Voting for the twelve finalist of the 2016 Mormon Lit Blitz is now open through this Saturday, June 11. The editors have made it super easy to vote this year. Just click on the link above, open up the links to each of the eligible works in a new tab, narrow your choice down to four, rank those four and then fill out the form on the original page.
Also: if you feel compelled to publicly comment on any or some or all of the entries, do leave a comment on the discussion post. We authors appreciate it when readers engage with what we wrote.
It’s a fascinating group of finalists this year — some names that are familiar from LitBlitzes of yore; some that are new. And quite the eclectic mix of poetry, personal essay and poetry. Kathy Cowley and James and Nicole Goldberg have done a wonderful job. So much so that I’m going to say something about each of the entries. You might want to wait to read the commentary below until you’ve read all of the entries. But I’m not kidding when I claim that you will be blessed if you do the reading required to vote for the finalists. I was:
“Foolish and Wise” by Lisa Barker: Lisa gets at something that I can really relate to — parables often present contrasts of two or three types of individuals. But most of us don’t fall cleanly into one of those types. We’re both or all.
“Fresh Courage Take” by Bradeigh Godfrey: when it comes to flash fiction the most difficult thing to do is fit a robust premise into 1,000 words. Bradeigh chooses the right situation for his story. We’re so familiar with the post-apocalyptic/trek back to Zion tropes that he doesn’t need to worldbuild those out. Instead he shows us the emotional impact and let’s us fill in the blanks to add even more weight to the story.
“Leaving Egypt” by Tyler Chadwick: When I taught the Old Testament, I was a bit harsh on the Children of Israel at points, but I also tried to show how they weren’t all that different from us and tried to provide context for their experience. Tyler captures in a few lines what weeks of clumsy lecturing on my part barely got across. That’s the power of poetry, folks.
“Ghost” by Merrijane Rice: I’m going to repeat a comment I left on the discussion post — If “Ghost” is about what I think it’s about, then Merrijane has given me quite the bittersweet view of the future (my daughter is currently 12). Actually: already starting to glimpse it. But then again: isn’t that exactly a type and shadow of our relationship to our Heavenly Parents? — and then add that this line continues to resonate with me: “let me haunt the corners of your mind”
“Requiem for Those People Who Lived Briefly in Your Ward” by Rose Green: Transient ward members are such a pain. The ones who live in a place too long to be visitors but not long enough to settle in. The ones who you have to reorganize home and visiting teaching around. Who you want to get to know, but not too well because, well, it’s painful when people you love leave. Read that third to last paragraph again. What a perfectly observed metaphor with a multitude of meanings.
“The Gift of Tongues“ by Annaliese Lemmon: I love, love, love that Annaliese takes this initial (very interesting and unique) conceit and then complicates it in a way that is so very Mormon.
“Branch 9 ¾” by Kaki Olsen: I have a thing about the personal essay form. I so often find it frustrating. Too crafted. Too earnest. Not fiction. But here Kaki takes one of the major themes that preoccupies me on an abstract level — that of the interaction between Mormonism and the broader culture — and presents us with something very real and meaningful.
“Golden Contact” by Lee Allred: Lee’s story is a joke. I mean that literally not as a commentary on the story. But I like that even in a story that is a joke Lee can include lines like “There’s sort of a unnatural sharkskin texture to them that almost glows.” He’s one of our best at expressing the uniqueness of Mormonism in a unique way.
“The Back Row” by Kelli Swofford Nielsen: Kelli’s essay does for me some of the same things that “Branch 9 3/4” and “Requiem for Those People Who Lived Briefly in Your Ward” did but with the added bonus that because I’m a back row sitter (who underwent a similar process to that described in the essay), I can very much identify with her observations.
“Rumors of Wars” by Zachary Lunn: An impactful poem because it connects the wars of today with the Church of today with the Church and wars of before and does so with some simple, powerful imagery.
“Last Tuesday” by William Morris: I hope other readers find that it balances the things I wanted to balance; otherwise, it’s kind of ridiculous. But what am I if not a leading Mormon purveyor of the ridiculous and the sublime?
