Introducing Joe Plicka, AML President-Elect

I wrote to Joe asking if he would like to introduce himself on the blog. He kindly sent this letter to be posted. I am excited for the coming year!

To tell you the truth, I’ve been putting off writing you back because I’m feeling a little strange and bashful about the whole thing. Here’s the basic story if you’re not already aware: I am a newer assistant professor at BYU – Hawaii (somehow my bio on the BYUH website says I’m an associate professor, which is a mistake). Awhile back Margaret Young contacted us about hosting the next AML conference here in Laie. We agreed to look into it, and I ended up being put out in front of the project for several reasons: 1) I’m the new guy, 2) I’m a Mormon, a writer, and teach the creative writing classes here, and 3) we in the department had talked about hosting some kind of an LDS writers workshop/conference in the same vein as some that were done years ago when Chris Crowe was teaching here, and this seemed like a good opportunity to make that happen. As an outsider to the organization, I can’t speculate on exactly why I was named president-elect of AML (it still makes me chuckle to say it out loud), but I’m operating on the assumption that it is just because I’m the on-site point person for the (possible, hopeful) conference in Hawaii and this is a way to make sure I do that job and integrate myself into the AML community (more on that later). 

Here are the reasons for me to feel surprised and rather awkward about it:

- While aware of the AML and some of its members, I myself have never been a member of AML. I did attend the conference one year as an undergraduate at BYU Provo in . . . 2000?

- Actually, that’s pretty much the main reason. I feel like Louis XVII, (who became “king” of France when he was eight, never reigned over anything, and died in prison three years later), the emperor without clothes, Ben Affleck when he was cast as Batman, etc. For you and others, I can imagine it’s a little bit like, “Wait . . . who?” And then, “Why?”

- I am not a scholar of Mormon letters, or a big name, or even a small name, in Mormon literature. In fact, I don’t think I have published anything, or ever really written anything that is distinctly “Mormon.” I’ve thought about it, but haven’t mined that part of my personal and professional experience yet. I’m a big Brady Udall fan, if that counts for anything. And I want to get into some more Stephen Peck. And I did study with Darrell Spencer at Ohio University.

But wait! Here are the reasons for me to feel delighted and excited about it:

- I’m excited about hosting (hopefully!) the AML conference in Hawaii.

- I have respect and admiration for many people associated with AML, people who I’ve been taught and influenced by (like Bruce Jorgensen and John Bennion in Provo), people who have given me a hand up (Tyler Chadwick, when he included me in _Fire in the Pasture_), and people I have admired from afar (like (Th)eric Jepson, not that I wouldn’t admire him up close).

- This is a chance to get involved in a new community with people I respect and admire. And learn a lot of stuff from folks smarter than I.

- Hey, someone wants me to be president of something!

I hope this doesn’t come off as me taking lightly something that many people have labored to build and nurture over many years. I feel like, in my situation, I have to have a sense of humor here. And the bottom line is: while I care about the AML and its mission and history, I don’t care about being the president. I know it’s essentially a name for a job with more responsibilities than powers and privileges (although it might get me another course reassignment here, which would be super nice). If it sticks I will do my best to fulfill the position. I know, only from some things Margaret has said, and from creeping a little bit on Twitter, that the organization may be going through a lean time. I don’t know exactly what all will happen this next year. But I would like to get to know you and others in the AML, pursue new lines of reading and inquiry, and help put on a successful conference out here in the middle of the ocean if we can make it work.

I am wide open to any advice, counsels, questions, warnings, or offers you may have for me. And I appreciate you making me feel welcome here.

I am adding this section from Joe’s BYU-Hawaii bio


Joe Plicka completed a double B.A. in English and Latin American Studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (2002), where he also received a M.A. in English (2006). He earned his doctorate in English Language and Literature at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio (2011) and continued to teach literature and creative writing there for another a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor. His dissertation was a collection of short fiction (Stories for the Mongrel Heart) and an essay analyzing the inner workings of storytelling and arguing for the unique and powerful place that fictional discourse holds in any culture.

While at Ohio University, Joe also spent two years as the editor of Quarter After Eight, a national literary journal, and as an organizer of Ohio University’s long-running Spring Literary Festival. He has taught introductory literature and composition classes, beginning and advanced creative writing workshops, and courses on the form and theory of fiction. He has published short stories, poems, and is at work on a couple of novels. In his other lives, he worked as a journalist, P.E. teacher, care provider at a group home, maintenance man in the dorms at UC Davis, brick cutter, pipe painter, and paperboy.

Joe married Emily Austin in 2001. Emily also teaches in the BYU Hawaii English Department as a Special Instructor. They have two children.

