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IRREANTUM
EXPLORING MORMON LITERATURE

MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS


WINTER 2002–2003 • $4.00

Rick Walton, picture-book writer


Also featuring Judith Curtis, C. B. Decker, Jack Harrell,
Kimberly Heuston, K. L. Jackman, LaVerna B. Johnson,
Janean Justham, Lael Littke, and Louise Plummer
Poetry, reviews, literary news, and more
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IRREANTUM
MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS

E D I T O R I A L S T A F F

Tory Anderson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fiction editor D. Michael Martindale . . . . . . . . . . Film editor


Christopher K. Bigelow . . . . . Managing editor Marny K. Parkin . . . . Speculative fiction coeditor
Harlow S. Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Poetry editor Scott R. Parkin . . . . . Speculative fiction coeditor
Andrew Hall . . . . . . . Assistant book review editor Jana Bouck Remy . . . . . . . . . Book review editor
Travis Manning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Essay editor Edgar C. Snow Jr. . . . . . . . Rameumptom editor

A M L B O A R D

Gideon Burton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President Gae Lyn Henderson . . . . . . . . . . Board member


Melissa Proffitt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President-elect Tyler Moulton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Board member
Eric Samuelsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Board member
Suzanne Brady . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Board member Jen Wahlquist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Board member
Sharlee Mullins Glenn . . . . . . . . Board member Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury . . . . Board member

A M L S T A F F

Linda Hunter Adams . . . . . AML ANNUAL editor Terry L Jeffress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Webmaster


Christopher K. Bigelow . . . . . . Magazine editor Jonathan Langford . . . . . . . . AML-List moderator
John-Charles Duffy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer D. Michael Martindale . . . . . Writers’ conference
Andrew Hall . . . . . Assistant AML-List moderator

IRREANTUM (ISSN 1528-0594) is published four times a by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. IRREANTUM
year by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML), P.O. Box is supported by a grant from the Utah Arts Council and the
51364, Provo, UT 84605-1364, www.aml-online.org. © 2003 National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C.
by the Association for Mormon Letters. Membership in the IRREANTUM welcomes unsolicited essays, reviews, fiction,
AML is $25 for one year, which includes an IRREANTUM sub- poetry, and other manuscripts, and we invite letters intended
scription. Subscriptions to IRREANTUM may be purchased sepa- for publication. Please submit all manuscripts and queries to
rately from AML membership for $16 per year, and single irreantum2@cs.com. If you do not have access to e-mail, you
copies are $6 (postpaid). Advertising rates begin at $50 for a full may mail your text on a floppy disk to IRREANTUM, c/o AML,
page. The AML is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, so con- P.O. Box 51364, Provo, UT 84605-1364. Submissions on paper
tributions of any amount are tax deductible and gratefully are discouraged. Upon specific request to irreantum2@cs.com,
accepted. Views expressed in IRREANTUM do not necessarily we will send authors two complimentary copies of an issue in
reflect the opinions of the editors or of AML board members. which their work appears.
This magazine has no official connection with or endorsement

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IRREANTUM
Winter 2002–2003 • Volume 4, Number 4

C O N T E N T S

AML News Poetry


AML Board Changes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Some Poems for Children, Rick Walton . . . . . 23
AML Awards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Summer Journey, Janean Justham . . . . . . . . . 64
In Memoriam: Neila C. Seshachari . . . . . . . . . 8 Even So It Shall Be in That Day
LaVerna B. Johnson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
Editorials Like Whales, LaVerna B. Johnson . . . . . . . . . 72
Fiction for Young People: There’s Gold in This Vein Appaloosa, Judith Curtis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
John Bennion, Cheri Earl, and Carol Lynch
Williams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Stories
A Krill of Words, Harlow S. Clark . . . . . . . . 64 Bliss at the Burger Bar, Louise Plummer . . . . . 40
The Day We Lost Max, Lael Littke . . . . . . . . 45
Essays Monster Lie, C. B. Decker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Flight, Jack Harrell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Then and Now: A Survey of Mormon Young-Adult
Writers, Jesse S. Crisler and Chris Crowe . . 11 Reviews
The True Colors of Carol Lynch Williams: Not Just for Boys, Sharlee Mullins Glenn
Writing Ethical Fiction for New York, A review of Ron Wood’s The Hero . . . . . . 73
John Bennion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Everyone Hears Voices, Don’t They? Tender Tale of a Nineteenth-Century Girl
Louise Plummer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Kelly Thompson
A Taste of the Year’s Best, Lu Ann Brobst Staheli 47 A review of Kimberly Heuston’s The Shakeress 74
“And the Moral of the Story Is?” The Ethical Weyland’s Twenty-Fifth Book Shows Progress
Dilemma of Young-Adult Literature Jeffrey Needle
Jessie L. Christensen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 A review of Jack Weyland’s Cheyenne in
The State of Dutcher’s Baby: A Report on New York . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
LDS Cinema to Date, Preston Hunter . . . . 65 Time Travel Trio, Katie Parker
A Festival for Winners: A Look at the Second A review of Chad Daybell’s Emma Trilogy 76
LDS Film Festival, Ludwig Einklang . . . . . 70 A Spoonful of Sugar for This Medicine
D. Michael Martindale
Interview A review of Charly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Rick Walton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Mormon Literary Scene . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Novel Excerpt AML-List Highlights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
The Shakeress, Kimberly Heuston . . . . . . . . . 25
Rameumptom
Memoir Local Waiter Serves God, Mammon
Natural, K. L. Jackman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Stephen Carter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99

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A M L N E W S classes in literature (including Mormon literature),


technical writing, and composition (honors), and
AML Board Changes she is the coauthor of the College Writing II text-
book currently in use and the College Writing I
At the annual meeting held on February 22, textbook currently in beta testing. Jen is a member
2003, the AML made some changes to its board of the UVSC Religious Studies Committee as well
and staff. Staff members who have concluded their as the Academic Standards Committee. Her schol-
service to the AML include Scott Parkin, awards arly travels have included a week at the Hebrew
coordinator, and Lavina Fielding Anderson, who University in Jerusalem, six weeks in Mongolia and
has edited the annual proceedings for many years. China, and presentations in California, Canada,
We also said good-bye to Cherry Silver, our past and Hawaii. The mother of five children, she lives
president who organized this year’s annual meeting in Orem and has directed the 115-voice Multi-
and has served the AML for many years. Leaving as Stake Singles Choir for the past three years.
a board member was D. Michael Martindale, but
he will be staying on as a staff member to run the AML Awards
writers’ conference.
In addition, BYU’s Linda Hunter Adams joined At the annual meeting on February 22, the AML
the staff as editor of the annual proceedings. Due presented the following literary awards:
to the untimely death of Neila Seshachari just after
her designation as president-elect, Gideon Burton Novel
consented to serve a second term as president of Chris Crowe, Mississippi Trial, 1955
the AML. Melissa Proffitt, who has been serving (New York: Phyllis Fogelman, 2002)
as AML secretary, was nominated to become
president-elect. In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old black boy
The AML is pleased to welcome the following named Emmett Till was tortured and murdered by
two new members to the board: white men for the so-called crime of whistling at a
Suzanne Brady grew up in eastern Oregon, white woman. His murderers were subsequently
where she worked for her father at the state’s first tried and acquitted, despite vast evidence against
Arctic Circle Drive-In. She attended BYU, where them. Crowe’s novel places a teenaged white boy at
she earned a B.A. in English, history, and Latin and the center of this conflict, torn between his loyalty
an M.A. in English literature and language. While to his beloved grandfather, an avowed racist, and
working at BYU Press, she found the niche for her the teachings of his father, who left the South to
life’s work, and she has since worked as an editor escape a society he despised. This very personal
for the Church Educational System and for Deseret story of a young man’s gradual awakening to the
Book, where she is a senior editor with sixteen years truth about the town and the grandfather he has
of experience. For twenty-two years she has worked always loved adds emotional depth to the factual
as a freelance editor for the Ensign magazine’s gen- account of this too-little-known episode in the
eral conference issues. She has twenty-one nieces struggle for civil rights.
and nephews, and she is a secret family history Blending contemporary newspaper accounts
buff, an “avid if inexpert” knitter, and a passionate with his fictional narrative, Crowe’s depiction of
Anglophile and traveler who loves all things Eng- the racial attitudes endemic to the South at the
lish, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and Scandinavian. time is chillingly accurate. Evocative descriptive
Jen Wahlquist is an associate professor and passages and a superb grasp of dialect make the
chair-elect for Utah Valley State College’s English story eminently readable, but it is the characteriza-
Department, which she joined in January 1991 as tion that makes it extraordinary. In a novel fraught
an adjunct instructor. She teaches a broad range of with tension between races, it is no easy task to

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humanize rather than demonize, and Crowe has now.” It is the truest lesson anyone can learn.
succeeded in making even the worst villain fright- Honorable mentions: Martine Leavitt, The
eningly comprehensible. How much more com- Dollmage (Calgary: Red Deer Press, 2002); Kim-
forting it would be to believe that those motivated berley Heuston, The Shakeress (New York: Front
by such unreasoning hatred are devoid of all Street Press, 2002).
virtues; yet Crowe leaves the reader no such com-
fort as he depicts a man who genuinely believes in Picture Book
the inferiority of other races and yet who deeply
loves his wife, his grandson, and his community. Rick Walton, Bertie Was a Watchdog
We are reminded that even the most abstract strug- (Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2002)
gles have, at their heart, people who are simply try- Over the last sixteen years, Rick Walton has pub-
ing to understand what is right—even the ones lished over fifty children’s books with both national
who get it wrong. and regional publishers, with several more to be
published soon. One might suspect that such pro-
Young Adult lificacy would detract from the quality of his work,
A. E. Cannon, Charlotte’s Rose but Walton’s books have maintained a consistent
(New York: Random House, 2002) level of literary excellence that continues to make
them popular with readers. Bertie Was a Watchdog
Young adulthood is a trying time; no longer chil- perfectly represents the high caliber of Walton’s
dren, but not yet adults, boys and girls of this age work. In clever, simple language enhanced by
yearn for both states at once. Young-adult fiction in dynamic artwork, this story of a dog no bigger than
its purest form gives shape to that yearning and a watch is entertaining to look at and excellent to
makes sense of that confusion. In Charlotte’s Rose read aloud. The tale harks back to a certain kind of
Ann Cannon has taken the framework of the famil- fairytale recorded by the Grimms in which a weak
iar pioneer journey and rewoven it into a unique but clever individual outsmarts the huge, terrifying
tale of love, commitment, heartbreak, and under- giant; the book dresses this old story up in sharp
standing. While Charlotte’s physical journey from
new clothes and sends it out into the world to cap-
Wales to the Salt Lake Valley, pushing a handcart
tivate a new generation of children. We applaud
and carrying an infant not her own, cannot be
Rick Walton’s continuing efforts to create excellent
replicated by the reader, her spiritual journey from
fiction for children of all ages.
selfish childhood to the brink of mature adulthood
is one that every human being must eventually
make. Cannon’s account of the pioneer experience Short Fiction
does not manipulate the reader’s emotions by lin- Susan Palmer, “Breakthrough”
gering over-long on the worst tragedies that befell (Sunstone, April 2002)
the early Saints, though she also does not shrink
from depicting them. Instead, she tells a story of In “Breakthrough,” Susan Palmer has crafted a
daily loves and losses, little jealousies and small delightful story, full of humor and good sense, in
kindnesses, the flowering of young love and the which she presents a unique perspective on the way
unexpected gift of second chances. While this book the Spirit (or at least the wiser parts of our inner
may be appreciated by readers of many ages, it is nature) communicates. The Association for Mor-
the young whom Cannon directly addresses at the mon Letters is pleased to honor this story as repre-
end when she writes: “Like Charlotte, you have sto- sentative of the best short fiction published today.
ries of your own. Funny ones, sad ones, dramatic Honorable mentions: Karen Rosenbaum, “Out
ones. Treasure them and remember them. . . . Your of the Woods” (Dialogue, spring 2002); Linda Paul-
stories will matter in the future because you matter son Adams, “First” (IRREANTUM, spring 2002).

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Poetry of his family precisely because of what Mormons


otherwise celebrate, a conversion. A conversion
Kimberly Johnson, Leviathan with a Hook implies a turning, from one course of life to another.
(New York: Persea Books, 2002) And, as a wife and daughter turn toward Mormon-
Though in her poems “The Land Desolation” ism, they also turn, inevitably, from previous paths,
and “The Land Bountiful” Johnson gives exquisite previous cultural verities. And a husband and father
renderings of desert landscapes well known in Mor- mourns that turning. What makes this film extra-
mon tradition, it is within a broader spiritual geog- ordinary is its exploration of the cost of conversion,
raphy that her voice resonates, one that sometimes the pain of it. And yet, the film simultaneously cel-
borders the formalities of Latin prayers (paternoster ebrates conversion, showing the growth and joy
and te deum) and sometimes makes allusive forays that are also part of the conversion experience.
to the Christian epic voice of Milton. Johnson’s Best of all, the film ends with reconciliation, a
paradise is not lost upon her but finds itself (and family restored, but without a suggestion of further
those who read her) waking in the gyre and thrum conversion. It hurts to see loved ones turn from
of rhythmic, concrete diction. She is unafraid to cherished paths into new, strange ones. Roots and
name her world in terms both fresh and old, updat- Wings explores that pain. But at no time does Roots
ing without loss the metaphysical devotions of and Wings provide facile or easy answers to the
another age when language could still awe us with questions it raises. At the end of the film, tensions
its Christian mystery. This is a Mormon voice and questions remain. Further growth is suggested,
attuned to latent powers in the worth of words, and and we see its necessity.
we are grateful for the stirring. In honoring Roots and Wings, we honor the work
of many artists, including an outstanding cast of
Film actors and team of technicians. But we honor the
work of two artists in particular. First, Agustina
Christian Vuissa and Agustina Perez, Perez, whose superb screenplay provides the blue-
Roots and Wings print followed by the other artists in the filmmak-
ing process. And second, Christian Vuissa, whose
With Roots and Wings, the AML honors a film
firm and steady direction of the film realizes Perez’s
that is thematically groundbreaking, a film that
original vision. Roots and Wings is a short film,
takes perhaps the most familiar and cherished of
made by students. It is also an accomplished and
Mormon cultural narratives—a conversion story—
intelligent work of cinematic art. As Mormon film-
and asks us to view it anew.
making continues to mature, this fine film marks a
Directed by Christian Vuissa, based on an origi-
major step forward.
nal screenplay by Agustina Perez, Roots and Wings
Honorable mentions: Andrew Black, The Snell
is a deceptively simple film. The filmmaking is
Show; Ryan Little, Out of Step.
straightforwardly realistic in its depiction of a
Hispanic-American family and its interaction with
Mormonism. Every detail in David Graham’s Drama
superb production design invokes what seems ini- Reed McColm,
tially an almost quotidian reality. And yet the spe- Hole in the Sky and body of work
cific images of the film—a hand planting a garden,
a soccer match, coffee table knickknacks—support The terrorism of 2001 has played so largely in
a story of loss, heartbreak, and reconciliation. the public mind that any dramatic enactment of
Heartbreak and loss are, in fact, at the center of those events might seem redundant or maudlin.
this film about conversion. What matters in this And yet the BYU–Idaho production of Hole in the
film is perspective, point of view, and in this case Sky by Reed McColm (directed by John Bidwell)
the perspective is that of a man who fears the loss invited its audience into a space in which our fears