“From the East” by Merrijane Rice: While up until this year Steve Peck might have some claim to the crown, I think it’s now obvious that Merrijane owns the Mormon Lit Blitz contest. This poem is another proof why. Pay especial attention to the rhythm of it and the use of alliteration which seems profligate in its abundance until you read it out loud and then it seems perfect.
The Association for Mormon Letters is calling for papers relating to the connections between speculative fiction and Mormonism, to be delivered at Life, the Universe and Everything 2017, to be held February 16-18 in Provo, Utah.
Presentations can be shorter (10-15 minutes) or longer (20-25 minutes), and can address any area of intersection between speculative fiction and Mormonism, including any of the following:
- Works by LDS authors of speculative fiction
- Depictions of Mormons and Mormonism in speculative fiction
- History of the Mormon speculative fiction community
- Thematic and cultural affinities, connections, and tensions between Mormonism and speculative fiction as ways of viewing human life and the universe in general
Student papers are welcome.
Proposals are due by August 31, and complete papers are due by October 1. Papers can be submitted without previously submitting a proposal, but we prefer the advance notice. Papers will be considered for publication in Deep Thoughts, the proceedings volume for LTUE.
In addition to submitted papers, there will be a panel on the appeal of science fiction and fantasy for Mormons. Please let us know if you would be interested in being on that panel.
Queries, proposals, and papers should be sent to Jonathan Langford, email jonathan AT langfordwriter DOT com.
I have two updates in relation to the Mormon alternate history anthology I’m editing.
With Monsters & Mormons the name came first and the commitment to doing the actual anthology later so it was clear what to call it. With this one, I’ve been bouncing various ideas off of Theric and none have really worked until now (that’s why in the call for submissions, there’s no title stated). But I think I finally have it: States of Deseret will be the name of the anthology (unless I change my name between now and publication [but I don’t think I will–I like this one]).
I am reading them. Thanks again to all those who submitted. I hope to have my initial read through completed by the end of the month and then responses to everyone in the latter part of May. Thanks for your patience. I know it’s not fun to wait.
To celebrate it being one of three AML Awards finalists for short story collection, I have dropped the price of Dark Watch and other Mormon-American stories to $2.99. Buy it from your online store of choice: Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iBooks
I’m also hoping to bring in a few more sales to plump up the pool of funds for contributors to my upcoming Mormon alternate history anthology. We’re currently at $165. I will supplement that total out of my own pocket to get to what we need to in order to pay the contributors to the anthology (likely somewhere $225-275). But it’d be nice to be able to fund some or all the rest of it from book sales.
If you bought the story collection at the higher price, you’re the best and a true patron of Mormon arts. Please consider nudging other people in your life to buy it. Or gift it to someone who might enjoy it.
If you haven’t bought it, I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it — but I can say that it’ll be one of the most interesting bits of Mormon culture you’ve ever spent $3 on.
NOTE: Submissions are now closed! Many thanks to all those who submitted stories.
Submissions are now open for the Mormon alternate history anthology I am editing and publishing with the help of Theric Jepson of Peculiar Pages . Details are below but the gist is: submit flash fiction (<2500 words) and short stories (3000-6000 words) that fit the theme by March 19, 2016. Payment will be a token amount ($15 for the short pieces; $25 for the longer ones), but it will be actual payment for Mormon short fiction, which is, sadly, all too rare a thing.
Before we get to all the mechanics, though, let me explain why I want to put together this particular anthology at this time:
1. It’s been 4 years since we published Monsters & Mormons. It’s time for me to put the editor of Mormon fiction hat on again.
2. About 40 of you very nice people purchased a copy of my Mormon short story collection, which means I have a little over $150 to re-invest in the Mormon lit community (and by the time I’m ready to pay contributors sales may even cover the entire $225-250 budget I have for the anthology).
3. While there is lovely Mormon fiction and poetry being published, history remains the dominant narrative form in Mormon Studies. I want to put Mormon fiction writers in dialogue with that (and mess with it a bit too, of course). And I also like that alternate history is a place where I think both genre and literary fiction writers can do good, interesting work.
