The LDS Writing Mafia

By Julie Wright

Dave Wolverton (Farland to those who know him by that name) sent out a “daily kick” yesterday that talks about Mormons and the writing community. It was a fun look at the LDS writing community and what makes us different, special, and so darn prolific. According to Dave, when it was announced last year that a new Utah author  had received a major contract on a the first book in her young adult series, a few people complained online that there must be some sort of “Mormon Mafia” with secret ties to the New York Publishing industry.

I’ve actually heard that before. I attended the Rutger’s One on One conference in New Jersey. As soon as anyone discovered I was a Utah Mormon, the jokes started.

  • There must be something in the drinking water dredging up creative processes for you Mormons.
  • Your pope must be telling you to write children’s literature so you can indoctrinate the youth of the world.
  • Are you planning to be the next Stephenie Meyer?

I’d like to discuss for a moment as to the possible reasons why the LDS community is so large and so well written. Ever since I began attending church as a teenager, I have been taught many things. One of the things that has really affected me through the years was the consistent and persistent lessons on talent. I’ve had young women leaders, seminary teachers, college professors, and the first presidency themselves telling me that my ideas had worth. I’ve been taught to develop my talents, share my talents, believe in my talents. I’ve been warned against burying my talent in the dirt. I’ve been told intelligence is the glory of God.

The first reason I think there are so many LDS authors is because we’re taught to dream big and develop ourselves — to fulfill that divine spark of creation that we all have.

The second? I went to a writing conference last year in San Jose. I made a new friend who commented on how she’d never seen so many people willing to help each other in any business as she did at that conference. A good portion of us there were LDS. We help each other because we’ve been taught to be nice and remember the golden rule, and to share in the sand box. It carries over into our professions. Not saying all of us are nice (I’m not always nice–just ask my kids), but we’re taught to be nice.

The third reason I feel so many of us are drawn to the fantastic elements of writing fantasy and science fiction is a bit of a repeat from something I learned from Orson Scott Card. We like the sciences as a people. And it makes sense for us to like the sciences. With science, you are given a hypothesis, you are encouraged to prove or disprove the hypothesis by extensive testing, and the results will always turn out the same if you followed the formula.

I remember the first time I read the Book of Mormon. My seminary teacher handed it to me and hypothesized for me that it was true. He then gave me the instructions for proving or disproving his hypothesis. I had to read it and then ask for myself with a sincere heart if it was true. That test was the springboard for my own testimony. If one infuses all the ingredients into the test, the results are predictable. As a people, we believe in worlds without number, so populated planets on the edge of some other galaxy isn’t science fiction so much as an inevitable truth. To write of aliens, or epic battles of good versus evil isn’t much of a stretch.

Is there a Mormon Mafia with connections to the New York publishing industry? I wish! I have a few manuscripts I’d love to see on the Times list. Plus . . . I think I’d look great in one of those pin striped suits with a smashing black fedora . . .

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4 Responses to The LDS Writing Mafia

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    Great post. I know that back during my BYU days, I used to speculate that the common LDS background was one of the reasons why the sf&f community at BYU was so different from what you found in most places. There was a high emphasis not just on getting together, but on getting together and then doing something: publish a magazine, bring guests and have a symposium, bring professors and have them talk about how their field intersects with sf&f. There was a sense of mission.

    I think, too, that those long years of leadership training in Young Men, Young Women, seminary, missions, etc., bore fruit as well. Growing up Mormon, even the most total bookworm/geek gets experience in working with others and helping to organize things. There’s a baseline level of social and organizational competence. Or so I used to hypothesize.

  2. Wm Morris says:

    I also wonder if the emphasis on reading scriptures (with that KJV language) and keeping a journal and writing talks also leads to a higher proportion of people with a facility and love for writing and language.

  3. Julie Wright says:

    That is an excellent point. Our actual literacy is encouraged with the encouragement of scripture reading and journal keeping. Excellent, excellent point!

  4. Ross writes from Florida says:

    Well presented and very interesting. Brigham Young was an advocate and defender of science, history, the arts (language, visual, performing, and of course music). Not only was he instrumental in making the desert bloom agriculturally, through commerce, but also educationally. We are taught early that we are to seek that which is uplifting and increase our knowledge of God’s creations. That includes our talents as a child of God. I really enjoyed your view.

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