Do we have art that responds to Recent Events?

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The other night I followed a link to a blog I hadn’t been to in years, Mormon Child Bride. Although it looks much as it ever did, since I was last there, it has changed from a more knowing (not embarrassing) version of what TAMN mocked, to the chronicle of a Mormon feminist’s estrangement from the Church. In connection with Recent Events, she’s putting up a series of guest-post reactions which range from the heavy to the numb.

Shuffling through her old posts, I found this one in which she visits “a member-submission Art Show at the Church History Museum. [She] cried a little … because the art was so beautiful….  The art represented everything I loved about Mormonism. I felt myself being called home. If Mormons could create art that transcends the cultural and yes, even doctrinal inequities and quirks of their own religion, couldn’t there be a place there, for me?” Continue reading

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The Business Side of Writing: Marketing Swag

If you’ve ever been to a convention or signing, you’ve likely seen swag. It can take the form of bookmarks, pens, magnets, pins, postcards, trading cards, posters, coffee mugs, chocolate bar wrappers, keychains – the list goes on. In romance especially, swag is a regular part of the business. Most high profile authors give it out, and so it’s very easy to think that swag is part of their success. I’m a bit more critical of the practice, but let’s look at it from all angles. First off, I’ll detail what I think is bad about swag, but then I’ll take a look at the good as well. And then you can of course comment and call me out and offer your point of view. First off:

THE BAD:

1) Swag is expensive. Even if you’re just ordering bookmarks, these things cost real money to print and ship. I design swag and thus place a lot of print orders, and while some of my clients clearly earn enough to pay for this without a second thought, I do wonder whenever I see a lesser known author passing out a lot of swag. Always treat your writing like a business and budget accordingly. Some swag items, like keychains and mini books can be several dollars per item. That’s a lot of money to just hand out, especially if you sell your ebooks at $.99-$2.99. You are handing away royalties for half a dozen or more booksales each time. Continue reading

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Books in the Hands of Children — Children’s Lit Corner

I have no idea how many books I have in my house. There must be thousands, and they’re crammed everywhere: in the bookshelves of course, sometimes two deep, stacked in the bedrooms by beds and tables, on the top of the tank in the bathroom, and of course down the basement. I’ve read most of them, and many of them several times. Books are, of course, necessary to my happiness. Stories can entertain, explain life, take a person away from harsh reality for awhile, reinforce truths, and do so many other things. For me, life without books is hard to imagine, and such a life would be the stuff of nightmares. I remember once going on a trip and staying a couple of days with a friend of the family. Emma was a very sweet lady, but when she went to work and I was left at her house to entertain myself, I was shocked and worried and bored because there were absolutely no books in the house, not one! Those were very difficult days for me. Television just doesn’t satisfy like a book. Continue reading

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in verse #41 : God is Art

If not last month, then earlier, you learned from John Keats, or rather from that Grecian Urn that he oded on, this:
***“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
******Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
That’s the urn speaking, and, in case you missed it last month, I don’t totally agree with Keats. I understand the impulse amongst the constant struggles of his life to make that kind of pugnacious assertion; and it appears that Keats was as combative as that quote would indicate. In the words of a schoolmate, “Keats was not in childhood attached to books. His penchant was for fighting. He would fight any one.”[i]

I had a missionary companion who was like the Keats of that ode Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, May 2014

This month saw the passing of Utah critic Jeff Vice, lots of Scott Hales scuttlebutt, and several new national YA novels. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Announcements, awards, and blogs

The Third Annual Mormon Lit Blitz Writing Contest submissions are due by the end of the day today. This is your last chance! Finalists will be posted on the Mormon Artist magazine website starting 16 June.