4. For all that Mormonism has changed vastly since the end of WWII — becoming more international, more diverse, higher profile, and larger in scale — its basic form and status hasn’t actually changed all that much. We are still very much in the correlated/internationalized/North America-centered/middle-class-centered mode. Certainly technology and society has changed quite a bit, but the Boomer, GenX and Millennial* Mormon experience is not as dramatically different as the earlier periods of our history are from each other. This concerns me because I suspect that we are moving into an era where Mormonism will be more different from the current now than the current now is from the past four decades. I believe that Mormon alternate history is a genre that can (and should) be of interest right now among the Mormon audience because it helps us realize that our beliefs and policies, our ways of worship and community, our formal and informal social and economic structures are not set in stone for all time. If transitions are coming then it might be useful to understand that how current Mormonism exists in the world isn’t how it always has been or needed to be. It also helps us experience other ways of being Mormons and of being Mormons in relation to the rest of society.
5. Most importantly, alternate history is simply an interesting way of exploring the Mormon experience. There’s a vast storehouse of events, characters, documents, decisions, doctrines, and experiences that make up the past 195 years of Mormonism. Let’s use that storehouse to increase the small but important storehouse of Mormon fiction.
Email submissions as an attachment in .rtf, .doc or .docx format to submissions AT motleyvision DOT org. In the subject line put either [FLASH] TITLE OF STORY or [SHORT STORY] TITLE OF STORY. See below for word counts for flash and short story submissions.
In the body of the email include your name, mailing address** and any biographical info or writing credits that relate to the story and/or Mormon fiction and/or your career as a writer. If available, include a link to a blog, website, online resume/works published page, twitter account — anything that will provide some context to your work. A brief note on the key historical events, facts, books, journal articles or other sources that informed the story is welcome but not required.
Pseudonyms are discouraged, but will be allowed for special circumstances — please include that consideration in your e-mail if you would like it.
Deadline: March 19, 2016 (at midnight Pacific Time)
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
SHORT STORIES: Must be between 3,000 and 6,000 words. And I will be enforcing those parameters (although I will give a wee bit of latitude because different programs can produce slightly different word counts). I realize that it’s hard to conjure up an alternate fiction world in such a short amount of space. It’s also a delicious, fun challenge.
FLASH PIECES: Must be 2,500 words or less. While a well-crafted piece of flash fiction is always welcome, for these I highly recommend choosing a non-short story form. By that I mean creating a text that reveals the alternate condition of Mormonism in your timeline by masquerading as being from that timeline. This could mean a: newspaper or magazine article, letter(s), telegram(s), trial transcript, hymn/popular song, excerpt from a play or opera libretto, government report, deposition, journal entry, feuilleton, field notes, sermon, lecture, review, bibliography/table of contents, ship manifest, menu, gossip column, news reel or silent film transcript, etc.
ALSO: No reprints. No chapters from novels. You may have something already written that would be a good fit, but I think it’s quite likely that you’ll better your chances of catching my eye by writing something specifically for the anthology.
Text only. No graphic novels this time (sorry — love them, but they’re not the right fit for this project).
I plan on selecting 5 or 6 short stories and 7 or 8 pieces of flash fiction for the anthology. Submissions should be of interest to the Mormon audience. Just like with Monsters & Mormons, content should not exceed PG-13 in terms of violence, language and sexuality.
Work from writers who are non-LDS, women, international Mormons and Mormons from diverse backgrounds are highly encouraged. New writers are also welcome.
While Monsters & Mormon slanted more pulp, I expect this anthology to slant more literary, although, of course, the most important thing is that you write an excellent story with well-crafted prose that has an interesting Mormon alternate history concept and as rich world building and characterization as can be accomplished within the space limitations.
About that concept: for this anthology the alternate history must be post-1800 (no Book of Mormon stuff) and pre-2020 (so no alternate history science fiction) and Mormonism must be central to the story even if it is dealt with in a subtle or oblique manner. Restoration and Pioneer era stories are very welcome, but I’m also very interested in stories from alternate 20th centuries.
