2007 was the conference where I heard the paper on poetry about Eve by young LDS female writers. In ten or fifteen minutes, I was treated to a wide range of poems I’d never heard of, along with thought-provoking analysis of what the patterns in the poems suggested about the way a generation of women in the church were seeing this world and their incredible potential in it.
2008 I will think of as the year when Angela Hallstrom read from her novel “Bound on Earth” during the evening reading at Charlotte England’s. The passage she read was funny, engaging, and oddly resonant for me–though I have never been a teenage girl with strong feelings for her dashing young high school English teacher, I have felt something akin to her disappointment and alienation when she overhears him speaking in dismissive terms about his young Mormon students. To be able to sit in a home with stained glass windows carrying Restoration and Book of Mormon images while listening to Angela read like a great storyteller should and at the same time to feel as though I were in high school in Ohio navigating my own double-minority experience as a multiethnic Mormon again is something I will not soon forget.
It’s moments like these that keep me invested in conversations about Mormon letters.
Since my family and I will probably be leaving Utah this summer, the February 27 AML Conference will likely be the last I get to attend for some time. What might I experience this year?
Here’s what I’m most looking forward to:
1) I’ve already seen “Coriantion: A Story of Unholy Love,” but I’m hoping to have a good conversation or two about it between sessions. I’m as interested in the story behind the film as in the film itself: what projects woud we put ourselves on the line for the way Lester Park did, and what would we be trying to acheive in the process?
2) I’m looking forward to Carol Bradley’s presentation on “Books of Remembrance: Historical Fiction in LDS Literature.” I’m intrigued by the way that title ties the LDS emphasis on memory and keeping books of remembrance with a fiction form many LDS people seem to particularly enjoy. I’m deeply invsted in memory: will she give me some hint as to why, and what I, as a reader and writer, might do with that?
3) I’m encouraged by the presence of at least four presentations (by Katherine Morris, Gideon Burton, Katherine Cowley, and Kjerstin Evans) on online LDS writing. One of the primary struggles in Mormon Art is how to reach a national and international LDS audience that’s widely dispersed. I’m hoping online forms will provide a way to do so meaningfully, and am hoping to hear something about how that is taking place, or might take place.
4) Since I’m presenting in the same session, I’m guaranteed not to miss Jared Tamez’s presentation on “La Voz del Desierto,” a late-nineteenth century Mormon publication in Mexico. I’m interested in this because of my family’s own history as Mormons in Mexico, and because it’s nice to see attention paid to the Mormon cultures outside of the church’s geographic center.
5) I’ll be sure not to miss the evening readings by award winners. Who knows what experiences and ideas these great Mormon writers will tap into this year?
If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us at the conference, because it might just be a conversation with you that makes this year’s conference particularly memorable. If you’re not in the area, I hope you’ll still be able to hear about or see fruit from the conference. Will writers be changed in some way by the new ideas they hear? Will scholars find new and useful ways to talk about what’s happening in Mormon letters?