The voting window for the 2014 Whitney Awards* closed last week. The gala takes place Saturday, May 16, 2015, and you still have two more days to purchase tickets. I’ve already explained my criteria for judging the nominations forÂ the historical fiction category and shared some advice for Mormon writers of historical fiction. Now, it’s time to reveal how I ranked the five finalists (and if you paid attention to my previous posts, this list won’t come as a huge surprise):
- Softly Falling by Carla Kelly
- An Ocean atween UsÂ by Angela Morrison
- Eve: In The Beginning by H.B. Moore
- Deadly Alliance,Â by A. L. Sowards
- Gone for a SoldierÂ by Marsha Ward
As a nominations judge, I was invited to vote in any of the other finalists categories that I wanted to (and read all the books in), but I decided that I didn’t want to do another huge reading push so I just voted in the Historical Fiction category. I kind of wish that the big push for this wasn’t in March and April because they tend to be busy months for me in other areas of my life. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want the awards to be any later than they are.
*I’ve been inconsistent in how I refer to the awards. Technically these are the awards for books published in 2014 so The Whitney Awards organizations call them the 2014 awards even though they are awarded in 2015.
As I revealed earlier in the year, I was a finalists judge for historical fiction for this yearâ€™s Whitney Awards. Iâ€™ll reveal my ballot after the awards are presented, but since that doesnâ€™t happen until May, hereâ€™s some advice for Mormons who write or are considering writing historical fiction.
Keep in mind that I donâ€™t write historical fiction myself and havenâ€™t read deeply in the genre so my advice may not be worth much. But my exposure to it includes: reading all of the historical fiction nominees this year, reading the historical fiction finalists back in [[insert year]], other reading of Mormon historical fiction, other reading of historical fiction published in the past three decades, other reading of fantasy fiction that draws on historical fiction, reading of quite a few novels from the main eras that authors write historical fiction in (the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries), reading of nonfiction from/about those eras, and reading of several of Sir Walter Scottâ€™s novels. Scott, along with Jane Porter, launched the genre of historical fiction. This is all to say that while itâ€™s not one of my primary genres, I do have some familiarity with its tropes and forms and what it can do well. Continue reading “Advice for Mormon writers of historical fiction”
The finalists for the 2015 Whitney Awards were announced on Monday. I had a particular interest in the announcement this year because I was a finalists judge. My last participation with the Whitney Awards was back in 2009 when I was a member of the voting academy. For that, you try and read the finalists for each category and you can vote for each category that you complete (there were a lot less categories back then). Being a finalists judge is different. You read every book that was nominated (and remember that it only takes 5 nominations to be part of the nomination pool).Â It was an interesting process. I’m not sure that I want to repeat it. Then again, I’m not sure if I’ll be asked back. And then again, a few days ago, I would have said never again, and I’ve already warmed back up toÂ “not sure”.
I was asked to be a judge in the historical fiction category. The organizers ask what categories you’d be willing to judge. I told them any of them (yes, even romance). And I meant it. I’m fairly widely read in all of the genres, especially a lot of the foundational texts of the various genre categories. Because I’m not sure if I’m going to do it again, and because even if I do, there’s no telling what category I might get (and because I’m not going to spill all the beans), I feel comfortable sharing a few things about the process.
On the Historical Fiction Finalists
I read every page of all of the nominees, finished the final title 48 (or so) hours before the deadline to submit the ballot and completed my voting more than 24 hours before deadline. Of the five finalists, three overlap with my top five. I’d say that’s pretty good. After the winners are announced, I will post my top 5 and which one I’d pick as the winner. Continue reading “Notes from a 2015 Whitney Awards finalists judge”
The Whitneys are an awards program for novels written by LDS authors. Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the LDS church, prophesied â€œWe will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.â€ It is our hope to be a part of that journey toward excellence by honoring the LDS writers also working toward that goal.
Who’s a WhitneyÂ nominator? Well, anyone. You can be if you want to. Go nominate something now.Â Feels good, doesn’t it? Now if that novel receives four more nominations, it will get attention paid it by the official judges. It’s a cool system, very open and egalitarian.
Books are availableÂ to be nominated from January One to December Thirty-one the year of its release. Which is an inherent unfairness since As You Are has had three hundred sixty-fiveÂ days to be nominated since its official release date and The Bishop’s Wife will only have two.
ToÂ make fair,Â this post is designed to celebrate Decemberish releases and suggest to nominators that these books deserve attention from the Whitney committee. (So only mention in the comments books likely deserving of such attention.)
Here are three to get us started. I’ll periodically update this post to include yourÂ suggestions:
Nov 22: Â Eve: In the Beginning byÂ H. B. Moore [Heather’s books always get attention. This deals with our primary myth so if it’s good at all it will deserve that attention.]
