This Month in Mormon Literature, August 2014

The Void, Ryan Little’s third Saints and Soldiers movie, opens in Utah theaters to strong reviews. BYU professor Craig Harline’s missionary memoir has been published by Eerdmans Publishing, a respected publisher of Christian and religious books, and has gotten positive early notices. Kimberly Griffiths Little returns with another middle grade mystery/fantasy set in the Louisiana bayou. Rachel Ann Nunes was plagiarized by a pseudonyms author. I became aware of Hamilton Springs Press/Xchyler Publishing, a new house with several Mormons on the editorial board, which has been publishing genre fiction since October 2012. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blogs

Rachel Ann Nunes discovered another author, writing under the name “Sam Taylor Mullens”, plagiarized one of her novels, A Bid for Love. It is quite a strange story, with the author giving a series of conflicting explanations before deleting her or his Facebook account. The author also appears to have tried to attack Nunes’ other books through a series of sock puppet reviewers. David Farland started a GoFundMe account to help Nunes with attorney fees, and wrote about the situation here. Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 4 Comments

The Business Side of Writing: To Your Good Health

It’s been a rough news week, and I think the story that took it from frustrating to downright depressing was the death of Robin Williams by his own hand. Now the 24 news cycle is devoted to him, and I think that’s perfectly appropriate. He was an icon. I hope, however, that this also opens up more dialogue on mental health and suicide, the #10 killer in our nation. It seems fitting, then, to write a piece on looking after yourself as a writer, both mentally and physically. Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you pursue your writing dream:

1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Because doctors’ appointments are sometimes expensive, depending on your insurance situations, it may be tempting to avoid them. Don’t ever do that. The same is true for dental appointments. Always get routine checkups and stay on top of any health issues before they become life threatening. It is MUCH cheaper to pay for routine visits than it is to foot the bill for a catastrophe. A lot of health problems start small and can be caught early if you give your doctors the chance by going to see them regularly. Continue reading

Posted in Business Side of Writing | 3 Comments

YA Corner: Great Teachers, Great Words

In rural Lemhi County, fifth and sixth graders were taught together in the same classroom by the same teacher, Mr. Harris. In 1973, there might have been around twenty-five total fifth and sixth graders. The grades were segregated to two sides of the classroom. The grades had their own appropriate assignments for basic subjects, but some interchange existed, to the good of all. For example, the read-aloud, always held after lunch and always looked forward to with eagerness, was of course shared by all students.

Continue reading

Posted in YA corner | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

In Tents #43 He is Risen and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do Part IV

If you grew up mildly fascinated by the textual history of the Book of Mormon printed in the front of the 1920 edition (but not the 1981)

First English Edition published in

First issued, and divided into chapters and verses
with references

First issued in double-column pages, with
chapter headings, chronological data,
revised foot-note references,
pronouncing vocabulary,
and index, in 1920

you’re aware that Mormon didn’t divide the plates into chapters and verses. He apparently indicated major episode divisions, which correspond to the original chapter divisions in the first edition. Brother Pratt’s chapters are much shorter, and have less to do with the way Mormon conceived episodes than with the liturgical and ecclesiastical needs of the Church, and the desire to have the Book of Mormon formatted like the Bible.

Continue reading

Posted in Literary Views of Scripture | 2 Comments

This Month in Mormon Literature, Late July

The Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium begins July 30, including a Mormon film festival. Several Mormon authors win RONE awards. The final novel by the late Linda Sillitoe, one of the great late-20th century Mormon authors, is published. Orson Scott Card writes about Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive. Ben Abbott takes his play Questions of the Heart on a Western cities tour. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.


Sunstone 2104 Salt Lake City Symposium, July 30-August 2, at the University of Utah. The symposium includes the “Bridges and Byways in Mormonism” film festival, which will feature 23 films about Mormons building bridges and forging their own unique paths in the faith. Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | Leave a comment

in verse #43 : hero’s journey

When Leonard Cohen said “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash,”[i] he probably didn’t have Joseph Smith in mind. Joseph Smith burned brightly in a world lit only by fire, and he left a splendid ash indeed, but Cohen most likely has never considered that ash. That is my task today.

On November 27th, 1832, Joseph Smith sent a letter from Kirtland, Ohio, to W. W. Phelps, the Church’s newspaper editor in Independence, Missouri, in which this poem appears:

Little Narrow Prison

Now Brother William if what I have said is true,
how careful then had men ought to be
what they do in the last days lest they are cut short
of their expectations, and they that think they stand
should fall because they keep not the Lord’s commandments,
whilst you who do the will of the Lord
and keep his commandments have need to rejoice
with unspeakable joy, for such shall be
exalted very high and shall be lifted up
in triumph above all the kingdoms of the world —
but I must drop this subject at the beginning.

