This Month in Mormon Literature, October 9, 2017

This month a feature film, Mitch Davis’ family film The Stray, and BYUtv’s science fiction series Extinct were released. Among the new novels are Claire Åkebrand’s Mormon literary novel The Field Is White, and Josi Kilpack’s All that Makes Life Bright, about Harriet Beecher Stowe. There were two notable YA debuts, McKelle George’s Speak Easy, Speak Love, and Caitlin Sangster’s Last Star Burning. Two notable Middle Grade novels are Elaine Vickers’s Paper Chains and Chad Morris and Shelly Brown’s Mustaches for Maddie. This month two multi-author anthologies will be released. Shelah Mastny Miner and Sandra Clark Jorgensen edited Seasons of Change: Stories of Transition from the Writers of Segullah, a collection of essays. Stephen Carter edited Moth and Rust: Mormon Encounters with Death, which includes essays, fiction, poetry, and a play. Several of the works were previously published in Sunstone. Speeches given at the Mormon Arts Center Festival have been collected in The Kimball Challenge at Fifty: Mormon Arts Center Essays. Please send updates to mormonlitATgmailDOTcom.

In Memoiram

Elouise M. Bell, one of the greats of Mormon literature, education, and feminism, passed away on September 30, 2017.  Bell taught in the BYU English Department from 1963 to 1994. She authored hundreds of magazine articles and newspaper collumns. Here most well known collection is Only When I Laugh (Signature, 1990). She married Nancy Jefferis in 2015. You can read the obituary that I wrote, and this memorial article in the Salt Lake Tribune, which includes quotes by friends like Susan Elizabeth Howe and Robert Kirby. Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, Late August 2017

This month we mourn the passing of author Rulon T. Burton, anticipate a new Stephen Peck novel, and look forward to a new Mahonri Stewart play. There is also a slew of new nationally published novels, and a well-reviewed movie, We Love You, Sally Carmichael!, made largely by Mormons, which gently satirizes Utah culture and the Twilight phenomenon. And a Mormon filmmaker gets jail time. Please send news and announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com. Also, we are looking for more people to write for the blog, including essays and book reviews. Please send your writing or ideas to that address.

In Memoriam

We note with sadness the passing of Rulon T. Burton, on Monday, July 24, 2017, at age 91, in Draper, Utah. Burton, a lawyer, authored six novels and nine non-fiction works. Most were self-published, usually at Tabernacle Books, an imprint run by his son Gideon Burton. The books include:

We Believe: Doctrines and Principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tabernacle Books, 1994. 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 →

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 →

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 →

This Week in Mormon Literature, March 1, 2017 (Pt. 2, New books and reviews)

Part two of the Month in Review. New books this month include poetry from Neil Aitken, a charming female superhero origin novel from Shannon and Dean Hale, Scott Hales’ second Garden of Enid graphic novel of a “weird Mormon girl”, Tricia Levenseller’s debut pirates novel gets a Publishers Weekly starred review, a new YA romance from Kasie West, and Brooke Williams’ meditations on his Mormon pioneer ancestors and the environment from a post-Mormon perspective.


New Books and their reviews

Neil Aitken. Babbage’s Dream. Sundress Publications, Feb. 8. Poetry book. 70 pages. “In stunningly elegant couplets, Neil Aitken transposes the dreams of machines and humans into musical, sonically deft lyrics that sing songs of creation, vision, possibility, futurity. These beautifully crafted poems—evoking the designs of nineteenth-century mathematician Charles Babbage, who conceptualized the first mechanical programmable computer—explore the tautologies between mathematics and song, science and lyric, the rational and the passionate, dystopia and hope. In the infinite tape loop of memory and imagination, Babbage’s Dream posits a Turing Test in which the reader circles both anxiously and gloriously through aspects of making, maker, and the made.” —Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of Dandarians. Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, March 1, 2017 (Pt. 1, News, Theater, and Film)

It is awards seasons, with finalists for the Whitney Awards out and the AML Awards coming out. Julie Berry and Jeff Zentner were given some of the highest YA honors from the American Library Association, as well as being finalists for both Whitney and AML awards. Tim Slover’s play Virtue was widely praised and quickly sold out. The LDS Film Festival is happening this week. New books and reviews will be discussed in part 2, coming soon. Please send announcements and corrections to: mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Awards and honors

LDStorymakers, a Mormon author guid, announced The Whitney Awards finalists, awards that honor novels published by Mormon authors. The categories are: General, Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Speculative, Middle Grade, General Young Adult, Speculative Young Adult, and Best Novel by a Debut Author.

Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa was awarded a Pritnz Honor Prize by the American Library Association. The Michael L. Printz Award annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit, each year, it is the Oscar of YA literature. Congressman John Lewis and his collaborators won the main award for their book March: Book Three, a graphic novel about the civil rights movement. The Passion Dolssa was one of four books given an “Honor Prize”, for excellence in YA literature. Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, January 2017

We are in a lull after the year-end storm. Mette Ivie Harrison’s third Linda Wallheim mystery is drawing a wide variety of reviews. Josi Kilpack and Shadow Mountain have released their latest “Historical Proper Romance”, and Erin Summerill debuted with a YA fantasy/romance. A second adaption of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy debuted on a Utah stage for the second year in a row. Tim Slover’s newest historical play, Virtue, about the 12th-century Abbess Hildegard, debuts next month. The schedule for the Life, the Universe, & Everything symposium has been announced, and includes two presentations sponsored by AML.  Please send announcements and corrections to: mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

time-and-all-eternitiesKilpackEver HuntedVIRTUE-SHOW-SM-01LTUE


News and blog posts

Life, the Universe, & Everything: The Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy will be held at the Provo Marriot Hotel on February 16-18.. Dan Wells will be one of the Guests of Honor. Other special guest include Larry Correia, Lisa Mangum, Michaelbrent Collings, David Powers King, and Dennis Packard. See the schedule here.   Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, December 2016, Part 2: New books

There has been a flood of books the last two months. The Mormon academic presses (The Maxwell Institute and Greg Kofford Books) have started to publish more literary works, including Ashley Mae Hoiland’s creative non-fiction One Hundred Birds Taught me to Fly, and Scott Hales graphic novel The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl.


In the national market for adults, there is Stephenie Meyer’s new thriller The Chemist, Andrew Hunt’s 1938 Salt Lake City mystery Desolation Flats, Amy Harmon’s romantic thriller From Sand and Ash, and Dan Wells’ satirical thriller Extreme Makeover.


As always it is the national market young adult and middle grade novels which fill these columns. They include, on the younger side: Steven Bohls’ Jed and the Junkyard War, Shelly Brown’s Ghostsitter, Shannon and Dean Hale’s The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation, Tess Hilmo’s Cinnamon Moon, and Elaine Vickers’s Like Magic. For young adults, there are strong reviews for Dean Hughes’s WWII drama Four-Four-Two, Aprilynne Pike’s dystopian Glitter, and Carol Lynch Williams’ paranormal Messenger. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

glitterfour-four-twolike-magic Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, December 2016, Part 1-News, etc.

Since I am covering two months, I will split this post into two. This first post will have news, theater, film, reviews of old books, and bestsellers. The second post will have the new books which have been recently published.

We mourn the loss of Brent Yorgason, one of the pioneers of commercial LDS fiction in the 1970s. There are lots of end of the year lists coming out. YA authors Julie Berry and Jeff Zentner are appearing the most, including prestigious lists like the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. YA authors Brodi Ashton, Kasie West, and Kiersten White are also appearing quite frequently. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.


In Memoriam: Brenton Gayle Yorgason (1945-2016)

yorgasonBrenton Gayle Yorgason, age 71, was surrounded by family as he passed away on the October 28, 2016 from Parkinson’s with Lewy Body Dementia. He was born in Mt. Pleasant, Utah to Gayle and Beatrice Yorgason, and grew up in Nephi and Provo, Utah. He served a mission in Florida and Puerto Rico, and then attended BYU where he met “the love of his life,” Margaret Yates. They had a whirlwind courtship and married in the Manti Temple. Soon after he was activated in the Army and sent to Vietnam. Yorgason learned to write while serving as a unit typist in Vietnam. After duty, he would write a daily letter to his wife back in Utah. “He wrote me every single day that he was gone,” Margaret says. “I think he developed his talent writing love letters to me. I have a scrapbook with all of these precious letters.” Returning home, he completed his Bachelor’s, Masters, and PhD in Family Science with a minor in Marriage and Family Therapy. He spent several years teaching Seminary, and taught in the Family Science department at BYU. In the 1970s and ’80s, he co-wrote several LDS books with older brother Blaine, including The Bishop’s Horse Race (1979) and Chester, I Love You (1983). The popularity of the books launched both Yorgasons as motivational Mormon speakers in the 1980s and ’90s. He wrote and published 105 books, over 40 of which were biographies. He enjoyed writing many books with his brother Blaine. The paintings they did together were used as the cover of many of their books. Continue Reading →

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