Interview with McArthur Krishna, AML Picture Book Award winner

McArthur Krishna, along with Bethany Brady Spalding and Caitlin Connolly, were the recipients of the 2016 AML Picture Book Award for Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families (Deseret Book). McArthur is interviewed here by Rachel Davis, who often reviews LDS children’s books and teaching materials.

I know you and Bethany worked together before on a pair of Girls who Choose God books. How did your collaboration with Caitlin Connolly come about?

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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 →

An interview with Matthew James Babcock, AML Poetry Award winner

Matthew James Babcock is the recipient of the 2016 AML Poetry Award for his collection Strange Terrain (Mad Hat Press, 2016). He is interviewed here by Dayna Patterson, who runs the Psaltery & Lyre poetry website.  

DP: Can you talk about the title of your collection, Strange Terrain, and how you arrived at it?

MJB: The title comes from a line in the poem “Five Laotians.” It has no special meaning, but I liked the way the words went together, and I liked the way they described the collection as a whole: a ramble through some strange psychological, emotional, visual, and textual switchbacks and sloughs. The book is a bit form, a bit formless, more unformed than formed, and so given its harum-scarum approach to a kind of evolutionary, organic poetics, I thought I’d call it that. It’s a weird book, in the same way some landscapes in the Rocky Mountain Northwest are weirdly beautiful, and don’t seem to go together until you stare long enough to see they do.

DP: Why the almost restless experimentation with form? What drives you to attempt new forms in a poetic age that largely eschews formalism?

MJB: One luxury of being a writer of no consequence is that you can ignore editorial bias.  You can eschew those who choose to eschew you. Such stylistic stoicism, however, has its cost, as it’s taken me a quarter century to bring out this book. Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t know two things: 1. that it would take twenty-five years to write this book, and 2. that I was writing a book. In my twenties, I think, I was just sounding off my pop-gun of poems, trying prose, trying forms, trying anything to figure out what kind of writer I was. In my late forties now, I’m not sure I’ve figured that out. That “restless life unchanged” in “Cherry Tomatoes: A Rhapsody” is most certainly mine. Continue Reading →

An interview with Jeff Zentner, AML YA Novel Award winner

An interview with Jeff Zentner, winner of the 2016 AML Young Adult Novel Award for his debut novel, The Serpent King. Jeff’s book shares the stories of three teenagers living in a small town in Tennessee who each, in their own way, look for escape from the constraints they see limiting them. It’s been widely praised in numerous starred reviews and was also awarded the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award for a debut YA novel. He came to writing books for young adults after a career in music, and his second book, Goodbye Days, was published earlier this year. His website (jeffzentnerbooks.com) has more on his books, hosts some of his music, and features one of the better FAQs on the Internet. Jeff is also an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Tennessee.

The interview was conducted by Jon Ostenson, an assistant professor in English Education at Brigham Young University.

Can you tell us more about what inspired the writing of The Serpent King? Why this book, this setting, these characters?

I wrote The Serpent King as I was transitioning over from being a musician. I based the concept of the book on two songs that I had written, that I thought had more of a story to them than I had told in the original songs. I chose this setting and these characters because they had been in my head for a long time, producing songs without my knowing it. 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.

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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.

Comics

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 →

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