2013 AML Awards

Glenn Gordon and Margaret Blair Young posted these award citations on the AML Facebook page, I am copying them here.

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an award
In creative non-fiction to

Melissa Dalton-Bradford
For her memoir
Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family

Melissa Dalton-Bradford takes her reader on journeys to humor and heartbreak, across borders of multiple countries, beyond unthinkable edges of grief, and into several languages. The reader is rewarded by a new sense of the world and of humanity, as well as by Dalton-Bradford’s poetic word crafting. Her book is a gift to all who read it.

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an award in film to

Garrett Batty
For his film
The Saratov Approach

Batty’s film, which he wrote and directed, will be remembered as an important mark in LDS cinema as it moved beyond the Mormon corridor to critical praise in New York and California. The Saratov Approach will be remembered in Mormon history as a film about two young men—kidnapping victims–who happen to be Mormon, but whose story is compelling for any audience member. The characters are well-developed, and the dramatic arc beautifully fulfilled in this fine work. Though we recognize that all films are collaborative, we honor Garrett Batty for his vision and passion which made his script come to life on many screens.

The Association for Mormon Letters presents Special Award to
Scott Hales
For his unique comic strip
The Garden of Enid

Enid is the kind of child you could easily love to hate: she’s opinionated, she’s bright, she asks hard questions and she’s very, very outspoken!
In his delightful comic strip, Enid reflects many of the doubts, concerns and feelings of all Latter-day Saints. Enid cannot be misconstrued – she’s Mormon through and through (whether she likes it or not). And lately, and of particular interest to those involved with the Association for Mormon Letters, Enid has been very vocal about the definition of Mormon Literature…

Through the eyes of this troubling teen, the reader has cause to reflect upon his or her own experiences in seminary, or sacrament meeting, or a boring Sunday school class. We may not always agree with Enid’s conclusions, but we are glad she has chosen to share them with us and may she continue to do so for years to come.

The Association for Mormon Letters presents
An award in the novel to
Sarah Eden for
Longing for Home

When I was asked to help judge the AML Award for novels I was immediately excited to read the literary fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy books. Very much less so the “women’s fiction”/romance category. Being a male, in my head I had a preconceived notion of romance novels and they were not anything that appealed to me. But to be a judge one must be unbiased and give all entrants a fair chance. So I picked up Sarah M. Eden’s “Longing for Home” first simply because it was the longest. I intended to read it, be done quickly, and move on to more interesting things without a second thought. So imagine my surprise when I found myself grinning at Katie’s decisive and cold rejection of pretty-boy Tavish in the opening pages. A few more pages and I was expertly drawn into Katie’s tapestry of problems. These characters had breadth, depth, and human complications and I cared about what happened to them. Every conception in my mind of what a “romance” novel entails was turned on its head by this book. I won’t give away details because you should read it for yourself, woman or man, but I will say that I laughed, I smiled, and yes, I cried. Sarah M. Eden has done a masterful job spinning a tale of drama, intrigue, and even some mystery; all while crafting human, believable, appropriately flawed characters. These elements are all sewn together into a haunting and memorable love story. Suffice it to say that this book is truly deserving of AML’s 2013 Literary Award for Novel. And I will be reading the sequel!

The Association for Mormon Letters
Presents the Smith-Petit Award
For service to Mormon Letters
Charlotte Hawkins England

From the time Charlotte and Gene England married and then served as missionary companions in Samoa, they were united on religious and artistic fronts—Charlotte as an artist and Eugene as an essayist and connoisseur of stained glass, Mormon literature, and Charlotte’s inimitable ice cream. Together, they showed the pattern of true companionship, the epitome of what Gene envisioned in his essay “Sweet are the Uses of Fidelity.”

In 1976, Gene co-founded The Association for Mormon Letters, and Charlotte offered their home for post-AML conference readings. Charlotte was more than a faithful companion to her husband, but an inspiration, sometimes a set of brakes, and always a radiant example of beauty and creativity.

She and Gene hosted not only AML award winners, but BYU students, poets (including Leslie Norris), church leaders, and provocative lecturers. Though they were accustomed to cabin living, they chose to build a roomy and well-appointed home so that they could host such events.

It is fitting that the Association for Mormon Letters Conference will now be moved to BYU-Hawaii, where many Samoan students (as well as other islanders) might help it blossom.

The Association for Mormon Letters honors Charlotte Hawkins England for the support and service rendered to innumerable students, writers, dreamers, and lovers of all good things.

