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.

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2016 AML Awards

The Association for Mormon Letters Awards were presented at Utah Valley University, April 22, 2017.  In addition to the awards below, Orson Scott Card was presented with the Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters, and Susan Elizabeth Howe was presented with the Association for Mormon Letters Lifetime Achievement Award.


Anthony Holden. Precious Rascals

Precious Rascals by Anthony Holden is a delightful book. Featuring short journal comics about Holden’s life from his time as a newlywed to his firstborn son and each increasingly rambunctious child, the antics in “Precious Rascals” should be familiar to every parent. Church is a small but consistent facet of the Holden household, including rousing renditions of “Book of Mormon Stories.” Holden combines charming artwork spanning a decade, advice about life and cartooning, bonus animations, and, of course, bathroom humor. His comics are a reminder that parenthood, much like childhood, should be full of laughter and play (and waffles).

Other finalists:

Scott Hales. Mormon Shorts, Vol. 1.

Brandon Sanderson (story), Rik Hoskin (script), Julius Gopez (art), and Ross Campbell (colors). White Sand.

Creative Non-Fiction

Patrick Madden. Sublime Physick. University of Nebraska Press.

Mormonism is in many ways dominated by scriptural stories, narratives comprised of, more often than not, personal essays and memoirs, but which become, by virtue of their central importance to the religion, essentialized and canonized. Nephi isn’t often read as he is, an aging man reinterpreting his youthful experiences decades after the fact; he is read as an everyperson, his experiences a template and a touchstone for our own, his version of events the “true” reading of history. In judging this contest of “Mormon letters” and creative nonfiction, therefore, we found ourselves drawn to the pedestrian rather than the political, the mundane rather than the massive, to specific people responding to specific situations where faith figures into the narrative but the choices need not be pointed to as right or wrong or examples of virtuous living or its opposite. While all the finalists provided such stories, the winner and honorable mention did so in ways that made them stick with us, invading our thoughts and conversations for weeks after reading. 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 →

Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives: Stories of leaving and keeping faith–An interview with Karen Rosenbaum

Karen, your novel Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives is a set of short stories following a collection of families and their experiences. You focus on the experiences of the women in the family, and a strong theme of faith comes out: belief in the afterlife, how belief/faith influences choices, and how this trickles down through posterity.

Mothers-Daughters-Sisters-Wives-197x300First, this is a short story collection, not a novel. The stories explore the concerns of fictional women in four different families, families unrelated to each other.  I wrote the stories over the course of several decades. Sometimes I would return to a character at a different point in her life; sometimes I would focus on a different character in the family story. I have become very attached to the women in these families. Some are roughly modeled after women in my own family history. I am keenly aware of the influences on me of my mother and my grandmothers and wanted to write about family connections.

Thank you for that correction. As a novelist, I can get a little “novel-centric.”  The stories flowed so well together, it read, for me, like a novel and not a collection of short fiction. And I think this speaks a great deal to your writing ability. 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 →

Interview with AML Religious Non-Fiction Award winner Brant A. Gardner


Brant Gardner

Brant A. Gardner won the 2015 AML Award for Religious Non-Fiction for Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (Greg Kofford Books). Laura Harris Hales recently interviewed Gardner for an upcoming episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, which will debut Sept. 22. While the podcast episode will focus on the content of Gardner’s work, she also asked a few questions about his style and writing process, to be used here at the AML blog. Here is a selection of their conversation, edited slightly for print.

LHH: You won Best Religious Non-Fiction book for 2015, well deserved, I must say. They had three questions for you as an author. First, how would you describe your style of writing?

Gardner_Traditions_cover_1024x1024BG: That is very hard to answer, because I am not sure how to describe it, other than to describe the kinds of things I’m trying to do as an author. I’m trying to write for later high school/college age. As for my style, I tend to let my sources speak more directly than a lot of people do, with a lot more quotations. Modern style wants to hide [quotations] in the text, or put all of the quotations in the footnotes, while I bring them out. There is controversial enough information that I don’t want to hide my work. I want people to know what the sources are, and know the reason why I am drawing that particular conclusion. There is enough reason for people to wonder about these topics, they shouldn’t wonder about how I have interpreted the data I am using. So that is one difference in how I approach things. Continue Reading →

An Interview with Jennifer Quist, AML Novel Award Winner

An Interview with Jennifer Quist, Author of Sistering, Winner of the 2015 AML Novel Award

8e047be0dae03eca93ddee4aefedb52dJennifer Quist is a journalist and novelist from Edmonton, Alberta. Her first novel, Love Letters from the Angel of Death (2013), was a finalist for the Whitney Award and the basis of her Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award in 2014. Her second novel, Sistering, won the 2015 Association for Mormon Letters Award for the Novel, was long-listed for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award, and was named a “Must-Read” of the 2015 fall season by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation The interview was conducted by Michael Austin.

Let’s start with the biographical details. Could you briefly describe your life so far? Start from the beginning and go up to the point that you decided to become a rich and famous writer.

I was born in a remote pulp-mill town in the northern boreal forest. My father was ambitious and restless and moved our family all over the immense country of Canada. By the time I graduated from high school, I had gone to eleven different schools. It would have been lonely if it weren’t for my close sibling group of seven, our ward families, and the grace of God that unfailingly sent me the few good friends I prayed for everywhere we went. 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 →

Award Winners: Young Adult Novelist Becky Wallace

We are starting a new series, interviews with recent AML Award winners. We start with Young Adult Award winner Becky Wallace, who was interviewed by Amanda Shrum, a Creative Writing MFA candidate at BYU.

storyspinner-9781481405652_hrI recently had the wonderful opportunity to meet and interview Becky Wallace, author of The Storyspinner and recipient of the 2015 Young Adult Novel AML Award.

Becky grew up in West Jordan, Utah before attending BYU-I and BYU where she received her degree in Public Relations. She moved to Chicago and worked for a sports marketing company where she was able to put her writing skills to use. She currently lives in Houston with her husband and four kids.

How did you get into writing? Continue Reading →