Any fantastical elements must be within the realm of Mormon worldview/doctrine/folk doctrine and of alt-history science, physics and engineering. The use of well-known figures from Mormon and world history is fine. It can also get a bit gimmicky if you’re not careful.
And while it may be tempting to get a little didactic with the concept or the characters, stories that are overtly Utopian/Dystopian or have political or theological axes to grind probably won’t land well with me. So if you’re trying to make a point, make sure the art and craft of the story complicates it. Or even better: let the extrapolation of your alternate timeline jumping off point be the primary driver of your thinking and writing.
Publisher: Peculiar Pages (just like Monsters & Mormons)
Editor: William Morris
Length: 30,000 to 60,000 words
Publication: Fall 2016 (likely September or October)
Format: ebook only (we are considering crowd funding an expanded print version but a lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen)
Booksellers: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Nook (Barnes & Noble); we’ll also consider other online vendors and direct sales
Rights & Payment: Worldwide English exclusive for 10 months from date of publication. We’ll be using a modified version of the SFWA contract. As mentioned above payment will be $15 for flash fiction and $25 for short stories. Should net profits from sales of the anthology exceed my and Theric’s monetary investment in it, there is the potential for royalty payments for the authors (but that’s a small potential — based on our knowledge of the Mormon market for short fiction this anthology will likely come in at a loss or [cross your fingers] as a break-even venture). All of this will be spelled out in the contract. The crowd funded, expanded print anthology will be a separate contract and payment should it come to pass.
That’s all I have. There will be more posts in the future with potential ideas and resources and further reading. Now: what questions do you have for me? If you prefer not to post them in the comments below, contact me at the submissions email listed above or on Twitter @motleyvision.
**This is so if you are selected for the anthology, I don’t have to send out a batch of emails asking where to send the check and a signed copy of the contact. If you don’t feel comfortable with me having your mailing address then include an additional, reliable way of contacting you (as in: an alternate email address, a number you can be texted at, a twitter handle, etc.).
Mormon Arts Sunday is June 14. I’ll include links to previous posts below, but here’s the gist:
Mormon Arts Sunday was created by Scott Hales as a way for members and wards to recognize the important contribution that arts make to the LDS community. It’s entirely a grass roots effort, which means you should feel free to participate at whatever level you feel comfortable with/have stewardship over. This could include:
- Consuming a work of Mormon art on June 14 as an individual or with family or friends.
- Letting your favorite Mormon artist(s) know that you appreciate their work.
- Wearing maroon/dark red to church and/or another article of clothing or accessoryÂ that relates to art and artists.
- Incorporating an excerpt from or work of Mormon art in your lesson or talk for the day.
- Selecting hymns that are by Mormon poets (Eliza Snow, Emma Lou Thayne, Orson F. Whitney, etc.)
- Making creativity/art the topic for sacrament meeting (not something that most of us have influence over, but there are at least two wards that have done so in the past thanks to Theric Jepson and Kent Larsen).
Other ideas are welcome in the comments (and can also be found in the posts below, especially in the comments). Here’s a timeline of Mormon Arts Sunday posts on AMV:
February 2013: Reminder from Scott of Black Beret Sunday
February 2013: William explains why he wore a maroon tie to Church
February 2014: Theric celebrates Mormon Arts Sunday in the Berkeley Ward
6/1/15 Note: it’s now available on all four platforms:
Iâ€™m delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of my short story collection Dark Watch and other Mormon-American stories. Itâ€™s available for pre-order right now at: Amazon (Kindle) | Kobo (epub files). Itâ€™ll also soon be available at Barnes & Noble (Nook) and iBooks (iPad/iPhone). Itâ€™ll officially go live on Saturday, May 16 (which is when pre-orders will be delivered).
Iâ€™ve published it myself under the aegis of A Motley Vision. The main reason for that is that I want as much of the proceeds from sales as possible to go to support AMV and related projects. I go into more detail below about that decision and a lot of other things.
