When I interviewed Larry Correia a couple of months ago, I had read some of his Monster Hunter International books, but I had not read any of the Grimnoir Chronicles series. I didn’t know much about the series, but based on the cover of the first book, Hard Magic, I guessed it was a 1930s hard-boiled detective novel, plus magic, and that didn’t really pique my interest. But since I’ve recently been listening to audiobooks at a rate of more than one per week, and the first two books in the series had won Audie awards, I decided to give the first one a try.
My topic this month is something that any business person should be familiar with, only a lot of writers aren’t business people. Many of them have never negotiated a contract and are unaware that once they sell a book, they and their writing become a business. Most publishers, from the big six to the small presses, want the right of first refusal on your next book.
The concept itself isn’t that advanced. Once they have one of your books lined up for publication, a publisher will want to be the first to see your next book, and they don’t want anyone else to have a chance to buy it before they do. Many writers see this as a benefit, knowing that the editor and publishing team they already work with will consider taking on the next project. So why an entire blog post about this contract provision? Because I believe it is taken to an extreme and abused in the LDS market. A lot of small LDS presses want right of first refusal on everything you write after you publish with them. Sometimes it says as much in the contract. Everything you ever write has to go to them first. Even if it’s all wrong for them, and even if you didn’t enjoy your publishing experience with them. There’s also a power imbalance here that can stop your writing career cold. It’s extreme, but it does happen. Specifically: Continue reading
I was unable to post last week because of a technology SNAFU that kept me from logging on. Thanks to Jonathan, I am now able to post what I wanted to post last week: a short response to two recent episodes of the Mormon Stories Book Club.
I assume most of you are familiar with the Mormon Stories podcast hosted by John Dehlin. I’ve been an irregular listener since January, but I’ve always been impressed by Dehlin’s passionate interviewing style and thoughtful questions. Until the start of the Mormon Stories Book Club podcast in August 2012, his 2007 interview with Levi Peterson was (I think) the closest he came to discussing Mormon literature in depth. However, his interviews with Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, and others certainly have much to offer those of us who are interested in learning more about the uncorrelated nooks and crannies of the religion to which we belong.
The Mormon Stories Book Club releases an interview with an author every month or so. Dehlin occasionally participates in these interviews, but they are generally hosted by Dehlin’s colleague, Heather Olson Beal. Past interviewees have been Joanna Brooks (Book of Mormon Girl), John G. Turner (Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet), and Terryl and Fiona Givens (The God Who Weeps). Unfortunately, at least from my point-of-view, the Book Club has pursued interviews mainly with authors of memoirs–and memoir isn’t my favorite genre. However, three Mormon fiction writers have been featured: Steven Peck (A Short Stay in Hell), Jack Harrell (A Sense of Order), Ryan McIlvain (Elders).
I feature the @MormonShorts twitter feed, blog authors wax lyrical about the inner workings of Ender’s Game and the Allred’s recent comic book FF, three new memoirs by women (two of them ex-Mormons), new national novels by Larry Correia, Peggy Eddleman, Richard Paul Evans, Brandon Sanderson, J. Scott Savage, and Robison Wells. Julianne Donaldson and Steven Westover, writing for Mormon Utah publishers, also received some national attention. Wendy Gourley’s The Story Stone is on stage at UVU, Austenland goes wide, and The Saratov Approach is coming soon. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com. Continue reading
September, the beginning of school, thirty-seven years since I signed on with the BYU moving crew to move the books into the new library. That was back when the new library was not the addition under the quad between the library, administration building, Harris Fine Arts Center, and Jesse Knight Building. The new library then was a six-story addition south of the J Reuben Clark, Jr. Library, whose name had just been appropriated for the law school, which offered in return the name of Harold B. Lee.
I kept getting this odd sensation I had noticed occasionally for several years, of the world expanding and contracting around me. Now it was coming more regularly as I had to look up to assemble book shelves taller than myself. What had been a rather pleasant sensation became debilitating. I tried lowering my head and feeling the screws into the holes with my fingers. I ended up going by the MacDonald Health Center, who gave me a name for the sensation–dizziness. They sent me to the hospital who set up a spinal tap–without exploding drummer, though if I changed elevation from flat on my back Thanksgiving weekend I would enact the scripture about spueing out of the mouth.
One of the top brain surgeons in the country had just moved his practice from, I think, southern California to Orem, and he told me I had a benign sub-occipital neuroma on my eighth cranial nerve. He said they occured in about 1 in 133,000 in the population, though if you got one your chances of getting another doubled.