Outstanding Achievement Award
Dean Hughes

In a field replete with novels exploring post-apocalyptic worlds, science fiction and fantasy, and vampires, lots of vampires; where themes are often dark and negative, Dean Hughes stands as an outstanding example of the power of the positive world view. With more than one hundred books published in his thirty-five year career, Hughes is not done with storytelling just yet.

From his numerous series of early reader chapter books and middle grade novels to large scale historical epics Dean Hughes has managed to traverse the perilous divide between LDS and non-LDS worlds and find fans in both. With a PhD in Literature, Hughes’ published works range from the esoteric to the intimately approachable; from the snappily titled: Romance and psychological realism in William Godwin’s novels to Nutty for President, he has produced a body of work that would be difficult if not impossible to emulate.

The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to acknowledge Dean Hughes for his outstanding achievement in literature.

Award for Young Adult Fiction
Citation for Cindy M. Hogan
For her novel

In her novel, Cindy Hogan has used a gentle hand to guide us through the lives and challenges of Billy and his friends in small town USA (with a southern drawl). This is a novel about friendships – what strengthens them and what can destroy them. It is also about grief and the pain of the unresolved. Using the metaphor of the grave digger, Hogan explores seventeen-year-old Billy’s need to “dig up” the past, literally and metaphorically in order to answer the burning question of who killed his father in a hit and run incident years previously. Billy’s mother just wants to forget and move on, so does Billy’s father figure, the local sheriff, and pretty much everybody in his town. However, with the discovery of a mysterious box in the cemetery, and at the prompting of his friend Henry’s cousin, Amanda (who had somehow between visits from Florida transformed for a know-it-all caterpillar into a very smart butterfly) Billy presses on.

Gravediggers is a novel with a resolution for Billy, an affirmation of friendship and the possibility of love in the future.

Award for Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Citation for Brandon Sanderson
For his novel
The Rithmatist

Brandon Sanderson teaches the reader many things in this innovative and delightfully quirky novel. We learn that the North America we know is actually the United Isles; that all mechanical objects work by clockwork mechanisms (including trains) and that Nebrask is a very dangerous place! We learn that chalk, in the right hands, has remarkable powers and that to succeed as a Rithmatist, you have to be a really, really good drawer – and a fast one too.
In a fantastic combination of steam punk, coming of age and murder mystery genres we are led on a wild ride filled with inventive details in a world that is neither future nor past but is somehow timeless. With illustrations by Ben McSweeney to help the reader understand the precise nature of rithmatics, we learn through the eyes of Joel and Melody, the intricacies of this discipline and its power as a form of warfare as well as the power of friendship. Along the way there is social commentary on the nature of privilege and power in society, however, as often holds true, an individual with passion and a dream can make an indelible mark.
Thank you, Brandon, for permitting us to take this fantastic journey with you.

The Association for Mormon Letters honors Ariel Mitchell for her play, A Second Birth.
Often in the past, in the Drama category, AML has chosen to reward authors who have written with insight and dramatic power about Mormon culture. But one of the great challenges for any writer is the difficulty in conveying and presenting the customs and world view of a different culture from the writer’s own. This is what Mitchell, with grace, intelligence and humor, has done in A Second Birth.
In contemporary Afghanistan, families who do not have a male child, will designate a daughter a bacha posh, a girl allowed to live the life of a boy. In a rigidly gendered culture, boys have real advantages, one of which, for an impoverished family, is the right to take a part-time job. And that small additional income may make a huge difference to the family economy.
Such is the case in Mitchell’s play. Nasima is known, to friends and neighbors, as Nasim. She has lived as a boy; attended an all-boys school, played on the school’s soccer team, and she has found employment; worked in a shop. She also has a best friend, Yasim, with whom she enjoys boyish banter, about his poor math skills and her weakness at soccer. Now, however, approaching adulthood, Nasima is told that it is time for her to embrace life as a woman. She must learn how to dress as a woman, how to comport herself, how to follow and obey, as a woman must. All these lessons come hard. And then she learns that her father has arranged a marriage for her. And it is with Yasim.
Nasim/Nasima’s struggle is conveyed with humor, compassion and real insight. And the play describes cultural practices very far removed from our own without condescension. Of course the subject matter of the play is politically supercharged, speaking as it does to such fundamental issues of gender and sexual difference. But Mitchell is wise enough to understand that the situation speaks for itself; that she doesn’t need to amp up the arguments the play presents.
The play is a comedy, and a gentle one. But Mitchell creates real human characters, not just Nasim/Nasima, but also characters like her father or mother, both of whom could easily have been stereotyped as villainous. And over the course of the play our own cultural prejudices melt away. The world of bacha posh feels very strange to us initially. But that’s the world these characters inhabit. And we join them in it gracefully and easily.

