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!

Guest Post: D. J. Butler’s City of the Saints: An Irreantum Review

5.29.14 | | 3 comments

Before Irreantum folded, I’d recruited a few people to write book reviews for what I thought would be the last issue. Among the reviewers was Emily Harris Adams, winner of the 2013 Mormon Lit Blitz. Emily was given the assignment to review D. J. Butler’s City of the Saints, a Mormon steampunk novel that was originally serialized and published through Amazon. After Irreantum‘s no-more-ness became manifest, Emily contacted me and asked what to do with her complimentary (i.e. FREE!) review copy. I told her to keep it and forget about the review. Not wanting the book to go to waste, though, she wrote the review anyway and sent it to me to post on A Motley Vision.

So, in memory of Irreantum, I post Emily’s review…with hope that the journal will find a new beginning sometime soon.

****

After reading City of the Saints, I couldn’t quite figure out a succinct way to describe the overarching, grand picture of what I had just mentally ingested. Not until I ran into Dave Butler himself.  When he asked me what I thought of his book, I said,

“It’s history cake, isn’t it?”

And it is. There’s an unabashed reveling in the historical yumminess.

This book isn’t history candy. If you are looking for something enjoyable but without density, a fun read that happens to take place in a historical setting, turn your handcart around because this is not the right place. This story is rich and indulgent but still substantive. In other words: cake.

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Sunstone Kirtland and The Garden of Enid

5.14.14 | | 4 comments

AMVLast weekend I had the chance to attend this year’s regional Sunstone Symposium in Kirtland. I initially had not planned to attend, but after I published three cartoons in the recent issue of Sunstone, the director of the symposium invited me to give a presentation on The Garden of Enid. I gladly accepted.

Kirtland is four hours northeast of my home. Travelling with limited funds, I left at 4:30 in the morning and drove non-stop to the Stannard Stone Quarry in Chapin Forest Reservation, where the early Saints quarried stone for the temple, just two miles south of Kirtland. I had an hour to wait before the symposium, so I grabbed my camera and took a mile-long trail through the forest, hoping to see something neat—like a rock formation. The trail was all trees and moss, however, until I found the quarry itself in a creek a few muddy steps off the beaten path. A few years back, the Church and the local government had put up signage and built a wooden walkway over the creek—perhaps to prevent visitors from climbing down into the creek itself, as I was doing, to get a better view of the chisel marks in the algae-covered stone.

After snapping more pictures than I’ll ever need of the quarry, I hiked back to my car and drove to the Community of Christ’s Kirtland Temple Visitor’s Center, the conference venue, where I picked up my name tag and pocketed a few free copies of Sunstone and an old collection of Mormon cartoons by Calvin Grondahl. From there I headed to the main classroom to wait for the conference keynote address to begin and feel guilty about not making better small talk with strangers.

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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.

What should the talks be about for Mormon Arts Sunday?

5.12.14 | | 11 comments
Kent in a Beret

Why Kent can’t wear a beret on Mormon Arts Sunday (plus, his daughter stole the beret!!)

Our nascent annual attempt to change the way Mormons think about the arts, Mormon Arts Sunday, (a.k.a. “Wear a Black Beret to Church Day”) is approaching soon! I’m trying hard to make this a “thing,” and so while the whole “black beret” thing won’t work for me (as this photo demonstrates), I have managed to arrange for our ward to devote its sacrament meeting on June 8th (the 1st of June is Fast Sunday, so that won’t work) to the arts.

However, we do have to somehow give those who speak on Mormon Arts Sunday a subject. And since there will probably be 3 speakers, we need to divide up the subject of the Gospel and the Arts and Mormon Art into general areas—or at least select three specific topics from among the universe of possible topics. What should we say to speakers? What should they talk about?

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Alex Caldiero’s Performative Poesis:
Making, the Makar, and Mormonism

4.28.14 | | 9 comments

Earlier this month, I presented some of my research on Alex Caldiero’s sonosophy at the AML Conference. After I posted my presentation proposal here, Scott also posted his, and Th. expressed his hope that we would record our papers “for the internet since that’s the only way nonattendees can be assured of hearing them later.” Th.’s request solidified my intention to record my presentation and post it online. So I packed my Samson Go Mic (love that thing!) and my laptop and sound-captured my presentation using Audacity (in case you were wondering). When I listened to the presentation later, I realized I had left some stuff out the day of and made a few additions to the audio to make up for my neglect; I also made some minor cuts where there was too much empty air or where I commented on how slow the classroom’s computer was (O, so slow!). Then I combined the audio with my Prezi, screen-captured the presentation using Open Broadcaster Software, and uploaded the file to YouTube.

I mention my post-conference presentation-revision process and the digital tools I used to create the video I’m sharing because I wanted to show one way in which those tools can potentially augment (and disrupt) the historical modes of critical discussion that are favored in the humanities (i.e., sustained arguments made in writing). In his introduction to the BYU student-produced anthology, Writing about Literature in the Digital Age, Gideon Burton argues that we ought to welcome such disruptions because they can awaken us to the “ongoing vitality of literature as ‘equipment for living’ in the digital age.” They can help us see and experience and share and discuss literature differently, opening the mode of literary conversations to something (potentially) more dynamic and engaging than a monograph published in a print journal with a necessarily limited base of subscribers.

My thoughts on the state of academic publishing aside, I was both excited and disheartened to learn at the AML Conference that next year’s meeting might be held in Hawaii. The move excites me because it’s an attempt to break the Jell-O Belt’s hold on the Association (and the Association’s favor for the Jell-O Belt), to move its focus beyond the continental U.S. I just hope the attempt doesn’t, Humpty Dumpty-like break the Association. Which leads me to why the move disheartens me: as I mentioned in the post where I shared my AML proposal, my wife and I look forward to our annual pilgrimage to the AML Conference; but with the conference in Hawaii next year, we can’t afford to attend. Chalk it up to student loans coming due, a pending move, a mortgage, four kids, and so on. Whatever the case, I’m sad I won’t be able to be there. Yet, our impending conference-nonattendance has had me thinking about alternatives to the time- and geography-bound conference, about ways to approximate or augment the knowledge- and community-building aspects of such conferences, to potentially include more people on the program and in the conference discussions, to move MoLit’s critical culture beyond the ways critics have traditionally made their work public. Sharing my conference presentation online (in video and audio formats) is a gesture toward those alternatives, which I hope to address more later.

Your thoughts on such alternatives and on the content and form of my presentation (which at ~43 minutes is, I know, fairly long) are welcome in the comments.


Follow this link for the audio version.

(Cross-posted here.)

Every book is a failure :)

4.24.14 | | 13 comments

.

. . . I hope to write another [novel] fairly soon.
It is bound to be a failure,
every book is a failure,
but I do know with some clarity
what kind of book I want to write.

- – - George Orwell

By titling my Whitney recap as I have, I don’t wish to suggest the five books in the General Category sucked. After all, the novel Orwell was planning to write was Nineteen Eighty-four, an enormous success by about every criteria I can imagine (outside cheerfulness—huge bust on the cheerfulness front). Rather, as I revisit the books I’ve read and reviewed, I want to think about what they suggest about us as a writing community in 2014. I’ll cover them in the order they are listed on the Whitney site which, coincidentally, is the same order I ranked them in.

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