Author Archives: William Morris

Vote in the 2014 Mormon Lit Blitz

7.4.14 | | no comments

Voting in the 2014 Mormon Lit Blitz contest ends at midnight Saturday, July 5. Please take a few minutes to vote. Here are the links you need:

Voting instructions for the 2014 Mormon Lit Blitz

My voting method for the Mormon Lit Blitz (it makes the process easier and faster). Please note that this year you’re asked to provide 4 finalists rather than 5. And there are 12 finalists rather 13. And you email everydaymormonwriter At gmail Dot com. But the core methodology for selection still works.

And congratulations to the AMVers who are finalists this year:

“The Primary Temple Trip” by Laura Hilton Craner

and

“Living Scriptures” by Scott Hales

Outtakes from my Artistic Preaching interview

6.20.14 | | 4 comments

AMV turned 10 this month so Scott Hales interviewed me for his blog Artistic Preaching. I appreciate the publicity, but am sad about the questions and answers that hit the cutting room floor. So I have decided to publish the outtakes from our interview*:

SH: What advice do you have for young Mormon writers?

WM: You know the advice to show don’t tell? Ignore it. Or rather, show physical details and action and all that rather than just tell it, but make sure that you tell the reader how they are supposed to feel about each of the characters and their actions. You really need to drive home the correct interpretation of the dramatic situation to the reader; otherwise, you risk being misinterpreted. And no Mormon writer should ever be misinterpreted.

And remember: the bad guys have facial hair. Always and without exception.

SH: Can Mormon artists write tragedy?

WM: No.

SH: What do you think about the use of Twitter by Mormons aka the Twitternacle?

WM: Twitter degrades discourse because it limits thoughts to 140 characters. We are a people whose main form of literature is the 20 minute talk. Our leaders used to preach for over an hour. We are going to lose our stamina for longer form work if we continue to indulge in the quick quips and shallow thoughts of tweets. If you are serious about creating Mormon art, you should definitely not engage with the Mormon arts people of the Twitternacle. Even if some people who are part of it are incredibly amusing and interesting.

SH: What issues do we not talk about enough as a community?

WM: Rated-R Movies. The Great Mormon Novel. The lack of an audience for Mormon literature. Why Mormon artists can’t write tragedy.

SH: Entertainment has the EGOT. Horse racing has the Triple Crown. Tennis has the Grand Slam. What’s the Mo-lit Grand Slam?

WM: There are so few awards that I think it’s hard to hinge it around them. I’m going to say that the Mo-lit Grand Slam is getting a lit-fic story published in Dialogue or Sunstone, an historical fiction novel acquired by Covenant, a YA novel acquired by a national publisher, and a short story collection acquired by Zarahemla Books all in the same year.

SH: What’s with all the Mormon Science Fiction & Fantasy writers?

WM: There’s the “Mormons have weird doctrine and like to discuss it and so are used to the speculative form” theory. There’s the “there’s actual money in SF&F” theory. There’s the “critical mass of core writers which then snowballs across the community” theory. My theory is that sleep deprivation because of early morning seminary and/or other church activities and/or having children at a young age and/or going on a mission permanently changes members brains so that we are always in the slightly hallucinatory state that leads to wildly speculative daydreaming which then gets channeled into writing SF&F.

SH: What’s with all the Mormon YA writers?

WM: Well, duh. It’s because Mormons live in an arrested state of development and refuse to face the gritty, difficult, complex issues of adult life and so, naturally, they tend towards YA and middle grade novels both as writers and readers. Also: it’s where the money is.

SH: What’s with all the Mormon lit-fic writers who go apostate?

WM: They aren’t apostate. They’re sleeper agents among the artistic Demi-monde. You would think that they would have been triggered by the Romney campaign, but I have it on good authority that they are being reserved for a different project. It may or may not involve Neon Trees, Jabari Parker and Elder Uchtdorf.

SH: What’s the greatest threat to Mormon letters?

