The Future of AML: Part One of Numerous

Theric’s recent post led to an outpouring (120 comments and counting) of ideas and speculation on the future of AML, how to get there, and who will take it there. I noted that I would try to assemble said gush of words into something concise and actionable (as in, “ready to be acted upon,” not, “grounds for a lawsuit”). The following attempts to be comprehensive, but I certainly may have missed or misunderstood certain comments. Please feel free to offer further revisions, corrections, questions, gripes, etc.

Alright, then. To business. As suggested by Wm, the following is divided into two parts, “triage” (what needs to be done now) and “ambitions” (what can be done later, once the victim is stable).

NOTE: If your name appears at the end of an item after “Volunteers” do not fret. You have not been locked in. I am just going off of what I gathered from reading the comments, trying to cast a broad net. Hopefully, individual assignments and responsibilities will be finalized in time.


Website - There seems to be a very solid consensus about this one. If we can get the website back up and running and add as much content as possible (reviews, archives, the history/narrative of AML, etc.), our visibility skyrockets, our relevancy rises, and our community grows.  This also includes coordinating with Jeff Needle and Andrew Hall to better harness and expand their invaluable work. I like Tyler’s idea of helping to further Andrew’s efforts to curate and link to all manner of MoLit related content (the “bazaar” appeal as named by Jonathan L.). The Digital Humanities Now model (as suggested by Tyler) can (should) be adapted for AML. It needs to be a collaborative, sustainable effort. VOLUNTEERS: Elizabeth Beeton, Jonathan Langford, Dallas Robbins, Michael Ellis

Social Media - Facebook and Twitter. To drive traffic. To promote and remind and provoke and display. VOLUNTEERS: Scott Hales

Awards - As many pointed out, getting seriously organized with the awards gives AML standing as an arbiter of quality, brings together writers, readers, and publishers, and sparks thoughtful discussion (as well as controversy!). We need to come up with a transparent and systematic way of nominating and judging. VOLUNTEERS: Theric Jepson, Tyler Chadwick, Wm Morris (publicity), Joe Plicka, Margaret Young

Board/Leadership - We need a board that will meet (on the internet, of course), somewhat regularly. We need a treasurer to keep tabs on our finances. We need a secretary to maintain membership rolls. We need you. VOLUNTEERS: Scott Hales, Jonathon Penny, Joe Plicka, others I may have missed?

Recruitment - We need to court critics and writers who have drifted off, or are up and coming, or have just plain never heard of us. I know a couple people whose interests align with AML but have just assumed the organization was kind of asleep, or not interested in them (as Scott mentioned, some are unsure who AML is for). I hate how this feels like another version of “tell five friends,” or “shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to hear this glad message,” or, heaven forbid, “SPAM!” (as Mormons, that hits pretty close to home), but we don’t have to don the uniform and grab the bullhorn. Just selectively invite the most viable candidates to participate and let the internet do the rest. Jonathan Langford offered to scour some databases for stragglers who are doing work in MoLit but haven’t connected the dots to AML, and might be persuaded to share their work. Other efforts here could be fruitful.

2015 AML Conference/Seminar/Gathering - This is last under triage, because while it is something that we need to think about very soon, it’s not as urgent as the above. Hawaii is not going to happen until 2016. In the meantime, we could decide to do something this coming spring (or summer, or winter). Much has been bandied about. Should it be an online conference, a small gathering in conjunction with another conference (MSH), or something along the lines of Tyler’s proposed MoLit seminar (and/or creative workshop/seminar)? (In the future or even now, another discussed option was sponsoring a session at a larger conference like RMMLA, Sunstone, or maybe, someday, at MLA or AWP themselves.) If Tyler’s seminar idea gets traction, I would be glad to participate. It sounds like it has the potential to deeply engage a small group of willing but distracted folks and produce something memorable and meaningful that could go right up on the AML website. VOLUNTEERS (includes those who suggested or expressed interest in any of these ideas): Scott Hales, Tyler Chadwick, Joe Plicka, Theric Jepson, Jonathon Penny, Wm Morris



AML/LDS Writers Workshop Hawaii 2016 - I’m on this. It’s undoubtedly a beast to even think about. It could be incredible. Thank you for those of you who gave me feedback on your desires/abilities to attend. The big question right now is timing. February, May, or July? Then we tackle scope. And housing. VOLUNTEERS: Joe Plicka, Margaret Young, Luisa Perkins

Irreantum (or successor) - This is something I actually feel confident about offering to help with. My experiences with editing and publishing lit journals are not decades deep, but solid enough to stand on. Questions about money (printing, subscriptions) notwithstanding, there seems to be a fair amount of interest in having some sort of AML skin in the publishing game (does that expression make anyone else titter?). We can continue the discussion about format and audience on a future post. A few common themes: broader format, roving editorship and theme issues, online publication (maybe an additional print run). VOLUNTEERS: Jonathon Penny, Theric Jepson, Michael Andrew Ellis, Joe Plicka



Many more ideas were suggested that sound super dreamy and super awesome (many offered by Randy Astle). Maybe a day will come when AML has the personnel and resources to pursue things like:

MoLit online course (Tyler has led out on this so far and maybe it will become his thing apart from AML, it’s not so much a pie in the sky really, maybe it could even be serialized in Irreantum), AML podcast, smaller workshops/conferences around the country, a MoLit app, a web series, an AML Press (Amazon Fulfillment style)

Okay, so what did I miss? And where do we go from here?

