In July, I wrote about my experience at Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. The short version is: it’s one week of awesome. Card’s instruction is great for sharpening skills of invention, arrangement, and style in your fiction. He’s also got a great sense for what the gold in a given piece is: people left Boot Camp excited about revision because Card gave them a stronger vision for what their piece could be. For devoting time and money to Boot Camp, you get both craft and energy.
After the fun of the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest, I’m wondering if we could make an experience for a group of twelve or so Mormon writers (in any genres) that left participants both with greater specific craft insights about issues in Mormon writing and with new ideas and energy for future projects.
Even if we go classic Mormonly cheap and have unpaid instructors hold classes in a meetinghouse or someone’s dining room, six days is a lot of time to give in one chunk for a field where no one makes money. But if we assigned readings in advance, then held class for three days and kept expenses low, would you be willing to use vacation days and pay for travel to participate?
Here’s a hypothetical agenda:
Morning session: Audience Baselines
-Talk about current obstacles between various extant audiences and Mormon Lit. What concerns/stereotypes do readers have about Mormon Lit that writers ought to know they’re up against? How can writers quickly establish credibility with readers leery of the broader field?
Afternoon Session: The Sacred and the Mundane
-This has been talked about a lot as a fascinating site in Mormon thought, but raises some very practical writing questions. How do you write the sacred? What role does the mundane have in works that aspire to speak of the sacred?
Evening session: Invoking myth
-One of the best parts of being a serious Mormon writer is that you have an incredible wealth of myth–from scripture, history, folk belief, etc.–to draw on. What techniques do effective writers use when invoking myth in their literary work?
Morning session: Building Zion
-Scott Hales has studied the utopian tradition in nineteenth century Mormon literature, elements of which persist today. Arguably, Mormon writers of the 20th century from many different camps continued to use literature to imagine Zion (albeit often by identifying obstacles in the way). How can Mormon writers create characters or images that both gesture toward a better alternative and also come across to audiences as accessible and realistic? How can Mormon writers avoid the common trap of the shallow straw man ideological antagonist?
Afternoon Session: Writing Difference within Mormonism
-How can a writer depict an experience or character with a different Mormon experience than their own–for example in culture or region, conversion experience, family context, or level of comfort in the community?
Evening session: Workshop assignment
-We would do short writing exercises as part of each session, but on the second evening we would give a longer writing assignment and give participants time to write a more formal piece to workshop the next day.
Morning and Afternoon: Workshop
-The best part. Twelve great Mormon writers, getting live face time to speak to each others’ works in progress.
Evening: Publishing and Audience Building
-After workshop, we would talk about how and where one might publish Mormon Lit and how to build the audience for your work specifically and the field in general. Then we would make some resolutions and disperse.
…and that’s the plan I made up on the spot this evening.
What do you think? If it actually were to happen this coming summer, would you be interested in applying for a master class like this? What sounds intriguing on the rough hypothetical schedule? What sounds less useful?