 2012 titled San Rafael (Ulterior Editorial). The novel is about a love triangle against the backdrop of a murder mystery in a town called San Rafael. It has no distinctive Mormon features. Zapiæn has also published three short stories in literary journals, none of which have any Mormon elements.

Another Mexican author is R. de la Lanza. In 2015 he self-published a short story titled “El jerarca” [which can be translated as The Leader], which is a detective story about the murder of a Church employee. In 2016 he published his debut novel Eleusis (published by a group of publishers-in-training under the name Intendencia de las Letras). It tells the story of several generations of Mexican Latter-day Saints, from Mexican-Revolution-era pioneers to modern young single adults in Mexico City. The work is unquestionably of a fine literary quality, and it is definitely a work of Mormon literature. The novel’s portrayal of modern Mexican Mormons as largely a group of hypocrites is likely to be off-putting to some among the more faithful Latter-day Saint readers. De la Lanza has so far written about Mormon topics because, in his own words: “It’s the world I know […] I don’t know anything about drug lords, about other worlds, like the world of labor unions, of large corporations, etc. What I am most familiar with is the world of my brothers and sisters in the Church.” Continue Reading →

The Beginning of a Mormon Literature in Spanish?, Part 1: Introduction and Argentine authors

By Gabriel González Núñez

Gabriel González Núñez was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and has lived in several countries, including Ecuador, Belgium, and the United States. His literary blog–which includes short stories, flash chronicles, and translations–can be accessed here. He lives in Brownsville, Texas, where he trains translators and interpreters at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He is happily married and has, as of right now, two children.

Word has it that if you can speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese you can speak to the most members of the LDS Church. This reflects a demographic reality: the overwhelming majority of members of the Church live in the Americas. The most widely spoken language in the so-called New World is Spanish. Naturally, as membership grows in the Americas, the number of Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints continues to grow. To me, this has meant for some time that there have to be Mormons in the Spanish-speaking world who write. And I’ve been trying to figure out who they are. Who we are, I should say, as Spanish is my native language and, I should add, the language of my heart (the two are not always the same).

As I searched, I discovered that indeed, Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints are writing, some as a way to make a living and others because they have something positive to say. For this post, however, I will focus on writers who have published books that are literary in nature. I will survey a number of authors who are LDS and who have published either poetry, plays, short stories, or novels. I also will focus on contemporary writers, as my search did not really extend into past generations. Notice that the emphasis is on Mormon writers and not necessarily Mormon literature. That’s because, as readers will see, we can’t really speak of a Mormon literature in Spanish. Not yet at least. So literature by Mormons will have to do at this point. Even so, when I discuss these writers, I will make sure to point out any Mormon themes in their writing. Continue Reading →

Mormons and Horror: Light Within the Dark

Mormons and Horror: Light Within the Dark

by Michaelbrent Collings

Paper sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters, presented at Life, the Universe, and Everything writing convention, February 18, 2017.

(This post contains just the first part of Michaelbrent’s presentation on Mormons and Horror. Please see the full paper at his website, Written Insomnia.)

I am a horror writer.

I am a Mormon.

Whenever these two intersecting – and yes, they are intersecting – facets of my life are discovered, the response is invariably one of surprise, if not outright incredulity. Contrary to most people’s expectations, no one at church has every said, “A horror writer? Well, you are definitely going to Hell.” Indeed, the first person I tend to call when I want to watch a scary movie is  my stake president. That being said, even he was surprised when he first found out. Because it seems… what? Wrong?

And yet, as will be stated shortly, horror is perhaps the best-suited “genre” for Mormons; and Mormons are themselves the most horror-laden people… and neither in quite the way you would expect. Continue Reading →

Award Winners: Essayist Joey Franklin interview

Wife Happily marriedJoey Franklin was the winner of the 2015 AML Creative Non-Fiction Award, for his essay collection My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married (University of Nebraska Press). Today we present an interview with Franklin conducted by Elizabeth Tidwell, a fellow BYU faculty member.

The essay as a creative rather than academic genre can be a foreign concept to some—we’ve often heard “essay” more connected to the five-paragraph essay than the personal essay. But that’s steadily changing as the genre is growing. You’ve just published your first collection of essays, so you’re clearly invested in the form. Why the essay?

