NOTE: James Goldberg has provided the following information about the AML Conference on Saturday, March 28, 2015.
AML Conference: Everything you wanted to know about Mormon Literature (but were afraid to ask)
First: get out your calendars: mark Saturday, March 28, 1-5 pm, as a time to go down to the Utah Valley University Library (rooms LI 515 and LI 516).
Now: Let me tell you why.
Since the late 1970s, the Association for Mormon Letters has been holding annual conferences. If you’ve ever been to an academic conference, you know the drill: organizers send out a call for papers, scholars try to say something specific enough to be new, and then sessions are scheduled. When the conference comes around, some speakers will hold their audiences rapt as they broaden their horizons or change the way they think about the field. Others do their best not to bore themselves to sleep.
The conference model works reasonably well for testing out new ideas in a field and spreading them to the relevant experts. But it’s less effective at introducing the big ideas: if you’re new, a conference takes you straight up to the newest leaves of knowledge without always bothering to show you which trees they’re on, let alone letting you see the forest.
This year, we want to remedy that. There are many people who get curious about Mormon Literature at some point in their lives, but “know not where to find it.” My friends: wait no longer. At this conference, we’re going to put off the long, carefully-footnoted papers for a moment and get straight to your questions. And we’re going to do it—through panels, live debates, a writing workshop, a poetry slam, and an awards ceremony—over the course of a single afternoon.
Here’s a sampling of questions the conference will respond to:
Do interesting Mormon books exist? Where can I find them?
This is the question I’ve heard most about Mormon Lit. People who’ve never tried to read a Mormon novel or play or poetry collection often ask it with a skeptical intonation. As if to say: “I’ve heard Michael McLean. Isn’t that enough?”
People who have just read a Mormon book they liked for the first time tend to ask me the same question, but with a different intonation. Like: “is there more of this stuff hiding from me somewhere?”
Whether you’re still looking for your first love connection with a Mormon book or hoping to add to a long list of must-reads, you might want to go to “My Favorite Mormon Book—And Why It Matters.” We’ll open with a panel featuring the likes of Freetown screenwriter Melissa Leilani Larson, YA critic Glenn Gordon, historian Ardis Parshall, and poet Lance Larsen giving you the personal stories behind their reading recommendations, and then take recommendations from the audience.
You might also want to stick around for the 2014 AML Awards Ceremony, where we’ll unveil which works made it off this year’s short lists and onto the pages of Mormon Lit memory as outstanding titles in their genres.
What sort of people get into Mormon Lit? And what are they trying to accomplish?
For a practical guide to the landscape, we’re offering a panel, led by Katherine Morris of Mormon Artist, called “The Mormon Lit Scene Today” with a discussion of the publishers, events, awards, interest groups, and online spaces that make up the Mormon Lit scene in 2015.
For a deeper look into what Mormon writers want, you might want to check out the debate between Stephen Carter of Sunstone and James Goldberg of the Mormon Lit Blitz over the question “What Is the Role of the Mormon Writer in the Mormon Community?”
What’s the future of Mormon Lit? Where do things go from here to the Mormon Shakespeare? And what about flying cars? When will we get flying cars?
So…you want to see the future? Consider attending the debate between the incomparable Eric Samuelsen and the unforgettable Orson F. Whitney* over what Mormon Lit needs now to reach the next level of awesome in the near future.
You might also want to attend the conference’s poetry slam, organized by Fire in the Pasture editor Tyler Chadwick, to see the future up on its feet. Or else learn to be the future you want to see in Mormon Lit through a writing workshop from a few of the geniuses who run Segullah.
12:30: Free registration opens, mingling begins
1 pm: Carter vs. Goldberg Debate / “The Mormon Lit Scene Today”
2 pm: Writing Workshop / Samuelsen vs. Whitney* Debate
3 pm: “My Favorite Mormon Book” / Poetry Slam
4 pm: Announcement of Annual AML Award Winners
*Update: It has come to the attention of the conference organizers that Orson F. Whitney died in 1931 and will thus be unable to attend the conference in corporeal form. Eric Samuelsen remains committed to a public debate, but his replacement opponent and the topic are once again TBD.