Oh Lord when will the time come
when Brother William thy servant and myself
behold the day that we may stand together
and gaze upon eternal wisdom engraven
upon the heavens while the majesty
of our God holdeth up the dark curtain
until we may read the round of Eternity
to the fullness and satisfaction of our immortal
souls? Oh Lord God deliver us
in thy due time from the little narrow prison
almost as it were total darkness of paper
pen and ink and a crooked broken scattered
and imperfect language.[ii]

The letter was written Continue reading

Posted in In Verse, Literary Views of Scripture, Mormon LitCrit, Thoughts on Language | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pioneer Day Free Association


One hundred sixty-eight years ago, the Brooklyn arrived in San Francisco, making it a predominately Mormon town (it didn’t last). In celebration of this moment, some free association. First, my comic about expedition leader Sam Brannan (originally published in SF Weekly), then a song by my favorite Mormon Austin band about New York City, then an image of Annie Poon’s New York-living lovelorn Puppy, then a Kershisnik painting with a couple that look like they may soon be lovelorn themselves, and finally a pre-trek Brigham Young looking shady, like he might be about to break some hearts himself. Continue reading

Posted in General | 5 Comments

The Business Side of Writing: Publicists

These days all authors are expected to invest in their own publicity, and most feel entirely unequipped. Whether you’re traditional or indie, this is your reality. A publisher will ask this of you. If you’re indie, you’ll find you’ll sell nary a book without it. Obviously, I write a lot about publicity in general, so this month I want to focus on publicists. Are they worth it? What types are there? And then I have a few case studies of authors who made good use of publicists. Let me begin this piece by saying that there are more options than people realize. Pay heed to all the horror stories about publicists who cost too much with no results, but don’t swear off all publicists as a result. There are success stories out there too.

What is a publicist? There is no official degree or certification. The term can apply to someone who just sends out press releases (which I don’t recommend) or someone who builds personal relationships with book bloggers to actually deliver reviews and features for your book. Publicists can be in-house with a publisher, or independent. They can be trained in marketing, or have no formal education whatsoever, and can work from swanky offices or their coffee table in their one bedroom apartment. What’s important is to realize that just because one kind of publicist doesn’t work for your career, that’s no reason to disregard them all.

How do I find a good one? Okay, here I’m going to split the reasoning into traditional and indie publishing. Let’s start with traditional publishing. There are a couple of types of publicists worth looking into. First off: Continue reading

Posted in Business Side of Writing | 2 Comments

This Month in Mormon Literature, July 2014

The Mormon Lit Blitz is nearly over, vote now! Lots of award winners. The passing of a singular Mormon artist. The Newport Ladies group wraps up their series. Well-reviewed new YA novels from M. K. Hutchins, J. R. Johansson, and Kasie West. Carys Bray is another ex-Mormon literary author writing about Mormons in a faith crisis. Will it speak to Mormons? Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blogs

The Mormon Lit Blitz has been going on over the last few weeks. Read the 12 finalists, and vote by the end of July 5. The contestants are: Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 3 Comments

2014 Mormon Lit Blitz: Voting and Controversies


You have two days left to cast your vote in the 2014 Mormon Lit Blitz. Will this be the year when fiction finally breaks the iron grip of poetry on the Lit Blitz crown? Will a male writer break into the top three for the first time ever? Will Merrijane Rice sneak up on rejection and bayonet it back?

Only you–and one or two hundred other voters–can decide! Cast your vote now and then go back to the Mormon Artist blog on 7/7/14 to see the results. Campaigning on behalf of your favorite pieces via social media or door-to-door canvassing is welcome and encouraged.


But it’s not all fun and games in this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz. Charges of censorship, conflict between genres, and an unusual case of “spiritual plagiarism” have all called into question the long-established honor of the Lit Blitz brand.

In today’s post, we bring you up to date on the rumors.

The McCumber Censorship Case

The biggest controversy in this year’s Lit Blitz has to do with an allegation by Andrew McCumber and his songwriting brother Baby “Yellow Bunny” McCumber that their work was censored between the time they dictated their experiences to Laura Hilton Craner and the story’s publication as a finalist.

The McCumbers say that a prior version of the work included the complete song text, and that a threatening email pressuring Craner to “revise the #*$% out of your story” was the cause of a change. “My brother just wants to sing his song,” says Andrew. “I don’t see why they had to take that away from us.”



A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

This year’s Lit Blitz features an all-time high of fiction among the finalists, and has been praised for bringing together popular contemporary realistic fiction, popular speculative fiction, and slipstream literary fiction. A few observers, though, have noticed the total lockout on contemporary realistic literary fiction–a mainstay of AML production through most of its turbulent 38-year history.

Why the lack of love for literary realism? A persistent rumor links the choice to a presentation by Scott Hales at the last AML Conference, in which Hales argued that a turn to the supernatural and bizarre was dominant among a new generation of Mormon literary writers.

“It just seems kind of convenient of him to predict the very trend he wrote his story into,” said a very old man with enormous wings. “What do they call that? A self-serving prophecy?”

A recently retired BYU professor is currently on a hunger strike, punctuated by the occasional meal break, in protest.

Spiritual Plagiarism

A third controversy is centered on a finalist poem by Jonathon Penny. Though lauded for his engaging and original use of language, Penny stands accused of plagiarizing the spirit of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ works–possibly via occult contact with the long-deceased poet.

Investigations are ongoing. A new system of computer analysis designed to compare the emotional fingerprint of works is currently being run on brain scans of Hopkins and Penny readers. Volunteers for participation in the study can contact their local Jesuit order for further information.

A separate investigation into possible steroid use by Penny has also been initiated, on the grounds that less than .5% of poets are naturally that muscular.

Posted in Announcements | 1 Comment