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could be transformed into compassion. Though to the collaborative nature of film production.
the audience was reparalyzed by pyrotechnics that Moreover, in the nascent Mormon film market,
too well suggested all the deafening chaos of those new sensitivities come into play, especially in
final minutes in the World Trade Center, McColm’s adapting a very well known young-adult novel not
characters, fictional and realistic composites of the immediately suited for translation to the medium
actual victims, achieved both individual and com- of cinema. The movie Charly has succeeded well in
bined humanity. At the play’s conclusion, as the reaching and pleasing its audience this past year
words and images of leaders, both national and and in so doing has marked a milestone in LDS
Mormon, mingled with the dust and broken gird- cinema. While credit for this accomplishment must
ers of the falling building, instead of a curtain call be shared with actors, director, and others, this suc-
and customary applause, an elegiac silence of sev- cess could not have happened if Janine Whetten
eral minutes’ length punctuated the catharsis—a Gilbert had not carefully updated Jack Weyland’s
fitting tribute to the play’s fitting tribute to this novel, pruning some of its excesses and fitting its
sobering event. McColm’s play is movingly dramatic structure to the conventions of film. She
redemptive, and the production was extended to has improved upon the original property, reinvigo-
accommodate the many who responded to its emo- rating both the story and the medium for which
tional richness. she has written and, in turn, improving the quality
It has been McColm’s habit in the last fifteen of Mormon film by taking its literary dimension
years to stage ensemble dramas fraught not so seriously. The AML only hopes that future Mor-
much with physical as with human wreckage: dys- mon filmmakers will use the care and skill that
functional families in Together Again for the First Gilbert has shown as other Mormon fiction is
Time and his dark musical, Could You Leave the transferred to the screen.
Door Open, or strangers in an airport in Holding
Patterns. And yet in each of these McColm redi- Lifetime Membership
rects the directionless toward more human interac-
tion than they’d thought possible. His characters Lavina Fielding Anderson
unburden themselves of their baggage without bur- As one of the founding foremothers of the Asso-
dening the audience. This playwright sobers us ciation for Mormon Letters, Lavina Fielding
through unflinching examination of broken lives Anderson has probably done more cumulatively for
and celebrates, though mutely, how life is only the AML than any of its many members. From the
reconstructed in communities, redeemed in twos earliest days of the AML, Lavina has created
and threes, and in those potent minutes of com- bridges between Mormon literature and history
munion McColm constructs with such consistency and among the various organizations and publica-
and force within the intimacy of the theater. tions that take Mormon culture seriously, from her
Honorable mentions: Melissa Leilani Larson, work at the Ensign to her work at Dialogue. She
Wake Me When It’s Over; Tim Slover, Hancock knows everyone who writes seriously on Mormon
County. subjects and has brokered her knowledge freely to
all throughout her lifetime of service.
Film Adaptation She has contributed generously to Mormon crit-
Janine Whetton Gilbert, Charly icism in her various articles surveying Mormon
missionary fiction, adventure novels, romances, etc.
Writers face special difficulties within the Of special note is her 1985 article “Making ‘the
medium of film, since they must write in such a Good’ Good for Something: A Direction for Mor-
way that their themes and scenes will fit the actors, mon Literature.” But her service to Mormon liter-
directors, budgets, locations, and the inevitable ary criticism has been of special merit through her
changes and rearrangements that are part and parcel career as an editor. With Eugene England she

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edited the first anthology of Mormon criticism, In Memoriam


Tending the Garden, and throughout the history of
the AML she has patiently and competently edited Neila C. Seshachari
this association’s many volumes of annual proceed- 1934–2002
ings. This is no small feat, especially given the Neila Seshachari died on March 10, 2002, the
reluctance of authors to meet deadlines or respond week following her appointment as president-elect
to her coaxing for drafts and revisions.
of the Association for Mormon Letters.
Today the AML has a strong academic footing,
As teacher, scholar, and editor, Neila helped pro-
an admirable body of criticism in its annuals that
mote and interpret Mormon letters during her career
has often been refined and republished in other
at Weber State University, since coming to the
venues. The number of authors who owe debts to
United States in the late 1960s with her husband
her can be numbered on every table of contents of
every AML annual. Lavina consistently went Candidai Seshachari, who has served as president
beyond copyediting and responded to authors with of the AML. Neila received a distinguished service
encouragement and specific suggestions not just for award from the AML in 1994, honoring the tenth-
better wording but for better arguments, bringing anniversary issue of Weber Studies, which she as edi-
to light writings and connections of which authors tor devoted to Mormon letters.
may not have thought. And for all of this, she Neila set standards and then worked with others
received little formal credit or acknowledgment. to bring us up to these standards. During her year
Recognizing the need for and supplying the tal- on the board of the AML, she wrote a grant pro-
ent for keeping accurate records of our critical con- posal for the AML that sets a model for future
versations, Lavina has exemplified the spirit of this grant writing to private foundations. She devotedly
organization and has worked tirelessly and behind responded to AML board discussions with detailed
the scenes for over two decades. Lavina has been e-mails full of insights. And at last year’s annual
loyal to Mormon literature and to Mormonism meeting, she delivered an interpretative paper on
itself, even when this arrangement has not been Leap by Terry Tempest Williams that was to be just
entirely reciprocal. the beginning of study of writing from a Mormon
For her indefatigable dedication to Mormon let- background. Although she was Hindu, not Mor-
ters, for helping to found and ground the Associa- mon, she loved this literature.
tion for Mormon Letters, the AML proudly With thousands of coworkers, students, and
bestows on Lavina Fielding Anderson honorary scholars, we mourn her passing.
lifetime membership.

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E D I T O R I A L against writing for young readers. The general feel-


ing in the ivory tower is that writing for young
Fiction for Young People: adults and children is didactic, simplistic, and, in
There’s Gold in This Vein general, inferior to that written for adults. Few cre-
ative-writing programs nationally offer degrees in
By John Bennion, Cheri Earl, and YA literature. The bias is not limited to the univer-
Carol Lynch Williams sity, however. A recent interview between Ron
Woods, a local YA writer, and his editor was
In the past twenty years, starting with Dean rejected by Poets and Writers magazine because, as
Hughes’s Under the Same Stars and Jack Weyland’s they said, “Correspondence with a children’s-book
Charly, there has been an avalanche of LDS books editor concerning a young-adult novel is off the
written for young adults. During this same time, a mark for us.”
group of strong LDS writers has earned reputations We wonder if both Mormon and national critics
in the national market. Dean Hughes has pub- underestimate the power of writing for young
lished more than sixty books with New York people because they believe that the issues involved
houses. Louise Plummer and A. E. Cannon have with coming to maturity are somehow less literary
won, between them both, pages of significant or less complex than the issues of maturity. Or per-
national awards. Carol Lynch Williams has pub- haps some academicians believe that simple lan-
lished seventeen books in the past decade, receiving guage results in weak writing—ironically, an
strong reviews and numerous national honors. Rick uneducated assumption.
Walton has published fifty books for children. Lael Of course, there are problems with our blanket
Littke has been publishing in New York for indictment: in many cases the negative stereotype
decades, with her books now totaling thirty-six. In of writing for young people is deserved. In both
addition, a strong crop of beginning novelists is national and local markets there are examples of
emerging: Ron Woods, Kim Heuston, Randall writing that is sentimental, contrived, and superfi-
Wright, Ken Baker, Mette Harrison, Sheri Peters, cial. And, of course, many academicians locally and
and several others. This group of writers—all of nationally do appreciate the quality of writing for
whom publish outside the local Utah market—is young people. For decades teacher educators have
certainly not ignored by LDS critics but is perhaps taught surveys of the best literature for young people.
underappreciated, with their books labeled as genre Currently criticism of writing for young people is
fiction or not given significant attention. growing, and many journals focus on developing
Because of their success nationally and their high understanding of YA and children’s books: Chil-
standards of creativity, narrative appeal, and liter- dren’s Literature Quarterly, Voice of Youth Advocates,
acy, IRREANTUM has invited us to gather material Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Signal, ALAN Review,
on the issues surrounding LDS young-adult writ- English Journal, In the Middle, and others.
ers. In fact, our thesis is that some of the strongest This issue, hopefully, will help writers and critics
LDS writing—whether judged by volumes sold, offer valid criticism of the best young-adult writing
ethical effect, or literary quality—is written for a produced by, for, and about Mormons. Toward
national market with a young audience in mind. that end, we propose the following questions:
Before introducing what we’ve included in this Is there validity in the common assumption among
issue, we’d like to comment on some possible rea- readers of popular Mormon fiction that locally pro-
sons why writing for young people has been rele- duced writing has a more significant “moral” impact
gated to the lower shelves. on readers than that written for the national market?
First, Mormon critics are not alone in pooh- What impact does their Mormonism have on
poohing young adult writing: there has been a long- works produced by LDS writers who publish in the
standing bias in the national academic communities national market?

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What aesthetic should be used to measure the AWP Chronicle, English Journal, Utah Holiday,
quality of young-adult and children’s writing for, Journal of Experiential Education, Sunstone, Black
by, and about Mormons? How do books written American Literature Forum, Dialogue: A Journal
for local and national markets compare with each of Mormon Thought, and others. He has taught
other in terms of ethical and literary quality? creative writing for twelve years at Brigham Young
What are the qualities of the LDS readership? University.
Are we used to taking risks with what we read?
Since Virginia Sorensen won the Newbery Medal Cheri Pray Earl earned her master’s degree in creative
in 1956, what awards have young-adult Mormon writing at BYU and is a part-time composition and
writers won? literature instructor for the honors program there. She
Why do Mormon writers choose to write in the writes fiction for young adults and lives in Springville,
national market in addition to or rather than the Utah, with her husband and four children.
local LDS market?
How does literary writing for children differ Carol Lynch Williams is a four-time winner of the
from that written for adults? Do critics of adult Utah Original Writing Competition and winner of
writing need to reexamine assumptions in order to Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award. Her books include
appreciate the accomplishment of writers who two novels about the Orton family of New Smyrna,
think as children do? Florida: Kelly and Me and Adeline Street. A School
So with that appetizer, let’s move to a menu of Library Journal reviewer wrote that, in Carol’s novel
the main course: The True Colors of Caitlynne Jackson, she “again
In this issue we begin with a historical survey, demonstrates her facility at mood and character devel-
written by Chris Crowe and Jesse Crisler, of the opment. . . . Truer colors are hard to come by.” In the
growing number of LDS writers who focus on ten years since her first novel Kelly and Me was pub-
young people. We include an interview and some lished by Delacorte in 1993, Carol has published
samples of poetry by Rick Walton, a children’s pic- nearly twenty more books, as well as short works for
ture book writer with a strong national reputation. anthologies and magazines.
You’ll also find examples of fiction by Lael Littke,
Louise Plummer, and Kimberly Heuston. We have
included an essay by a former student in a YA lit-
erature class, Jesse Christensen, who questions the
assumption that moral writing needs to be didactic
or symbolic and that literary or ambiguous writing
is less moral, as well as an essay by John Bennion on
a similar subject. We’ve given you the transcript
of a speech delivered by Plummer on finding a
writer’s voice and a summary by Lu Ann Staheli of
what we think is the best writing for children and
young adults published by Mormons this past year.
Enjoy.

John Bennion is a writer of fiction and personal essays.


He has published a collection of short fiction, Breed-
ing Leah and Other Stories (1991), and a novel,
Falling toward Heaven (2000). He recently won the
Utah Arts Council contest in young-adult fiction for
a novel, Born of Ashes. He has published in Ascent,

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E S S A Y That did not made this self-assigned task—that


is, “a survey of Mormon young-adult writers”—a
Then and Now: A Survey of Mormon relatively simple one, at least at first. As it did for
Young-Adult Writers England, Added Upon became the starting point for
such a survey. Though not the first Mormon novel,
By Jesse S. Crisler and Chris Crowe in many ways it is the most typical of the wintry
festival of unrelieved technical mediocrity (or
Even a cursory glance by a would-be researcher worse) offered the unsuspecting reader at the turn
at literature available to Mormon teenagers up to of the last century: cold dialogue, pallid characteri-
1900 inevitably leads to an inescapable, if disap- zation, gelid style, frozen plots, and bleak themes.
pointing, conclusion: almost none existed. On the Suffused with heavy doses of Mormon doctrine,
one hand, such a dearth is initially startling, for a neither Anderson’s most famous novel, his many
sizeable stream of books targeting an audience other efforts, nor novels by his few contemporaries
comprised of readers older than children but pre- represented exciting reading either then or now.
sumably not yet prepared to grapple with the Unlike Little Women, which successive reading gen-
demands exacted by adult fare had been steadily erations discover anew, adapting its timeless moral
flowing since the publication within a year of each lessons to their own unique circumstances, who
other of first novels by America’s first writers for now recalls such Mormon texts as Hilton Hall,
adolescents, Horatio Alger and Louisa May Alcott, published in 1898 by the firm of George Q. Can-
whose Ragged Dick and Little Women, respectively, non and Sons, or Anderson’s 1900 novel, Marcus
appeared in 1867 and 1868. If America’s teens gen- King, Mormon?
erally provided a ready and apparently eager audi- The Home Literature movement, child of
ence for stories featuring characters from their own forward-thinking Mormon intellectuals Orson F.
age group, an audience upon the tastes of which Whitney, B. H. Roberts, Emmeline B. Wells, and
such enterprising literary entrepreneurs as Gilbert Susa Young Gates, scarcely improved the quality of
Patten and Edward Stratemeyer capitalized until literature for Mormon teenagers, though it vastly
well into the twentieth century, one wonders why extended its quantity. Responding to Whitney’s
similar material for LDS adolescents specifically confident prediction in The Contributor in 1888
did not pour forth. On the other hand, the paucity that the Church could “yet have Miltons and
of literature for nineteenth-century Mormon ado- Shakespeares of [its] own. God’s ammunition is not
lescents is, in retrospect, eminently predictable, exhausted. His brightest spirits are held in reserve
since the amount of fiction written for Mormon for the latter times. In God’s name and by his help
adults at that time is itself skimpy: although in his we will build up a literature whose top shall touch
watershed review, “Mormon Literature: Progress heaven,” both Roberts and Gates wrote novels
and Prospects,” Eugene England, the most persist- (300). But the former’s Corianton: A Nephite Story
ent and knowledgeable celebrant of Mormon let- (1902) is barely readable, while the latter’s John
ters, observes that “there is evidence that Mormon Stevens’ Courtship (1909), though more successful,
pioneers read fiction, even during their treks” still moves sluggishly if reactions by both under-
(465), he posits only two examples of such evi- graduate and graduate students in recent courses
dence, an 1844 tract by Parley P. Pratt, “Dialogue taught at Brigham Young University furnish a gauge
between Joseph Smith and the Devil,” and Nephi to its readability.
Anderson’s novel, Added Upon (1898). If little fic- Still, as the twentieth century ineluctably pro-
tion was being read by Mormon adults and even gressed, so did both the quantity and quality of
less was being written, one could hardly expect a teen fiction; while most writers doubtless consid-
reversed trend to obtain in the case of LDS young- ered adults their audience, and Deseret Book mar-
adult1 literature of the same period. keted books as either adult or juvenile fiction,

