2013 Everyday Mormon Writer Events

It’s a new year, and that means a new set of contests (and a class) through Everyday Mormon Writer. We’ll be holding a second Mormon Lit Blitz, a master class devoted to issues in Mormon writing, and a contest for work that uses scripture in interesting ways.

Hope you’ll join us for one or more of this year’s events.

Discussion: Your take on the Four Centuries contest stories

James Goldberg’s Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest was a fantastic opportunity to get a look at twelve excellent visions on Mormon short-short stories told from a wide variety of viewpoints and structures. Each story was posted online, and open discussions hosted on various blogs in the greater Mormon literosphere. Contest winners were selected by popular vote.

Not surprisingly, my vote only hit on one of the four winners; all of the twelve finalists were fine stories and I suspect they were mostly bunched up together. While I can’t complain about the winning selections, it did surprise me a little that my pick for number one didn’t place at all.

I think hearing peoples’ top four (or five or six) stories would be interesting, and a polite discussion around reasons would be enlightening in seeing how different readers responded to different things from their unique viewpoints.
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Tips for Bringing your Setting to Life

 David Farland often teaches writing workshops, and has trained a number of people who went on to become international bestselling authors—people like Brandon Sanderson in fantasy, Brandon Mull in middle-grade fiction, and Stephenie Meyer in young adult fiction.  He’s also the lead judge for one of the world’s most prestigious writing competitions for science fiction and fantasy.

Here’s a lesson on setting.

Years ago, I was reading a book on writing by a teacher from the American Film Institute.  She said near her opening something to the effect of, “Here is a list of the top 50 bestselling movies of all time.  Look it over, and see what elements they have in common.”

I quickly scanned the list, and in a matter of moments found three similarities, but to my astonishment the author followed her list by saying, “See?  They have nothing in common.”  She had failed to observe what was instantly obvious.  The first thing that these films had in common was that they were all set in another time or another place.  By that I mean, whether they were science fiction, fantasy, or historical, they all worked hard to transport their audience out of their chairs.

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Four Centuries Contest Discussion: “Little Karl”

The first finalist in Everyday Mormon Writer‘s “Four Centuries of Mormon Stories” contest is Melissa Leilani Larson’s “Little Karl,”which is based on real events in Larson’s family history. Because the stories are relatively short and publicly accessible, this contest gives us an opportunity to talk about specific works we can all be familiar with. We’ll be holding a discussion of each finalist on a different blog starting with a discussion of “Little Karl” here today.

Some opening questions:

What are you initial responses to this story?

How do you see this story interacting with the larger genre of pioneer stories?

Scott Hales recently posted a challenge to Mormon writers and critics “to reflect more deeply, meaningfully, and aggressively on the ‘ongoing negotiations’ between Mormonism and the world.” Where does our history and mythos of persecution fit into our contemporary engagement with the larger society? Is this mythos a barrier to or an asset in productive contemporary writing about Mormons and the larger societies they inhabit?

ABNA Contest “Wins” Contract for LDS Author

The best thing to happen to recent University of Memphis MFA graduate Courtney Miller Santo was her failure to win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Santo, whose first published short story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2011 edition of Irreantum, learned about the ABNA through her associations with the AML and entered her MFA thesis, a novel titled Roots of the Olive Tree. As she made the first cut from 5000 down to 1000, the second cut to 250, and then became one of the 50 semi-finalists, it began to seem possible that maybe, just maybe, she had a real shot at winning the contest, scoring a publishing contract and $15,000. Fortunately, that dream did not come to fruition. She “lost” when the top 50 was cut to the top three. 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 →

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 →

Two Announcements and a Pronouncement

First, two announcements:

1.  The first annual Segullah Writing Reatreat is coming up on Saturday, June 26 in Salt Lake City.  It’s going to be fantastic.  Although Segullah’s audience is primarily female, the Writing Retreat is open to both women and men.  The retreat also welcomes writers of all experience levels, from professional writers to bloggers to dabblers.  You can’t beat the price–especially considering the tasty catered lunch and dinner offerings–and the company will be great, too.  Join us!

2.  Don’t forget that the deadline for Irreantum’s fiction and creative nonfiction contests is coming up soon.  May 31st!  So whip those stories and essays into shape and send them our way.

And now, instead of an announcement, a PROnouncement:

Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist, which officially hit the shelves today, is going to be huge.  I’m still not finished with my advance reading copy–the book’s over 600 pages long–but I haven’t been this excited about a novel in a good long time.  Publisher’s Weekly recently called the novel “a serious contender for Great American Novel status,” and I can’t help agreeing.  (Well, as much as the idea of the Great American Novel even exists, or ought to exist, as a construct.)  The novel is sprawling and funny and heartwrenching and sad and insightful and full of charity for its fallible (and loveable) cast of characters.  And, yes, there’s sex in it.  And swearing.  Not all Mormon readers will be able to get past some of these elements, it’s true.  But for me?  The novel is brimming with goodness and heart.  And there’s some knock-your-socks off prose to admire as well.  Like I said, I haven’t finished the novel, so don’t consider this my be-all-end-all review, but now that the book is officially available in stores I wanted to take this chance to encourage those interested in Mormon literature to scrape together twenty bucks and buy it.  I’m certain the novel will get a good deal of attention from the national market, but I’m hopeful that Mormon readers will embrace it as well.

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