And PLEASE, if you would like to add your name to any of these items, PLEASE let me know. We need as much or as little as you can give.

So far it looks like a smaller group of about half a dozen folks who are ready to pitch in. (And a few who are already doing all they can.) Not sure if that will be enough to carry us, but we’ll start down the road and see who else shows up. In the age of the internet, you never know who will drop by.

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In Tents #44 He is Risen and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do Part VI

And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

Jeremiah 36:23 

Every writer’s nightmare, that, and a few verses later every tyrant’s nightmare:

27 ¶Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying,

28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.

29 And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the Lord; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?

30 Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.

31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.

Toward the end of chapter 13 of Who Wrote the Bible? Richard Elliott Friedman quotes an ancient tradition, recorded in the Fourth Book of (ca. 100 AD) that the same thing happened to the original Torah scroll, burned with other Bible books “in the fire that destroyed the temple in 587 B.C.,” but “Ezra was able to restore it by a revelation” (224).

Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, Late September 2014

Be sure to read the discussion about the future of the Association for Mormon Letters in Theric’s Accountability to the little guy post at this blog. This month features: The 2014 League of Utah Writers awards and the Salt Lake City Weekly Artys awards were presented. The Maze Runner, based on author James Dashner’s YA novel, opened to much better box office and somewhat better reviews than Ender’s Game last year. The book is also at the top of the bestseller lists. Publishers Weekly focused on the efforts of Rick Walton as a key part of the success of Utah authors in the children/YA markets, and gave starred reviews to Julie Berry’s middle grade Victorian comic mystery and Craig Harline’s missionary memoir. An update on the plagiarism case. A call for papers from LTUE. New novels from several national YA authors. Two upcoming Mormon movies. And a Robert Lauer/Sam Cardon historical musical opened in St. George. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.


Salt Lake City Weekly Artys awards

Salt City Strangers

BEST COMIC BOOK: Salt City Strangers. Would you believe … the intercontinental railroad was part of a demonic plan to engulf the planet in evil once the final Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point? Fortunately, a group of heroes called the Salt City Strangers foiled the plot and have fought to keep Utah safe ever since. Chris Hoffman’s sharply detailed comic is steeped in local LDS culture (Deputy Deseret slings Porter Rockwell’s guns; Son of Bigfoot was discovered in Provo Canyon and raised Mormon; and then there’s the Gull), but Salt City Strangers—now two issues in—is ultimately a classic story of Good vs. Evil. If there’s anything Utahns love, it’s a tall tale about the righteous taking on the wrong-teous. Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 2 Comments

in verse #45 : The Power of the Editor

The text of his letter from Liberty Jail was published in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, in Times and Seasons in May and July of 1840, of which Joseph was nominally editor (this was the last transcription Joseph could have overseen). It was also published in the Deseret News and the Millenial Star, about the time it was being edited and excerpted for publication in Doctrine and Covenants in 1876. The latter editorial process interests me most in regards to Section 121, which consists of five excerpts from widely-separated parts of the letter. Sections 122 and 123 are single, coherent excerpts, not the mosaic that 121 is.

The letter begins in what one commentary calls “a high scriptural style,”[i] but it is worth noting that Joseph undercuts that immediately with sarcasm: Continue reading

Posted in General, In Verse, Literary Views of Scripture, Mormon LitCrit, The Past through Literature, Thoughts on Language | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Accountability to the little guy


This blog was down for several days this month because someone forgot to pay for the domain name or hosting or something rudimentary like that.

The accompanying website has been down for a long time for reasons unclarified.

I suspect that with the demise of Irreantum, membership in the Association for Mormon Letters is at a low, low ebb. If so, the number of people who have standing to demand that the AML organization respond to them are dwindling few.

Me, I paid up for a lifetime membership, so I definitely have standing, but who can I talk to about any of these things?

The president’s far away in Hawaii and Jonathan manages this blog, but other than that, I know nothing other than that Jonathan had to contact some mysterious other person to get things running again.

About a year before Irreantum died, there was some asking from the then-current editors for help, but since then I can’t recall hearing anything from anyone about what’s needed. Maybe it’s because I can’t get to the annual meeting. I don’t know. What I do know is that this blog seems to be the only way I get news, but it’s written by members and friends of the AML—not leaders thereof.

Who’s accountable? If I want to help or I want to complain or I want to be part of the solution or I just want any sense of anything, where do I go?

I’m not looking for someone to crucify; I just have no idea what’s going on.