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several works published through the 1960s, had Association to identify an increasing body of litera-
they appeared today, would be viewed as young- ture obviously geared neither to adults nor children.
adult novels, either because of their romantic plots, Even so, the Church officially remained hesitant
their protagonists’ ages, or their subject matter. to target its teen members as a discrete segment of
Notable among these are historical novels by Paul a literate audience whose reading needs and literary
Bailey dating from the forties; Bailey was one of preferences clearly differed from those of other seg-
few to breach the invisible wall surrounding national ments. True, Marion D. Hanks, then one of the
publishers where Mormons writers were concerned seven Presidents of Seventy, and Elaine Cannon, a
when Doubleday in 1964 issued For Time and All well-known Salt Lake City newspaperwoman, pop-
Eternity, certainly an unlikely title for a work hop- ular youth speaker, and future Young Women gen-
ing to tap a national audience and one which found eral president, began editing “The Era of Youth” in
its way to home libraries of young Mormons of the July 1960. This unpaginated pullout center section
time.2 Olive Woolley Burt, an example in so many of the Improvement Era never contained fiction,
areas to aspiring Mormon writers, had her stories relying instead on inspirational fare deemed appro-
published by a number of national presses. More priate for Mormon youth of the time. By February
regionally, the exploits of the Mormon Battalion 1963, this department, now appearing at the end
perennially attracted both authors and their read- of each issue rather than in the center, was num-
ers, especially as its centennial neared: Bailey’s For bered consecutively with the rest of the magazine.
This My Glory (1940), Mabel Harmer’s Dennis and In time, it became a regular feature, relegated to no
the Mormon Battalion (1946), and S. Dilworth assigned place in any particular issue. The Improve-
Young’s An Adventure in Faith (1956) all realisti- ment Era ended its publication run in December
cally depict the Battalion’s trials on the trail as it 1970 and transformed into the Ensign, which also
wound its fruitless way through the thinly popu- subsumed the Church’s other adult magazines: The
lated deserts of the American southwest, the latter Instructor, Relief Society Magazine, and Millennial
two of these novels chronicling those trials through Star. “The Era of Youth” emerged as a full-fledged
the eyes of teenage narrators. magazine in its own right—the New Era, which
Earlier in the century, cloying tales had contin- still exists.
ued to gush from the font of Nephi Anderson. For From its first issue in January 1971, the New Era
example, Romance of a Missionary in 1919 reports showed that the Church had accepted the challenge
the saga of Elder Willard Dean who, despite the of providing material specifically for Mormon
intrusion of his own tendency to romance, enthu- teenagers. By its sixth issue in July the magazine
siastically succeeds in converting British Saints. carried its first short story, “Non Hero-Type Res-
Perhaps a cut above Anderson were novels by cues,” by M. de Koning Hoag, with single stories
Howard R. Driggs; titles such as Wild Roses, A Tale later that same year in the September, October, and
of the Rockies (1916), Ben the Wagon Boy (1944), December numbers. While two stories did appear
and George the Handcart Boy (1952) not only inti- in December 1972, standard editorial procedure
mate their plots but also suggest their intended for the New Era evidently dictated that an issue
readership. Harmer’s The Youngest Soldier (1953), include only one short story, and that not necessar-
portraying a plausible fifteen-year-old narrator, ily in every issue each year, for not until 1976 did
merits attention as a readable adolescent text. the table of contents for each month list a short
Finally, The Road to the Valley (1961) by Virginia story. Among other reasons those of us in the field
Nielsen created Mormon literary history. Subtitled should be grateful to the New Era is that it gave
“A Novel for Young Adults,” it was the first book impetus to the fledgling careers of several now-
to employ the term “young adult,” a classification important Mormon young-adult writers, including
then largely unused, despite having been coined Jack Weyland, Louise Plummer, Chris Crowe, and
three years earlier in 1958 by the American Library Ann Edwards Cannon. Thus, the New Era set the

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stage for Mormon young-adult fiction to come into The pre-1979 closed or at least highly limited
its own at last. Mormon fiction market didn’t prevent LDS
If the New Era opened that theater, certainly authors from publishing in national venues: as has
Mormon writers were not tardy in filling it with been previously pointed out, a handful of Mormon
productions. Indeed, Charlie’s Monument, Blaine M. writers were producing novels in the mid and later
Yorgason’s first attempt at longer fiction, could be twentieth century, most notably Virginia Sorensen,
called Mormondom’s most successful one-act, hav- whose Miracles on Maple Hill (1956) edged out
ing sold more than a quarter of a million copies Old Yeller (1956) and several other novels for the
since its publication in 1976. Notwithstanding the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1957. Olive Wool-
success of a few pre-1970 novels, Deseret Book had ley Burt published fiction and nonfiction in the
systematically and steadfastly resisted the blandish- national market in the 1950s and ’60s,5 and R. R.
ments of popular fiction as well as the potential for Knudson published several groundbreaking young-
easy profit it purported; that policy changed, how- adult novels in the early 1970s that, pre–Title IX,
ever, in 1979 when Deseret issued Dean Hughes’s featured young women as mainstream athletes.6
Under the Same Stars. The first volume of a teen Two other veterans in the national young-adult
trilogy, it dramatically filled the new theater of field are Beatrice Sparks, author of Go Ask Alice
Mormon young-adult fiction as the first full-length (1971) and other “diaries” of troubled teenagers,
performance. Hughes’s success led directly to Jack and Berniece Rabe, author of many YA novels;7
Weyland’s with his first novel, published the next both have been publishing since the 1970s. Until
year, the sentimental Charly, a true Broadway the 1980s, these young-adult authors were among
blockbuster, with many more to follow, not just by the very few Latter-day Saints who found success in
Yorgason, Hughes, and Weyland but by an ever- New York, but, not long after Yorgason, Hughes,
burgeoning legion of Mormon young-adult and Weyland cracked open the LDS fiction market,
authors writing material for both Mormon and a growing number of Mormon writers, including
non-Mormon youth, developing plots around both Hughes, began to make their presence known in
Mormon and other characters, and publishing New York publishing houses.
work with both Mormon and national presses. Though he is now best known for his extremely
popular Children of the Promise historical-fiction
II series for adults, Hughes began his career as a writer
As already noted, the New Era, largely due to the for teenagers.8 Since his first two novels with
efforts of its editor Brian Kelly, was instrumental in Deseret Book, he has published more than thirty
recreating a space for fiction for Mormon teenagers novels with Atheneum while continuing to publish
and thereby providing an opportunity for new Mor- simultaneously in the LDS market. Hughes’s books
mon writers of young-adult fiction to develop their for teenagers range from historical fiction to sports
voices. In addition, the Era’s fiction contributed to fiction, with a good number of popular series books
a growing awareness by LDS publishers of the (including Nutty and The Scrappers) in between.9
potential fiction market for LDS teenagers. The Lael Littke, though not as prolific as Hughes, has
financial windfall of Charlie’s Monument no doubt had a similar career pattern, with more than twenty
caught the attention of at least one such LDS pub- novels published by a variety of national presses
lisher, Bookcraft, which reissued the novel under its along with a handful of books by Mormon pub-
own imprint in 1977. Dean Hughes’s Under the lishers.10 In the young-adult field, no Mormon
Same Stars was Deseret Book’s first modern foray author can compare with these two heavy hitters
into fiction,3 and it was followed by Weyland’s who have enjoyed sustained success in both the
hugely profitable Charly. The early success of these national and LDS markets.
three novels convinced LDS publishers to make fic- Starting in the 1980s, Tracy Hickman, author or
tion a staple of their annual publishing agendas.4 coauthor of more than forty novels, has enjoyed

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steady national success in the fantasy genre for Stephen Wunderli’s first novel, was about a Navajo
young adults. His titles include the Dragonlance boy in the late 1930s; his second book, The Heart-
and Darksword series.11 Like Hickman, Canadian beat of Halftime (1996), was in the same vein as
author Martine Bates Leavitt, two-time winner of many of Dean Hughes’s novels: contemporary
an AML award for young-adult literature, has sports fiction.
found dragon fantasy stories as a way into print. The presence of Mormon authors in the national
Her 1993 AML award winners The Dragon’s Tapes- young-adult market continues to expand with sev-
try (1992) and Prism Moon (1993) began a trilogy eral writers breaking in within the last four years.
that she completed with The Taker’s Key for her They include Kimberley Griffiths Little, Breakaway
second AML prize in 1998. Her most recent work (1997) and Enchanted Runner (1999); Kristin
of fantasy, The Dollmage, appeared in 2001, with Embry Litchman, All Is Well (1998); Laura Torres,
Tom Finder following in 2002. The newest Mor- November Ever After (1999) and Crossing Montana
mon author of young-adult fantasy also resides in (2001); Lois Thompson Bartholomew, The White
Canada; Rebecca Tingle, a BYU graduate and for- Dove (2000); Laurel Brady, Say You Are My Sister
mer Rhodes scholar, will see her first novel, The (2000); and Ron Woods, The Hero (2001). In 2002,
Edge on the Sword, released by Putnam in June of a few more will debut: Chris Crowe, Mississippi Trial,
this year. 1955 with Penguin Putnam and Randall Wright,
Former AML-award winners Ann Edwards Can- A Hundred Days from Home with Henry Holt.
non and Louise Plummer are among the best- Even so, more than half of the LDS authors of
known LDS authors of contemporary young-adult young-adult fiction we have tracked down in our
fiction. Both connected with Delacorte/Bantam research write exclusively for the LDS market.
Doubleday Dell Press through that publisher’s annual Despite the enormous popularity of Charlie’s Mon-
first young-adult novel contest. Cannon, whose ument, Blaine M. Yorgason’s presence in the Mor-
most recent novel was Amazing Gracie (1993), has mon young-adult market has been spotty at best.
published three novels with that company. Plum- The single author with the most staying power and
mer’s A Dance for Three (2000) was her fourth book highest name recognition is Jack Weyland, a pro-
with Delacorte. Carol Lynch Williams is another fessor of physics at BYU–Idaho, who hit the scene
Mormon writer discovered by the Delacorte con- with a bang when he published Charly in 1980.
test. Since her first novel for teenagers, Kelly and Since then, in addition to regular contributions of
Me, in 1993, she has published sixteen books with short fiction to the New Era, he has dominated the
Delacorte, Putnam, Deseret Book, and others. market by publishing young-adult novels for Deseret
Latter-day Saints have long had an interest in Book at the rate of about one per year. No author,
Lamanites and Lamanite culture, and several Mor- not even Dean Hughes or Gerald Lund, has domi-
mon authors of young-adult fiction have used nated LDS fiction—for adults and young adults—
Native American characters and settings in their so thoroughly and for as long as Weyland has.
novels. Three of Paul Pitts’s four novels, all with Many other young-adult novelists labor in the
Avon, have dealt with contemporary Native Amer- prodigious shadow cast by Weyland. Most promi-
ican characters and issues.12 Helen Hughes Vick’s nent among these also-rans is Chris Heimerdinger,
two series, Walker of Time and Courage of the Stone, whose 1989 Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, a time-
both deal with pre-Columbian Native Americans.13 travel story in which a teenage boy and his friends
Thelma Hatch Wyss’s first young-adult novel, Star find themselves transported into Book of Mormon
Girl, published by Viking in 1967, featured Native times, launched his career as a full-time novelist
American characters. Her next two books in the and spawned the multivolume Tennis Shoes series of
national market didn’t appear until twenty years books. Heimerdinger is the only LDS-market
later, and both were contemporary realistic fic- young-adult writer whose popularity approaches
tion.14 The Blue between the Clouds (1992), the magnitude of Weyland’s.

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Even though Weyland and Heimerdinger are the You (essays from the New Era), Fatherhood and
two giants of LDS young-adult fiction, several Turning Forty, and Presenting Mildred D. Taylor (a
other writers have enjoyed regular publication and critical and biographical edition of that young-adult
modest success with Mormon readers. Lee Nelson’s writer). His most recent book is Mississippi Trial,
Storm Testament series has maintained steady popu- 1955 (2002). His nonfiction book Getting Away with
larity among LDS teenagers,15 and Alma Yates, a Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case is
middle-school principal in Arizona, has found the forthcoming. He is currently president of the Assembly
time to publish eight young-adult novels with on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) and editor of the
Deseret Book.16 More than thirty other writers YA literature column for the English Journal.
have published two or more novels in the Mormon
young-adult market, and most of these books fall Notes
into one of three categories: contemporary fiction, 1
In the contemporary publishing world the term
historical fiction, or romance. The popular national-
young adult refers to readers aged twelve to eighteen.
market genres of mystery, suspense, fantasy, and
Publishers, bookstores, and libraries use this term, which
science fiction are almost nonexistent in the current
replaces such former labels as adolescent and juvenile, for
LDS young-adult market. marketing and shelving purposes.
Clearly, Mormon writers have a certain knack 2
As a teenager, Crisler remembers Bailey’s novel in his
for producing young-adult fiction for national and parents’ home library; while he did not read it at the
LDS publishers. In part this affinity for the field time, his older sisters did as young wives.
derives from the LDS culture’s general optimism 3
As Wide as the River (1980) and Facing the Enemy
and its incessant interest in youth. Young-adult fic- (1981) complete Hughes’s trilogy.
tion may also draw Mormon authors because the 4
Interestingly, the current robust LDS fiction market
field allows them to write stories that generally do owes a huge debt to the writers who reset the stage for
not require them to deal with taboo subjects or sit- LDS fiction, authors who were writing primarily for
uations that some members of the Church find teenagers. Most “serious” writers would cringe at having
objectionable. Whatever the explanation for the to acknowledge literature for teenagers for anything.
5
success of Mormon young-adult writers, they As early as 1943 with her Pete’s Story Goes to Press,
seemingly will continue to hold their own in both Burt began publishing books for older juveniles with
the national and LDS markets. national presses.
6
Knudson’s first such novel was Zamballer (1972).
7
Jesse Crisler specializes in American Realism, focusing The first of these was Rass (1973).
8
his research and publications on empirical, biblio- Rumors of War began the Children of the Promise series
graphical, biographical, and textual criticism of the in 1997.
9
The former series began with Nutty for President
authors and texts of this period, with particular inter-
(1981), while nine installments of the latter all appeared
est in literary naturalism. Now in his seventh year at
in 1999.
BYU, Professor Crisler teaches courses in American 10
Littke’s first young-adult novel was Shanny on Her
literature, adolescent literature, and literary criticism. Own (1985).
He taught composition and British literature at 11
Hickman began his Dragonlance saga with Dragons of
BYU–Hawaii for eleven years, including five as chair. Autumn Twilight (1984), while with coauthor Margaret
Professor Crisler lives in Provo with his wife and a Weis he published Forging the Darksword, the first of that
constantly varying number of his six children. series, in 1987.
12
These include Shadowman’s Way (1992), Crossroads
Chris Crowe has published essays, articles, and short (1994), and Racing the Sun (1998).
stories for adults and teenagers. His books include Two 13
Walker of Time (1993) inaugurated a trilogy; to date,
Roads (a novel), From the Outside Looking In: two volumes in the Courage of the Stone series have
Short Stories for LDS Teenagers, For the Strength of appeared, the first, Shadow, in 1998.