“I don’t know where he got that figure, maybe from autopsies. They’re very rare,” a doctor at the University of Washington told me 10 years later at a follow up. “Your operation probably put your hospital on the surgical map.”
William Blake was perfectly capable of writing rhyming verse; it can and has been set to music. Here is the text of an anthem known as “Jerusalem,” written by Blake around 1804 and set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916:[i]
And did those feet in ancient time, Walk upon Englands mountains green: And was the holy Lamb of God, On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine, Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here, Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold: Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: Till we have built Jerusalem, In Englands green & pleasant Land.[ii]
“Those feet” are the feet of Jesus, and Blake is responding to the legend that he was brought to England during the “lost years[iii]” of his youth by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea — a myth which Blake then connects to the idea that Jesus will return Continue reading
I was on BART reading an old interview with Matthew Barney when a guy standing and holding the bar next to me leaned into my space and asked if I liked Barney’s work. I had seen a Barney show at the SFMoMA (not the major 2006 show, but a more recent, smaller show) and have to admit I did not, in fact, like it. I would still like to see at least parts of the Cremaster series someday, and the interview I was reading did make me think more favorably of him, but still: the show sucked.
The guy nodded. At the next stop, the person sitting next to me got off the train; I slid over and he sat down next to me. “How do you like the new seats?”
I liked them fine, but I’m not good at keeping transit conversations going. But then he said something too interesting to pass up. He’d worked on the set of the last Cremaster film.
Ends up he is an electrician and has taken journeyman work on many film sets. He’s never been an actual gaffer or best boy or anything, but he has gotten around. Including work on States of Grace, Orgazmo, and a T.C. Christensen scifi family comedy. Crazily, of all those goofy Mormon connections, it was on the set (on the set!) of Orgazmo that he actually met with missionaries.
I had my little mp3 recorder in my bag and he let me start recording a few minutes into our conversation.
Sensitive readers take note: I’ve only barely censored his language. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I saw someone post a comment on Facebook about “the suits” in the Church History Library and how they tell Mormon history. About the same time, I officially became one of those suits: I now commute up to Salt Lake each day to write for history.lds.org.
And though I miss my beard a great deal, I’ve got to admit: it’s a pretty cool time to be a suit. Continue reading
Salt Lake City’s first ComicCon was held on September 5-7, 2013, at the Salt Palace Convention Center. According to the organizers, over 70,000 people attended on Saturday alone, and I can attest that the place was packed. As with the original San Diego ComicCon, the Salt Lake ComicCon was about a lot more than just comics. At this point the name ComicCon seems to be sort of a branding tool to indicate “big convention celebrating science-fiction & fantasy pop culture.” From what I hear, next year they will use the entire Salt Palace, which will double the available space. Hopefully, the surprisingly large attendance figures this year will make movie studios, publishers, and other important players in the entertainment industry decide to participate next year with the kind of special sneak previews and such that the San Diego ComicCon gets. Continue reading
I believe that keeping the flame of Mormon drama alive is important. Especially at our still early stage of development as a religion and a culture, we already have a rich heritage of dramatic literature filled with a wide range of excellent plays.
As an effort to preserve and publicize that heritage, Zarahemla Books published Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama, which includes theatrical works by some of Mormonism’s best dramatists. Michael Perry has recently been collecting a lot of Mormon plays under the umbrella of his Zion Theatricals, which licenses performance rights for Mormon themed drama to theatre companies and community groups. Angie Staheli has been encouraging production of LDS drama on the stake level at her blog LDS Plays. In the realm of higher education, Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University continue to produce works by Mormon student playwrights, while independent theatre companies such as the Echo Theatre, Leilani Productions, and my own Zion Theatre Company continue to include Mormon drama in their seasons. There are many individuals and organizations who are striving to continue to vibrant tradition of creating theatre that is informed by the spirituality and beauty of our faith tradition, even when it isn’t explicit in its religiousness.
Yet despite these exciting developments, it sometimes feels like we lose as much ground as we gain, and that we are more often than not treading water. So I’ve been trying to analyze and figure out ways of making Mormon drama not only relevant, but also exciting and profitable, so that it can continue onward. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe the relatively new trend of digital theatre seems to be an effective and exciting route for Mormon Drama to take.
Posted in Announcements, Business Side of Writing, Electronic Age, General, On-screen, On-stage, Storytelling and Community
Tagged Digital Theatre, Farewell to Eden, Mahonri Stewart, Mormon drama, Mormon Literature, Prometheus Unbound, Saints on Stage, Zarahemla Books, Zion Theatre Company