Utah movie and cultural critic Jeff Vice passed away on Monday, May 26 at the age of 48, from heart failure after a massive asthma attack. Vice worked at the Deseret News from around 1990, and in 1996 he became the paper’s film critic. He was laid off, along with most of the other full-time entertainment critics, in 2010. Since leaving the Deseret News he has been heard on X96′s “Radio From Hell,” and the “Geek Show Podcast”. Although not a Mormon (I think), he reviewed most of the “Mollywood” movies that came out since God’s Army. See a Fox13 News report, and tributes from colleagues Sean Means, Eric D. Snider, and Dan Metcalf. Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 5 Comments

Notes on Field Notes

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The release of Tyler Chadwick’s Field Notes on Language and Kinship was, in my mind, cause for celebration for several reasons. Here are a few: Continue reading

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Mormon Tragedy Revisited

Last November, in the wake of Mark Oppenheimer’s New York Times article on Mormon literature, Mahonri wrote a post on Mormon tragedy that sought to make a case for Mormonism’s capacity for tragedy. His argument, if I followed it correctly, was that Mormons can write tragic Mormon stories because Mormons, like everyone else, are not immune to experiences that cause suffering and negative emotions. As he rightly noted:

The amount of tragedy that I have seen Mormons endure has been no more, but certainly no less, than other people of comparable stations in other parts of the world. There are Mormons I know, or who I know of, who have endured homelessness, death of loved ones (including by suicide and murder), racism, sexism, poverty, self-mutilation, mental illness, kidnapping, abuse, depression, betrayal, failure, disfigurement, etc.  Thus, if you can find it out in the world, you can find it also among Mormons, to a lesser or greater degree.

Based on this statement, “tragedy” is largely something that happens to someone—either because of someone else’s choices or psychological factors beyond an individual’s control. For Mahonri, the fact that Mormons are just as susceptible to the conditions of the Fall as anybody else creates a “recipe” for tragedy that, while present in everyday Mormon life, is not being used in the kitchen of Mormon literature. His conclusion was that “we as a culture” must nurture our tragedians—and, according to his count, we have many—by “hav[ing] the bravery to look at the shadows in our souls and purge them through catharsis.”

Continue reading

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In Tents #41 He is Risen, and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do, part II

At the end of #40 I suggested that both Stephen Mitchell and Reza Aslan dismiss the Resurrection on the grounds that there’s no Resurrection appearance in Mark. In looking for the passage where Aslan dismisses the Resurrection I found that he does mention the lack of a Resurrection appearance in Mark, but he also acknowledges that Christian belief in the Resurrection likely predates Mark by 30 years. But then he says, “Nevertheless, the fact remains that the resurrection is not a historical event. It may have had historical ripples, but the event itself falls outside the scope of history and into the realm of faith” (176).
That’s a jarring statement and I had to think about it for awhile to figure out why. Continue reading

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The Business Side of Writing: Conventions

Apologies for being late this month. On my usual deadline I was on my way to the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans. This was my first romance convention, and my first glimpse into that whole scene. I’ve been going to science fiction conventions since I graduated from Clarion West, thirteen years ago, and used to go to every WorldCon. So what do conventions have to do with the business side of writing? Well, first off, they cost money, and can sometimes cost a lot of money, so if you go to them, you need to consider whether or not they’re cost effective. How could they possibly pay back? Conventions are a good place to: 1) Network, 2) Gain new insights into publishing trends, 3) Attend and participate in panels, 4) Do some self promotion and marketing, and 5) Have fun and make good memories. So lets go over those one by one.

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Dedications and the Real Narnian

Right before the first chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, one finds this short letter that C.S. Lewis as the volume’s dedication:

My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too dear to hear and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,
C.S. LEWIS

Lucy_barfield

Lucy Barfield

Little did C.S. “Jack” Lewis know that his Goddaughter, Lucy Barfield (1935-2003), hardly saw herself as “too old” for fairy tales. Much to the contrary, this simple and elegant dedication (as well as having the main character in the book, Lucy Pevensie , named after her) would impact Lucy for the rest of her life. She cherished being Lucy of Narnia.

Lucy was the adopted daughter of Owen Barfield, one of C.S. Lewis’ closest friends, and Maud Barfield. Owen had been vital in his spiritual development from an avowed atheist to one of the most influential and greatest Christian thinkers of the 20th century. Lucy was four years old when Lewis began the book, 13 years old when the manuscript arrived to her and her family, and 15 when it was published.

According to Walter Hooper, Lewis’s secretary at the end of his life, Owen Barfield had this to say about his daughter:

Lucy was a very lively and happy child – apt for instance to be seen turning somersault wheels in the garden immediately after a meal. From an early age she showed marked musical taste and ability. After a short-lived ambition to become a ballet dancer, she eventually qualified as a professional teacher of music and was employed for a year or two as such by a well-known Kentish school for girls (C.S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide,  p.758).

Continue reading

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