WM: The possibility of the Brethren clarifying once and for all the policy on caffeine, thus banning Diet Coke. Production of Mormon fiction would grind to a halt within just three or four hours.

SH: What’s your next project?

WM: A tragic, YA historical novel featuring Mormon sleeper agents and bad guys with facial hair that’s written as a series of tweets.

*Scott didn’t actually ask me these questions.

My personal favorite AMV posts at year 10

6.17.14 | | 6 comments

Back in 2009, I listed my personal favorite AMV posts — one for each of the co-bloggers. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the blog, I have updated that list. In some cases, items are the same as my post from 2009. In others, I have listed a new favorite. And the list has grown as new co-bloggers have come on board. William’s favorite post by each AMV blogger at this particular moment in time:

  1. Admin: Bradly Baird on the artifacts of LDS memory
  2. S.P. Bailey: The Things We Bring Home
  3. Tyler Chadwick: Thoughts Toward a More Thorough Treatment of Mormons, Mormonism, Literature, and Theory
  4. Kjerste Christensen: A Bibliography of Mormon Missionary Literature
  5. Harlow Clark: Gadianton The Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon, Introduction to Textual Variants Part IV
  6. Laura Craner: Mother versus Novelist (the MMA of mother-guilt, consecration, writing, children, and permission)
  7. Sarah Dunster: Addressing Issues on the Edge, and Ryan Rapier’s “The Reluctant Blogger.”
  8. Scott Hales: Twilight and the CleanFlicks Aesthetic
  9. Theric Jepson: The Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Arts
  10. Patricia Karamesines: The Rhetoric of Stealing God
  11. Jonathan Langford: Destiny, Demons, and Freewill in Dan Wells’s John Wayne Cleaver Books
  12. Kent Larsen: Why we need Mormon Culture
  13. Anneke Majors: Minerva Red
  14. Katherine Morris: “Bread of Affliction” and Cultural Self-Consciousness
  15. William Morris: The Radical Middle in Mormon Art: The Radical
  16. Luisa Perkins: Book Review: Global Mom
  17. Eric Russell:  In Defense of the Critics
  18. Mahonri Stewart: Of Prophets and Artists: A Household of Faith Or A House Divided?
  19. Eric Thompson: Half Faked

Thanks for 10 great years of AMV!

Interest gauge: anthology of Mormon alternate history

6.5.14 | | 23 comments

Here’s the bad news: I don’t have the time and energy to do a second Monsters & Mormons anthology. I believe that there are a few people who will be disappointed by this. I know there’s at least one: me. I’m sorry. It’s just not going to happen.

Here’s the good news: I’ve been focused the past few years on writing fiction and criticism. See my author blog for a glimpse of what I’ve been working on. Most of that has not been Mormon-related. It’s great fun, and I’m continuing those activities, but I also am feeling the desire to edit again. I’m also concerned about the fact that with the shuttering of Irreantum there aren’t enough venues for Mormon short fiction. I’ve been saying for awhile now that what we need are more one-off projects that don’t require sustained effort — that that’s the best way to grow the body of Mormon short fiction because they don’t require the kind of long-term commitments and resources that most of us just can’t supply. Well, I suppose I should lead by example. So…

My vague thoughts: I’m thinking about editing an e-only short anthology of alternate Mormon history stories. I know for a fact that at least two of the entries in this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz are in the alternate history genre (one of them is mine). I’m guessing there might be more. It’s funny. I’ve been thinking about this for several months and even went so far as to toss some ideas around with Theric. And then Scott Hales recently posted Emily Adams review of  D. J. Butler’s  City of the Saints series, which is Mormon alt history steampunk. And, well, it just seems like it’s in the air. Indeed, it seems to me that in this post-Mormon moment moment alternate visions of Mormon history could be one of the more compelling ways of expressing our culture and help us think through both our past and future trajectories in interesting and fruitful ways.