I took a fiction class in graduate school and wrote three stories. The first was about a handyman who discovers that a widow in his apartment complex is actually a white-collar criminal. The second involved a disgruntled member of the Japanese mafia who shakes down a local pre-school. The third followed a pregnant Arab woman on a plane who stops a schizophrenic passenger from attacking her (none of those stories ever made it out of workshop). Continue Reading →

An Interview with Kristyn Crow, AML Picture Book Award Winner

We are pleased to present picture book aficionado Emily Debenham’s interview with Kristyn Crow, the winner of the 2015 AML Picture Book Award. 

kristyn-crowEmily: This interview is to celebrate the fact that Zombelina Dances the Nutcracker won the 2015 AML award.  This is your second book with Zombelina as the main character. Is it different writing a picture book sequel?

Kristyn: With a sequel, the idea is to hold on to what made the first book special and yet create a story that’s new. So writing a sequel is different in the sense that I’m not starting with a brand new character and concept. I’m expanding on something familiar. And with both of the Zombelina sequels there were specific marketing themes that the publisher wanted to craft the books around. That was challenging because prior to these books I had never written a manuscript “to order.” I was nervous I might not be able to make the second book as enjoyable as the first. Continue Reading →

Mormon fiction: weird joke, serious paradox?

Pigs_When_They_Straddle_the_Air_FinalBy Julie J. Nichols

Julie J. Nichols is the author of the recent novel Pigs When They Straddle the Air (Zarahemla Books). Read about her and her work at her blog

One Friday afternoon about five years ago I sat in extreme discomfort through a UVU English Department faculty meeting on whose agenda was the topic of development—or not—of a Mormon Lit curriculum. I wish you all had been there.

The UVU English Department faculty is a motley group, the largest department at the university. About half of us are from Mormon backgrounds, the other half decidedly not. Continue Reading →

Award Winners: Middle Grade Novelist Christine Hayes interview

Mothmans-Curse-Final-Cover1-350x524We continue our series of interviews with recent AML Award winners, with Rebecca J. Carlson’s interview of Christine Hayes, who won the 2015 AML Middle Grade Novel Award, for her debut novel, Mothman’s Curse. Hayes was also a finalist for the Whitney Middle Grade and Best Novel by a New Artist awards, and won the Friends of American Writers Young People’s Literary Award. Rebecca J. Carlson is an instructor at BYU-Hawaii.

On your blog you mention several of your favorite middle grade authors, like Cleary and Blume, and on the fantasy side Lloyd Alexander and C. S. Lewis. When I read Mothman’s Curse I thought it had a great classic children’s lit feel to it. Was that by design, or do you think you wrote it that way because that’s what you love to read?

Maybe a little of both! I was obsessed with reading as a child, but after taking a children’s literature course in college I was introduced to all kinds of authors I had somehow missed growing up—Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, John Bellairs, and so many more. That class definitely influenced my taste in books, so it makes sense that it also heavily influenced my preferred style of writing. Continue Reading →

Bad, Honest Advice on How to Write as a Young Mom

by Jennifer Quist. Reposted by permission.


This 25 year old mother of two is me. Lazy butt had written precisely zero novels.

Enough people have asked how I managed to write two novels while at home with my kids that I thought I’d better craft an answer a little more thoughtful than “by being a crap mother.” Here it is, some very honest and probably very bad advice on how to launch a writing career while masterminding a large, young household.

Continue Reading →

Journaling with Kids

By Bryce Moore. Reposted by permission.

I first started keeping a journal with TRC when he was about four and a half years old. I write a journal every day myself, and I thought it would be a fun way to keep track of what he was doing and how he was changing. The process was simple: I’d have him stand or sit next to me and dictate what he wanted to write, and I’d transcribe it as close to exactly how he said it as I could. Here’s the first entry.

January 3, 2009 This week I’m going back to preschool. That’s happening to me. Also we’ll have a story in my journal. It has very scary things. There are so many ghosts that scare me, and there’s one that says this kind of boo: “moo!” That’s a pretty funny thing, right? I did my workbook today. I did A, a and B. You first come the easy things that you color the letters, and you do what it says to do and color up the letters. That’s what comes first. I am four and a half years old now. My favorite color is purple. I like to do my work.

Continue Reading →

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