This Week in Mormon Literature, January 17, 2014

I am not going to get my Mormon Market Year in Review done until next week, so I am putting up a Week in Review in the meantime. Lots of awards, nominations, and best-of-2013 lists. I caught up on several 2013 novels I had missed, like Liesl Shurtliff’s Middle Grade novel Rump. Check out the story about Carla Kelly and BYU. In film Greg Whitley’s Mitt Romney documentary and a missionary comedy are being released next week. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News, Awards, Best-Of Lists, etc.

Margaret Blair Young (BYU-Provo) and Shelah Miner (BYU Salt Lake Center) are both teaching Mormon Literature classes starting in January. They both provide their syllabi: Margaret Blair Young’s “Literature of the Latter-day Saints”, Shelah Miner. “On Saying Yes (To Teaching Mormon Lit)”. Kent Larson writes about “Is the Demand for Mormon Literature Classes Increasing?” at AMV.

New LDS Fiction (was LDS Publisher)’s 2013 Book Cover Contest, the 5th annual contest, has begun. Voting closes on midnight on the 17th, so hurry!

Eric Samuelsen’s NOTHING PERSONAL and Jenifer Nii’s SUFFRAGE were nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York in 2013. An average of 24 plays are nominated annually nationwide.

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best YA Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America, and the Boston Globe named it one of the “Best Young Adult Books of 2013”. Continue reading

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The Business Side of Writing: Agency Contracts, an Overview

Publishing is evolving so fast that any topic that used to be summarizable (if that’s a word) in one post, is now far too complex for that. Agency agreements were never summarizable in one post, so you can imagine how complex they are now. What I’m going to do here is post an overview, and then we can dig a little deeper next month in whatever aspect of the topic people want. I’m counting on comments here, or else I’ll just be babbling without direction next month (and you, who said, “How’s that any different than usual?” I heard that!) Okay, let’s talk agents.

1) What is an agent? Forget the usual Sunday School lesson on agency (that’s an LDS joke, for those not in the subculture.) We’re going to talk about the legal definition of an agent, which is someone who can act on your behalf, nothing more, and nothing less. A literary agent works with other publishing professionals in your stead. What does that encompass? Well, that can very from agent to agent. Some might take you to lunch with editors, while other’s might negotiate your contract over the phone and then email it to you. The truth is, there’s no legally stipulated role, only some general guidelines, which means you can enter into a variety of agreements on this score. A good friend of mine’s agent has a power of attorney, basically, that lets him even sign the contracts. That one’s extreme, but it fits within the definition of “agent.”

2) What skills does an agent have? There are no rules here, no regulations, no qualifying exam, nothing. Anybody can call themselves an agent. That’s why it’s extremely important to find a *good* agent and vet them thoroughly. A good agent has 1) a good working knowledge of publishing 2) relationships with editors at the top publishing lines in your genre 3) extensive experience negotiating contracts and perhaps most importantly 4) access to a wealth of information about who’s buying what novels and for how much. That last one is absolutely key. Why?

3) What skills doesn’t an agent have? Here’s the scoop: Agents have no magical ability to sell books. None. Here’s another scoop: Agents don’t always sell all the books they represent. So you could have an agent who loves you and loves your book and that won’t necessarily get it published by a traditional publishing house. The only advantage an agent has is more knowledge of who in publishing buys what, how much they pay, and how they like to approach a deal. It can make all the difference, and yet still not be a guarantee.

4) Who needs an agent? There are traditionally published authors who don’t have agents. Really. I’ve met a few and seen them with my own eyes. There are indie authors who have agents. So who needs an agent? Well, not to be trite, but anyone who wants… well.. an agent. Someone else to go do part of the business aspect of publishing, whether it be to sell all rights to a novel, or subsidiary and derivative rights to an indie novel, etc. Some authors have multiple agents, either because they subdivide the rights each one handles, or because they work in such disparate genres that it makes sense to have more than one person handle the business end of things. This is a complicated topic.

5) How do I vet agents? Oh the stories I can tell on this score! The single best way to vet an agent is to talk to their other clients. Any reputable agent will be happy to provide you with their contact info if said agent has made you an offer. Also take any written contract an agent wants you to sign and show it to a lawyer or another writer with good experience with this sort of thing. Finally, you will have to go with your gut. There’s no getting around that at the end of the day.

