The Founding and Early Years of Irrreantum

Christopher Bigelow shared with me several old Irreantum documents, including these two from 2000, during the magazine’s second year. First an interview with Chris and Benson Parkinson about the founding of the magazine, and second the text of a presentation given by Chris at the August 2000 Sunstone Symposium, part of a panel entitled “Little Mormon Magazines: Sinking, Swimming, And Treading Water“. Tory C. Anderson, who founded and ran the independent Mormon literary magazine Wasatch Review International in 1992-1996, also spoke at that session. Someone should republish and do a retrospective of that forerunner of Irreantum sometime. The post closes with some words of praise for the magazine from Irreantum readers. I am working on getting all of the back issues of Irreantum up on the AML Publications area of this website.

Unpublished interview with Chris Bigelow and Benson Parkinson, cofounders of Irreantum

Q: Tell us how Irreantum got started.

BP: I see Irreantum as largely an outgrowth of AML-List, the Association for Mormon Letters’s e-mail discussion list, which I’ve been operating for the past five years. We ran the online AML-List Magazine there for several years and developed a number of writers that have gone on to publish elsewhere. The first issue of Irreantum was more or less a guest issue of the AML’s old paper newsletter by AML-List columnists and subscribers. But I knew that Levi Peterson, the newsletter editor, was looking to retire and that our writers and editors might turn into a permanent staff. Chris Bigelow, then an Ensign editor, was the one to really make it happen. He’d been doing small magazines as a hobby since his teen years, when he got the subscription for one of his fantasy gaming magazines up over a thousand. He served as managing editor for the first issue or two of Irreantum, and I did my best to lie low and keep AML-List going, which was running me ragged. But I was in on all the early Irreantum meetings, and he and I talked extensively about content and tone and how to promote the magazine and reach the large potential LDS audience that reads literary fiction but isn’t currently interested in Mormon literature. Plus I’d help with editing tasks and drum up submissions to fill in gaps, and before long he asked me to come on as co-managing editor. It’s kind of been a joint production since, with Chris the first among equals. Continue Reading →

Now’s the Time to Subscribe to Irreantum

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the upcoming issue of Irreantum. (For those who don’t know, Irreantum is AML’s semi-annual literary journal.) I’ve been working through the last-minute details. I’ve been editing bios from our contributors. I’ve been updating information on the copyright page. I’ve been checking headers and footers for typos, and I’m happy to report that I’m thisclose to being finished with the issue.  Continue Reading →

2012 Literary Contest Winners

The Association for Mormon Letters and Irreantum magazine are pleased to announce the winners of our 2012 literary contests. This year we received 72 fiction entries, 41 personal essay entries, and 46 poetry collection entries. Entries were judged blind, and our contest committee had a number of strong submissions from which to choose. Continue Reading →

A Shameless Plug for Irreantum

If you’ve already received and read the latest issue of Irreantum, you’ll want to skip this post. It’s just a shameless Irreantum plug. But if you haven’t read the newest issue of Irreantum yet, I hope this post will encourage you to get your copy and read it cover to cover.

At the risk of sounding a bit self congratulatory, I want to say that this issue of Irreantum is stellar—chock full of interesting writing. The art in the issue—images of abandoned buildings by photographer Brian Atkinson—is also fantastic.

If you haven’t read anything from the issue yet, you can start right now. Below is my editor’s note from it. As you know, in literary journals the editor’s note is that bit at the beginning everybody skips. I’m including it here in the hopes that you’ll skip it and go read other stuff from Irreantum instead. But if you must read the following words, fine. I hope they’ll convince you to read the rest of the issue.

(If you’re not an Irreantum subscriber, you can subscribe here.)

Continue Reading →

Irreantum: Contests and Thank Yous

First I’ve got to shout hallelujah–we’re on WordPress!  Big thanks to Jacob and Johnna and Jonathan and anyone else involved in making the move to this new blog platform happen.  I love it already, and I’ve only typed a few lines.  And, look, I’m uploading a photo right now.  Lickety-split easy!  And a pretty photo too, of the cover of latest issue of Irreantum by featured artist Justin Hackworth, no less.

Speaking of  Irreantum, I have a few pieces of business to attend to.  First, we are now accepting submissions for our 2011 Literary Contests.  Please click here for rules and information.  Starting this year, all unsolicited fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry must be submitted within our contest window (Jan 1-May 31) according to contest rules, and all submissions will be considered for an award.  We’re particularly excited to add our new poetry contest to the mix and hope it will encourage more poetry submission to the journal.  We received a record number of excellent fiction and creative nonfiction submissions last year and we’re planning for a repeat performance in 2011. Continue Reading →

Three Big Irreantum Announcements

Irreantum has three big annoucements to make, which means this will be a lengthy (but information-packed!) post.  We want to tell you all about:

1.  Our Fall/Winter 2010 issue, which is going to press in a few days and will be mailed out in December.

2.  Irreantum‘s 2011 Literary Contests and our brand new poetry contest in particular.  We begin accepting submissions on Jan. 1.

