New Voices: Cynthia Whitney discusses the need for diversity in LDS fiction

When I was asked to blog here on AML, I struggled to decide how I could best contribute to discussions. I landed on the idea of voices: we have a lot of discussion here on AML about the state of Mormon Literature, but (I believe) not enough voices in our community. With this in mind, I will be interviewing a different LDS author each month about the LDS writing communities they belong to. I’ll be asking about their experiences working with LDS publishers, as indie authors, or as writers working toward publication. I’ll also be collecting opinions about what they feel is working well in LDS literature, and what they feel could change for the better.

I am hoping that, in bringing fresh voices to the discussion, we will gain ideas about how to broaden AML’s reach, meet some unmet needs in the LDS writing community, and cultivate more diversity in AML.

To that end, I chose for my first interview Lucinda Whitney, an independent author of LDS romance. Continue Reading →

King Josiah

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[NOTE: Nothing about this post is intended to impress your seminary teacher. I’m playing loose with the facts which facts are themselves at best loose. Don’t argue the past. The past is not the point. The point is the past.]

[NOTE 2: This post was written under the influence of powerful prescription medication. Glancing through it a day later, hooboy but is that obvious.]

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So King Josiah becomes king and finds the scriptures and he’s like what? Scriptures? That’s cool. And he gets the people to start worshiping the Lord God and doing away with some of the other gods which is mostly good unless you were into Heavenly Mother then you might find his methods a little too thorough but whatever. His scribes start piecing together what words of God are still around and we end up with some weird things like people being created twice but lots of other things would have been lost forever if he hadn’t acted so it’s probably a net gain. Plus we got Deuteronomy now, so that’s pretty great. Even Jesus quotes Deuteronomy. Continue Reading →

Positioning AML: Guest Post by William Morris

(Administrator note: This guest post by William has been in the queue for a while, so I’m taking the opportunity to post it now. I hope we can use it to continue/restart the flourishing conversation about the future of AML from a couple of weeks ago. I’d like to also put in a plug for related posts like this one and this one over at A Motley Vision. It’s the AML Moment! Or could be.)

I’m delighted by the reaction to Theric’s post about the dormancy of the Association for Mormon Letters. There have been numerous great ideas and responses posted in the comments to the thread, and I don’t want to dampen that discussion, but I do want to expand on my comments on positioning and think about that and organizational structure in a way that’s parallel to all the awesome specific ideas and feedback taking place.

Brief Aside/Full Disclosure/Credential Flouting
Please note that a few times over the past decade (or more), I have advised several people affiliated with AML on marketing, positioning and organizational structure. Some of that advice was implemented. Most of it was not. I’m not angry about this at all. I understand that change is difficult and the last 10 years, in particular, have been hard on organizations, especially those in the humanities. But this time, I’m going to do this out in the open. Because it seems like we’re at that point. And I also could be wrong about things and this is the best way to find that out. That being said: brand positioning is one of the key responsibilities for my day job as a marketing director for a private, non-profit college. I also serve on the marketing committee and helped with the start up of a classical-education-focused charter school (K-12). Which means I have a lot of experience working with non-profit organizations that are trying to figure out where they fit and what they do and how they operate. Continue Reading →

Accountability to the little guy

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This blog was down for several days this month because someone forgot to pay for the domain name or hosting or something rudimentary like that.

The accompanying website has been down for a long time for reasons unclarified.

I suspect that with the demise of Irreantum, membership in the Association for Mormon Letters is at a low, low ebb. If so, the number of people who have standing to demand that the AML organization respond to them are dwindling few.

Me, I paid up for a lifetime membership, so I definitely have standing, but who can I talk to about any of these things?

The president’s far away in Hawaii and Jonathan manages this blog, but other than that, I know nothing other than that Jonathan had to contact some mysterious other person to get things running again.

About a year before Irreantum died, there was some asking from the then-current editors for help, but since then I can’t recall hearing anything from anyone about what’s needed. Maybe it’s because I can’t get to the annual meeting. I don’t know. What I do know is that this blog seems to be the only way I get news, but it’s written by members and friends of the AML—not leaders thereof.

Who’s accountable? If I want to help or I want to complain or I want to be part of the solution or I just want any sense of anything, where do I go?

I’m not looking for someone to crucify; I just have no idea what’s going on.

What is the AML anyway, and who runs it?

Solving the Mystery of Writing Step #2

In a previous post, found here http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=4064 we discussed Solving the Mystery of Writing and Step #1 Finding Your Voice. Today I’m continuing my 6 Steps for Writing Success with #2 Make Writing a Priority/Write Every Day

If you’re going to be a writer, you have to make a decision based on the importance of this goal. Are you willing to give up something to attain this goal? Are you willing to sacrifice? As mentioned before, many people want to write a book, but only a scant portion of those are willing to give up their free time to buckle down and do it and then keep working to get it published. You don’t have to give up your life and become a hermit and live in the woods by yourself, but you probably will have to rearrange how you spend your time.

For me, I’m choosy about how I spend my time. I don’t watch much TV and I’ve learned to complete tasks quickly. I’m a stay at home mom with four young children and I like to garden, sew, make cards, attempt to keep a clean house, teach my six and nine year olds piano, and complete my church callings. I also help kids with homework, cook/prepare three meals every day, blog, promote my books, dabble with my website, READ, do laundry, change diapers…you get the picture, this is nothing new. But where do I find time to write? I have to create those writing windows because writing is a priority for me.