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14
These were Here at the Scenic-Vu Motel (1988) and and Collections in the United States. Ed. David J.
A Stranger Here (1993). Whittaker. Provo: BYU Studies, 1995. 455–505.
15
The first volume of this popular series was The Storm Gates, Susa Young. John Stevens’ Courtship: A Story of the
Testament (1981). Echo Canyon War. Salt Lake City: Deseret News,
16
The first of Yates’s books was The Miracle of Miss 1909.
Willie (1984). Gipson, Fred. Old Yeller. New York: Harper, 1956.
Harmer, Mabel. Dennis and the Mormon Battalion. Salt
Works Cited Lake City: Deseret Book, 1946.
—. The Youngest Soldier. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 2 vols. Boston: Little, 1953.
Brown, 1869. Hickman, Tracy. Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Lake
Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York Geneva, WI: TSR, 1984.
with the Bootblacks. Boston: Loring, 1868. Hickman, Tracy, and Margaret Weis. Forging the Dark-
Anderson, Nephi. Added Upon. Salt Lake City: Deseret sword. New York: Bantam, 1987.
News, 1898. Heimerdinger, Chris. Tennis Shoes among the Nephites: A
—. Marcus King, Mormon. Salt Lake City: G. Q. Can- Modern Adventure in an Ancient Land. Salt Lake City:
non, 1900. Covenant, 1989.
—. Romance of a Missionary: A Story of English and Mis- Hoag, M. de Koning. “Non Hero-Type Rescues.” New
sionary Experiences. Independence, MO: Zion’s Print- Era 1 (July 1971): 42–44.
ing, 1919. Hughes, Dean. As Wide as the River. Salt Lake City:
Bailey, Paul. For This Is My Glory: A Story of Mormon Life. Deseret Book, 1980.
Los Angeles: Lyman House, 1940. —. Facing the Enemy. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,
—. For Time and All Eternity. Garden City, NY: Double- 1981.
day, 1964. —. Nutty for President. New York: Atheneum, 1981.
Bartholomew, Lois Thompson. The White Dove. Boston: —. Rumors of War. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997.
Houghton Mifflin, 2000. —. Under the Same Stars. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,
Bates, Martine. The Dragon’s Tapestry. Red Deer, Canada: 1979.
Red Deer College Press, 1992. Knudson, R. R. Zamballer. New York: Delacorte Press,
—. The Prism Moon. Red Deer, Canada: Red Deer Col- 1972.
lege Press, 1993. Litchman, Kristin Embry. All Is Well. New York: Dela-
—. Taker’s Key. Red Deer, Canada: Red Deer College
corte, 1998.
Press, 1998.
Littke, Lael. Shanny on Her Own. New York: Harcourt
Brady, Laurel. Say You Are My Sister. New York: Harper-
Brace, 1985.
Collins, 2000.
Little, Kimberley Griffiths. Breakaway. New York: Avon,
Burt, Olive Woolley. Pete’s Story Goes to Press. New York:
1997.
Henry Holt, 1943.
—. Enchanted Runner. New York: Avon, 1999.
Cannon, A. E. Amazing Gracie. New York: Delacorte
Press, 1991. Nelson, Lee. The Storm Testament. Springville, UT:
Driggs, Howard R. Ben the Wagon Boy. Salt Lake City: Council Press, 1981.
Stevens and Wallis, 1944. Nielsen, Virginia M. The Road to the Valley: A Novel for
—. George the Handcart Boy. New York: Aladdin Books, Young Adults. New York: D. McKay, 1961.
1952. Pitts, Paul. Crossroads. New York: Avon, 1994.
—. Wild Roses: A Tale of the Rockies. Chicago: University —. Racing the Sun. New York: Avon, 1998.
Publishing, 1916. —. Shadowman’s Way. New York: Avon, 1992.
Dubois, Louise. Hilton Hall: or, a Thorn in the Flesh, a Plummer, Louise. A Dance for Three. New York: Dela-
Novel. Salt Lake City: Geo. Q. Cannon & Sons, corte Press, 2000.
1898. Pratt, Parley P. “A Dialogue between Josh. [sic] Smith &
England, Eugene. “Mormon Literature: Progress and the Devil.” New York Herald. 1 January 1844.
Prospects.” Mormon Americana: A Guide to Sources Rabe, Berniece. Rass. Nashville: T Nelson, 1973.

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Roberts, B. H. Corianton: A Nephite Story. [Salt Lake I N T E R V I E W


City]: n.p., 1902.
Sorensen, Virginia. Miracles on Maple Hill. New York:
Harcourt Brace, 1956.
Rick Walton
[Sparks, Beatrice]. Go Ask Alice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 1971. Rick Walton became a children’s writer because,
Tingle, Rebecca. The Edge on the Sword. New York: Put- after trying almost every other career in the book, he
nam, 2001. finally realized that writing for kids was one of the
Torres, Laura. Crossing Montana. New York: Holiday few things that he both enjoyed and was good at. He
House, 2001. attributes his success in writing for children to the fact
—. November Ever After. New York: Holiday House, that he is still a child and understands what children
1999.
like. He has published more than fifty books with
Vick, Helen Hughes. Shadow. Boulder, CO: Roberts
national publishers, with another ten or so scheduled
Rinehart, 1998.
—. Walker of Time. Tucson: Harbinger House, 1993.
for publication over the next couple of years. His works
Weyland, Jack. Charly. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, include picture books, riddle books, activity books, a
1980. collection of poetry, and educational and game soft-
Whitney, Orson F. “Home Literature.” The Contributor ware. Many of his picture books tie into language-arts
9 (July 1898): 297–302. themes, such as Pig Pigger Piggest, which teaches use
Williams, Carol Lynch. Kelly and Me. New York: Dela- of comparative adjectives. His books have been fea-
corte Press, 1993. tured on the IRA Children’s Choice list, on Reading
Woods, Ron. The Hero. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Rainbow, and on CBS’s This Morning. Rick lives in
2001. Provo, Utah, with his wife, Ann, the brains of the
Wunderli, Stephen. The Blue Between the Clouds. New household, who also writes for kids, programs com-
York: Henry Holt, 1992. puters, masters Rick’s website, and does all the home
—. The Heartbeat of Halftime. New York: Henry Holt, repair Rick never learned how to do. They have five
1996. children, all of whom are learning to love reading,
Wyss, Thelma Hatch. Here at the Scenic-Vu Motel. New writing, and computers. In addition to writing, Rick
York: Harper and Row, 1988. enjoys reading, traveling, playing the guitar, and
—. Star Girl. New York: Viking, 1967. studying foreign languages.
—. A Stranger Here. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. In the following interview, Walton gives advice to
Yates, Alma. The Miracle of Miss Willie. Salt Lake City: aspiring children’s writers. Such writers can also learn
Deseret Book, 1984. from the quirky humor that makes him successful
Yorgason, Blaine M. Charlie’s Monument. Rexburg, ID:
with young readers. Carol Lynch Williams, John Ben-
Ricks College Press, 1966.
nion, and Cheri Earl—who belong to the same writ-
Young, S. Dilworth. An Adventure in Faith. Salt Lake
City: Bookcraft, 1956.
ing group as Rick—conducted this interview for
IRREANTUM.

John: Which is more important: to have written


or to have made money writing?
Rick: To have written.
Cheri: Liar. Why do you say it’s more important
to have written?
Rick: The reason I’m a writer is that I like to
write; I’m obsessive about writing. Ever since I was
a teenager, I’ve written incessantly, just for the sheer
creative thrill. And I do it all the time. I spent the

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morning today writing stuff that will just go on my Carol: The one that I like. It starts, “One and
website and will not be published, except for there. one and one . . .” That’s my favorite.
Carol: What percentage of your writing is just Rick: Why? It’s just numbers.
for fun, and what percentage is to make a living? Carol: Because it’s so damn funny.
Or is there overlap in the two? Rick: It’s called “Four.”
Rick: Well, some overlap. The writing itself— One and one and one and one
hopefully the writing to make a living, too—is fun. are a
That’s not always true, but I would guess that one and one and one and one
about 70 percent of what I do is just for fun. are a
Carol: So what’s the difference between what two and two
you’ve written just for fun, and what you actually are a
publish? two and two
Rick: Nobody else wants to read what I write are a
just for fun. one and one and one and one
Cheri: That’s true! Take Rolfe the Exploding three and one
Elephant. three and one
Rick: That’s a great story. are a
John: Then there’s that one about the talking one and one and one and one
dog who joins a circus on another planet. are a
Rick: Yes, the story of Bob and Louie. Oddly four
enough, I’m rewriting that because a publisher are a
wants to see it again. It turns out that they are the four
American branch of the publisher who first did are a
Harry Potter, so, who knows? Maybe they recog- four
nize great genius. four
John: When I first read the Bob and Louie story, four
I didn’t know what to say. I might as well have been are a
reading Finnigan’s Wake for all the sense I could one and one and one and one
make out of it. Either Finnigan’s Wake or the mono- are a
logue of a schizophrenic person. one and one and one and one
Rick: Actually, I shouldn’t say that nobody wants are a
to read what I’ve written just for fun because I actu- two and two
ally get all sorts of strange e-mails responding to a are a
variety of things that I have on my website. Some- three and one
body had, just a couple of days ago, a couple of are a
words that he thought I should add to one of my four.
word lists.
Carol: What words? Cheri: The real question is why your wife would
Rick: I’m not going to tell you. I said to him, let you quit working a full-time job when she read
“I know I’m missing a lot of words on my list. I do that?
that on purpose because children read these lists.” Rick: Because she’d read some other things. She
Cheri: Was he from Britain? understood that “Four” was not what I was going
Rick: Actually, I think he was, based on the words. to base my career on.
Cheri: There you go. John: You used to work full time?
Carol: Can we have that first poem that you wrote? Rick: Um, not for very long. I’ve never held a
Rick: Which first poem? job for more than a year.

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John: So, from the very beginning, you’ve been Rick: Bunnies Gone Mad is still in concept
a full-time writer. phase. Same with Bunnies Gone Bad, Bunny Love,
Rick: No, there were times when I was pursuing and Massacre Bunnies . . .
other careers: teaching school, working in the arts, John: Bunny Lust.
an MBA program, law school, an English master’s Rick: Yes, that’s where all the bunnies come
degree—all of these different things. from, after all; that’s the reality.
Cheri: The law-school thing was so he could Carol: Bunny Girl.
represent himself in court. Why didn’t you stick Rick: Yes. And others. Just yesterday I got the
with it? first copy of my book Bunnies on the Go, which is
Rick: I came to my senses, realized that I was not bunnies traveling. The sequel is going to be Road-
law-school material. kill Bunnies.
Carol: So what is picture-book writer material? Carol: Okay, we need to get serious again. Here’s
What makes you a good picture-book writer? my question. Everybody in the world who wants to
Rick: I have a short attention span. be a children’s writer thinks they can write a picture
Cheri: Let me ask the question a different way. book. And we know most of us fail miserably. What
What makes a good picture book? made you decide to write picture books?
Rick: There are a lot of things that go into a Rick: What I said earlier about having a short
good picture book. It has to be simple and under- attention span was only half a joke. I do much
standable by a child. It has to appeal on more than better writing short things, such as short poems,
one level because nine or ten adults are going to games, activities. I write a lot of riddles that are short.
have to pass off on the book before it ever gets to a I can’t write longer stories, but I can write minute
kid. There’s a great deal of rhythm in a picture mysteries. Anything that’s short and I can wrap my
book; there’s a conciseness of language. There’s a mind around all at once, I can do. Also, I think that,
tremendous visual nature to picture books; the text probably, I ended up doing picture books because I
has to evoke visual images in order for the illustra- have a strong music background, and the sense of
tor to be able to do something with the text. rhythm I got from being a musician helped me.
There’s a certain directness and unity to a picture Cheri: But that doesn’t mean everybody who
book that doesn’t allow for diversions or fleshing plays the piano can write fiction.
out in the same way that you would with a story or Rick: No, it doesn’t.
a novel. And one of the things that’s important, Cheri: Dean Hughes said one time that he gets
too, is that a picture-book manuscript needs to be asked the question by writers and people in acade-
fresh; it’s got to be something that’s not run-of-the- mia, and, you know, just people in general, “When
mill or something that has been done a hundred are you going to graduate to adult writing?” Do
times. Unless it is something unique, the editors you get that same question, and if so, how do you
have all seen it before—many times—and just pass respond to that?
on it. Rick: I get the question very seldom. My books
John: What has been your most successful book, are for such a young audience, usually, that I think
in terms of either reviewers or number of books people just assume I will never graduate to adult
sold? writing. Dean writes those middle-grade and
Rick: So far, So Many Bunnies has sold about young-adult novels that if they were just twice as
300,000 copies in various editions. long and more fleshed out, they might actually
Carol: Is that all the bunny books together or start looking like adult novels. And he did graduate
just the So Many Bunnies? to adult novels.
Rick: Just the So Many Bunnies. John: He did.
Cheri: How about Bunnies Gone Mad? Are you Rick: But the question about graduating to
working on that? adult fiction doesn’t bother me because I don’t care

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what anybody thinks about children’s literature. In know how to describe it—but the creatures in them,
fact, I prefer children’s literature to be a well-kept at bottom, are kind hearted. And they treat each
secret. I don’t want children’s writers to be famous. other with a kind of dignity, and I don’t know if
Carol: Just rich. you notice that or not.
Rick: Just rich. Children’s writers should all be Rick: Only because my wicked characters don’t
making tons of money and nobody should know get through the editorial process. I do have one
who they are. book coming out called The Remarkable Friendship
Cheri: Why? of Mr. Rat and Mr. Cat. It’s kind of a watered-down
Rick: Because I don’t wanna be like Shania Twain Itchy and Scratchy or Tom and Jerry, that kind of
and have to leave the country because I get hounded thing. But it does show great friendship. You’re lim-
everywhere because I’m too famous. ited with a picture book on what you can do
Cheri: In large part it seems that you write because because there are a lot of gatekeepers with children’s
you have fun at it and you make money at it. literature, and the younger the literature, the more
Rick: Yes. I write to make money so that I have gatekeepers there are, and the more strict they are
time to write for fun. on what you can do.
John: Do you often think about what effect your John: I’m not talking about something that’s
books can have on the world? kept from being in the books. I’m talking about
Rick: There are times when I get the feeling that what’s in there because you’re who you are. For
my writing should save the world, and a quick real- example, take the bullfrog. He’s just a cheerful guy
ity check beats that back into submission. and has all these adventures and . . .
John: Why? Carol: John, you’re waxing literary here. You’re
Rick: Because the reality is that there are people waxing AML.
who write beautiful, inspirational works and I’m Rick: I’m just trying to tell a fun story. Actually,
not one of those people. Whenever I try to write I’m appalled at what some of my characters do. You
inspirational, it ends up being just a bit sappy. I talk about Bullfrog being a decent character, but in
don’t want to write sappy. I think that some of my the sequel, Bullfrog Pops, he goes on an eating ram-
books have educational elements. Some of them page through a town: robbing, stealing, vandaliz-
teach language-arts concepts. In fact, at the Randall ing, all sorts of things.
Museum in San Francisco they introduced me as John: But he’s so happy doing it.
the king of language-arts picture books. Of course, Rick: I know, but I can think of a lot of people
they probably got that title from my publisher, who on death row who are very happy doing what they
has a vested interest in that title. Overall, I’m happy were doing.
if my books just make somebody have fun for a few Cheri: So you’re saying that Bullfrog is a psy-
moments. That’s what I want to get out of a book. chopathic character?
I just want to have fun for a while. I don’t always Rick: He’s an out-of-control, maniacal eater.
want to be inspired. Cheri: So, when you go off on these wild, crazy
John: You’re presuming that in order to have an Rolfe the Exploding Elephant kind of tangents, what
ethical effect, a book has to be preachy about it. kind of an audience do you have in mind?
Rick: No, I’m not, actually. I’m saying that, in Rick: Me.
order to have an ethical effect, it shouldn’t be Carol: You’ve always told me that you want to
preachy, it should be inspirational—which is dif- write wacky stuff, and you want to find an editor
ferent. And I have trouble writing inspirational who likes wacky stuff. What kind of wacky stuff are
without being preachy, so I don’t want to do that. you talking about, for one thing, and why do you
John: I still think—maybe I’m wrong—that want to write it?
even Pig Pigger Piggest and Once There Was a Rick: It’s just the kind of humor that I like, and
Bull . . . frog and all of those have kind of a—I don’t I don’t think there’s enough of it out there.

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Cheri: Well, define “wacky stuff.” they can lose a lot of money on it. But, there also
Rick: Roald Dahl, Monty Python, John Scieska, has not been the same perceived need in the LDS
Daniel Pinkwater; the edgier British humor. market for children’s books as in the areas of YA
Carol: Those are your models? and adult fiction, because, frankly, most children’s
Rick: Yeah, those are the kind of things I like. books on the national market are quite appropriate
Woody Allen. for LDS children. The older readers get, the edgier
Cheri: Ew. the national market gets. The gap grows between
Rick: Supposedly, Roald Dahl wasn’t a particu- what the LDS market wants and what the national
larly likeable character. And Shel Silverstein either. market is providing, so there’s more of a need for
If he were still alive, I’d definitely keep my kids the LDS market to produce something that is
away from him. unique. Still, I think there are a lot of things that
Cheri: Satan’s minion. the LDS market can do with picture books. I’d like
Rick: Absolutely. to see them create picture books that inspire the
John: What other authors do you like? national market. I think the LDS market should
Rick: I like writers who make me laugh; and it’s be producing Max Lucado books, only do it much
not always easy to make me laugh. I like Dave Barry. better.
Anybody who’s really funny. I like the Lemony Carol: But don’t you think local publishers are
Snicket books. Those are funny. I thought they’d trying to do that right now and just doing a poor
get old for me, but they haven’t gotten old yet. job of it?
Carol: Do you think you could do a series like Rick: No. No, I don’t think so. They’re trying to
that? market gift books for the LDS market, so they’re
Rick: Maybe I could, theoretically. I’ve got some looking for specifically LDS themes rather than
ideas. I have an idea for a novel that I think I could general concepts that would appeal to a broad
do. It’s about the last trip we took to San Francisco. national market.
Cheri: But you’re not going to share that with Carol: I noticed that at the beginning of your
us, are you? career, you were doing more picture books for the
Rick: Of course not. local market, the LDS market. Why have you shied
Carol: How many manuscripts do you send out away from that?
in a month? How many manuscripts on average do Rick: They don’t publish the kinds of picture
you send out? books that I do, so I’ve just had more satisfaction
Rick: It’s hard to say. Most of mine I don’t even publishing for the national market. I’m not opposed
send to my agent. Most of mine are sent to which- to doing more picture books for the LDS market if
ever editor I think it is good for. I basically have I came up with the right idea and if the publishers
a policy of keeping all my editors overwhelmed. were amenable to it. I’m interested in doing what-
They all have manuscripts that they are considering ever I can to help the LDS market grow, but as for
right now. writing the books myself, I just don’t feel that’s the
Carol: How many manuscripts each? thing I should be doing.
Rick: Probably one to four. Cheri: Do you think it’s possible in the LDS
John: This is on kind of a different tangent, but market to have picture books that are really picture
why are there so few LDS picture books? books for children and not picture books for adults?
Rick: In the local market? What we see coming out are—
John: Yeah. Rick: Adult allegory type of books.
Rick: Two reasons. And they’re related. I think Carol: Do you think there’s a way to write these
there’s room for a good LDS picture-book market, good LDS children’s picture books that would work?
but picture books are very expensive to produce and Rick: I think there are. For example, every
to buy. Publishers are hesitant to get into that because once in a while there’s a story in the Friend that’s

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kid-friendly and could be adapted into a picture and so they just sit down and jot off a story and
book. There are books on the national market, too, then think they can sell it. It might be a perfectly
that have messages that appeal to both children and fine story, and they might have had fun writing it,
adults, and they’re well written. One book, for and their kids might love it—and those are all legit-
example, is the book called The Other Side, by imate reasons for writing—but you’ve got to know
Jacqueline Woodson. It’s a great book, and it has a what the market is accepting, and you’ve got to
great message for kids, but it has a depth to it that know the rules of the market. If you’re going to
only adults can understand. So, I think this kind of break those rules, you’ve got to know why you’re
book could be successful in both markets. I think it going to break them. The only way to do all of this
wouldn’t be a bad thing for people who want to is to do a lot reading of the kind of thing you want
write picture books for the LDS market to study to write, network, talk to people, read books on the
the national-market books that are doing just that— subject, get on the Internet, do some research on
presenting valuable messages in a kid-friendly fash- the subject. I have a lot of research on my website
ion—and then try to duplicate that. at www.rickwalton.com. This site, by the way, was
Carol: I have a question about your writing cul- chosen as one of the top-ten author sites in the
ture. Can you talk about the writing culture that country by the New York City Young Writers. They
you belong to? The community of writers that you said it was the funniest website they had seen. It’s
belong to? been nice because my website has opened up friend-
Rick: The culture. There’s a very active and ships with other children’s writers. I’ve made friends
growing children’s writing culture in Utah, and it’s with the Albanian Aesop, a poet in Albania who’s
been exciting. There are a lot of good conferences. published like fifty books of fables and verse that
The Utah children’s writers e-mail list has well are quite fun. I was corresponding for a while with
over 200 people, and it’s very active. Participants a children’s author in Iran, and we exchanged books.
announce publications and other successes all the Authors in Brazil, and other countries. It’s been fun
time. These are not LDS lists, but the reality is that to get to know people that way.
most people on the lists are LDS. They are a good Carol: What’s the most important thing you
way to help the community network and grow. We teach your students in creative-writing workshops?
have parties, retreats. Rick: I think the best thing I teach them is that
Carol: There are some people who do not have there’s a variety of ways to come up with ideas.
writers groups. Do you think you need one? Most of the time when I’m talking to a group, and
Rick: For my writing, in a minor degree, it’s I ask how many of them have an easy time coming
helped. Mostly, it’s helped keep me sane because, as up with ideas, maybe ten to twenty percent of them
a writer, I have a very isolated life. It’s me and my will raise their hands. Which means that eighty to
one-year-old home all day. So, about the only ninety percent of them have trouble coming up
people I really know are other writers, and they’re with ideas. So, one of the things I do is teach them
the only people I have any contact with. lots of easy ways to come up with lots of ideas, and
Cheri: Okay, everybody wants to be a picture- it seems to open up possibilities for a lot of the writ-
book writer. So, what are your best points to give ers. I also teach them the realities of the market, the
them? importance of networking and doing their research.
Rick: And everybody asks me about it. So, to the Carol: You’re teaching them marketing. Is that
three people in the universe who haven’t heard my the first thing people should learn when they want
answer, here it is. It’s the same thing as if you want to be writers?
to write anything. The main problem that I find Rick: No, and that’s a staged question, clearly,
with people who want to write picture books is that because you know better. One of the reasons I
they don’t do their homework. They come to wanted to teach at BYU is I wanted to teach a group
picture-book writing because they think it’s easy, of writers in a longer setting than the workshops

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that I had been doing. I wanted to take them from S O M E P O E M S


very beginning all the way to submission process. F O R
But, the first thing we teach them is what makes a C H I L D R E N
good picture book, and we teach them about com-
ing up with good ideas, then we do writing and a By Rick Walton
lot of critiquing, and it’s not until they have some
manuscripts and we have gone through the critiquing Ah-Choo!
process that I talk about the marketing process.
Cheri: So, marketing is one of the last things In one fell swoop
you do. Went the chicken coop
Rick: Marketing is—should be—one of the last With the chickens and the roosters
things. As a matter of fact, one of my mistakes early And the newborn chicks.
on was putting too much stress on the marketing And the barn that was loaded
before I had enough good manuscripts. I find this With straw exploded,
to be one of the major mistakes of beginning writ- And the air was full
ers. Look at any writing conference. The marketing Of straw and sticks.
sessions are always cram-packed. Everybody’s try- The horse went flying,
ing to find the easy way to get their manuscript And the goats were crying
published. The easiest way to get your manuscript From the very tiptops
published—well, besides marrying a doting editor Of the sycamore trees.
or having lots and lots of money and publishing it And the dog and sheep
yourself—is to focus on the product. I see a lot of Were piled in a heap—
children’s writers who spend a lot of time—some And all that I’d done
are fairly successful—focusing on the marketing. Was sneeze!
They travel a lot, they do lots of public appear-
ances, signings and things like that, lots of market- (Spider, August 2000)
ing tricks. Of course, you need to do a certain
amount of that, but my sense is that you’re a lot
better off if you spend most of your energy on the
writing. If you do this, then the marketing, to a
degree, will take care of itself. Most long-term suc-
cessful writers are successful in the long term The Camel
because they focused on the writing. There are a lot
of people who are successful in the short term who The camel is the strongest of all animals,
are focused on marketing. They disappear quickly for it carries mountains on its back.
because they don’t have anything to feed their long- The snow at the top of these mountains
term career. slowly melts into streams and lakes,
Carol: If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what and seeps into the camel.
would you do? The camel only needs to drink
Rick: I’d probably be a travel agent or a tour when the snow is gone.
guide because I love to travel. Or I’d be a kept man,
a stay-at-home househusband. I don’t know what (Cricket, February 2002)
I’m qualified to do. One of the reasons I’m a writer
is because I’ve tried every other job there is and
bombed out miserably.

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My Two Feet The Wise Frog on the Hill

When I am happy I went to the wise frog on the hill.


My feet move quick I said, “My toe is sore!
Like grasshoppers hopping It hurts when I move it.
From stick to stick. It hurts when I’m still.
Do I need operations?
When I’m excited A bandage? A pill?”
My two feet wiggle The frog, he looked me straight in the eyes.
Like silly little kids “Rubbit!” he said.
Trying hard not to giggle. Rub it I did.
Of course! How simple! How wise!
When I am silly
My two feet twirl I went to the wise frog on the hill.
Like the ponytails I said, “I need some lunch.
On a dancing girl. Should I eat a rhinoceros
Cooked on a grill?
When I am sick Should I eat boiled muskrat
My two feet shiver Or fried whippoorwill?”
Like a pup that has fallen The frog, he looked me straight in the eyes.
In an ice-cold river. “Rabbit!” he said.
Rabbit I ate.
When I am tired Oh rabbit delicious,
My feet move slow Served hot on the plate!
Like elephants trudging How simple! How tasty! How wise!
Through deep, deep snow.
I went to the wise frog on the hill.
When I’m asleep I said, “I discovered a store.
My feet lie still It’s full of rare candies
Like boulders From Spain and Brazil.
On a grassy hill. But I have no money
To put in their till.”
(Ladybug, June 1992) The frog, he looked me straight in the eyes.
“Robbit!” he said.
Rob it I did.
A Flash I’ll never again pay attention to lies,
Especially from frogs who pretend to be wise.
Through the night,
A streak of light— (Cricket, March 2002)
Meteorite!
(Ladybug, November 2001)

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Dr. Frankenswine N O V E L
E X C E R P T
From pots and pans
And nuts and bolts The Shakeress
And springs and things
And electrical jolts By Kimberly Heuston
He makes the pigs.
(Yes, he made mine.) Chapter One
That brilliant
Dr. Frankenswine. Aunt Thankful
May 1828
He plugs them in, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Turns on the juice. In her head, Naomi screamed. Out loud, she
And when they blink, said nothing. She put down the shuttle and got up
He lets them loose, as quietly as possible to move to the back of the
Then polishes them loom and find the broken ends.
Till they shine. She hated weaving, hated it. Little tiny threads
That artful breaking all the time. Dust in your eyes and throat.
Dr. Frankenswine. Where were the broken ends of the— Oh. There
was one. And there was the other.
So if you’d like She licked the end of the longer piece and began
A monstrous pet, trying to thread it through the heddle, her fingers
There is no finer stiff with resistance as she waited for her aunt to
You can get comment. Behind her the rhythm of her aunt’s
Than that made on kneading faltered. Here it came.
The assembly line “Naomi, did you break another thread?”
Of my friend “Yes, Aunt Thankful. I’m sorry.” She pulled the
Dr. Frankenswine. warp thread through and began to tie the ends
(Cricket, October 2001) together in a weaver’s knot. Maybe if she sounded
truly contrite and got back to work quickly . . .
Her aunt said nothing, just whacked at the bread
dough extra hard. Naomi hurriedly sat down again
and reached for the shuttle. Perhaps after all she’d
be spared the words that Aunt Thankful often
rained down on her like brimstone.
But she was too late. Aunt Thankful let out a
long, martyred sigh. “I don’t know what your ma
was thinking, letting you run wild about the place
instead of learning you how to weave proper.”
Well, for one thing, Naomi thought, she taught me
how to speak properly.
“I done told your pa over and over that she
warn’t no good. She traipsed around after flowers to
stir up her witch’s brews instead of staying home
and minding her house like a good Christian
woman.”

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They weren’t witch’s brews, they were medicines. hard and food is dear. Let all things be done decently
The ointments her mother used to make from the and in order, or so Paul instructed the Corinthians,
herbs and barks she and Naomi had gathered and and the plain truth is that we warn’t plannin’ on
dried worked a lot better than the smelly bear grease takin’ on four more mouths to feed.”
and out-loud prayers Aunt Thankful doctored with. She cleared her throat and looked away, and
“Look how she went and jined herself up with Naomi realized that Aunt Thankful was embar-
them good-for-nothing Free Will Baptists and rassed. Maybe she really does care, Naomi thought—
seduced your father away from the established ways but Aunt Thankful’s next words put an end to that
of the Lord, putting his soul in eternal jeopardy.” notion.
Her aunt began to turn the dough into the pans “Your uncle and me have considered as how
that Naomi had greased before she sat to her weav- them Boston fellers are looking for young women
ing. “Fam’ly stays with fam’ly. It ain’t fitting your of good homes to work their looms over there to
papa took you so fur away from where you belonged. Amoskeag.”
It’s a burden on us to have you here, but it’s one we It took Naomi a minute to understand. “Amos-
accept with our heads bowed humbly.” keag? In Manchester?”
Aunt Thankful shook the flour off her hands, “They pay good money,” her aunt said. “They
walked over to the oven built into the side of the hold them mill girls to strict standards of Christian
fireplace, and put her hand inside for a few sec- conduct. Sariah Templeton says that Carrie goes
onds. “Ready,” she announced to herself. She filled to meeting every Sunday and is chaperoned right
the oven with the pies waiting on the table, then careful when she’s not working. I figure you won’t
banged the oven door shut and counted the num- have time to get into mischief between your shifts,
ber of loaves that stood rising. “We’ll have to bake anyhow.”
again afore the Sabbath,” she said with a loud sniff Leave her family! Work in the factories! “Aunt
of disapproval. “That’s what comes of more mouths Thankful,” Naomi managed to say, putting down
to feed.” the shuttle. “I’m but thirteen next month. Isn’t that
Just imagine how much worse it would be if your too young to work the machines?”
cooking were fit to eat, Naomi thought, and shot the “You ain’t old enough for your own machine,
shuttle through so hard another thread broke—this but Carrie Templeton says they use younger girls
time a weft, praise heaven. She repaired it quickly, for cleanin’ and fixin’ the looms in places that the
then glanced up, hoping that the silence meant her bigger girls can’t fit.”
aunt hadn’t noticed. Naomi stared at Aunt Thankful’s chapped red
Aunt Thankful was staring at Naomi with lips hands pulling bits of dough from each of the loaves
pursed so hard it looked as though someone had so there’d be enough to fill another tin. “She says
sewn around her mouth and pulled the threads tight. she’s willin’ to take you on as a kind of apprentice,
Naomi waited for her comment, but it didn’t come. and I think it’s right neighborly of her. Her pa’s dri-
She nodded decisively to herself. vin’ her back over Saturday now that her ma’s doin’
“Your uncle and me have thought us a plan,” she better, and you’re goin’ with her.”
announced. “I’m goin’ to talk plain to you, girl. “Saturday! But that’s only two days!”
You four younguns are a burden. Glory and Eli are Aunt Thankful nodded. “Plenty of time for you
too young to pay for their keep, and Ben ain’t good to get cleaned up decent and pack your things.”
for nothing.” “What things?” Naomi said to her loom.
“But Ben—” Naomi began, ready to defend her “What’s that?” her aunt pounced.
older brother. “I said, what things?” Naomi repeated recklessly.
“Don’t sass me, girl,” Aunt Thankful warned her. “As you keep reminding us, we got out with noth-
“Burns or no, that boy is eatin’ us out of house and ing but each other, our Bible, and the clothes on
home. We are hard-working people, but times is our backs.”

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Aunt Thankful threw down a hunk of dough, and her aunt, satisfied with the effect of her words,
marched over to Naomi, and took her by the ear so said no more. A minute later, as Naomi tried to still
that she was forced to look into her aunt’s furious her trembling fingers enough to work the loom, she
face. “You have nothin’ because we are nothin’. heard the door bang shut behind the older woman.
There’s no runnin’ from God’s justice. He saw fit Her aunt might as well have stayed. Her spiteful
to spare you and your brothers and sister, but words lingered behind her, so big and real Naomi
instead of searchin’ out the blackness in yourselves, could almost touch them. Naomi leaned her head
you turn and blaspheme against him with your against the hard wooden beating bar. The truth was
unseemly grief.” that the fire had taken more than her home and her
“God loved my parents and my baby brother—” family; it had taken everything she held dear. It had
Naomi barely stopped herself from finishing the taken away the comfortable rhythm of the year:
rest of the sentence: more than he could possibly love sugaring off in the early spring with their neighbors
you and your mean little ways. the Davises, stripping slippery elm bark in April
Her aunt went right on as though Naomi hadn’t and hunting wildflowers in June, camping in the
spoken, her pale, pinched face as ugly to Naomi as woods during revivals, spelling down Nat and
her hateful words. “You are no more to God than a Bethy Davis at the schoolhouse. It had taken away
piece of this thread that you break so easy and free. the pinecones her family put next to their plates at
God knows you. God sees your weakness, and now dinner, and everyone telling one thing about their
He’s going to beat you into place until you are day before they threw the pinecones in the fire, and
part of His pattern, not yours. And if you talk back Mama saying, “Look how each one of us helps our
to Him the way you talk back to me, He’ll burn family fire burn brighter,” and Ben rolling his eyes
you. He’ll burn you just as He burned your farm and Mama winking at Naomi because, well, some-
and your kinfolk, too! So what do you have to say times there wasn’t a thing you could do about Ben
about that?” except tolerate him.
Naomi shrank back. She had nothing to say. Every Naomi felt a familiar prickle under her eyelids. It
part of her was concentrated on not remembering. seemed to her there’d been nothing but these little
She didn’t want to remember the pop of exploding drips of tears ever since the fire. She wished that
trees and cracking ice, the sickening smell of roast- just once they’d build up into wet, noisy sobs, the
ing meat as the sheeps’ long, fatty wool streamed kind that had always brought her comfort. But
flames behind them. She tried not to remember the they didn’t. Nothing, not even getting sent away to
way the sweat rolling down Ben’s face had gleamed the factories, could penetrate the strangeness that
like blood in the red light of the fire as he raced to shimmered around her or melt the cold, sharp rock
get the horses from the barn, or how big and black of sadness lodged in her chest.
Eli’s and Glory’s eyes had looked while they waited There was no wise person left who knew her,
for Mama and Papa to find little Edmond and who would understand her tears and know what to
bring him out the fiery door. Most of all, she tried say to stop them. Even God, whose loving presence
not to remember the moment her parents finally she had never questioned back home in Canter-
appeared, the sickening lurch from joy to despair as bury, even God seemed to have gone. There was no
the big heavy beam above them started down—oh, one to call to, nowhere to go, nothing she could do
so slowly—down, down . . . to stop that beam from falling over and over again.
In her mind, Naomi was still spinning Glory and
Eli away from a sight too horrible to be borne. But “Naomi, you ’wake?” Eli asked from the next
it had to be borne. With the weary knowledge of mattress.
two months’ experience, Naomi searched for some- “No, I’m not. Go to sleep, Eli.” Then she had
thing to do, anything that would distract her from second thoughts. “Do you need me to take you to
seeing that scene again. She fumbled for her shuttle, the privy?”

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“No. I want a story.” gotten in a fight with George Mather once when he
“Go to sleep, Eli,” Naomi said. She tried to sound asked if Mama still slept in the same bed as Papa.
kind and reassuring, but she was afraid that if he Everyone knew that when you joined the Shakers
didn’t hurry up and go to sleep she might start you gave them all your property and you didn’t live
screaming and not be able to stop. All day she’d with your family anymore. The Shakers became
been waiting to get a minute to herself to think. your family, with all the women together in one
There had to be something she could do to keep place and the men together somewhere else. But
the family together. Papa had said they were good neighbors, and the
With a rustling of cornhusks, Glory turned over way they chose to live and worship God was no
on the pallet they shared and flung her arm onto one’s business but their own.
Naomi’s stomach. Naomi took her little sister’s arm Eli mumbled in his sleep and turned over, then
and tucked it firmly under the quilt, feeling her settled. Naomi tucked her cold feet under the
usual pang of envy as she looked at her sister’s per- warm body of her little sister. If she went to work
fect face, soft and rosy in sleep. Glory and Eli both in the factories, who would care for Eli and Glory?
took after Mama, with stormy blue eyes, round Who would make sure Glory didn’t stir up more
pink cheeks, and wavy, corn-colored hair, while she trouble with Aunt Thankful? Who would make
and Ben had Papa’s ordinary brown eyes, olive skin, sure they went to school and learned to read and
and coarse, straight hair. Naomi thought about wak- write? Aunt Thankful didn’t hold much with book
ing her to talk. Glory wanted to leave Portsmouth learning. She herself had learned enough at home
as much as she did. During Thursday prayer meet- to read the Good Book, and no more “Those that
ing, she had tried to stand up and report their feel it necessary to leave work that needs doin’ to go
aunt’s un-Christian conduct to the congregation, sit in a schoolhouse are nothing but lazy, prideful
and Naomi had had to sit on her skirts to keep her beings tryin’ to refashion themselves in vain,” she
quiet. Naomi sighed now and let her sister sleep. had told Naomi. The Lord knew people’s hearts,
Ben was no help, either. He’d bossed Naomi and He had already determined who would be
around her whole life, but since the fire he was saved and who would not. There was precious little
keeping to himself. He spent a lot of time in the that folk could do to change His mind.
barn. For the first few weeks, he’d been just sitting Naomi looked at her sleeping brothers and sister.
there whenever she went in to gather eggs or call If everything that had happened was God’s will,
him for supper, but now that his arms were healing Naomi didn’t think much of His plan.
he groomed the horses for hour after hour. She looked around the moonlit room guiltily,
At least his arms were getting better. For a moment almost as if someone had heard the shameful things
Naomi envisioned the way they had looked in the she was thinking. Free Will Baptists believed in
flickering firelight of the Davises’ kitchen, with the just that: free will. She thought of the hymn Papa
gray dead skin and the swollen rawness under- used to sing when he wanted to make Aunt Thank-
neath. Mrs. Davis had praised Naomi for packing ful mad:
snow around Ben’s arms, and then she sent him off Know this, that every soul is free
with Nat and Mr. Davis to the Shaker settlement a To choose his life and what he’ll be;
few miles away, middle of the night or no. For this eternal truth is given
Most people didn’t have much to do with the That God will force no man to heaven.
Shakers, but they knew everything there was to
know about doctoring. Naomi’s mother had gotten If she were free to choose her life, this wasn’t the
some of her herbs and medicines there, which the one she’d pick. Nothing good would come of living
boys and girls at school thought was peculiar. “Has with Aunt Thankful. Ben—Ben, whom she’d always
your mother taught you those angel dances yet?” counted on when it really mattered—had become
they’d tease Naomi. Ben and Nat Davis had even a stranger, one who didn’t care much for her and

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Glory and Eli. Things would be even worse after Ben seemed to wake up fully as they crossed the
she went off to the mills. yard to the barn, where the horses nickered a soft
Her fear grew and grew until it almost over- greeting.
whelmed her body’s ability to contain it, and she Naomi found a place to sit on the straw while
found herself imploring Help me. I’m all alone and Ben led Jessie out of her stall and tied her up by her
I don’t know what to do. halter so he could groom her. Moonlight streamed
Eli cried out in his sleep and Naomi jumped. in through the open door.
Still asleep, he found his thumb and began to rub “Ben, I don’t want to go,” Naomi began.
the back of his other hand on the softness of his Ben bent over and began picking out Jessie’s
quilt. Despite herself, Naomi smiled. He looked hooves, his back to Naomi. “We’ve all got to do
like a Shaker boy, shaking and shaking his hands to things we don’t want to do,” he said dully.
get the evil out . . . “You don’t. You’re always hiding over here.”
Abruptly, she sat up. She could see Eli dressed Ben didn’t answer, just put down one hoof and
like a Shaker boy. In a clean, warm room with a bed picked up the next one. At last he sighed. “Aw,
of his own. Eating good Shaker food—half a pie a Naomi, it isn’t that bad. We’ve got food to eat. A
day, they said, at breakfast and at lunch. A Shaker warm place to sleep. Aunt Thankful may not be the
boy learning a trade like smithing or milling. A easiest woman in the world to live with—”
Shaker boy going to the Shaker school. Naomi made a rude sound.
And the Shakers took in children. Since Shaker “—but we have to face facts.” Ben grunted as he
men and women lived separately and didn’t have chil- worked something loose. “The chandlery must not
dren of their own, they adopted other people’s be going well or Uncle Thomas wouldn’t be giving
children all the time. They would take the Hulls Lance and Willem time off. I wish you didn’t have
in, Naomi was sure of it. And the four of them to be the one to go, but I can’t think of anything
wouldn’t be the burden they were to Aunt Thank- else to do.”
ful. They’d donate their horses, Jessie and Babe, just “What about the Shakers?”
as a blacksmith who joined would donate his tools “What about them?”
“Why don’t we go live with them? They take
or a woman her linens. Besides, the Shakers were
children in all the time.”
rich! They owned all the best farmland around, and
Ben stared at her for a moment, then picked up
they sold herbs and seeds and furniture and cloth
the brush, turned his back to her, and started brush-
and she didn’t know what-all on top of that. ing where he had just combed.
“Ben, Ben!” Naomi shook her older brother. “We won’t be a burden,” Naomi said, watching
“Wake up!” his back. “They live well. They have all they want
Ben mumbled something at her and turned his to eat.”
back. He didn’t respond.
“Ben!” She shook him again and pulled at his “I think it’s a real fine notion,” she said.
shoulder, careful not to touch his arm. “I need to Still Ben said nothing.
talk to you.” “We don’t have to stay with them forever. They
Ben rolled over and gave an exasperated sigh. He let people leave whenever they want.”
sat up, his hair mussed with pieces of straw sticking He started to brush the other side, not meeting
out every which way and his face blurred with her eyes.
sleep. “What is it?” “Ben, the Templetons are taking me day after
“Not here. We’ll wake the others. Out in the barn.” tomorrow. We can’t stay in Portsmouth. We just
He grumbled, but at length he got stiffly to his can’t.” She was pleading with him now, almost
feet. Naomi opened the trap door, then threw on in tears.
her shawl. They crept down the ladder and out into He finally looked up. “It’s an idea,” he admitted
the clear, sharp-scented May night. grudgingly. “But what about Glory and Eli?”

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“We’d take them with us.” He laughed at her surprise. “Yes,” he said, “I do.
Ben looked at her with brotherly contempt. I think we should move in with the Shakers. I don’t
“That’s not what I mean. What if they want to stay know why I didn’t think of it myself.”
with the Shakers forever? We don’t want to live with “You’re agreeing with me?” Naomi repeated
Aunt Thankful and Uncle Thomas now, but how stupidly.
will we feel in fifteen years when Eli and Glory say “Trying to, at any rate,” he said, grinning at her.
that they love the Shaker way and that it seems evil “Oh,” she said. One second she was arguing; the
to marry and have a family?” next, everything was settled. It couldn’t possibly be
Naomi hadn’t considered that possibility. She so simple. “Maybe we should sleep on it,” she said.
tried to imagine how Mama and Papa would react “There isn’t time. I think we should ride Jessie
to their children being raised Shakers. But then she and Babe to Canterbury tomorrow and spend
remembered how the notion of the Shakers had the night with the Davises. They’d have feed for the
slid into her mind smooth as cream, and how solid horses. We could go up to the Shaker settlement
and proper it had settled there. It was the right Saturday.”
thing to do. She just knew it. She sat up straighter. They left the barn and made their way toward
“The way I see it, our choice is between staying the house not speaking, but it was a friendly, satis-
with Aunt Thankful and getting separated, or going fied silence. They let themselves back into the house
to the Shakers and staying together.” quietly and tiptoed over to the ladder to the loft.
Her brother leaned against Jessie’s withers, brush- Naomi went up first, holding the trap door until
ing the same spot on her neck over and over. Naomi Ben was safely through and then lowering it care-
watched him turn the matter over in his mind. fully, listening for any sign that their rustling had
Finally he took Jessie back to her stall, led Babe out, been heard. But there was nothing.
and started on her hooves. “Find me that curry- For the first time since the fire, Naomi felt like
comb,” was all he said. herself again. She whispered her gratitude to God
Naomi stood up obediently and poked around as she cuddled against the welcome warmth of
in the hay until she found it. She held it out to Glory’s sleeping body. Maybe He wasn’t so far away
him. after all.
“Don’t the Shakers have a school?” he said at last,
taking it from her. Called a “sensitive portrayal of religious life” by the
“They do,” she said cautiously. New York Times Book Review, The Shakeress was
“Papa always said you need to know your own published by Front Street in 2002. Kimberly Heuston
mind before you can know God’s.” started writing as a way to get through a case of the
Naomi considered this. “Yes, he did.” flu. The result was an article that later turned into
“Seems as though it might be easier to know our her first book, Single Parenting. She enjoyed writing
minds if we had time to learn a few things.” so much that she enrolled in Vermont College’s new
“That’s true,” she agreed. MFA program in writing for children in January
He stretched his arms out carefully, to ease them. 1997. There she wrote the first draft of The Shaker-
“What if Uncle Thomas comes after us? The ess. In 1999, she won an NEH fellowship to study
Shakers won’t stand between family members.” Dante in Siena for six weeks. That project later
Naomi looked skeptically at her brother. “Ben, became Dante’s Daughter. Earlier in her life, she
do you really think Uncle Thomas will follow us all graduated from Harvard, where she majored in his-
the way to Canterbury?” tory and science. Her next book will be about two sis-
“Probably not.” He untied Babe and began to ters, one of whom is suffering from mental illness. At
lead her back to her stall. “I think it’s a good idea,” the moment it is set in Morocco, where Heuston hopes
he said finally. to spend the summer on a Fulbright.
“You do?”

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E S S A Y are self-evident in the title. A Glimpse Is All I Can


Bear, not yet published, deals with child prostitu-
The True Colors of Carol Lynch tion. Her Mormon books deal with characters who
Williams: Writing Ethical Fiction for face racism, polygamy, natural disaster, and death.
While her books published in the national press
New York don’t have much overt Mormon content, they
By John Bennion embrace values that Mormons also possess: learn-
ing that every human is a child of God, building
Several years ago I met Carol Lynch Williams self-respect, discovering how to have solid relation-
and consequently began reading her books. She ships with family and friends, exploring how to
writes for middle-grade readers, students from fifth deal affirmatively with love and physical attraction,
to seventh grade. In 1990 she took a class in writ- and progressing stage by stage through life.
ing for young adults from Louise Plummer, who Despite this strong religious core in her writing,
recommended that she send her manuscript to Williams has told me that she occasionally fields a
the Delacorte first-book contest. She received an question from an LDS reader asking why she writes
invitation to publish her novel. Since 1993, when about such negative or immoral subjects. I’ve heard
Kelly and Me came out, Williams has published the same kind of anecdote from other LDS writers
eight novels with New York publishers. In addition, who publish in the national market. The assump-
she has published about the same number with tion seems to be that some subjects are inappropri-
Mormon publishers, namely Aspen Books and ate for moral readers. A corollary seems to be that
Deseret Book. what national publishers and readers like is less
Her protagonists are generally young women appropriate for moral readers than what is pub-
who face serious challenges. Through the course of lished in local markets. In this essay I compare two
each of these books, the young woman is empow- of Williams’ books, one published in the local
ered to deal with what confronts her. In Kelly and Mormon market, one in New York. From this lim-
Me (Delacorte, 1994) and its sequel Adeline Street ited sample, I’m interested in beginning to explore
(Delacorte, 1995), Leah Orton faces the death of the ethical nature of publishing in the two markets.
her sister and learns to manage her sorrow. At the My thesis is that the two markets require Williams
same time she begins to explore the nature of her to use two different kinds of narrators, one who is
friendships with boys. The True Colors of Caitlynne process-oriented and one who summarizes moral
Jackson (Delacorte, 1997) shows two sisters who decisions.
suffer verbal and physical abuse from their mother.
Caitlynne learns to deal with abandonment, first Carolina Autumn (Delacorte Press, 2000)
love, and poverty. In If I Forget, You Remember As Carolina prepares to enter high school, she
(Delacorte, 1998), Elyse is challenged when her experiences first love with a boy who lives down the
grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, moves street. Through the course of the book, her best
in with her. My Anglelica (Delacorte, 1999), lighter friend tries to steal this boy from her. In addition,
than most of her books, has a male protagonist and she and her mother face the first anniversary of the
deals with the issues of first love and mistaken plane crash that killed the father of the family and
or distorted self-concept. Christmas in Heaven an older sister. Just before the crash, the mother
(Putnam, 2000) shows a character who must regain and father had argued and agreed to separate, so
her brother’s friendship as he rebels against the val- the mother blames herself for sending her husband
ues of their parents. Carolina Autumn (Putnam, and daughter to their deaths. Because the mother
2000) shows a young woman experiencing a has withdrawn, Carolina feels that she will face
fragmented family and first love. The issues in challenges alone. She often talks as if her older
A Mother to Embarrass Me (Random House, 2002) sister, Madelaine, could hear:

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“All right,” I said. Hot water poured down on time would. Or even Mom and her promise
my head, running into my eyes, soothing me that she would be there for me.
almost back to sleep. “You were supposed to Lying in bed that early morning I came to
have done this with me, so I wouldn’t have a cold realization: I was going to have to heal
to go alone. Madelaine, you were supposed to myself. (104)
help me through it all.” (54)
Then in the next few pages she shows that while
Through the book Carolina faces the following she must take responsibility, she must also rely on
issues, all of which could be important to young others. It is a complex realization that suggests the
readers facing difficult situations: inadequacy of simple or programmatic solutions.
Managing sorrow at the loss of a loved one She begins to realize that to heal herself, she
Dealing with the fear of opening private feelings must reopen old wounds before they scar perma-
to another person (verbal intimacy) nently. For a year Carolina has hidden her persist-
Coping with the fear that someone you love will ent anger at her mother for sending her father and
stop loving you sister away to their deaths. Through careful talk,
Confronting someone who is mistreating you;
gradually she reexamines her assumptions and
being honest and clear to that person
rebuilds her friendship with her mother. She is able
Dealing with parents who fight and with possi-
to apply the same steady effort at talking in her
ble divorce
relationship with her friend, Garret, even after he
Facing the first year of high school
makes mistakes. She sees that her problems can
Charting one’s way through a first love
only be solved within the web of relationships:
Learning to manage physical contact (such as
holding hands) with a member of the oppo- I realized right then, under the streetlamp, in
site sex this beginning of a rain, that I couldn’t do it
Dealing with independence from a clinging alone either. I couldn’t heal myself at all. And
mother I wasn’t so sure that there was anything that
Facing the emotional and practical dilemma of could heal me. But I did know this. Our fam-
growing breasts ily had been cut in half, and true as the dark
The method of Williams’s narrator is to carefully around us, I only had my mom. And she only
describe the process of finding one’s way through had me. (129)
these challenges. She almost never simply gives Through this process Carolina also learns her lim-
advice; instead, she models the decision-making its. She writes:
process. The result is that readers explore with the
character, observing vicariously how the character There were some things I knew I couldn’t
overcomes a particular problem. In short, her do . . . I couldn’t change the accident. I
books explore the process of finding answers; they couldn’t make [Mother’s] gray hair go away.
don’t simply supply generic or authoritarian I couldn’t alter the words she had said to Dad
answers. about Madelaine. But I could be my mother’s
She respects her characters’ dilemmas, giving friend. And that’s what I decided. The blam-
them full weight. And she empowers her characters ing, for me anyway, was over. (131)
by showing them that they are responsible for their The focus is on how to build self-respect as she
own lives. For example, as we move toward the cli- rebuilds a relationship with her estranged mother.
max of the novel, Carolina thinks: In fact, the mother realizes this concept with her.
I am so alone sometimes I wonder at it. The mother says:
This ache seems all-consuming. And I had “I found out some things don’t matter. And if
thought, somehow, that Garret [the boy she I had tried to work it out with him, they’d
admires] would make it better for me. Or that both be here now.” She was almost yelling.

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“Some things don’t matter. You work them Loving someone who is a bigot
out.” (127) A more serious problem than a simple numerical
Williams’s narrator focuses the reader’s attention on count of dilemmas is the manner the narrator uses
the process of how to work out problems in a rela- to explore the issues. Carolina Autumn focuses on
tionship, rather than giving up on the relationship. the process of solving problems. For example, Car-
This kind of learning can’t be experienced through olina rejects her mother’s overtures of friendship for
a sermon, personal advice column, or how-to article several chapters, then it takes several small epipha-
in a girls’ magazine. I believe that this complex nies, paragraphs of internal dialogue, and several
wisdom can come only through life experience or dramatic scenes for her to change slightly. She for-
vicarious life experience embedded in a strong gets the anniversary of her father’s death and accuses
narrative. her mother of sending the two members of her
While I have here considered only one sample of family away to their deaths. Finally, there is a believ-
Williams’s writing, her other books use narrators who able reconciliation, but the hard words are still there.
operate the same way: taking time to explore the There is nothing magical about their renewed love
issues in a manner that forces no decisions on read- for each other. However, in Marciea’s Melody the
ers but invites them to make ethical judgments. protagonist is embarrassed by her mother, who
Now for the book written for the Mormon wears hippie clothing, acts like a hippie (even call-
audience. ing herself Fawn), and embraces a number of hip-
pie principles. Instead of going carefully through
Marciea’s Melody (Aspen Books, 1996) the growing relationship, the movement is sudden,
Set in 1978, the book shows a girl who also must half-explored. After she says some cruel things to
face difficult decisions that will affect the nature of her mother, she writes: “Mom looked like I had
her relationships with family and friends. Marciea, slapped her in the face. I felt bad immediately” (39).
who has been a member of the Church all her life, The protagonist does some quick self analysis:
has a mother who looks and thinks like a hippie. Thinking about maybe never being Samantha’s
Her anachronistic behavior bothers Marciea, who friend again really hurt. Knowing I had been
is fourteen. Her mother invites a coworker, who is mean to my poor hippie mother hurt even
black, to hear the missionary discussions. Through more. Have you ever done things so stupid
that contact Marciea becomes best friends with his
you can only wallow in the dumbness of the
daughter. The story occurs in Florida, and Marciea
whole thing? That was me, right then. (40)
experiences and has to deal with the bigotry of her
former best friend. The issues then are as follows: Her repentance sounds genuine; however, it differs
Facing embarrassment caused by an unconven- from the similar scene in Carolina Autumn, because
tional mother there is no recognition in the text that the actual
Dealing with race issues; facing bigotry outburst has cleared the air. She’s not allowed to
Discovering how to have friends but not aban- become really angry and then work through her
don one’s values anger. She simply repents of her outburst. As a
Writing a talk reader I don’t experience with the character the dif-
Experiencing the process of musical creation ficult process of healing. Marciea snacks, plays the
The issues are fewer and lighter weight in a moral piano, and repents. She says, “I played through a
sense than in Carolina Autumn. In addition, as I few songs, soft gentle songs that reminded me of
read, I felt that Williams’s narrator skirts some issues my mother. Everything I played was so easy, so laid
that the story could have considered, such as: back that I began to realize that my mom being a
How to have faith when what the Church says hippie was okay”(41). Instead of exploring the
seems wrong process of reconciling to her mother, Williams’s
How to have unconventional beliefs and still narrator has the character issue proclamations
remain in the Church (minisermons in the text), such as:
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I have a confession to make. Once I started relationships. In the book published for the Mor-
looking at Mom as an okay person I mon audience, the narrator tended toward sermons
started noticing something. She really did in text and abbreviated discussion of the actual
seem to understand me. Not always and not process of coming to solutions. Why would a single
one hundred percent, but enough that I didn’t author set up such different narrators?
feel like she was totally out of it. (55) One possible reason for this difference can be
Here we have a narrator who must tell about rather found in the lengths of the two books. Carolina
than dramatically show the process of making a Autumn is 146 pages, while Marciea’s Melody is only
moral discovery. This narrator summarizes mean- sixty-six. The longer book can take the time to
ing didactically instead of showing the process of explore rather than state, show rather than tell. The
healing. shorter book must simply give summaries. But the
In Carolina Autumn the conflict between mother length of a book is a narrative and editorial decision.
and daughter is not magically okay. The process In a telephone interview, I asked Williams con-
through which the mother turns toward her daugh- cerning these two books. She said:
ter (emerging from her cocoon of sorrow) and the It’s very, very hard to write for the Mormon
daughter works through her anger at her mother is market. The Latter-Day Daughters books are
slow and careful. Their negative experience is not formula books [Marciea’s Melody is one of that
forgotten; rather, it is incorporated into their new series]. You have sixty or seventy pages to get
and stronger love. No magical transformations here. into the character, develop her, and get out.
Finally, in Carolina Autumn, solutions are not The editors don’t want you to step outside that
stark and simple; the story is not painted in simple box. Every time I write a Mormon book, I feel
black and white. Williams’s narrator uses a whole like I’m being squeezed. I have friends who
palette of emotional and moral interpretation. read my national stuff but who won’t read my
After Carolina confronts a friend who has appar- Mormon stuff because they know they won’t
ently succeeded in stealing away Carolina’s get as good a read. On the other side, I have
boyfriend, she remembers good things about the Mormon readers who won’t touch my national
friend, who is not portrayed as being wholly evil. books. They know it’s going to have some-
However, Marciea writes: thing in it about “breasts” or “death,” and they
I hung up the phone. I wanted to slam it don’t want to go there. Writers who succeed in
down as hard as I could, but I didn’t. I just the local market don’t write about real people.
placed it gently on the cradle. Then I took it In real life it’s not every fifth page that the
off the hook and buried it under my pillow Holy Ghost is going to step in. It’s not realis-
for when the loud beeps started. After that I tic. God wants us to think for ourselves. In
went and brushed my teeth. I had a bad taste writing for the Mormon market we can’t have
in my mouth. (54) our characters go through a lot of things that
people actually go through. Instead we have to
Maybe such an absolute response is legitimate when be happy; we have to be upbeat. The stories are
dealing with such repulsive racism, but it is as ardent happy, happy, happy.” (8 Oct. 2001)
and one-sided as the racism itself. It doesn’t pro-
mote the process of urging humanity toward unity. Williams’s judgment here matches my own general
Perhaps I have exaggerated the differences. Both understanding of the differences between books
books explore significant issues in a serious manner. published in the national market and those pub-
However, it seems clear to me that in the book lished in the local market. While my reading of
published for a national audience, the narrator pro- YA literature is not exhaustive in either category,
vided a more sensitive exploration of the process novels published by New York seem more ethically
of coming to ethical and moral decisions about rich than those published in the local markets.

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National stories crafted by Louise Plummer, A. E. E S S A Y


Cannon, Kimberley Heuston, Lael Littke, Laura
Torres, Dean Hughes, Mike Tunnel, Laurel Brady, Everyone Hears Voices, Don’t They?
and others introduce young people to homeless-
ness, insanity, racism, the nature of being, and other By Louise Plummer
questions that are essential to thoughtful, ethical
religion. I am Louise Plummer. On the Meyers-Briggs
So I’m left not with answers but with more ques- personality assessment, I am intensely INFP. This
tions: Why did Williams and her LDS publishers means I need to be alone to revive my spirits. I need
decide that the shorter, less risky book is better for lots of time to dream. I rely heavily on intuition
an LDS audience? Did her editors feel that their and perception to get around in the world. I believe
readers are capable of only superficial narrative strongly in the power of the irrational. I stay up late
judgment, that they can’t sustain interest in longer and talk with Tom, my husband. I never make lists
works, and that they must be offered meaning on a of things I need to do. I am overwhelmed by voice
didactic platter? How well have series such as the mail, e-mail, and snail mail. It’s not that I don’t
Latter-Day Daughters done? In other words, is know how to operate the telephone or Netscape or
the Mormon audience capable of more vigorous a letter opener—it’s just that I don’t enjoy being at
fiction than local editors often assume? At BYU I’ve people’s beck and call. I rarely pick up the phone to
heard the argument again and again from adminis- call out.
trators and students that reading edgy fiction drags I am the kind of person who likes to sit in a quiet
people down morally. Is this true? How do readers room to watercolor or write in my journal. In both
experience inspirational and ambiguous fiction? of these activities I prefer self-portraiture. Since this
What is the connection between what we read and is not a watercolor conference, I didn’t bring any
how we map our pathway through our hazardous examples of my artwork, but here are some self-
life here on earth? portraits from my journal.
I fear what seems to me to be a dangerous cul-
tural tendency toward experiencing the gospel as a First, me at forty:
set of social rules, toward considering only safe or I am forty years old. I weigh 135 pounds and am
easily decided questions, toward privileging the ser- five-feet-nine-and-a-half-inches tall. Every year I
mon (a form which I also value) over fiction that watch the Miss Universe contest. I am the right height
experiments with ethical questions. While much for that contest. I watch it to see how close I am to the
careful criticism has been written concerning the weight. The last time I was close to the weight was
ethical effect on readers of various kinds of writing, 1967. I am now ten pounds away from being Miss
I think much more work can be done. We have a Universe. One of my front teeth is graying, and a
strong tradition of ethical criticism in the work molar is chipped from eating a pretzel. It doesn’t hurt,
of Wayne Booth, Gideon Burton, Gary Browning, so I put off getting it fixed.
Bruce Jorgensen, Ed Geary, Sue Howe, and numer- My husband is a German professor at the Univer-
ous others. Further essays and books could develop sity of Minnesota. I always thought I was like Jo
an aesthetic based on what LDS writers and readers March of Little Women, who wrote stories in her
truly value: the process of progressing eternally, the attic and married a German professor. I felt privi-
strength that comes from wrestling with difficult leged, because, after all, there aren’t enough German
questions, and the recognition that superficial explo- professors to go around for all the girls who read Little
ration of moral issues results in superficial morality. Women and thought themselves to be like Jo in every
aspect.
I find now that I am forty that not all of us wanted
German professors in the first place. I did, though.

