2015 AML Conference: Everything you wanted to know about Mormon Literature (but were afraid to ask)

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.

The Schedule:

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.

Meeting of the Myths

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If I keep forgetting about the new Mormon Lit Blitz contest, then I have to believe a lot of people are having the same issue.

Here’s the pitch as taken from the Mormon Artist website (written by James Goldberg): Continue reading “Meeting of the Myths”

Theric (and Monsters & Mormons) at SLC Comic Con Fan X

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I’ll be in Salt lake City this weekend for Fan Experience. I’ll be giving an updated version of my Mormons and comics discussion from the first SLC Comic Con which will, among other changes, mention Nathan Shumate’s Cheap Caffeine, incorporate information from a couple AML presentations (James Goldberg on The Garden of Enid, Stephen Carter on Book of Mormon comics), and the Kickstarter campaigns for iPlates and From the Dust. Mike Homer will give his presentation on representations of Mormons and Utah in comics over time. (240 seats)

Fifteen minutes before that rerun, a panel of Monsters & Mormons participants will be publicly talking about their work and what’s become of it. I’m a bit confused over the final makeup of the panel (this story is personally embarrassing, but that’s a story for another day), but expect at least seven people you definitely want to hear from. (220 seats)

Then fifteen minutes after the comics rerun, I’ll be on a Sherlock Holmes panel which I really really hope has no Mormon tie-ins. (400 seats)

Based on the numbers here, I think I should be able to take 10.75 days off teaching and still reach the same number of people. Sweet.

(pdf)

Wrapping up the #MormonPoetrySlam

In case you haven’t been following the Mormon Poetry Slam at home and have an interest in Mormon poetry (I mean, who doesn’t, right?), here’s an update (which I initially posted here):

The final performance in the slam—which I’ve been hosting on FireinthePasture.org and which as far as I know is the first online competition of its kind—posted last Friday. (You can find the event archive here). Now it’s time to determine the winner of the Audience Choice Award and we need your help with that because, well, the participants need the audience to vote. So, if you would: Take several minutes to consider the slam performances, then vote for your favorite before Wednesday’s end (voting rules are outlined below). For your consideration and reviewing pleasure, here are the fourteen entries, listed in order of appearance: Continue reading “Wrapping up the #MormonPoetrySlam”

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute:
Poetry

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[background]

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Today’s readings are:

“Wrestling with God: Invoking Scriptural Mythos and Language in LDS Literary Works” by James Goldberg

20 Poems from Fire in the Pasture edited by Tyler Chadwick

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Please feel free to have your own seminar in the comments to this post.

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Other posts in series:

Fiction (lit) — forthcoming

Fiction (sf/f) — forthcoming

Listening Closely to James Goldberg’s “In the Beginning”

"In the Beginning" on Everyday Mormon Writer
“In the Beginning” on Everyday Mormon Writer (click to enlarge)
(Cross-posted here.)

James Goldberg’s poem “In the Beginning”* exults in orality. It begins, “When he was young, / they read the books / out loud.” But the poet doesn’t revel simply by stating that his experience with language is grounded in the spoken word. He also alludes to the revel-atory power of speech with his title, which echoes John the Beloved’s (later the Revelator’s) witness that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). What we read as “the Word” is here translated from the Greek term logos, which according to Strong means “something said.” So John’s “Word” refers to something spoken, an idea mirrored in the additive, parallel structure of his opening statement, whose coordinate structure (“. . . and . . . and . . .”) parallels the rhythms of spoken language. When translated with the article, as it is in John, “the Word” refers especially to “the Divine Expression,” who is Christ, who was—who existed—“in the beginning,” before taking on flesh, and who did so “with God” and who “was God.” Through this witness of Christ, when heard in conjunction with what we now have as John 1:2–5, it becomes clear that Christ is the Father’s deepest, most creative, most transformative expression to humanity. He is the Father’s promise of salvation spoken through the very structures of the cosmos.

James calls upon these associations from the beginning of his poem with its title and its subject matter, both of which suggest that the sounded word has a transformative effect on those with ears to hear (see Alma 31:5). And he deepens these associations with word-power through the additive, parallel structures of the poem, which mark its essential orality. These structures are evident especially in the repetition of “When he was young”; in the poet’s simple language; in his use of the second person mode of address, which suggests a face-to-face conversation (“You could still. . .”); and in the additive phrasing of the second and third stanzas: “And . . . so . . . and . . . . Then.” Continue reading “Listening Closely to James Goldberg’s “In the Beginning””

Agenda and application info for the Everyday Mormon Writer Retreat/Master Class this June

Instructions and agenda for the Everyday Mormon Writer retreat/master class June 27-29, 2013. Deadline to apply is June 1.

Note: James Goldberg asked me to post this information. It’s a very interesting agenda and a low-cost proposition in comparison to other, similar retreats. I highly recommend applying if you can make the travel costs and schedule work. –Wm

Mormon Writers’ Retreat/Master Class Agenda and Application Instructions
 

The Everdyday Mormon Writer Retreat/Master Class will take place at a cabin near Heber, Utah, on June 27-29. There is no charge for tuition and there is space for all participants to sleep in the cabin: the only costs will be travel to Salt Lake City or Utah Valley (we’ll carpool from there) and food (either purchasing your own or contributing to a group fund if you’d like to share meals).

The agenda will be as follows:

Thursday

12 pm:

Carpools leave SLC and Utah Valley–travel to Heber and get settled

2 pm:

Discussion Session: Audience Baselines

What are the current obstacles between various extant audiences and Mormon Lit? We’ll discuss concerns/stereotypes readers have about Mormon Lit. We’ll talk about what else potential Mormon Lit readers are currently reading and what it gives them. And then we’ll talk about what roles Mormon literature might productively play for readers.

4 pm:

Class Session: The Parable of the Irritated Oyster

Most writing rises out of an underlying desire to reach people in some way. But often, writing instruction ignores the initial layers of processing between the itch to communicate and the concept for a work, focusing on the later stages from concept to publication.

In this session, we’ll generate some sample itches and then brainstorm ways a writer could develop a concept from each itch, trying to name costs and benefits of choices along the way. Continue reading “Agenda and application info for the Everyday Mormon Writer Retreat/Master Class this June”

Reverence vs Chutzpah

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From Jews and Words (2012) by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberg:

We know you’ve heard this one before, but please bear with us:

So a Jewish grandmother walks on a beach with her beloved grandson when a big wave suddenly sweeps the boy underwater. “Dear God Almighty,” cries Grandma, “how can you do this to me? I suffered all my life and never lost faith. Shame on you!” Not a minute passed by, and another big wave brings the child back to her arms safe and sound. “Dear God Almighty,” she says, “that’s very kind of you, I’m sure, but where’s his hat?”

An oldie we know, but a true classic. What is this joke really about? Continue reading “Reverence vs Chutzpah”