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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).  Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, April 2014

The AML Conference was held, awards were presented, and a new president announced. I hope this represents a new start after a difficult period for the AML. This month there are tons of Whitney finalist reviews, and lots of theatre reviews of new Mormon-authored plays.

AML Conference

The AML Conference was held last weekend in Orem. In lieu of any official announcements from the organization, here is what I can figure out what has happened, from tweets from participants Scott Hales (@TheLowTechWorld), Tyler Chadwick (@KingTawhiao) and Kjerste Christensen (@byu_librarian). I hope those involved will fill in the blanks of what I am missing.


Lifetime Achievement: Dean Hughes

Smith-Pettit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters: Charlotte England

Novel: Sarah Eden for Longing for Home: A Proper Romance

Theater: Ariel Mitchell for A Second Birth Continue reading

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The Business Side of Writing: Taxes

It’s that time of year, though if you’re reading this column for advice, you’d better get hopping. The deadline looms. It often amazes me how scary some people find taxes. Granted, I’m not normal. I started filing my own separate return after I’d finished training as a lawyer, which requires a class in taxation, so I was a little overprepared to do my 1040EZ. Nowadays, I sometimes do my taxes and I sometimes have them done, but it’s *very* important that you know how to do them yourself. Many a time I’ve seen people rave about how great their tax prep professional is because “he just gave us a bunch of worksheets to fill out and then he was done.” If you aren’t laughing now, I hope you will be by the end of this post. So lets start with the basics. Continue reading

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AML Conference 2014 Schedule

Association for Mormon Letters Annual Conference 11 and 12 April, 2014

Venue: Utah Valley University Library

Friday evening: (note this will be held in lecture theater LA101)

6pm Welcome and opening panel: New Mormon Theater (Eric Samuelson, Jerry Argetsinger, Scott Bronson) Moderator: Margaret Young

7pm. Reader’s Theater: “A Second Birth” Ariel Mitchell

Follow-up discussion of the play.

Saturday 12 April:

9.00am. Registration (UVU Library Lecture Theater – ground floor)

9.15. Welcome

9.30. (Track 1)  Joseph and Kay Darowski  (Track 2) Panel Discussion:
The Joseph Smith Papers. What Are they Good For? Teaching Mormon Literature
Christopher C Smith Margaret Young, Scott Hales, Shelah Miner, Boyd Petersen
Adoption of Ecstatic Native American Practices in Early Mormon Ohio Moderator: John Bennion
10.30 (Track 1) ) Lisa Olsen Tait (Track 2) Panel Discussion
Three Forgotten Women Writers of the Home Literature Movement Promoting New Mormon Fiction
Boyd Petersen Stephen Carter, James Goldberg, Shelah Miner
Historical Mormon Interpretations of Eve
11.30am Keynote Address: Lecture Theater Dr Michael Hicks (BYU)
“Inventing ‘Mormon Music’”  
12.30 Award Luncheon (box lunch $12.00) Lakeview Room in Library
2pm. Lecture Theater Performance of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” composed by Darrell Brown, BYU Idaho With text based on the short story of the same name by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this is song cycle/musical drama for solo tenor voice and accompanied by a consort of piccolo/flute/bass flute, eb clarinet/bb clarinet/eb contralto clarinet, cello, and percussion (marimba, vibraphone, chimes, congas, and bass drum).
2.30pm. (Track 1) Scott Hales (Track 2) Tyler Chadwick
New Mormon Fiction “Alex’s Tongue: Making, the Makar, and Mormonism”
3.30pm (Track 1) Jerry Argetsinger (Track 2) Harlow Clark
Gay Mormon Fiction Scattered into Jagged Pieces: Troubled Mormon Marriage Memoirs of Phyllis Barber, Carol Lynn Pearson, and Florence Child Brown
4.30pm Combined: Lecture Theater James Goldberg: “Why the Church Is Boring But Our Covenants Are Not”
  Stephen Carter: “The History of Book of Mormon Comics”
5.30pm End of the Conference




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How to Write a Bad Book Review

