“Dean Millman, Artist”

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Few things give me as much instant delight as running across a stack of old church magazines. Something about the printing and production and images chosen makes me so happy. (I feel this way about all old magazines, but, say, a New Era from the early 70s is particularly exciting because it’s utterly foreign from my personal experience yet so close to what I know. So close, yet . . . that’s not my life. Bumping into a letter to the editor from a missionary named Orson Scott Card? That experience for me is not the experience of a 15-year-old who first read it walking up from the mailbox forty years ago.

Anyway, reading the magazines online is nowhere near as cool. Besides the lack of anything to touch or smell, the older magazines have no images—it’s just reformatted text. (I’m referring here to the post-correlation magazines. If you go back further and look elsewhere, you can find that visual experience.

But I do occasionally look at old magazines online anyway. One nice recent find useful to AMLers might be this article regarding amateurism and Hugh Nibley. Or this one about a kid named Dean Millman. Continue reading

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2014 Mormon Literature Year in Review–Part 2, Mormon and Independent Markets

See also Part 1, National Market.

This section looks at literary books published by LDS publishers, independent publishers, and self-publishing. There was a slight decrease in books produced by the largest Mormon publishers, and that decline looks like it will continue at least next year. On the other hand, there was a spike in books from boutique publishers like Mirror, Trifecta, and Xchyler. As a result, the total number of Mormon-authored literary works produced by publishers increased substantially. Meanwhile, self-publishing continues to surge.

Generally book sales in the United States were up in 2014, after several years of decline. Although ebook sales leveled off after several years of growth, audio books had a significant spike in popularity, reflecting the widespread use of smart phones.

It appears that sales have not yet rebounded for the major Mormon publishers. They especially feel squeezed by the heavily competitive practices of Amazon, which limits the profits that individual publishers can make. Besides their power as a bookseller, Amazon has also recently invested heavily in their own publishing imprints. YA authors Charlie Holmberg and Jessie Humphries are two LDS authors being published by Amazon imprints.

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Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 20 Comments

In Tents #50 This Jesus Whom Ye Slew and Other Texts That Don’t Behave Part II

Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose I told you there were thousands of errors in the first edition of the Book of Mormon–not necessarily in every copy, but in the first edition as a whole–or more precisely that there are nearly 4000 changes between the first edition and the 1981 edition. Would that shake your testimony? Should it?

Suppose I said it differently, “The Book of Mormon, the most correct book on earth, has 3,913 corrections.” (Read that with a sneer. Those or similar words begin Jerald and Sandra Tanners’ classic 3,913 Changes in The Book of Mormon.) Would my words shake your testimony? Should they?

My guess is that the answer to either question would be “No.” No, the fact of changes, corrections and errors in the Book of Mormon don’t upset or unsettle you, and no, you don’t see any reason why it should. And that lack of seeing doesn’t indicate some willful blindness on your part, some desire to avoid unpleasant facts, some lack of serious thought about the implications changes in sacred texts. Indeed, if I pushed you on it you would probably quote the first section of the Doctrine & Covenants,

“These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.”
–D&C 1:24

You might say something about the scriptures not being dictation, that prophets write in response to a command to write the vision,

And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
–Habakkuk 2:2 

or even invoke Moroni’s comment about the imperfection of prophets,

Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.
–Mormon 9:31 

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The Business Side of Writing: “Making It”

I’m watching a very interesting discussion on social media right now. I won’t reveal identities or titles, but suffice it to say it begins with an author outlining a New York publishing deal she rejected and while the community by and large has been very supportive of her decision not to take the deal, there is some lamenting that they don’t feel like they’ve “made it” without a traditional publisher and bookstore distribution. Many if not most of them, incidentally, make a living from their indie publishing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those indie authors who is anti-trad. Most of my close friends are traditionally published and making a living this way. I have seen the system work and work very well. I’ve had indie friends and acquaintances switch over to traditional publishing and benefit from having money up front and better distribution upon release.

What intrigues me about this conversation is that anyone who makes their living from writing would consider themselves somehow lesser than people who sign truly awful traditional publishing deals that do not enable them to make ends meet. One could say this is evidence of an indelible stigma against self-publishing, but I actually think something else is at work.

Writing, whether you self publish or go with a publisher, requires you to work for yourself. You create your projects, set your deadlines, and you might hire subcontractors to negotiate deals or edit your work, but at the end of the day, you are your boss. This means that there is no one else to promote you, to declare you a “real writer.” There is only you. Now, there are a lot of reasons that people use to justify denying themselves this promotion, so let’s go through some: Continue reading

Posted in Business Side of Writing | 4 Comments

2014 AML Awards Finalists

The Association for Mormon Letters is happy to announce the finalists for the 2014 Association for Mormon Letters Awards. The final award winners will be announced at  an “Introduction to Mormon Lit” AML Conference tentatively scheduled for March 28 in Orem, Utah.

The AML Awards have been presented annually since 1977. You can see the list of past awards here.

Creative Non-Fiction

To the Mountain: One Mormon Woman’s Search for Spirit, by Phyllis Barber. Quest Books Hemingway on a Bike, by Eric Freeze. University of Nebraska Press Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled But Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary, by Craig Harline. Eerdmans Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, by Ingrid Ricks. Berkley

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Criticism (2013-2014)

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The (New) Amateur World of Writing and Publishing

Amateur. It’s an ambivalent word — much like its opposite, professional. On the one hand, bound into its very etymology is the noble notion of doing something out of love, rather than for profit or because it is simply one’s job. On the other hand, there’s the sense that standards of quality are inevitably lower for work that no one is paying for. “Amateurish” is a pretty substantial insult.

It used to be that most of the writing people read for entertainment or information was bought and paid for. And maybe that’s still true overall, or for some people. But not necessarily. There has, I think, been a sea change over the last twenty or so years — one that we are still seeing the fallout from, in terms of its impact on the writing and publishing worlds.

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Posted in Community Voices, Electronic Age, Publishers Corner | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment