In Tents #38 The Physical First, Then the Spiritual

On Sunday, October 15, 1843, Joseph Smith preached “at the stand east of the Temple.” He began by talking about the Government’s (capital letter his) failure to uphold the civil rights of the saints, then turned to the failure of religion to uphold people’s rights of inquiry, rights of access to God:

I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further;” which I cannot subscribe to.

I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. (DHC, vol. 6, p. 57.)

We often see one or the other paragraph quoted separately, but not as often together, yet together they redefine our relationship to scripture. The first paragraph separates creed from scripture, the second invites us to think about the rhetorical purposes of scripture and of the people who transmit scripture from one generation to another.

And the two paragraphs are scandalous. “Do you really think Jehovah God Almighty would allow his holy scriptures to have errors in them?” a woman asked a young missionary, who thought (at least in retrospect), ‘Of course I believe that. God didn’t protect the Book of Lehi, didn’t protect the Word made flesh, so why protect the word on the page?’

But the first is also scandalous. Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, February 2014

I missed Jennifer Quist’s Love Letters of the Angels of Death when it came out last year, check out the stellar reviews of this literary novel. The AML Conference dates have been announced. Julie Berry is named to another Best Of list. Mirror Press’s box set of Mormon-market romances hits the USA Today bestseller list. Eric Samuelsen’s play Clearing Bombs premiered yesterday, and revivals of works by Melissa Leilani Larson and Margaret Blair Young are also happening this month. The LDS Film Festival was held in Orem. The missionary comedy Inspired Guns opened to poor reviews and box office. Marilyn Brown has a new novel out, and Kasie West’s and Kiersten White’s new paranormal sequels sound oddly similar. Whitney Award-based book reviews are starting to roll in. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blogs

The Association for Mormon Letters Conference will be held April 11 and 12, UVU. “New Faces of Mormonism: Are We Changing the Way We See Ourselves?” “We will consider papers discussing the implications of efforts for greater transparency in the Church, especially as these efforts relate to literature/film. Papers on the recent church statements clarifying controversial historical issues are welcome. All papers related to Mormon letters will be considered. Send proposals to by March 10.” Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 1 Comment

Parallel Earths

I recently read An Island in the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling, in which the entire island of Nantucket from 1998 A.D. mysteriously ends up in around 1250 B.C.  It reminded me quite a bit of Eric Flint’s 1632, in which an entire West Virginia town from 2000 A.D. ends up in the middle of Europe in 1632. (Just to be clear, I read Flint’s book first, but Stirling’s was published first.)

The 1632 series has spawned a huge fan community and hundreds of thousands of words of authorized fiction by other authors set in that universe.  While at the Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium last week, I chatted with Kevin H. Evans, one of those authors, and I mentioned that at one time, I had thought about writing a 1632 story in which a Mormon missionary just a few weeks from going home suddenly finds that home is almost 400 years away. (Who knows? Maybe I’ll write it someday.)  He mentioned that some authors had done a little bit with Mormons in the 1632 universe trying to restart the Church. Continue reading

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Mormon Enough? I’m Relieved to Discover…

In an accident of timing, I have the first AML blog slot after this year’s annual science fiction and fantasy symposium held in Provo, Utah (Life, the Universe, and Everything 32). And though my undeniably sf-nal heart and soul rejoiced in the entirety of the event, I will focus on a narrow slice of it here to explore a question of thematic Mormon content in distinctly non-Mormon stories.

The guest of honor for the event was Orson Scott Card. Though the big storm on the east coast grounded him there for two days and limited Card’s participation to only the last day (plus a tele-presence at one panel on Friday via Skype), he mentioned several times how much he appreciated the chance to talk about his sf work with an audience of (at least) cultural Mormons who had the tools to understand where he comes from. Continue reading

Posted in Community Voices, General, Mormon LitCrit, SF&F corner, The Populist's Soapbox | 4 Comments

2013 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Part 2, the Mormon and Independent Markets

Click here to read Part 1, about Mormon authors publishing for the national market.

Changes in the nature of book buying are causing shifts in the Mormon publishing world. In the past, some self-publishing authors had their works picked up by Mormon publishers. Recently, however, authors publishing in the Mormon market have started going the other way, turning away from traditional Mormon publishers towards self-publishing. Among the reasons authors have given for going independent include Mormon publishers’ increasingly restrictive contracts, their lack of marketing efforts, and the possibility to make more money on a moderately successful self-published novel than on a more successful novel published through a Mormon publisher. Some authors (such as Annette Lyon, Heather B. Moore, and Tristi Pinkston) are taking a hybrid approach, doing independent publishing in addition to their work with Mormon publishers. A new group, Indie Author Hub, has been acting as a clearinghouse for insider information, and will be holding its first Publishing Conference in Provo in June. Andrea Pearson in the group’s Executive Director, and Rachel Nunes and BJ Rowley are organizing the conference. Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 35 Comments

The Business Side of Writing: Does an LDS Market Author Want or Need an Agent?

Going off of the comments I got on last month’s post, let’s talk about writing for the LDS market and whether or not an agent would be beneficial. I think the best way to approach this topic is to list off the agent related comments I hear every now and then in LDS publishing and deal with them one by one. Then we’ll discuss whether or not my answers mean you want an agent. So, here we go – feel free to add more in the comments:

Agents are pointless and take your money without providing anything in return.

FALSE. A good agent can make your career even if you sell fewer copies than authors who are not making a living. A good agent raises your advances by more than the 15% commission said agent charges. A good agent keeps doors open for you so that if things sour with one publisher, you can move on to another. I’m not saying agents are miracle workers because they aren’t. What they are is specialists, and a good specialist will do a better job negotiating contracts than you will (unless you’ve got the skill-set of an agent yourself. In order to get that, you need to be negotiating contracts continuously in your genre.) Continue reading

Posted in Business Side of Writing | 6 Comments

Children’s Lit Corner: By the sentiments of our songs and the themes of our books

I’ve been doing some research up at the university library lately, in the special collections section. One of the early settlers of my town was a woman named Minnie Frances Hayden Howard. She was a doctor, graduating from medical school in 1899, and shortly afterward moved to Pocatello with her husband and young family. After a long and busy life, Minnie was asked many times by family and friends to write her memoirs, so in her 85th year, she took out a spiral bound notebook and began to write. That notebook was part of the large donation of papers and correspondence her son gave to the Idaho State University library after her death. When I found that memoir, it felt to me that I had found the Small Plates themselves! The notebook was full of anecdotes, interesting memories, reflections on life, and musings about the past, as well as the loose chronological history of Minnie’s experiences. I read so much and learned so many things about this woman, that she feels like a friend or close acquaintance. I’m continuing to learn from someone who has been dead for almost 50 years. Continue reading

Posted in Children's Lit corner, General, Personal Narratives | 2 Comments

YA Corner: Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Marriage

Emma received a marriage proposal on Christmas Eve. Actually on the stroke of midnight, exactly between the “Eve” and Christmas Day. That is what they told us and there is a Facebook photo with a clock on the wall to prove it. The light is dim in the picture but somehow there is a brightness in their eyes and smiling mouths. Well past exhaustion, I finally had all the Christmas presents wrapped and beautified, stockings filled, preparations for Mrs. Clauses’ Christmas breakfast readied, gone over and over the distribution of gifts to assure myself that no child would feel their allotment was unfair. I was in Deep Zombie Mother state. Nothing unusual — Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc., the holidays that cause me to perform feats that feel superhuman. Nevertheless, when said daughter came rushing in the house breathless and giddy and laughing, I was instantly, miraculously alert. There were butterflies swarming my stomach. Had it really happened? The most noble, handsome, sure-to-be-successful boy had asked the question! Four years of friendship plus chemistry had blossomed and now we would welcome another family member.

Continue reading

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Whitney Finalists 2013: First Impressions

The finalists for the 2013 Whitney Awards were announced last Friday and people are already talking about who was included, who wasn’t, and which books are likely to be winners. As I did last year, I’m going to share a few of my first impressions this month, and then follow up at least once during the next two months after I have read more of the finalists.

Who was included: My first, general, impression was that there were a lot of familiar names and familiar publishers in this year’s group of finalists. Then I looked more closely and realized something else–this year’s finalists are dominated by female authors. Out of the adult fiction finalists, 23 of the 25 books were authored by women (and the majority of them feature female protagonists). In youth fiction, 12 out of the 15 finalists were written by women, and many of them also feature female leads. The Young Adult General category books are all stories about young women, four of them with contemporary settings and one historical. Also, Heather Moore has dominated this year’s group with 4 books as finalists in four different categories. If I remember correctly, that’s the highest number yet for any author. Continue reading

Posted in General | 17 Comments

Orson Scott Card: Mormon Literary Pioneer

Quick: What author has arguably done more than any other to explore multiple ways of being Mormon, across multiple genres and audiences? Answer: Orson Scott Card.

Which you already knew, because you read the title of this column. It’s a point well worth making, particularly now when he’s returning once again to Provo next week to be part of Life, the Universe and Everything this coming Feb. 13-15.

You can’t read around for very long in Mormon literature without stumbling across Card’s name. As a young playwright, he was the author of several well-regarded plays on Mormon themes, including Stone Tables and Father, Mother, Mother & Mom. He also started a repertory theater company which experienced popular success but (as so often happens in endeavors of this sort) had to close because it ultimately failed to pay the bills. As an author of historical fiction, he was awarded the 1985 AML best novel award for Saints (originally published as A Woman of Destiny), featuring a composite female character from the early days of the Church, and more recently, he has authored several historical novels based on the lives of Biblical women. His stories have appeared in LDS church magazines (back when they used to publish fiction). He wrote scripts for scriptures on tape and revamped the script of the Hill Cumorah Pageant. He even tried his hand at an epic poem based on the life of Joseph Smith, though I don’t know if that was ever published.

All this aside from the science fiction and fantasy that he’s best known for — which, from a Mormon literary perspective, I think includes some of his most interesting work.

Continue reading

Posted in Community Voices, Mormon LitCrit, SF&F corner | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments