Tag Archives: Theric Jepson

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute

10.28.13 | | 9 comments

Mormonism and the Arts

.

Today at the Berkeley Ward we had a visitor from the Graduate Theological Union. He’s taking the class on Mormonism Bob Rees is teaching and part of the homework is watching a session of General Conference and attending a local ward. It was, I admit, a bit strange to have someone take notes as I taught high priests. That isn’t the sort of thing high priests usually do. Especially when I’m talking.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time in higher ed for Mormon Studies around here, in my opinion. Besides the growing interest at GTU ( where I once had the pleasure of being on a Normal Mormon Panel for a class taught by the Bloggernacle’s own Lynnette), there’s also the everfun activities over at the Berkeley Institute.

Sharpminded remembers and Theric completists may recall a few years ago when I gave a lecture (or, rather, led a discussion) on Mormon fiction at the Berkeley Institute of Religion. Happily, MJ Pritchett is running the arts series again with a slightly adjusted list of topics (and they have been adjusted again since the poster to your right was created, though I don’t know all the alterations).*

I’m making three visits this time around as the closest-thing-available-to-an-expert. In order, I will be discussing Poetry, Fiction (lit), and Fiction (sf/f).

Tomorrow is my first visit and I will be visiting each week for three weeks. Each of those Tuesdays I will post the reading assignment so you can pretend that you’re in your late teens or early twenties and as lucky as these kids. (Don’t try to be as cool as them though—seriously: don’t even try.)

For future dropbys’ sake, the links are (will be): Poetry, Fiction (lit)Fiction (sf/f).

.

*Because I know you can’t read that poster image too well, here’s the series as originally announced. I wish I felt comfortable crashing every single week.

1. Introduction:  Mormonism in the Arts vs. Mormons in Arts

2. City Planning:  The Plan for the City of Zion, the Mormon Village and Suburban Mormons

3. Architecture:  19th Century-Iconography of Early Temples

4. Architecture: 20th Century-Period Revivals, International Style and Standard Plans

5. Poetry:  Mormon Women Poets:  From Eliza R. Snow to Carol Lynn Pearson

6. Literature:  Mormon Fantasy Writers in the Mainstream:  Orson Scott Card and Stephanie Meyer

7. Literature:  A Short Look at Mormon Short Stories

8. Visual Arts:  Visualizing God:  Mormon Images of Jesus

9. Painting:  Two Visions of the Book of Mormon:  Minerva Teichert and Arnold Friberg

10. Dance:  Dancing with the Saints

11. Music:  From MoTab to Motown:  Music and Missionary Work from the Tabernacle Choir to Gladys Knight

12. Music:  Music in Mormon Worship:  God’s Music and the Devil’s

13. Drama:  Roadshows, Pageants and Plays

14. Film:  From Provo to Sundance:  Cipher n the Snow, Tom Trails and Napoleon Dynamite

Review of Byuck… and other thoughts.

8.12.13 | | 28 comments

So, I finished Eric Jepson’s novel, BYUCK. I found it hilarious, heartwarming, and refreshing. The description of BYU (and Happy Valley) culture from the perspective of someone who wasn’t bred and born in it, who could therefore look at it from an outsider’s perspective, delighted and amused me. As I read the story, I remembered my own bemused feelings entering happy-valley culture for the first time. And I breathed a deep sigh of relief that I do not live in Provo anymore.

It also brought memories of a story I wrote about six or seven years ago that was very similar (not in writing quality, but in subject matter, characters, setup.) Nobody has read it except for my family and the editorial board at Covenant, who eventually tabled and then rejected it, saying the audience was too narrow for them to spend money to publish it. I’m grateful for that now, because it wasn’t very well written and I needed the time to learn how to write properly before critics got at it.

But I found myself wondering, after I finished BYUCK, and as I looked back on the experience with Covenant: where is the place for that sort of writing; for the works of LDS writers writing about our LDS culture? And where is that sort of writing going, now that things are changing so drastically in the industry? Could this sort of writing appeal to a general, not just LDS audience, and how would we accomplish that?

There are some stories that are more narrowly focused on an LDS audience (and I’d argue BYUCK is an example of that; inside jokes only Mormons would get, mormon dialect, etc). There are some one could argue might appeal to a broader audience–Moriah Jovan’s Magdalene, Steven Peck’s Scholar of Moab.  But would they?

I’m wondering, too. What if something amazing, and literary, and focused entirely within the LDS experience (aka the Great Mormon Novel) would be considered even generally marketable by anyone. What if someone did write something along the lines of Potok’s works. Would anyone read it (and of course, *we* would. But would anyone beyond the world of LDS lit advocacy read it?)

I was thinking about how in general, people who consume LDS fiction are looking for an uplifting story that will make them feel better about their life and the challenges of being LDS in a world that’s not too kind to us. That’s often why I read it. I want an inspiring story about pioneers, or an uplifting romance (guilty) or something that makes me laugh at and love the absurdities of my culture and my life (like BYUCK, or Joni Hilton’s work).

And when we look at the audience for literary fiction, there are other issues. Is Mormonism really taken seriously enough, considered fascinating enough, to be a worthy subject of study? In general I feel like religion is out of vogue in the literary world. Maybe that’s pessimistic of me.

My question is, where is our audience? Do we have to channel things in a commercial direction, create the sorts of plots LDS readers will enjoy, in order to feed them some more complex and even controversial stuff? And if we’re trying to write to a general audience, what do we have to do to make it consumable to that audience? What have others done?  What are some success and failure stories?

Theric Jepson Uncut: The Complete Byuck Interview

1.22.13 | | 9 comments

Byuck

Yesterday Modern Mormon Men ran a shortened version of my interview with AMV’s own Theric Jepson about his new novel Byuck. The interview was too long for what I like to post on MMM, so I’m posting the interview in its entirety here.

Also, if you haven’t already done so, enter Modern Mormon Men’Byuck giveaway. They have five copies up for grabs, so your odds are good. The giveaway ends on January 25.

And now, the interview…  

Scott Hales: I think we ought to get this question out of the way first: How do you pronounce Byuck?

Theric Jepson: As for me, I rhyme it with yuck, but I don’t really feel it’s my job to tell people how to pronounce it. I’m the numbskull who gave my novel a ridiculous name. Now I must live with the consequences.

SH: What is the origin story of Byuck? If I understand correctly, you wrote Byuck a while ago, but shelved it after you were told that is was basically unpublishable? I that right?

TJ: I started Byuck as a play back in 1999. I had some problems developing it and shared what I had with one of my professors at BYU, Donlu Thayer. She liked what I had fine, but gave me some stellar advice. She told me I wasn’t ready to write this story yet, that I needed some distance. So I set it aside.

I picked it up again sometime after I graduated in 2002 (by which time I was also married). By 2004 I had a working rough draft which Fob (of The Fob Bible) helped me polish.

My original plan was to try and sell the book outside the Mormon ghetto, but I did have a weird history with Deseret Book, so I decided to try them first. Which is where the comedy started.

They liked the book but told me women won’t and since women are the only people who buy books they wouldn’t publish Byuck until I did some market research for them. (Really.) So I spent a year talking to women not related to me and who did not owe me money (Deseret’s stipulations) to read it and write responses. Those responses ranged from positive to very positive (except for the U of U alumna who accused me of writing BYU propaganda). I wrote up a massive report, sent it in, and received a form rejection letter. (Really.)

more

Mormons and Popular Culture:
The Global Influence of an American Phenomenon

edited by J.Michael Hunter—
coming soon to a university
(but probably not a personal)
library near you

12.13.12 | | 7 comments

praeger.

On December 12, I received my copy of the two-volume Mormons and Popular Culture in the mail.  know it’s not out until the 31st, but Praeger‘s the sort of classy joint that hooks the contributor up before the general population. I think this is the first time in my career I’ve received a copy of my work before the general public. . . .

Anyway, the two-volume work covers the gamut from film to football, with surveys on everything from comics to historical sites and closeups on folks from Stephenie Meyer to Glenn Beck. Some of the essays are versions of ones we know like Randy Astle’s work on cinema and some are utterly new. I mean—did you know about Rose Marie Reid? more

Review: With a Title Like _Monsters & Mormons_, How Could You Not Have Fun?, Part One

12.1.12 | | 24 comments

It’s taking me a while to get through  Monsters & Mormons, not because it’s not super enjoyable (because it is!), but because it’s a pretty long book (which, to me, is no flaw. The upcoming Saints on Stage: An Anthology For Mormon Drama which I edited for Zarahemla Books is a behemoth as well). Also when I finish a short story, I feel a temporary sense of completeness, so the book doesn’t always draw me back like a novel does because I’m not left “hanging” so to speak. So I’ve decided to break up my review of Monsters and Mormons over a few different reviews so I can write while the stories are still somewhat fresh in my mind. It will also allow me to address the short stories more individually instead of as a blurred whole.

First, my overall impression of Monsters & Mormons: it’s a winner. A big winner. As some one who has lived in imaginative waters since he was a child and hasn’t been afraid to invite his religion to play in those waters with him, I totally dig projects like this. Now, I’ve never been much of a horror fan, especially when it leads to copious amounts of blood and gore. I mean, like, yuck. Not my thing. However, I do love ghost stories and supernatural monsters (I keep wanting to read some H.P. Lovecraft), and, if it doesn’t lead to too much gruesomeness, I can definitely enjoy stories like this. This is definitely not something I would suggest to some of my less adventurous or conservative thinking family and friends, but it’s something I would suggest to the imaginative Mormon who doesn’t mind mixing fantasy and religion (and I know a number of non-Mormons who would get a kick out of it!) . So let’s get to the individual stories in the first part of the collection:

more

My take on Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project

8.18.10 | | no comments

So we have Peculiar Pages, which is Theric Jepson’s imprint. We have MoJo’s B10 Mediaworx, an indie publisher known for creating e-books that look great. And we have New Play Project, which has put together an impressive track record of productions over its (relatively) short history. Put that all together and you get Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project, edited by Dave Morrison. And for only $3.99, you get a set of plays that are well-written, thought-provoking, fun to read and together form a significant contribution to Mormon letters. A trade paperback is also available and a Kindle edition is forthcoming (although the mobi file you get in the e-book download should be readable on your Kindle or via the Kindle app).

And in the interest of full disclosure, Peculiar Pages is not only the imprint that will be publishing Monsters & Mormons, but it also asked me to provide a blurb for the anthology. Which I was initially nervous about, but happily did after reading the manuscript. Here it is:

With these 19 plays, the New Play Project ably makes its claim as one of the most ambitious and vibrant going concerns in the world of LDS culture to all of us mission-field Mormons who have only heard rumors and testimonies. Out of the Mount delivers comedy and tragedy and social commentary, allegory, politics and healthy doses of armchair philosophy and theology in plays that mainly focus on (as most good plays do) relationships that unfold via crackling dialogue. Whether it’s Clark Kent and Lois Lane applying for a marriage license or Adam and Eve feeling their way towards some sort of post-fall rapprochement or young couples falling in and out of love, these playwrights are writing for these latter-days, even when there’s nothing particularly LDS about their characters and settings. That said, what I love most about this anthology is that we get—especially with the fantastic concluding trio of “Gaia,” “Prodigal Son” and “Little Happy Secrets”—works that artfully and poignantly explore key aspects of the grand drama that is the Mormon experience.

You can buy Out of the Mount here; but you should also check out Theric’s series of posts on the anthology (including excerpts from some of the plays) over at the Peculiar Pages blog.

Looping through the Mormon Arts, from me to me

11.30.09 | | 8 comments

.

Though this post is by it’s very nature heavily self-indulgent, I am going to try to spin it as more altruistic than it is. more

“Toward a Mormon Gothic” and Other News from RUD

10.26.09 | | 7 comments

News from the Reading Until Dawn front:

A couple of weeks ago, I read a paper at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA) Convention at Snowbird, Utah (a rundown of my experience at the AML session will come in a later post that I’ve got halfway worked up; yes, I’ve been lazy—so sue me) and over the weekend I did some revising to incorporate some of the feedback I received and posted it on Reading Until Dawn. “Toward a Mormon Gothic: Stephenie Meyer’s Vampires and a Theology of the Uncanny” takes its place in the blossoming field of Twilight studies beside RUD’s inaugural essay, Theric Jepson’s “Saturday’s Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels.” Link over and have a read. That’s what all the cool kids are doing (or so they tell me).

While you’re there, you might also notice that I’ve made some subtle changes to the site design (I’ve tweaked the header) and that I’ve updated the articles. The inconsistent layout was bugging me, so I took down the HTMLs until I can get them to look how I want them to look, reworked my document template slightly, and incorporated the new MLA citation standards into the notes. Hopefully this gives the collection a more consistent and professional feel.

Also: though I’ve published “Toward a Mormon Gothic” on RUD, I’m still open to feedback. So if, while you’re reading, you notice a typo or some such faux pas or notice that I’ve missed something you deem vitally important to the conversation, either email me or comment here. That or work up your own essay and submit it for publication. I promise I won’t complain.