In February, the Mormon Lit Blitz generated around 10,000 reads for thirteen pieces of short Mormon Lit.
I don’t know the numbers for the WIZ poetry contest, but I suspect that the tight race there correlated strongly with a sudden spike in pageviews on the site. Some of the readers drawn in by the contest may have only visited the voting page and the pages with
their friends’ poems, but others had a broad experience with the site: two friends of mine, for instance, emailed me after having read all thirty-one competition entries with detailed discussions of their experience. Which is an impressive depth of engagement.
I am reasonably satisfied by this evidence that online writing contests are a good gateway drug to Mormon Literature. They seem to effectively increase both the number of people reading Mormon Lit and the number of people talking about it informally with friends.
Which is part of the reason why I’m so excited to be launching the “Four Centuries of Mormon Stories” contest. A few other reasons:
1) I think that putting Mormon stories set in the 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd centuries side by side will make each individual story richer. How much more fully will we be able to engage with an imagined future when we’re also seeing the past with new eyes? How much more will a contemporary story mean when framed by eras before and eras to come?
2) I hope the four centuries format will also be a good way for writers and readers of distinct genres to rub elbows with each other. There are tons of cool people working in speculative fiction, contemporary fiction, and historical fiction–but the crowds don’t always know each other well. I’m optimistic about the capacity of this contest to create an engaging space for fruitful encounters.
3) I wonder whether a contest giving a broad look at Mormonism–from personalized, emotionally accessible historical pieces to thoughtful, mind-bending speculative works–could gain some traction among non-LDS readers this October. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to talk about our heritage and culture in a wide, imaginative, artistic way rather than through the rather narrow bullet-list of controversies that have made up the bulk of recent media coverage?
4) With apologies to the majority of you who live far away from Pleasant Grove…I think the two incentive dinners we’re planning are going to be awesome. Both Melissa Leilani Larson and Eric James Stone are extremely articulate, engaging, and witty. Both of them also are great to talk with on either history/future topics or on writing topics, so it’ll be cool to interact with them at dinners that bring the two fields together (over my wife’s and my home Indian cooking, which I am certainly not too humble to brag about).
5) In addition to building readership for Mormon Lit, contests can be great nudges for writers. We got over two hundred submissions for the Mormon Lit Blitz: how many works will be produced for this contest?
So. If you are excited for the contest, help us out:
-Start working now on your stories, and start spreading the word to any and all LDS writers you know. Complete submission guidelines won’t be published until the end of this month, but everything you need to know to start is already available in the text of our first contest announcement.
-Take a little bit out of your budget to contribute to the contest prize chest. Tell people about helping out that way, too. Hopefully, the prize package will keep growing up through the end of the contest, but the sooner we can have a significant prize, the easier it will be to attract and motivate writers. Help make this contest the success it could and should be!
We’ll be running updates on this project’s progress on the contest page and the news tab of the Everyday Mormon Writer website. We’ll also try to post thoughts about Mormon experience during the four centuries the contest covers on our Soapbox column. Stay tuned.