Details and timing: I don’t know for sure yet. My best guess is that I’d put a call for entries out this fall with a deadline of  early spring 2015 and a goal of having the anthology out in fall 2015. I would pony up the funds for token payments to the contributors. The anthology would likely be limited to 7-8 short short pieces, 3-4 short stories, and 1-2 novelettes with a goal of hitting 45-65k words (Monsters & Mormons is close to 180k). As with M&M, I’d be looking to range across the pulp and literary spectrums, but I’d also be shading a bit more towards the literary (where with M&M we shaded more towards pulp). And with the short short pieces, I’d be looking for a variety of forms of discourse including sermon, journal entry, reportage, personal letter, etc.

Feedback: If I decided to do this, who would be interested in submitting? Or reading? Reviewing? Am I wrong that Mormon alt history is swirling about the current Zeitgeist? What are the promises and pitfalls of Mormon alternate history?

Speak up in the comments below, or if you’d prefer not to be public with your thoughts, email me at william AT motleyvision DAWT org.

Mormon Arts Sunday is this Sunday, June 8

6.3.14 | | 5 comments

Brothers and sisters I invite you to celebrate Mormon Arts Sunday this Sunday, June 8, 2014, and, from now on (unless we change it again) every second Sunday in June.

BACKGROUND

Mormon Arts Sunday started back in February 2013 when Scott Hales suggested a wear a black beret to Church day. That post was both inspired by and somewhat spoofing the feminist activism of the time of wearing pants to church, but the more some of us thought about it, the more interesting an idea it became. Scott expanded on the idea and then I explained why I wore a maroon tie to church that day. And when February rolled around this year, I kind of forgot about it, but Theric made sure the Berkeley Ward observed it in February.

But since we missed February, and since I don’t want to compete with Scout Sunday, and since AMV was founded in June (by the way: this is our 10th anniversary), we landed on the second Sunday in June.

Kent Larsen is already on board. He serves in a bishopric so he is able to influence the theme of sacrament meeting. But not all of us serve in a bishopric, so…

OBSERVANCE

  1. Wear a beret or a dark red/maroon item to church this Sunday. Dark red is AMV’s color, but it’s also a good color to represent Mormon Arts Sunday — it’s rich and vibrant and not generally a color that people wear to church all the time. Purple would also work. Wear purple if you’d prefer.
  2. Wear a cockroach accessory (not my personal reference, but see the Scott Hales posts above for an explanation).
  3. If you are talking or teaching this Sunday, include a piece of Mormon literature or visual art in your talk or lesson. The right poem can work quite well for that. One good source for that is the winners of the Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest, which the Ensign used to run.
  4. Bring a work of Mormon art to church or to a home/visiting teaching appointment and share it with someone who you think would appreciate it.
  5. Do this on Saturday, but: buy a work of Mormon art. Something from Zarahemla Books, maybe. Or a Whitney Awards winner. Or from whatever your favorite purveyor of Mormon art may be (tell us in the comments).
  6. Have a special Sunday edition Family Home Evening where you consume and/or discuss a work of Mormon art.

That’s all I have. What suggestions do you have? How else could we observe Mormon Arts Sunday?

Help track Whitney Awards-eligible titles

6.2.14 | | 3 comments

Every year there are titles that would be eligible to be judged for the Whitney Awards except for the fact that they don’t receive enough nominations. This sometimes includes titles that are published by major regional or national publishers. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen this year. Here’s how you can help:

Goodreads user Kaylee has set up a list titled Whitney Award Eligible Books 2014. If you are a Goodreads member or willing to become one, please consider adding titles to the list.

However: collecting the titles is only the first step. Even if you don’t have titles to add, click on over and take a look at the list. If you have read any of the novels on the list, please consider nominating them. You can do so via the Whitney Awards nomination form. Note that you can nominate multiple times in one form submission so you could have one tab open on the list and another on the form and flip back and forth between the two. I also recommend not being stingy with your nominations — even if you don’t consider a novel to be the best of the year, it’s important that the judges have a chance to look at all titles that are worthy of consideration.

Finally, take a look at the list, and if there are any novels on the list that you haven’t read, but seem interesting, go out and get them, read them, and then nominate them. The Whitney Awards are dependent on a community of Mormon readers and authors. I invite you to be more active in that community (if you traditionally haven’t been).

