Amber Gilchrist is an independent writer of fiction that is unapologetically LDS and aimed at a general audience. When I set into reading her newest novel, The Librarian Shoots a Gun, it was with the intent of studying how she grounds her general readers in LDS culture–what she feels a need to explain, and how she does it without interrupting the flow of her story. Continue reading “Taking Our Stories to a General Audience: A review of The Librarian Shoots a Gun, by Amber Gilchrist”
I try to keep up on the what’s-what in Mormon comics, but I didn’t even hear about Brittany Long Olsen until she was getting interviewed by Andrew Hall, followed by her book getting serious attention from the AML.
Which book, by the way, deserves that attention. Dendo is the erstwhile Sister Long’s day-by-day comics record of her mission in Japan. By its gradual accumulation of small moments, both highs and lows—by relentlessly capturing the mundanity of mission life, she accomplishes the truly epic event that is a proselyting mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m not a huge reader of the missionary-memoir genre, but for my money, Dendo is the best out there.
(And, I should note, for your money as well.)
This is an interview I conducted with Brittany on March 2, 2016 (with slight edits to make us both look better).
Hello, this is Brittany.
Hey Brittany, this is Theric Jepson.
How are you?
Good, I’m good. How are you?
I’m great. Shall we start?
Okay, so the first question I wanna ask you is: Dendo seems to capture missionary experience a lot more universally than you seemed to expect. Is that—
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.
I assume you all remember Rachel Nunes’s 2014 epic collision with a plagiarist. I recently was in touch with her for an update:
Most of the major details of who committed this crime and her resultant barmy attempts to coverup-slash-intimidate the truth have been public for a few months now. What’s not as widely known is what it takes to go beyond public shaming. In other words: the legal system. How did you find a lawyer and what is your lawyer’s usual specialty?
I found my attorney through another attorney who contacted me on Goodreads. She was helping me get the books off Goodreads and was watching for negative reviews put out by Rushton under her aliases. She was also instrumental in tracking down my copyright. Clinton Duke works at her law firm, and she recommended him. His specialty is copyright, patents, and litigation.
But unfortunately, he estimates 30,00 to 120,000 more to resolve the entire case, and I donâ€™t have that kind of money. So at this point, Iâ€™m considering using him more as a consultant, which would still cost thousands, but would help me control the costs a little better because right now they are threatening to bury me. Iâ€™ve put out queries about other options, but no attorney has stepped up to the plate to do this at reduce cost (and really, why should they?) because they donâ€™t expect to ever receive money from Rushton. (They are completely okay with me going into debt for it, though, lol.) Honestly, Iâ€™m not sure where to go at this point, but I am absolutely proceeding. We are entering discovery and I am working now with a few people to come up with a plan. I have an appointment with another attorney in a week to get his take on the case.
I wish I knew how to find more support from people or from law enforcement, but unless she starts shooting at me or I commit suicide or something, people have other more pressing things to support and think about. Again, I donâ€™t blame anyone. Iâ€™m very grateful for the handful of authors I know who have been supportive, and others I donâ€™t know who have come forward. I am way short of what I will need to finish this case, and I think it says something very telling about the current legal system where good folks have to mortgage their entire future to stop something that is supposedly against the law to begin with.
For me itâ€™s never over. For instance, I spent countless hours this past week gather stuff for the case, and on Wednesday when I received another three thousand dollar bill from the attorney, it kind of ruined the whole season, you know? The impact on my family continues.
But my motto is upward and onward, so Iâ€™m focusing on that, but I will be very grateful when itâ€™s all behind me.
EDIT: READ INTO COMMENTS FOR MORE INFORMATION AND UPDATES
I think this accurately captures what we all want:
AÂ novel about active Mormons written by an active Mormon is placed before a national audience where it makes a notably broadÂ impact on discourse.
That first half has precedent:Â Heaven Knows Why!, Saints,Â The Actor and the Housewife, a number of other big-house and indie titles—the second half, I can’t really think of anything that qualifies. But my memory is short and I’ve missed obvious exceptions to sweepingÂ judgments before, so please note my errors below. (At any rate, certainly no such novel has sold in Da Vinci Code numbers.)
But even were there a dozen such novels, we would still feel like the race is yet being run. The latest person to near the finish line is Mette Ivie Anderson with her novel The Bishop’s Wife.
In the posts I’ve posted am posting will post on this novel, I harbor an undercurrent of hope that she will win. Even though I have my complaints and uncertainties regarding minor aspects of the book, I think this is a terrific novel in terms of representing What Am Mormon. Besides, unlike much of the competition, Harrison’s novel is backed up by a serious marketing campaign.
If The Bishop’s Wife is a hit, what sort of conversations might you have with the folks at the rec center? Continue reading “Has Mette Won the Race?”