3.  Our nominations for the 2010 Pushcart Prize.

Read on for more information about each of these exciting developments. Continue Reading →

Mormon LitCrit: Being Authentic

In August my wife and I went to see the rock band Rush in concert in Salt Lake City. For forty years Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart have been making records and touring the world. Now in their late fifties, they played as well—or better—than ever. The concert, held in the outdoor Usana Amphitheater, drew middle-aged fans, teens with their parents, and one couple, I noticed, who clearly looked to be in their sixties. The band put on a great performance lasting nearly three hours, without an opening act. It was quite a night.

Few people are neutral about the music of Rush. Folks either love them or hate them. As I stood in the crowd, singing along with Geddy, I was struck more than ever by the peculiarity of the life’s work of three nerdy guys from Canada. Geddy’s high voice rings out as he sings Neil’s lyrics—some of the most meaningful lyrics in the rock canon. Geddy plays his bass and Alex plays guitar, while both of them enrich their sound with the occasional use of keyboards and pedal synthesizers. Meanwhile, Neil leans into his massive drum set, hammering away like a mad scientist. These guys are truly a singular phenomenon in the history of music, with a sound of their own. People don’t mistake other bands for Rush. And this is one of the things that makes them great—their unapologetic insistence on being themselves. Simply put, they’re a lesson in authenticity. Continue Reading →

Agency and Storytelling

I just finished reading well over 100 entries to Irreantum’s fiction and creative nonfiction contests, narrowing them down to a set of semifinalists over which our contest committee can wrangle.  Reading all those stories and essays can be a bit of a slog, it’s true.  But it’s also one of my favorite things to do as Irreantum’s editor.  (In fact, I like to do it so much that I’m staying on as Irreantum’s contest coordinator after stepping down as editor at the end of this year.)

One of the reasons I enjoy it is because I’m a great lover of stories—stories of both the true and made up variety—and it thrills me to see story after story after story, each one original in its own way, being made about Mormon experience.  Some of these stories are better told than others, it’s true, but even the most amateur entry contains a kernel of a tale.  And the best stories?  (And there are some really good ones this year, I’m pleased to say.)  The best ones kept me glued to my computer screen, had me wiping away tears, helped me yearn or thrill or discover right along with the protagonist. Continue Reading →

Irreantum: A New Issue, A New Editor

We’ve been busy at Irreantum these days.  The submission window for our fiction and creative nonfiction contests just closed on May 31, and we received 90 fiction entries and 48 creative nonfiction entries, our most robust level of participation yet.  And even though that’s a lot of reading, the high response level is very satisfying to me.  It shows how many people out there are writing Mormon literature, and gives me great hope that we can find some excellent work to publish in Irreantum’s pages.

We also have an announcement to make.  The Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Irreantum will be my last.   Continue Reading →

Irreantum Contests: You’re Submitting, Aren’t You?

Spring is in the air (at least, it WAS in the air–right now it’s snowing), but at any rate, the calendar says spring is upon us, and that means Easter and conference and baseball and tulips.  And Irreantum contests! The deadline for the 2010 Irreantum Fiction Contest and Charlotte and Eugene England Essay Contest is May 31, so I expect that this spring, laptops all over Mormondom will be whirring as the writers among us polish and perfect their prize-winning stories and essays.

And YOU are among those writers, are you not?  Because you ought to submit.  These Irreantum contests don’t cost you a dime (we don’t even make you travel to the post office, since all submissions are received electronically). All we ask is that you pour your heart and soul and time and effort into creating a piece of art, then revise it, then read it out loud and catch all the wonky-sounding parts, then revise again, then ask your trusted friend who reads a lot of literature to take a look at it, then revise again, then go over your own personal check-list of the qualities good stories and essays need to embody, then revise again, then wake up at 3 a.m. one night and change that tricky part that’s been bugging you, then make your spouse (mother, visiting teacher, crazy uncle) read the story one last time, then do one FINAL revision, then read it out loud one more time and catch all the new wonky-sounding parts.  Then run spell check, and make sure your commas are inside the quotation marks, and remove any annoying adverbs in your dialogue tags.  And then . . . send it our way, with the hope that all your hard work will be rewarded by publication and/or a nice cash prize.

You only have until May 31 to accomplish all this, so get crackin!  We’ve been accepting submissions since January 1 and have already received an encouraging number of entries.  Irreantum publishes work by well-established professional writers, by new writers who’ve never seen their name in print, and by all those in-between.  We encourage ALL of you to submit and contribute to the cause of publishing the best-of-the-best in Mormon literature.

Here’s your contest info: Continue Reading →

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