6) How do I know if I have an agent? No, that’s not a joke. Many agents don’t do written agreements, but rather handshakes, and this can make things messy. What if you’re with an agent who leaves the agency to retire? Do you still owe allegiance to that agency? What if you’re with an agent who won’t answer your calls, even the ones saying they’re fired? Have you gotten rid of them? What if your agent dies and the agency is taken over by an underwear salesperson? (That isn’t a hypothetical; it happened.) Do you have to stay with the agency or does the death constitute a termination of the agreement? Silly as it may sound, this is a real question.

So now I’ll post this and wait for comments. There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to agents. What interests you?

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Children’s Lit Corner—Biographies: A view from someone else’s eyes

One New Year’s Day when I was on my mission, I remember I was at a member’s house and I had a little bit of time to look through her set of old Encyclopedia Britannicas. I don’t remember why I pulled out the E volume, but I did. I do remember I flipped to the entry about Albert Einstein and read something that has stayed with me now for more than 25 years. The exact words are lost in the haze of memory, but the idea was something like this: It is important to record our thoughts and experiences so that others, when they go back and read our words, will know that we faced and struggled to overcome challenges that are the common lot of humanity. This cryptic insight, snatched one afternoon from a random volume during a time when I did not have the ready access to books I had at every other time of my life, before and since, made a big impression on me. It certainly reinforced my own journal writing, but more than that, it made me curious about the lives of the millions and billions of other people who have lived and loved and died in this world. Maybe the thoughts and feelings of a boy growing up in pre-war Germany, or a girl in Limerick, Maine, in the 1870s, or an eccentric man who walked barefoot and wore a pan on his head, or even a young black boy who longed to learn weren’t really so different from my own experiences. I know I did read some biographies and autobiographies before my mission, but since then my appetite for that view from someone else’s eyes has been almost insatiable. Continue reading

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2013 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Part 1, The National Market

My annual overview starts with fiction and memoirs written for the national market. Next month I will post reviews of the Mormon/Independent market and more.

Speculative fiction has been among the most popular and most successful genres for Mormon authors for the last 20 years. 2013 was a particularly newsworthy year for Mormon speculative fiction authors, with Hugo Award wins, a wide release film adaption, public controversy and boycotts, loads of best-sellers, and promising debuts. Elsewhere, ex-Mormons seem more interested in literary depictions of Mormons than practicing Mormons, and the cornucopia of Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction continued to flow.

Brandon Sanderson

2013 was Brandon Sanderson’s year. Sanderson wrote the best-selling novel by a Mormon in 2013, A Memory of Light, completing the Wheel of Time series created by the late Robert Jordan. He also started two new YA series, won two Hugo Awards (for his 2012 novella The Emperor’s Soul and his podcast Writing Excuses), and published several novellas and short stories. Sanderson’s output, in terms of both sheer volume as well as quality, is amazing. It is no wonder that Writing Excuses (a team effort, which also includes Mary Robinette Kowal, Jordan Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells) is regarded as one of the best tutorials for speculative fiction authors. Continue reading

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Reading Resolutions

As soon as the calendar changed to December 31st, posts began appearing in my Facebook and blog feeds from friends detailing their reading for 2013. Some had set goals to read a certain number of pages; others had set goals to read specific numbers of books or certain genres; some had just been keeping track of their reading and wanted to report their numbers and comment on their favorite (and least-favorite) books of the year. I’m usually in the last category: I started keeping track of my reading on my blog about seven years ago, but have never set goals related to reading. The system that works for me is to create a post for each month that lists the books I have read along with a short paragraph describing my reaction to them. I never really kept track of my reading prior to doing this and worried that it would be too time-consuming and difficult. Instead, I have found over the years that I really like having an easily-accessible record of things I have read, and the part of my brain that loves statistics and order gets a kick out of my final tally each year. At the end of each year I write a summary post that breaks down the numbers between fiction and non-fiction as well as male and female authors, and I also add some thoughts about general trends for the year and a listing of some of the most memorable books. Continue reading

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YA Corner: Books for Christmas

Our little home looked like Early American D.I. (to use Elder Holland’s expression) years ago when the Bishop came to visit. The children were still young enough to hug toys and bounce on the couch. I was pretty sure I was getting a new church calling and that was the reason for his visit. Little wasted words were spent. A ward organist was needed. Could I play, he wondered? Answering yes, but hesitating, he followed up with “Okay, but do you know how to play the organ?” (No, not really.) “I think I could do it,” I innocently replied. Maybe he saw hope in my eyes, or simply had to take me regardless. A plan formed in my mind. Grandma Hyde played organ every Sunday in her chapel. She could give me a speedy overview and I could practice and take it from there. With much kindness that is what she did for me. A gift was given. I intensely wanted to learn and there was a moment of opportunity.