What is the AML anyway, and who runs it?

Posted in Announcements | Tagged | 120 Comments

Enid vs. The Real vs. The Not Real

I’ve been doing more cartooning (and teaching) than criticism lately, so I haven’t had much time to come up with new posts for this blog. But since Dawning of a Brighter Day up and running again, after several days’ rest no doubt, I decided I owe it something.

Below is one of my latest Enid comics–the second that deals specifically with Mormons and fiction. (The first appeared on this blog “pseudo-anonymously” several months ago.) In it, Enid tries to explain why members in her ward are “uncomfortable” with fiction, ultimately tying it in to ways Mormons–in America, at least–seek for truth.

What are your thoughts?

NOTE: I should say that I post this not to reopen the science fiction vs. realism debates, but to maybe invite new insights into the evolving role of fiction in Mormon society. Also, I also want to say that Enid’s grouping of science fiction with escapist literature is not to suggest that it is escapist, but rather that it often perceived and treated as such by readers seeking a reprieve from the daily grind of life.


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Complexity in the Children’s Literature Corner

Once I wandered into a stone courtyard where a beautiful and abstract marble sculpture turned on a pedestal. Two white benches formed a right angle facing the piece, and a columned loggia on the far side showed a lawn bordered by tall cypress trees in the distance. I stood and watched the sculpture for a few minutes, feeling somewhat disturbed by the speed of the turning base. It wasn’t going fast enough to make me dizzy, but it was moving too rapidly for me to really grasp the shape of the work in my mind. One rounded knob on top seemed to evolve from the graceful loop at the top of a treble clef into a whorled groove like the soft curve of a conch shell. Then, before I could put the whole shape together in my mind a jutting, angular facet spun into view and the previous smoothness I thought I saw was lost. It was very disconcerting. Continue reading

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YA Corner: Reading by Moonlight

My friend has a freshly painted periwinkle blue home. It is a striking change of color after 20+ years of being a pleasant light tan. One of her teenaged sons had a “Eureka!” moment and felt an urgent sense to paint the exterior walls blue. To be sure, he may have caught some of his inspiration from his mother who had recently dipped brushes in several paint cans to beautify the bedrooms and bathrooms. At any rate, it was only a matter of days before the thought became a reality. In addition to the tall planks of periwinkle, there is now a front porch painted a deep red. And front steps painted alternating colors of the red and blue. The home looks charming and welcoming — perfectly matching the warmth of the delightful people who live inside. I say live “inside” the home but now with an eye-popping large front porch, it is as if there is a whole new outdoor room to claim as living space. In fact, the family now regularly spends evening time reading out on the porch. They bundle up in blankets if the evening is cool and unwind with conversation and books.

In less than a week this family will have one more thing to enjoy about their outdoor room: a Harvest Moon in the night sky. I am not a great whiz at astronomy, but that never stopped my enjoyment and wonder at the time of Harvest Moon. September 8-9 is the designated Harvest Moon night when a full moon is closest to the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. I tend to feel that the Harvest moon is bigger, brighter and more colorful than other full moons, and there are songs (who really can resist the Neil Young tune?), stories, and some scientific facts to back me up.

Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, Early September 2014

Rachel Ann Nunes has filed a complaint in federal court against a Utah teacher, accusing her of plagiarizing one of Nunes’ books and then harassing Nunes after she was caught. Salt Lake Comic Con is going on, with lots of Mormon authors participating. No Mormons won Hugo awards. I caught up with the several books published by Mormon authors at Xchyler Publishing. Saints and Soldiers: The Void opened nationally. There is a fascinating review of the career of animator Don Bluth. National novels arrived from James Dashner, Shannon Hale, Jolene Perry, and Courtney Miller Santo.

News and blog posts

Rachel Ann Nunes’ lawyers have filed the complaint in federal court over the plagiarism of their book. John Dopp reports that the suspect, a Utah schoolteacher, “has been served with a summons to appear in Federal court on complaints of copyright infringement, defamation, false light, injurious falsehood, harassment, false advertising, and deceptive trade practices. If the suit is successful, she faces statutory damages of $150,000.00, plus damages for each sale of the infringing work, damages to compensate for the other allegations in the complaint, and attorney’s fees.” Although the suspect has been named, Nunes says “I make a plea for my supporters to refrain from bullying, name-calling, or attacking the defendant online.” Continue reading

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in verse #44 : The Poet Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith was imprisoned in the jail at Liberty, Missouri — across the Missouri River from the equally ironically-named Independence — from 1 December 1838 through 6 April 1839, along with five others: Caleb Baldwin, Alexander McRae, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight.[i]  During that time he received visitors, including members of his family, and corresponded with members of the Church, personally and officially.  He was treated more generously in Liberty Jail than he had been in the Richmond County courthouse, but it was still imprisonment, and he was still penned with 6 adult men into a basement roughly 14 feet square, while awaiting trial.

“Liberty Jail” has become for Mormons the equivalent of a Zen koan Continue reading

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