There was one other Mormon girl in my grade at my high school. We were actually really close friends, but the way we publicly approached our membership in the Church was very different. My friend was the type who asked others not to swear in front of her, gave copies of the Book of Mormon to some of our teachers, and complained when we had to read The Grapes of Wrath in our junior-year English class. I think she objected to the general coarseness of the novel, and particularly to the final scene that involves a woman breastfeeding a man. I, on the other hand, kept silent and mostly thought that I didn’t like The Grapes of Wrath as much as I liked East of Eden. Both of us were widely-read, fairly intelligent young women and were both active members of the Church, but our standards for literature differed significantly. Continue reading

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YA Corner: Hearts of the Children…

He dreamed of walking…bare feet becoming pale with the dust of powder-soft dirt. In passing the tall milk barn, its shadow covered him and cooled him. He did not pause but kept moving forward on a path as familiar as his own reflection. Ahead there was a lengthy fence with a gate. He opened the rustic structure by holding and contracting the weathered wood with one hand and simultaneously lifting the loop of wire on the top post. Beyond the now freely swinging gate lay acres of the same dark green plant, two and a half feet tall, covered in smallish rounded leaves and smaller deep purple blossoms — alfalfa.

Urgent steps led him through the field. There was work to be done, but where were his shoes? He rubbed his forehead with a puzzled gesture. He noticed he also had no hat to give protection from the fierce sun. “I am completely unprepared; what is wrong with me?” he thought. He made to turn back for shoes and hat, but instead continued on with an unstoppable forward momentum. As he walked he veered in a direction that eventually took him away from the alfalfa and to the top of a ravine. A faint path wound its way down into dark and hazy brush below. Wild plants and sage barged into the path, brushing roughly against his legs and prickling his feet.

Continue reading

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In Tents #39 Literal and Figurative Interpretation, or The Place is Called Gilgal Unto This Day

Here’s a paradox. I read scripture literally, and yet as I read letter by letter laterally through the word I keep seeing invitations to see the stories pointing toward something else. The writer of Exodus sees Moses as a new Noah being saved by a water-borne ark, while Peter sees the ark as a figure for the saving ordinance of baptism. Indeed, he even uses the word figure:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
I Peter 3:19-21

The Book of Mormon uses a good deal of Exodus imagery in I Nephi—with Nephi as Moses, and I sometimes wonder if Laman and Lemuel didn’t taunt Nephi by saying, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to slay us like you slew Laban?” (See Exodus 3:14)

Joseph Smith defends his vision by invoking Paul’s defense of his vision before Agrippa, and the Book of Mormon repeatedly asks questions like, “is there not a type in this thing?” (Alma 37:45)

I read the scriptures figuratively, trying to understand the deeper meanings in parables and scriptural events. “So, do we know anyone else besides Joseph Smith who was thrown into a pit? Yes, Jeremiah, and Joseph, and Daniel. Jonah, yes, and John the Baptist and the Savior. Pay attention in your reading to recurring patterns and experiences. Notice how often prophets share the same experiences.”

And if I start paying attention to recurring motifs and phrases, I notice how the figures moving across the page insist on the historic nature of events, naming places

Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.
(Joshua 5:10)

Continue reading

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in verse #39 : the lost leader

I raised the issue in my last post of the political and economic forces driving Romantic poetry, citing Roger Sales, who argues that in the Romantic authors we find apologists for the destruction of English rural life.[i]  Jonathan Langford, in a comment on that post, wrote that “while I’m willing to concede political implications of poetry (often unintended, and sometimes counter what was intended), I take a lot of convincing to see the political and/or economic as driving Romantic poetry.”[ii]  I’m not certain Sales is right — I’m still reading the book — but it seems to me that his main point goes more to the “unintended” element Langford notes, when he describes the pastoral as “deceptive and prescriptive. It offers a political interpretation of both past and present.…. provid[ing] sheep’s clothing for aristocratic wolves, or indeed for anybody who was on the side of the victors in the civil war which was fought for control of rural society.”[iii]  If you read Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” closely (and you can in that last post) you can’t help but see the link between the poet’s nostalgia for the past and the pastoral view of the world.  The poem is saturated in nostalgia.

As for the political and economic implications, I will respond here as I did to Jonathan’s comment:  note the injured tone of the poem below, and guess who wrote it, and about whom, and on what occasion:

The Lost Leader

Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat—
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Continue reading

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“Discourse on Leaves”


With the apparent demise of Irreantum and my own current thinkings lately on the demise of the Relief Society Magazine, may I present the last smidge of editorial content that latter organ ever published.

Relief Society Magazine---last poem ever published, last bit of editorial content

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