And here I am shamelessly attempting to write something for AML. I am excited for this opportunity and adventure. All I bring is my work as a mother and Children’s Librarian—the years of books I have brought home that we have read together. Finding a gem of a book–one that when read out loud engages all the now teens and young adults (even those college goers) in our home, is one of my particular pleasures. It’s not that easy to do. More often time is at a premium for the simple basics of life. But there are a number of titles which have become part of our family and draw us together whenever we read them. That is for a different future blog.

Continue reading

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AML Website Down

This is just an announcement to let people know that the AML website is temporarily down. We’re working on resolving the problems related to this.

The blog continues to be functional.

Thanks to those who pointed this out to us. And for everyone who’s noticed, yeah, this mans it’s not your computer going wonky.

And a happy new year to all!

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In Tents # 36 Hyvää Joulua ja Onellista Uutta Vuotta

Way back last January, our stake Leaf-A-Ciety president spoke in our sacrament meeting, mentioning her mission in Finland. I went up and talked to her afterwards, “Onellista uutta vuotta.” She looked startled and blinked a couple of times, like she wasn’t quite sure what she had heard–Did he just say Happy New Year? “Kiitos,” she said. Thank you.

I didn’t serve my mission in Finland. Because of the brain surgery mentioned in #33 the doctor recommended my staying stateside. But my brother Kevin did. He turned 19 shortly after we returned home, and went right back. And my cousin Nathan Soderborg served in Finland. (Favorite family story: Nathan’s mother was talking with her mother on a party line, and to stop the nosy neighbor from listening in they switched to Swedish. The neighbor called the police about spies talking on her party line.)

I had lived in Finland because my father finally took a sabbatical.

Continue reading

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This Week in Mormon Literature, December 28, 2013

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Covenant release 2013 Best Seller lists. I caught up on a few books that had slipped through the cracks this year. I should have the National Year in Review out next week, and the Mormon Market Review after that. Thanks to all of those who have sent their comments to me. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and new stories

Brandon Sanderson’s THE RITHMATIST was named the Best Teen Novel in the iBooks #Bestof2013 list.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale was named one of Buzzfeed’s “20 Of The Best Children’s Books Of 2013

Covenant 2013 Best sellers.

#1 – Glimmer of Hope By Sarah M. Eden Continue reading

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in verse #36 : For I will consider Christopher Smart

Anyone might consider him smart, for that matter.  He was well educated in Greek and Latin as a schoolboy, attended Pembroke College, Cambridge, earned many scholarships (most for scholarship), was widely published both as a poet and as an essayist, and undertook, among other tasks, to translate the Psalms.  He was brilliant in many ways, and it shows in his poem “Song to David,” not least in the elegant turn of phrase within the tight confines of the stanzaic form he adopted.  Because it is not a simple poem, nor easily found in its entirety, I offer you, as a Christmas offering on this day after, the entire text here, and urge you to read it aloud as your gift to yourself:

Sublime—invention ever young,
Of vast conception, tow’ring tongue
To God th’ eternal theme;
Notes from yon exaltations caught,
Unrivall’d royalty of thought
O’er meaner strains supreme.

His muse, bright angel of his verse,
Gives balm for all the thorns that pierce,
For all the pangs that rage;
Blest light still gaining on the gloom,
The more than Michal of his bloom,
Th’ Abishag of his age.

He sang of God—the mighty source
Of all things—the stupendous force
On which all strength depends;
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power, and enterprise
Commences, reigns, and ends.

Tell them, I am, Jehovah said
To Moses; while earth heard in dread,
And, smitten to the heart,
At once above, beneath, around,
All Nature, without voice or sound,
Replied, O Lord, thou art.

Continue reading

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