I’m stepping my game up this year too — so join me. It’ll be fun. And thank you Kaylee for setting up the list!

How to beat me in the Mormon Lit Blitz

5.13.14 | | 12 comments

Friends of AMV: you have a singular opportunity facing you — the chance to increase my currently dangerously low levels of humility by beating me soundly in the Mormon Lit Blitz. Mormon Artist is hosting the contest this year. See all the details in the Call for Submissions.

I already have my story written. I’m feeling quite confident about it. That feeling must not stand. Really, you’ll be doing me a favor by entering.

HOW TO DO IT

All you need to do is find 4 hours between now and May 31. You could probably even do it in 3, depending on how fast you can write your rough draft. Here’s how:

  1. Spend 45 minutes coming up with ideas. Remember that you aren’t limited to flash fiction — poetry, comics, plays are all welcome. These 45 minutes don’t even have to be in a row. They can happen in the shower or as you’re driving or folding laundry. Just make sure you have something close to capture your ideas.
  2. Spend 2 hours (also don’t need to be in a row) writing your first draft.
  3. Spend 1 hour revising. It really doesn’t take long to revise 1,000 words (or less).
  4. Spend 15 minutes copyediting and then format and submit.

INSPIRATION

Have no idea what to write about? Here are some freely offered ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • The story of Balaam and his ass, except Baalam is a PR flack, Balak is a CEO, and the ass is an Audi TT.
  • Parley P. Pratt: Vampire Hunter
  • First line: The Bishop’s wife was worried that he was spending so much time on Pinterest.
  • Title: The Laurel Class President’s Lament
  • Comic: Nursery toys/books/activities through the decades
  • A story about a handsome, righteous, well-coiffed commercial pilot for Lufthansa who is inspired to re-route a flight to Istanbul thus avoiding a sudden deadly storm and the political crisis that would have ensued because one of the passengers that would have died is a moderate Turkish general traveling incognito.
  • First line: As far as she knew, Tiffany was the only Mormon female jockey in the world.
  • A pair of sister missionaries is contacted by the manager for a controversial female pop star who was raised Mormon and would like to be taught the discussions (and possibly re-activate).

That should be enough to get you started. Feel free to share more ideas in the comments section. But more importantly: get brainstorming.

Culture and being in, but not of the world

4.23.14 | | 17 comments

As I was reading the comments to Scott H’s recent AML blog post Moving Culture, I had the following thought:

In modern Mormon American communities when the notion of “be in the world but not of it” is raised in relation to culture, it is almost always the “not of” that is emphasized rather than the “being in”. And so most Mormons draw their various lines (which, as I wrote almost 10 years ago, I don’t have a problem with as long as they are honest with themselves about those lines) for what they will and will not consume, enjoy the works that fall within their lines, and then (perhaps) look askance at those who draw their lines in different places than they do.

But the problem is that this method (which I will admit to employing myself quite often) is actually addressing neither the “being in” nor the “not of” because:

1. Any culture you avoid means that you are cutting yourself off from those parts of the world and thus are not being in it. Now, obviously, there are places (and in this case I mean cultural places as in: specific works/creators and/or communities that form around those works/creators) we should not be in. And there are places that some of us can be in without causing major damage to our souls while others can’t. But we are not called to cloister ourselves, and if we have no frames of cultural reference with which to approach others, we can’t really claim that we are in the world.

2. I think (and this is based on my reading of Christ’s ministry on Earth) that being not of the world is less about not partaking in things and more about how you approach your presence in and interaction with the world. “Not of” means that the world doesn’t override or distort your Mormon worldview (at least not too much — I also believe that no one is untainted by the world). And it means bringing your worldview into play in an active, interrogating, subversive, filtering, enveloping way.

What I think that adds up is that to be “in the world,” one must be engaged with culture, and to be “not of the world” is to act upon rather than be acted upon by culture. This is easier said than done.