Category Archives: Awards

Attention Whitney Nominators

12.17.14 | | no comments

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The Whitneys are an awards program for novels written by LDS authors. Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the LDS church, prophesied “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” It is our hope to be a part of that journey toward excellence by honoring the LDS writers also working toward that goal.

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Who’s a Whitney nominator? Well, anyone. You can be if you want to. Go nominate something now. 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 available 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-five days to be nominated since its official release date and The Bishop’s Wife will only have two.

To make fair, 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 your suggestions:

Nov 22:  Eve: In the Beginning by 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: City Of Brick And Shadow 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: The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison [I’ve mentioned this one before.]

My 2012 Mormon Arts Favorites

12.8.12 | | 11 comments

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).  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

MARTYRS' CROSSINGSo, 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 Melissa Leilani Larson’s 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 would  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,  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. more

An open letter to the Whitney Awards Committee

10.17.12 | | 16 comments

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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.

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Suggestion the first: Expand the borders of date eligibility more

A poll for those entering Everyday Mormon Writer’s upcoming contest

9.13.12 | | 6 comments

With just over 10 days left to enter Everyday Mormon Writer’s Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest, 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.

Which categories are you entering/have you entered in the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories Contest?

View Results

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Mormon Lit Blitz post-game

3.17.12 | | 8 comments

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. more

Marilyn Brown novel award: deadline is Oct. 1

8.30.11 | | no comments

There’s just over a month left to prepare your unpublished manuscript to enter the Marilyn Brown novel award. The winner receives a $1,000 stipend. For details, visit Marilyn Brown’s author site as well as the UVU page for the award.

Make sure you check the full list of requirements, but it does need to be mainstream fiction (past winners have ranged in their literariness), and it should either focus on cultural experiences (of any type) in the Utah region or on the LDS experience in the Utah region or elsewhere.

Jen Wahlquist, Associate Professor of English, at Utah Valley University is administering the award again this year, and as in the past, the winner will be honored at the English & Literature department’s spring banquet.

This award has gone to some excellent novels over the years so if you have a manuscript that needs a little work or a quick polish (or you’re a very fast writer), go for it.

We’ll be sure to publish the results next year here at AMV.

The Clear Voiced Individual: Melissa Leilani Larson and “Little Happy Secrets”: Reactions to Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project, Part Four

10.22.10 | | 3 comments
Mel Larson 2

Photo by Alisia Packard

POWERHOUSE PLAYWRIGHT

Throw in 3/4 a cube of Jane Austen. Add in equal amounts of Joss Whedon. A pinch of Aaron Sorkin. Oh, and don’t forget two cups of Joseph Smith. Stir evenly. Layer that on top of Merchant Ivory films, historical biopics, and BBC period pieces. Maybe, if you’re in the mood, fold in a little romantic comedy, but only the good stuff. Then mix and let stand. After that, throw in a lot of witty banter, contemporary flair, unflinching bravery, impressive style, moving spirituality, and really strong intelligence.  Toss it in the oven until it’s “shiny.” Take it out, let it cool, top it off with some genuine originality, sparkling dialogue, realistic plots, heart rending vulnerability, and achingly honest characters. Then let it cool and (voila!) you have the plays of Melissa Leilani Larson.

Before I ever met the witty and wonderful Melissa Leilani Larson, I was introduced to her through her plays Wake Me When Its Over (now Standing Still Standing) and Angels Unaware (now Martyrs’ Crossing). The work itself created some powerful responses in me and I have very fond memories of attending those shows. Angels Unaware, especially, re-sparked my spiritual love affair with Joan of Arc (Jean d’Arc), which originally started with my first reading of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. Both Shaw’s and Larson’s plays have led to independent inquiry and research on my part, which I hope leads to another Joan of Arc play (or two) someday from my end, although they will be very different than either Larson’s or Shaw’s… and definitely Shakespeare’s!… take on the Maid.

From the beginning Larson has engaged my mind, softened my heart, and spurred me into action. She has made me re-think certain worldviews, and review my own, not always pure intentions. She has made me see my fellow human beings more clearly and compassionately, as well as drawing me nearer to the heart of God. I don’t know how I can give higher praise to a writer, but Larson deserves every word of it. And in her most ground-breaking play (earth shattering, more like it!) Little Happy Secrets, all of Larson’s strengths are on display. more

James Goldberg, Communal Narratives, plus Faith Lost and Faith Born in “Prodigal Son”: Reactions to _Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project_, Part Three

10.21.10 | | 13 comments
Photo bt Vilo Elisabeth Westwood

Photo by Vilo Elisabeth Westwood

Unlike many, I do not believe a text can truly be divorced from its author. Maybe it’s the historian in me, but the more I find out about an author, the more I am fascinated and enlightened by the text. So it’s difficult for me to address a work, when I have met the author, not to bring my experiences with, or knowledge of, the author to the text. So, first, I’ll talk about the author James Goldberg, as well as his relation to New Play Project. Then I’ll address his beautiful, award-winning play, “Prodigal Son.”

JAMES GOLDBERG AND THE COMMUNAL NARRATIVE

Now I wouldn’t call James Goldberg my best friend, although we are friends, and I certainly would love to be even friendlier. Yet there seems to have even been awkward tension during a few moments. We’ve seriously disagreed a couple of occasions. And I could tell that I annoyed him on at least a dozen occurrences..

However, I do think the world of him. And I think he is one of the best and unique writers Mormonism has. We should value him and the wealth of multiculturalism he brings to his Mormon faith and writing.  It’s interesting, the more and more I find truth in other religions, the more and more I believe in Mormonism. Comparing religions and cultures highlights the Gospel tinged truths whispered into the ears of every culture. And I get the sense from James that he believes the same thing.

James Goldberg comes from Jewish and Sikh heritages, while also happening to be a card carrying Mormon. When you talk to him, he isn’t shy about his diverse background and proudly celebrates his cultural past and freely intermingles it with his cultural present, not really distinguishing them. Because he shouldn’t distinguish them. Because Mormonism embraces all truth.  That is, if we should trust Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to be adequate spokesmen for Mormonism.

This idea of intermingling one’s diverse cultural and even religious identities is wonderfully evident in a good deal of Goldberg’s work, perhaps no where I have it seen so clearly so as in his fascinating and moving “Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenburgh.” In Mormon Artist’s first Contest Issue Goldberg mentions in an interview about the story , something that struck me:

Because the stories I was writing were so short, I didn’t have time to explain all the culture in them: the Jewish holidays that were thematically connected, the immigrant groups in each story. I figured in the age of Google, smart people could look up the stuff they didn’t get and discover the extra layers in the story, like mining for gems. Understandably, many of my class members didn’t take the time to look stuff up. What surprised me, though, was that the same people who hadn’t invested their time in the story were telling me to simplify it, to explain it more in terms they could understand. Some said they felt like I wasn’t including them because I wasn’t writing in their culture and explaining anything that came from anywhere else. And I thought, these stories wouldn’t be as beautiful if I explained them. And the best readers would get less out of them.

I also thought, I have unique stories to tell because of my own life heritage. Why should I only tell stories you can already fully understand? Isn’t one purpose of fiction to expand the reader? more