Dec 5:Â City Of Brick And ShadowÂ by Tim Wirkus [I’m about fifty pages into this novel starring American missionaries in South America. I’ll be writing more about this book later, but I am incredibly excited about it. Wonderfully written and doing everything the way I want things done in a nationally published Mormon novel.]
Dec. 30:Â The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison [I’ve mentioned this one before.]
So this is not some snazzy, official list with criteria, rubrics, or voting committees. This is just my personal, gut-feeling-favorite Mormon Arts contributions that I have experienced this year. This also doesn’t mean that it was even published or produced in 2012… these are works/artists that I have personally encountered this year (or so).Â So keep that in mind as I submit “Mahonri Stewart’s Personal Mormon Arts Favorites of 2012!” (Which may or may not become an annual tradition, depending on how lazy I am next year).
FAVORITE MORMON PLAY: MELISSA LEILANI LARSON’S MARTYRS’ CROSSING
So, beyond what I’ve seen my Zion Theatre Company produce this year, I haven’t had a chance to see much Mormon Drama in 2012 since I live in Arizona (kind of pathetic since I’m supposed to be the Mormon Drama expert around here). I can’t visit Utah on a whim to see the rare Mormon themed play that comes around (or, this year, New York with #MormonInChief!), but what I have done this year is read a bunch of older Mormon plays to finish my editing for Saints on Stage. Since one of those plays was produced again this year, I am choosing Martyrs’ Crossing, which has been getting great reviews at the Echo Theatre in Provo. I saw BYU’s production of the show years ago and read it again this year, and it’s as beautiful and vibrant as I remember it. Melissa is one of Mormonism’s best playwrights and, although I wouldÂ call Little Happy Secrets her best work so far, Martyrs’ Crossing is a personal favorite, much due to Mel’s beautiful writing and to my love for Jean d’Arc… who I may tackle a play about some day as well, although it would be pretty different than Mel’s take. Mel keeps beating me to the punch on stories that I love, including Jane Austen’s Persuasion and her upcoming adaptation of my all time favorite novel, C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces. Despite that personal frustration, I can’t but help look at these works and say, “Well, at least Mel wrote it, because it’s beautiful.”
FAVORITE MORMON PLAYWRIGHT: MATTHEW GREENE
Although I haven’t seen or read it, just the fact that Matthew Greene was able to get a Mormon themed play up in major a New York fringe festival is nothing to sniff at. I’ve read both positive and negative reviews for #MormonInChief,Â but I admire Matthew (who was in BYU’s WDA Workshop with me several years ago) for really jumping into the New York theater scene and progressing the cause of Mormon Drama. He’s also got an upcoming play coming soon to Plan-B Theatre Company in Salt Lake City called Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea. Matthew is getting some real traction in his career as a dramatic writer and I believe it’s well deserved. Continue reading “My 2012 Mormon Arts Favorites”
I’m a big fan of the Whitney Awards. I think they’ve filled a need with great success and have been managed professionally and sensibly. I’m always certain to nominate books I read that qualify and are deserving, and every year intend to actually act on my Academy membership and vote a category, but never quite succeed.
I do have two suggestions that I believe would further improve the Whitneys which I would like to humbly present publicly, in order to invite an open discussion of my suggestions’ merits.
With just over 10 days left to enter Everyday Mormon Writer’s , I thought I’d see if we can get a sense of which centuries AMVers are focusing on. If you have entered or are planning on entering the contest, please answer the following question.
If you have no idea what I’m taking about, read my interview with James Goldberg on the contest. Or click the link in the first sentence of this post.
Full disclosure: I have entered the 20th, 21st and 22nd century contests.
Wm congratulates the winners of the Mormon Lit Blitz, thanks those who made it happen, ruminates a bit on the experience, and makes a plea for submissions to Everyday Mormon Writer.
A few post-game thoughts on the Mormon Lit Blitz…
1. Congratulations to Merrijane and the rest of the top 5! In case you didn’t know, Merrijane has a blog where every Friday she posts a poem (sometimes one by her; sometimes one by someone else) plus a few thoughts. Check it out.
2. I’m not going to reveal my ballot, but I will say that I voted for two of the five works that placed. And while the finalists didn’t get a complete breakdown of voting, the organizers did let us know that all of us got a good number of votes. What’s cool is that each of the finalists were able to bring in their readership, which meant we all benefited, in terms of readers, from each other’s efforts.
3. Many thanks to James, Nicole and Scott for running the contest and to my sister Katherine and Ben for hosting it at Mormon Artist and to anybody who helped with the graphics, which were very cool (Anneke and ??). I thought it was all very well managed and promoted and am pleased that I decided to participate. Continue reading “Mormon Lit Blitz post-game”