I will be on vacation next week, so the next column will be on Feb. 18th. Please send announcements and such to mormonlit AT gmail.com.
Columns and news
The Whitney Awards finalists were announced on Tuesday. 35 books in 7 categories, with the winners to be announced at the Whitney Awards Banquet at the LDStorymakers Writers Conference, May 7. There will also be two special awards, Rick Walton will receive an “Outstanding Achievement Award” and Susan Evans McCloud will receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Congratulations to all of the nominees.
Whitney Awards: Behind the Scenes Annette Lyon pulls back the curtain on the Whitney Award process.
Josi Kilpack, the current President of the Whitney Awards Committee, also gave a detailed view of the judging process in a series of blog replies starting here. Kilpack wrote in reply to a comment expressing frustration that Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist was not chosen as a finalist. I share the frustration, how was a novel by a Mormon author, listed as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best 10 books of 2010, and named the Best Novel of 2010 by Entertainment Weekly, not considered for a Whitney Award? I can only guess that the judges found the content too far out of their comfort zones. It is too bad. Kilpack’s comments came as replies to an excellent post by James Goldberg called On Envying Jewish Lit.
Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market. The second in my annual review of Mormon literature. I interviewed most of the publishers for insights on their companies, and asked authors to comment on their experiences with each publisher.
Cedar Fort has announced the hiring of additional publicity staff, and the redesign of their website, including a new company blog. Also Writing Fortress, an independent blog written by Cedar Fort authors, ran an interview with Cedar Fort Publisher Lyle Mortimer.
Tristi Pinkston is running a Best Book Trailer Contest, with entries due by midnight, Feb. 14.
Theric interviews Dan Wells in Dan Wells & Serial Killers & Thematically Related Stuff (A Motley Vision), and Wells claims horror “is the most moral of fiction.”
Backsliding in the Latter Daze: Reviews of Levi Peterson’s “The Backslider” and Jack Harrell’s “Vernal Promises” A review by Scott Hales (The Low-Tech World), who teaches English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati. A fairly strong recommendation of The Backslider, less so of Vernal Promises. Says “ both novels get you thinking deeply about the atonement of Jesus Christ” by centering on characters who fundamentally misunderstand the atonement.
Douglas Thayer’s “The Tree House”: A Good Way to Spend Ten Bucks (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World. Very strong review, calls it “one of the best Mormon novels ever written”.)
“Dangerous Encounters,” or Life After Kerouac: A Review of Coke Newell’s “On the Road to Heaven” (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World. Sympathetic but critical review, says it lacks narrative focus.)
Bumpy Landings by Donald J. Carey (Chris at Reading for Sanity, 3 out of 5 stars, A light “happily ever after” read with a predictable ending.)
Magdalene by Moriah Jovan (Theric praises a novel (which he edited) as a significant Mormon erotic (not pornographic) work).
Miles from Ordinary, by Carol Lynch Williams. (Kirkus Reviews starred review. “This absorbing portrait of a 13-year-old girl and her struggle to cope with her mentally ill mother transports readers to hope, fear and horror . . . . Far more frightening than a ghost story, the novel achieves complete realism as Williams shows readers events through the eyes of a young girl whom the child-protection system has failed.”)
Paranormalacy, by Kiersten White. (Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury, AML. Mixed review).
Blink of an Eye, by Gregg Luke. (Karen Hamilton, AML. Favorable).
Key Lime Pie, by Josi Kilpack. (Karen Hamilton, AML. Favorable).
New York Times Bestsellers, February 6th.
#20. TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (12th week). Up from #23.
#34. THE LOST GATE, by Orson Scott Card (2nd week). Back after being off the list for a week.
#16. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford. (35th week). Up from #17 last week. Up to #62 from #73 on the USA Today list.
#18. RUTHLESS GAME, by Christine Feehan (4th week). Down from #11. Down to #51 from #39 on the USA Today list.
#24. THE OVERTON WINDOW, by Glenn Beck (4th week). Down from #21. Down from #139 to #145 on the USA Today list.
Children’s Chapter Books, Hardback:
#9 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (8th week). Down a spot.
#8 THE MAZE RUNNER, by James Dashner (14th week). Up two spots, passes Hush Hush, which it had been trailing all month.
#10 HUSH, HUSH, by Becca Fitzpatrick (17th week). Down a spot.
#7 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephanie Meyer ( 181st week).
Prove Orem Word, Feb. 2011. Issue No. 13.
Theme of “Modern Love”. Contains “Failure”, a short story by Stephen Tuttle, the third installment of Dennis Marden Clark’s epic verse on Joseph Smith, and Eric Samuelsen’s review of the Sundance Film Festival.
A little, happy production of “Little Happy Secrets” (Utah Theater Bloggers, Mirandi Giles)
“Dial Tones” impresses and inspires (Utah Theater Bloggers, Andrewa Gunoe)
Eric Samuelsen’s new full-length comedy HE & SHE Fighting: A Love Story, produced by the New Play Project at the Provo Theatre, will run February 10-12, 14, 18, 19, and 21. A painfully funny (and sometimes just painful) look at one couple’s relationship as chronicled by the times they hate each other most.