I’m indulging in some shameless self-promotion, but only because what I’m promoting is a fruit of my work on Fire in the Pasture and speaks to the publication of Mormon literature (especially via collaborative effort) and my continued promotion of Mormon poets, poetries, and poetics.
Yesterday morning via his Mormon Artists Group e-newsletter, Glimpses, Glen Nelson announced the publication of my single-author book. Here’s what he said:
Field Notes on Language and Kinshipby Tyler Chadwick
artworks by Susan Krueger-Barber
A landmark publication appeared in 2011, an anthology of contemporary Mormon poetry. It was an ambitious undertaking that, it can be argued, is among the most important books on Mormonism to appear in the first years of the century. Unknown to many, even inside the Church, Mormon poets have recently become regular contributors to the leading poetry publications in the country. Their poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, The New Republic, Slate, The Southern Review, among many, many others. The award-winning anthology, Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets, presented 82 poets’ new works in its 522 pages.
The editor for Fire in the Pasture was Tyler Chadwick, a young scholar and poet from Idaho. After the publication of the anthology, Mormon Artists Group approached Chadwick to write a book to answer a simple question: Why does poetry matter to you? He responded with Field Notes on Language and Kinship. It is Mormon Artists Group’s 24th project.
The book is a direct response to the works in Fire in the Pasture. Chadwick reacts to them in several ways, as a scholar, memoirist, essayist, and poet. Field Notes on Language and Kinship is published as a two-volume edition. The anthology, Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets, is rebound in hardcover; and Chadwick’s original volume is bound as a companion work, covered with hand-pounded amate barkskin papers from Mexico’s Otomi Indians and brown Japanese Asahi silk. The two are presented in a slipcase. A commercial paperback is also available from Amazon.com.
One of Chadwick’s sources of inspiration is visual art, and Field Notes on Language and Kinship includes eight artworks created especially for this project by Susan Krueger-Barber. Just as Chadwick’s text brings multiple disciplines of literature to bear, Krueger-Barber’s works are multi-disciplinary, mixed media works. Each of them combines photography, painting, and collage (using fragments torn from a copy of Fire in the Pasture). The publication is limited to 25 copies, signed by the artists and numbered.
In her essay â€œThe Ends of America, the Ends of Postmodernism,â€ critic Rachel Adams argues suggests that twenty-first-century American fiction has been moving in a transnational direction as â€œa constellation of authorsâ€ have resisted â€œthe stylistic and conceptual premises of high postmodernismâ€ by focusing instead on â€œthe intensification of global processesâ€ that have developed over the last half-century (250).[i] Using Karen Tei Yamashitaâ€™s excellent novel Tropic of Orange (1997) as a model, she describes this new focus as â€œAmerican literary globalism,â€ a kind of post-postmodernism that builds upon certain conventions of postmodernism (like fabulation), yet has an entirely â€œnew set of genealogical, geographic, and temporal referents,â€ including an interest in the global politics, multiethnic perspectives, geopolitical cleavages and tensions, border crossings, national and transnational relations, economic flows, and polyvocality that characterize contemporary globalized society (see Adams 261-265). For Adams, this literary globalism opens up a â€œshared perception of community whereby, for better or worse, populations in one part of the world are inevitably affected by events in anotherâ€ (268). It is the new direction American fiction is headed.
It would be incorrect, of course, to suggest that Mormon novelists have embraced â€œAmerican literary globalismâ€ as Adams defines it, or even a kind of â€œMormon literary globalismâ€ subspecies. While transnational concerns have had a place in Mormon novels since the days of Nephi Anderson, these novels hardly constitute a majority within the still-developing genre. In fact, I think the relatively small number of writers producing Mormon literature today is enough to explain why more novels arenâ€™t being written that address Mormonism from a global or transnational perspectiveâ€”especially when you consider that most Mormon novelists who are able to find publishers for their work come from the United States and have strong ties to Utah and the Mormon Corridor. As Mormon fiction goes, Nephi Anderson remains the most important immigrant Mormon novelist. (Correct me if Iâ€™m wrong, but Mormon poetry, with poets like Alex Caldiero, has fared much better in this respect.)
I feel, as a new LDS fiction writer, like I am on shifting, volatile ground right now. I see LDS publishing companies that are smaller and more independent either shutting down business or struggling to stay afloat, while the bigger publishers slowly consume each other until they become one Frankenstien-like conglomeration; you submit to one, and get rejected by all. I read submission suggestions on the websites of LDS publishers and see that just about everyone is asking for literature that appeals to a wider audience than just LDS people. And this recent interview with Lyle Mortimer, who is in fact the CEO of CFI, my own publishing company, leaves me in a bit of a cold sweat.Â I guess comparatively, itâ€™s not such a bad thing that my first book has only sold around 1400 copies so far. But it also points to a much more worrisome thing… something that maybe isn’t going to go away at all. Continue reading “LDS publishing: a new writer’s perspective”