Oh, and hereâ€™s the pitch for the collection:
In Dark Watch and other Mormon-American Stories, William Morris explores how Latter-day Saints navigate the challenges of living in the modern U.S. and participating in the modern Church. Spanning from the early 1980s to the present and into the next century, these 16 stories portray moments that are uniquely, thoroughly and sometimes bittersweetly Mormon-American.
Now on to the gory detailsâ€¦
ON THE STORIES
The book collects 16 stories that take place from the early 1980s through the 22nd century â€” 6 take place in the future (theyâ€™re science fiction! [of sorts]).
9 of the stories are less than 2,000 words in length; Dark Watch is just over 8,000 words. The rest are between those two numbers. The total collection comes in at 40,000 words, which is about 120 print pages.
A big chunk of the stories were published in either Dialogue, Irreantum or the Mormon Lit Blitz. The rest are unique to the collection.
The stories were all written 2006-2013 and coincide with the bulkÂ of my non-fiction writing about Mormon literature and culture. All of the stories are very Mormon and are about the current Mormon-American experience and range from the almost devotional to the almost heretical. That almost is important for me to accomplish (see: my series on the radical middle).
A couple of the stories that were previously published have been slightly edited from their previous state. I donâ€™t think I did anything major, but there are differences.
ON PRICING & PROCEEDS
At $4.99, the collection is deliberately priced on the high end of the (very few) comparable ebook volumes of Mormon short stories out there. I figured $1 for each 10,000 words plus another buck for more than a decade of free literary criticism here at AMV and elsewhere. Plus, it feels to me like an EP and EPâ€™s are/used to be $5.
Proceeds from sales of the collection will go to fund Mormon literature projects. Specifically, I hope to bank enough to cover the bulk of the costs for the Mormon alternate history mini-anthology I plan to edit. And by costs I mean token payments (at least $15, hopefully more like $25)Â to contributors. I hope to also subsidize some of the web hosting costs for AMV and its sister blogs.
Anyone who canâ€™t justify the spend right now but really would like to read the collection should email me at william at motleyvision dot org. Be sure to indicate if youâ€™d like a .pdf, .epub (for Nook, Kobo, Sony Ereader, etc.), or .mobi (Kindle) file. I know whatâ€™s it like to not have the funds to buy books even though youâ€™d really like to support the author. Itâ€™s more important to me that you experience my writing. Iâ€™m not going to just make it free on Amazon or whatever, but email me, and Iâ€™ll shoot you back the format of your choice no questions, no judgement.
ON THE COVER
I created it myself in Adobe InDesign. I thought about using a striking black and white photo like one does with short story collections, but I also wanted to tie it into the A Motley Vision branding. Plus I like minimalist book covers. In fact, my preference would be to have no words on the cover at all, but in the end I bowed to convention.
The maroon color is the exact same color as the one Iâ€™ve used for AMV since moving it to WordPress many years ago. That would be #3d0807 or R=61, B=8, G=7. The typeface is Avenir. Iâ€™ll let you figure out what the squares represent.
The calculus is simple: the only publishing house that would potentially be willing to take this on is Zarahemla Books. Iâ€™d be happy to be part of that list. Itâ€™s great company. But a) thereâ€™s no guarantee that Chris Bigelow would want it; b) since proceeds would be split with ZB, thatâ€™d dilute the net income from sales; and, c) it just seemed like this project was an AMV one. Future projects might not be.
My sister Katherine and father-in-law Tim provided editorial work. I did everything else.
ON A PRINT VERSION
Probably wonâ€™t happenâ€”at least not anytime soon. Yes, I have friends who I could convince to do the layout for free or at a reduced price. Or I could take the time to up my InDesign skills enough to do it myself, but at the moment Iâ€™m not inclined to spend that time or good will. Sorry. If a print version does happen, it wonâ€™t be until after the alternate history anthology, which means late 2016 at the earliest.
So those are all the details. Iâ€™m happy to answer questions in the comments. Stay tuned for more here (and elsewhere) on the stories, my future projects, etc. And thanks, as always, for your support of me and everybody else involved with A Motley Vision and the MormonLit community.