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17 Responses to Introducing Joe Plicka, AML President-Elect

  1. Th. says:


    This is happy stuff. I’m enthused by new people entering in and why the heck not from the top?

    Not that I generally feel like people should emulate Facebook, but I feel like telling the president-elect to move fast and break stuff.

  2. Jonathan Langford says:

    Congratulations, and welcome aboard!

  3. Andrew Hall says:

    I hope there is an institutional history that will be passed on to Joe (records, by-laws, etc). In the past there have been Secretary and Treasurer positions, do they still exist? Out of curiosity, I did a search for past AML presidents. A lot of the information comes from Kent Larson’s publishing the AML Annual table of contents a few years ago.

    Several of the years are inexact, as the whole “President-Elect” thing can be confusing, and I am not sure if the year they did a “Presidential Address” was the same year that they were president.

    Maureen Ursenback Beecher, 1976
    Eugene England
    Lavinia Fielding Anderson, 1983
    Margaret R. Munk?
    Edward A. Geary
    Linda Brummett
    Levi Peterson, c. 1989
    Bruce Jorgensen, c. 1991
    Richard Cracroft c. 1993
    Ann Edwards Cannon, c. 1995
    Susan Elizabeth Howe, c. 1996
    Robert M. Hogge, c. 1997
    MaryJan Munger c. 1998
    Neal W. Kramer, c. 1999
    John Bennion, c. 2000
    Marilyn Brown c. 2001
    Cherry Silver c. 2002
    Gideon Burton c. 2003-2004
    Melissa Proffitt?
    Linda Hunter Adams, 2006-07
    Eric Samuelsen, 2007-2009
    Boyd J. Peterson, 2009-2010
    Margaret Blair Young, 2010-2013
    Glenn Gordon, 2013-2014

  4. Joe Plicka says:

    Thank you Th., Jonathan, it’s nice to be here. I’ll probably break plenty of stuff, if only on accident. Just point me in the right direction.

    Andrew, that’s quite a list. How many of those folks are still involved in, like, AML stuff?

    • Andrew Hall says:

      I don’t know a lot of them. Bruce Jorgersen, John Bennion, and Boyd Peterson were all at this last AML Conference. Susan Howe, Eric Samuelsen, and Marilyn Brown are actively producing creative writing. Margaret is of course active. Linda Adams and Cherry Silver are both actively involved in history/non-fiction kind of endeavors. Gideon is at BYU, although I don’t think he has been doing anything about Mormon literature these days. Levi had a story in Dialogue a couple of years ago.

  5. Jess says:

    Congratulations to Joe! I am an outside observer to AML as well, but I know Joe and I know he’ll do a great job.

  6. Levi Peterson says:

    I have been a member of AML since its beginning. I was glad to serve as its president once. I follow its email offerings on a daily basis. I am sorry that my domicile in Issaquah WA is a great distance from the sites of the annual conferences. It’s a good cause, and I’m glad to see Joe Plicka take it on.

  7. Scott Hales says:

    I’m really, really optimistic about this move. It could be that an “outsider” and a change in venue is what AML needs right now.

    Has an AML conference ever been held outside of Utah?

  8. Jonathan Langford says:

    The bane of AML as an institution has been the busy-ness of its members. People of the caliber this organization attracts are generally overcommitted, with new projects coming on board all the time. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of those like myself who have been active in supporting roles are located far enough away from the centers of Mormon culture that it’s harder for us to have our time dragged away by other related activities. But an AML conference in Minnesota would be a bit of a stretch, I think.)

    And of course the organization’s other bane has been the lack of institutional support from BYU in recent years for Mormon literature in general. But that’s an old complaint of mine…

    Meanwhile, Joe — and all the rest of you — I encourage you to contribute to the discussion here at the blog from time to time. It’s a fun group, but we’ve gotten very small of late. And thanks to Andrew for reaching to post this!

    • Wm says:

      Agreed, although part of the issue has been that the AML has been slow to embrace activities that could be chunked into smaller units and/or accomplished remotely.

  9. Jonathan Langford says:

    I should add that it will indeed be wonderful if you can get a course relief for (is that what you mean by a reassignment?) for your work with AML. In addition to planning the conference, there’s a lot more that could benefit from any time you can afford to devote to it — most notably outreach to start building the community again.

  10. Wm says:

    Thanks for the introduction, Andrew and Joe!

  11. AML is going through “lean years?” Believe me, it has never been “fat.”

    I am totally impressed by this comprehensive account of what looks like a great new president. After all these years I still believe in AML. I love the mission of producing literature that doesn’t ignore the GREAT features of Mormonism. Congratulations, Joe Plicka. You are WELL qualified and if you have the passion burning, you will continue to inspire all of us! Thank you for accepting.

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