Here are some links related to Midway to Heaven, the feature film directed by Michael Flynn and based on a novel by Dean Hughes, which will open in ten theaters in Utah on February 4. Co-star Michelle Money is currently a contestant on The Bachelor, and is producing some publicity that the movie makers may not be thrilled with. The film got good buzz out of the LDS Film Festival, but the three Utah newspapers gave it mediocre reviews.
Deseret News Review: Mormon Film Only Makes it “Midway”. 2 stars out of 4. “(left) the viewer wanting more connection to the characters, more development of relationships and more fun . . . walks that thin line between the LDS film genre and a movie in which the characters just happen to be Mormon. However, LDS terminology is blaringly clear, and it would be difficult for a non-LDS viewer to understand most of the phrases used . . . In context of the evolution of the Mormon film genre, it’s a respectable effort. The film has beautiful cinematography and showcases the Wasatch Front at its best. Whether it will reach audiences beyond Utah is a question. But for this demographic, it’s a perfectly adequate film.”
Salt Lake Tribune Review：A Snoozy LDS Romance. 1.5 stars out of 4. For the hardcore LDS crowd, this adaptation of a Dean Hughes romance novel offers a family-safe script, uplifting values and a few Mormon code words (“served my mission,” “visiting teacher,” etc.) to make you feel comfortable. For everyone else, it’s an edge-free story so devoid of tension that it serves as a sleep aid . . . Michael Flynn, making his directing debut, captures some beautiful Utah scenery as he tries unsuccessfully to pump some conflict into the sluggish story.
Daily Herald Review: Meekly Mormon “Midway” doesn’t find it happy medium. Grade: C. “You get the feeling that the movie is fine about hanging out with Mormons, but also keeping its options open. What if someone cooler or better-looking wants to go out with it? . . . Why bother to make your main character identifiably Mormon if you’re going to be so timid about having his faith dictate, oh, anything at all about his approach to problem solving? In Ned’s moments of greatest crisis, the filmmakers resort to the hoary gimmick of having Doussett deploy various grimaces while an on-the-nose Christian pop ditty narrates his inner turmoil. The sort of thing with lyrics like, ‘My life is tough / but everything will probably be OK / in the end / Jesus take the wheel.’”
Latest Mormon film focuses on story, not religion (Deseret News Feature story).
‘Heaven’ help us: New film could help Mormon cinema bounce back (Daily Herald Feature story).
‘Midway to Heaven,’ from best-selling LDS author Dean Hughes (An interview with Dean Hughes on Steven Kapp Perry’s Cricket and Seagull podcast).
The LDS Film Festival was held January 26-29. Among the award winners were Michael Flynn (“Pioneer Award”), Adam Abel (“Visionary Award”), Jonathan Steven Green (Short Film Competition), and Jorden Nash (24-Hour Filmmaking Marathon group leader). Dawning of a Brighter Day contributor Mahonri Stewart was one of the finalists in the Screenplay Competition, the winner of which has yet to be announced.
LDS Film Festival 2011: Day 0/Day 1 Report (KevinB, LDS Cinema Online)
Midway to Heaven, B+ “Probably the funniest LDS comedy since The RM, and the dramatic elements work well, too.”
The Book of Life, B+. “Like fellow Italian Roberto Benigni, Marco Lui is adept at physical comedy (and uses jokes and humor to distract attention from serious situations). This beautifully-shot Italian fable centers around spirits’ journey from the preexistence to mortal life and beyond.”
A Christmas Wish a C+, “Has some good moments and a positive message, but is a little too “Lifetime-y” and religiously shallow to recommend whole-heartedly.”
LDS Film Festival 2011: Day 2/Day 3 Report (KevinB, LDS Cinema Online)
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, A-. “Daryn Tufts has created a film that is sharp, hilarious, and just about brilliant in terms of structure and writing.”
The Real Life Singles Ward, B. Documentary by John Moyer, the author of the The Singles Ward movies. “There’s a lot of insightful commentary about a variety of dating aspects . . . There’s a lot of humor here (I dare say this film is a lot funnier than The Singles 2nd Ward, a supposed ‘comedy’) as well as heartfelt commentary, and virtually all of it rings true.”
Jonah and the Great Fish, B. “The first feature-length film in the Liken series . . . The singing, acting, and other non-sound-related production qualities in Jonah are the best in the series”.
Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates, B-. “I found it dreadfully slow and I can’t give Vuissa a pass on execution here, no matter the good intentions . . . A great many scenes consist of movie characters sitting around a table telling other characters about things that happened off-screen . . . a well-produced, respectful portrait of Joseph Smith as a young man and may appeal to non-discriminating LDS audiences looking for Sunday School-level re-tellings of faithful Church history. However, from a movie perspective it has a lot to be desired.”
New Joseph Smith film is a labor of love for director Vuissa (Mormon Times)
‘Book of Life’ showcases Mormon Italian comedian Marco Lui (Mormon Times)
The Final Day in the Life: My Experience Creating “The End.” (Adam K. K. Figueira, LDS Cinema Online, about the LDS Film Festival 24 Hour Filmmaking marathon.)