If writing is important enough to you, you’ll make a space for it in your busy life. If not, then ten years from now you may not have finished that book you started. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want. If it isn’t, then decide where your priorities are and move on to the next step of this writing tip.

Write Every Day
You’ve probably heard this before. You must write every day! Well, guess what? I don’t always get to write every day. In fact, last week I didn’t write anything on my new novel because I worked to finish up another revision on a different book. Does that mean I’m suddenly going to fail as a writer? No, it means that life has been a bit crazy and I’m working back into the groove of writing daily. The point I want to make here is that if you miss a few days of writing, don’t consider yourself a failure. Turn the computer back on, pick the pen back up and begin writing. You will hear so many rules in writing and sometimes I think people get bogged down by the rules and feel insecure if they’re not doing everything “right”.
Yes, you should make a goal to write every day. When I’m working steady on a novel, I feel a compulsive need to write every day and I can’t stop thinking about the thread of the story and where I want it to go. Often, my characters haunt me to finish their story and I’m compelled to run back to the computer and type out a few more lines. I love meeting my goal of 2,000 words a day, but I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t happen because that doesn’t do me any good. I also allow myself a day off here and there. I don’t work on my novels on Sunday, instead I try to focus on journal-keeping and family history, but it’s amazing what that bit of writing exercise does for me!

So for this part of the tip, I’d like to suggest that you write every day or work on your story five days a week at least, be it research, outlining, revising, whatever–just work on your writing every day. If you can’t do that, stay positive and ask yourself what is possible for you at this stage in your life. The most important thing to remember is that every book is written the same way–one word at a time.
Writing is hard work! I wish you the best and encourage you to discover and complete your goals. Good luck!

How do you make writing a priority? How do you motivate yourself to write?

The Mormon Ibsen: A Tribute to Eric Samuelsen

When I discovered that Eric Samuelsen was retiring from BYU as the playwriting professor, I have to admit a little bit of my heart broke. In many ways it may the best decision. From what I understand, Eric’s battle with polymyositis, a degenerative auto-immune disease, has been tough and painful and has limited his freedom to do what he would like to do. So retiring from BYU may have been inevitable. Yet the good he has done there, the good he has done Mormon Letters, the lives he has impacted along the way–I had hoped that he would still be forging the way for Mormon Drama at BYU for many years to come. He is not only one of Mormon Drama’s best representatives and talented pens, but also a man fierce intelligence, warm hearted kindness, and integrity. It is a great loss for BYU not to have him on their active staff anymore. Continue Reading →

Announcement: Help Wanted

Do you love AML and what it stands for? Would you like to help keep it alive? We’re looking for someone willing to do some of the very unglamorous work necessary to stay afloat. Currently, we are in desperate need for a Treasurer. Honestly, we’re not even sure what is involved in this position other than keeping track of financial matters and possibly helping with registration at the AML annual meeting.

We already have someone to pick up the mail, make all the deposits, write the checks, handle the membership database, and send out ordered copies of Irreantum. What we need a Treasurer to do is anything related to the accounting. Sorry—we hardly even know what that entails. We’ll figure it out together. Any takers? E-mail Darlene at youngbookshelf at gmail dot com.

The AML Review Archive

It may not be the best-kept secret in Mormon Literature, but sometimes we wonder.  The AML Review Archive contains over 1000 reviews of books, short stories, films, plays, and play productions, and even a few of music CDs, all pertaining in one way or another to the Mormon experience.   Links to the five most recent additions to the Archive are in the upper right corner of the AML home page, and new reviews are added frequently.

But there are hundreds of other examples of Mormon literature (literature by, for, and/or about Mormons) that have not been reviewed, or at least those reviews have not been included in the AML Review Archive.

One of the purposes of this post is to invite everyone to visit the Archive and look around. Continue Reading →

Consecrating Our Talents Etc.

A little over a decade ago, I had met several of my goals as a writer. I had won awards and published books. Strangely, I found that publishing wasn’t that big of a deal. Neither was winning an award. I even faced a rather embarrassing situation after I was given a medal for my fiction. I was joking around with my family and put the medal on, saying, “What if I really wore this thing?” Then, of course, I forgot that I was wearing it. Sure enough, company arrived, and there I was wearing my medal, as though it were part of my daily wardrobe. It was like answering the door wearing a tiara, swimsuit, and a queen’s robe.

I could write stories which made it into some good journals, but I wasn’t at all sure that a well-crafted sentence mattered much–certainly not nearly as much as it once had, when I was embarking on my dream to become a published writer. Now I really wanted to write something of importance, not just something that might win an award. I wanted to consecrate my talent, and I prayed for guidance to do just that. Continue Reading →

Announcement: The Dawning of a Brighter Day

In 1982, Eugene England surveyed the history and current landscape of Mormon literary production in a seminal article published in BYU Studies entitled “The Dawning of a Brighter Day: Mormon Literature after 150 Years.” There England celebrated the flowering of Mormon “faithful realism”; the publication of Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert’s anthology of Mormon literature A Believing People; the creation of a course on Mormon literature at Brigham Young University; and the foundation of the Association for Mormon Letters in 1976. He saw these as signs that Mormon culture was not only producing but beginning to recognize a unique literary heritage.

Nevertheless, England saw with clear vision that much of work remained to be done. He acknowledged that no scholarly bibliography of Mormon literature had been produced. He also recognized that a unique Mormon literature not only required writers but criticism, and he lamented that little had been done. Continue Reading →

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