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Here I am at fifty: up toys and rubber duckies. I have two rubber duck-
It’s 11:34 P.M. and I can’t sleep, although I’ve tried, ies, one that only floats on its side and one that floats
although my eyes itch, although I’ve taken one of those upright. I have a porpoise, a whale, two tiny wooden
ten-hour antihistamines. My mind is racing, thinking boats, a penguin in a row boat that paddles, an alli-
about God and Jesus and that voice in the Doctrine gator, a duck that flaps its wings, and a terrycloth Ernie
and Covenants. in a rubber tube. Some mornings it’s hard to choose.
I looked down and saw my fat, loose stomach. I’m
fifty, and I’ve never been so fat. Fat and ugly. Sam And finally here’s me six weeks ago at fifty-seven:
won’t let me put my bare foot on his lap because he is For my fifty-seventh birthday I made a trip up to
so repulsed by the corn on my foot. I can tell from my the LDS Hospital for an ultrasound test so my doctor
sons’ faces that in their young eyes, my body is hideous. could have a close-up look at my useless ovaries. I lay
Sam says my legs are like boloney with little spots of on the table under a white sheet, my one fused foot
fat there and there. sticking straight up in front of me.
I am all discolored. Out in the sun too much. When Sam was born twenty years ago, they either
Splotches everywhere. Loose fat under my arms, on my hadn’t invented ultrasounds or they didn’t use them as
thighs, and now this belly. readily as they do now to check out the sex of the new
I smell bad too. I am decaying at fifty. I never fetus. Dr. B. rubbed my stomach with lotion, then ran
smelled when I was young. Now I have body odor. the hand-held camera across my abdomen. This was a
I’m physically disgusting. I have to paint myself up. check for cancer, not a peek at a fetus, so I avoided the
I have to wear plenty of clothes. I have to have a per- monitor and stared up at the ceiling, trying not to feel
fect haircut. like a carcass laid out for carrion.
It’s a lot of work now to look good. It’s exhausting. “Ahh,” the doctor sighed. I filled in the rest. “You’re
I can see why some women give it up. But giving having a boy. A baby boy. Look, you can see him.”
up makes you invisible. No one takes you seriously That was what I wanted my doctor to say, which goes
anymore. to show that I don’t get any wiser with age. I’m fifty-
Perhaps this would be a relief. Sexless, splotchy, seven, and I want to have yet another newborn son.
crippled in one ankle, smelly, anxious, easily irritated. Foolish woman.
Who would notice such a woman? Instead, my doctor told me I didn’t have cancer.
Who would love her? Good news too, I know.
Tom tells me a thousand times a day he loves me, But if I had been pregnant at age fifty-seven,
kisses me, tells me I’m beautiful, says what a wonder- I would have driven straight from the hospital to
ful woman I am. Says he is so lucky to have me. A hun- Costco and bought a brand-new white Jenny Lind
dred, a thousand times a day, he tells me, he shows me. crib that I could not afford twenty years ago and
He weaves on the highway. “You’re a terrible placed it in the upstairs bedroom next to ours. Then 1
driver,” I say. would have found Tom and told him the good news.
“But you love me anyway,” he says. And I do.
This is my voice in my journal. It is my voice at
Me at fifty-five: its most natural.
I am fifty-five years old and am thirty pounds over- Granted, the voice has changed over the last forty
weight, but I don’t have mood swings anymore—that years. I have learned a thing or two about writ-
alone might be worth the extra weight. ing—I avoid adverbs, and I never try to describe an
All my dreams have come true except I don’t have a emotion in an abstract way. I write in scene. Still,
beach house, but I have friends who have beach houses I see hints of my adolescent voice inside this most
and that is almost as good. I have gotten everything recent journal entry. The attitude is the same. The
I’ve ever wanted, and everything from now on is sheer raving is the same. I still care about life passionately.
piggishness. Lately I have started bathing with wind- In that way I have not changed.

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When I teach beginning creative writing, I start refers to a specific aspect of style, the aspect that
with a two-week unit on journal writing. I assign makes the words on the page sound like those of a
the students twenty one-page entries for the two human being talking, with a personality. Voice is at
weeks. (Invariably, a couple of students will point the juncture of style, characterization, and tone.”
out that there are only thirteen days to complete I remember when I was an adolescent and an
the assignment and that means some days they will avid reader, a reader without boundaries. I didn’t
have to write two pages instead of one. “Oh, that is just read Emma; I was Emma. I liked to write, too,
excessive,” I will say and then laugh at them.) but my best writing was the personal essay where I
felt free to let my personality shine forth, where
I could use the details of everyday experience to
I loved this contemporary, document my opinions. Whenever I tried fiction,
it sounded wooden, false, and boring. This was due
adolescent voice. Could I write in most part to all that reading I’d been doing,
most of them Victorian British novelists—Jane
fiction using a similar voice? Austen, the Brontës. Here’s Hardy, in The Mayor of
Casterbridge:
But a quarter of an hour later the man, who had
During those two weeks we talk about the vari- gone on lacing his furmity more and more heavily,
ous modes of journal expression: description, though he was either so strong-minded or such an
reflection, free writes, catharsis, lists, unsent letters, intrepid toper that he still appeared fairly sober,
dreams, maps of consciousness, dialogues, and so recurred to the old strain, as in a musical fantasy the
on. I tell them to try and use the conventions of the instrument fetches up the original theme. “Here—
fiction writer, using scene with setting and dia- I am waiting to know about this offer of mine. The
logue. I encourage them to try writing about them- woman is no good to me. Who’ll have her?”
selves in the third person. The journal is a place for The company had by this time decidedly degener-
experimenting. I give them all As unless they come ated, and the renewed inquiry was received with a
up short on the number of pages. laugh of appreciation. The woman whispered; she was
Whenever these assignments come in, I hope to imploring and anxious: “Come, come, it is getting
go through them quickly, a comment here and dark, and this nonsense won’t do. If you don’t come
there, a page count, and that’s it. But I have never along, I shall go without you. Come!”
been able to do this. Once I start reading, I get She waited and waited; yet he did not move. In ten
caught up with their voices, with their stories, with minutes the man broke in upon the desultory conver-
all the unique details that make up their lives. I end sation of the furmity drinkers with, “I asked this ques-
up reading all twenty pages of every journal. tion, and nobody answered to ‘t. Will any Jack Bag or
This enthusiastic reading does not, however, carry Tom Straw among ye buy my goods?”
over into their fiction pieces. For the most part their The woman’s manner changed, and her face
fiction is lifeless and boring. I’d rather clean out my assumed the grim shape and colour of which mention
refrigerator than read beginning writers’ fiction. has been made.
How can they be alive and sparkling in such “Mike, Mike,” said she; “this is getting serious.
casual writing as the journal and be so completely O!—too serious!”
dull when they switch to fiction? How can they be “Will anybody buy her?” said the man.
so present in the one form and so absent in the sec- Here’s Dickens in David Copperfield, a novel I
ond form? read three times before I was twenty-one:
I think the answer in part is voice. On another occasion, when we three were together,
In his text Writer’s Mind: Crafting Fiction, Richard this same dear baby—it was truly dear to me, for our
Cohen writes that “used properly, the word voice mother’s sake—was the innocent occasion of Miss

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Murdstone’s going into a passion. My mother, who Then somebody, I don’t know who—it wasn’t
had been looking at its eyes as it lay upon her lap, assigned, I know—gave me a copy of Salinger’s
said,— Catcher in the Rye, and I read and fell in love with
“Davy, come here!” and looked at mine. Holden Caulfield’s voice:
I saw Miss Murdstone lay her beads down. If you really want to hear about it, the thing you’ll
“I declare,” said my mother gently, “they are exactly probably want to know is where I was born, and what
alike. I suppose they are mine. I think they are the my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents
colour of mine. But they are wonderfully alike.” were occupied and all before they had me, and all that
“What are you talking about, Clara?” said Miss David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like
Murdstone. going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the
“My dear Jane,” faltered my mother, a little abashed first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place,
by the harsh tone of this inquiry, “I find that the baby’s my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece
eyes and Davy’s are exactly alike.” if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re
“Clara!” said Miss Murdstone, rising angrily, “you quite touchy about anything like that, especially my
are a positive fool sometimes.” father. They’re nice and all—I’m not saying that—but
“My dear Jane,” remonstrated my mother. they’re also touchy as hell.
“A positive fool,” said Miss Murdstone. “Who else I loved this contemporary, adolescent voice. Could
could compare my brother’s baby with your boy? They I write fiction using a similar voice? Mother, may I?
are not at all alike. They are exactly unlike. They are Most of my beginning creative writing students
utterly dissimilar in all respects. I hope they will ever are as stunted in their fiction writing as I was. I had
remain so. I will not sit here and hear such compar- an example this semester of a young man whose
isons made.” With that she stalked out, and made the journal was filled with energetic writing, opinions,
door bang after her. humor, irony, and wry observation. When it was
In short, I was not a favourite with Miss Murdstone. time to change to fiction, he handed in the most
These were the voices of novelists I read and adored. synthetic, lifeless writing. After a few weeks, I said
I could not sound like them if I tried. I didn’t use to him, “What happened to your voice and all that
words like remonstrated. Even reading Louisa May energy you had in the journal? Why don’t you write
Alcott, who wrote for young women, was not in that voice?”
encouraging. The following is from Little Women: His question was the same as mine. “I can do that?”
Amy was much offended that her overtures of peace Yes, you can do that. Have a character who is a
had been repulsed, and began to wish she had not lot like you and put him in an awkward situation
humbled herself, to feel more injured than ever, and in a setting you’re familiar with and imagine what
to plume herself on her superior virtue in a way which happens next. My student’s fiction quickly improved.
was particularly exasperating. Jo still looked like a Again, I quote Richard Cohen: “The most mean-
thundercloud, and nothing went well all day. It was ingful use of the term voice refers to characters
bitter cold in the morning; she dropped her precious rather than to authors. Every character should have
turnover in the gutter, Aunt March had an attack of his own or her own individual speech pattern.
fidgets, Meg was pensive, Beth would look grieved and When a character is a first-person narrator, we find
wistful when she got home, and Amy kept making the character’s tone of voice in the narrative as well
remarks about people who were always talking about as the dialogue. When several first-person narrators
being good, and yet wouldn’t try, when other people set alternate in one book, as in The Sound and the Fury
them a virtuous example. and As I Lay Dying, we can see how the writer has
Fiction writers, in my thinking, set impossible developed a different voice for each one.”
examples. I would have to take up journalism or Student writers can practice copying the essence
editing or some related field. To be around authors, of people’s conversations and speech patterns.
to be within their auras, would have to be enough. I mentioned Faulkner, but Canadian novelist Carol

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Shields is superb with differentiating first-person have to have a roommate? Would I have to sleep on
narrative voices in the same novel. the top bunk? Would they let me take my medica-
I hope no one present imagines that I advocate tions, or would I turn all stiff and old and watch
that would-be writers avoid reading the great hairs sprout out of my chin? Would the panic
novels for fear of intimidation. On the contrary, attacks return? I know something about life in the
they should read constantly. This is how we learn penitentiary. My sister told me. Each prisoner is
how scene and summary are used, how conflict allowed two appliances for two outlets. What two
builds, how dialogue works, how setting and char- appliances would I have in my prison cell? A com-
acter are intermingled. From novels we learn pac- puter and a printer would be two appliances. Strip
ing as well as paradox. plugs aren’t allowed. What about a TV-VCR-radio-
I’m well through this talk and haven’t mentioned in-one? That seems useful. I could listen to NPR
hearing voices, which I allude to in the title. Most and watch Mystery and Law and Order. I could
fiction writers I know have a constant buzz of watch favorite movies. So what about a TV and an
story chatter running through their heads. I’m no electronic typewriter with some memory? I wouldn’t
different. need a hair dryer because I’d get a buzz cut. Can
What if I was married to that guy working on you take a hot bath in prison? I can’t live without a
my roof? He’d come home with tar under his fin- good soak. Showers are so utilitarian. I’ve never
gernails and wash his hands with Lava soap. The seen women prisoners out in the yard. When do
back of his neck would always be burned. Would they get to go outside?
he have a black lunch bucket with a thermos? I have a novel called A Dance for Three. The
Maybe we’d have season Buzz tickets or belong to questions that led to it were: What would it be like
a bowling league. I like to bowl. He’d wear heavy to be young and pregnant—without emotional
leather high-top work boots with long laces and support? What is it like to be anxious and then to
rubber soles, and when he removed them the white go over the top and have a psychotic break? How
skin of his bare feet would be crimped by the tex- does one heal from an experience like that? The
ture of his socks and the seams of those boots. story was originally told in four voices. The main
When he left for work in the morning, I’d kiss him character Hannah Ziebarth is pregnant. Her friend
good-bye and say, “Remember, you fall off a roof, Trilby gets a chapter, and her boyfriend’s brother
I get double indemnity.” Milo gets a chapter. Originally, Bliss, her boss at
Questions eventually lead to novels. How would Burger Bar, also had a chapter. They are all first per-
my life be different if I had kissed the back of that son narrators.
handsome boy’s neck in eighth-grade American-
history class? I wanted to. I wanted to lean forward [The foregoing is from Plummer’s keynote address
and kiss that gorgeous neck. What if years later I delivered at the Association for Mormon Letters writ-
had stalked him and waited for him to come off the ers’ conference on Nov. 13, 1999. In her talk, Louise
basketball floor and had thrown my arms around went on to read segments out of her novel A Dance for
his neck and laid one on him? How would my life Three. However, because of copyright limitations,
be different? Claudia Sobodsky did just that. I won- IRREANTUM is printing only the Bliss section, which
der where she is now. I wonder if she still thinks of was eventually cut from the novel but later published
that handsome boy once in awhile. I wonder if she as a stand-alone story in No Easy Answers: Short
told her husband that she kissed him when he was Stories about Teenagers Making Tough Decisions,
hot and sweaty from basketball. I wonder if she ed. Don Gallo, New York: Delacorte Press, 1997,
knows that the rest of us girls wished we’d done the 27–41.]
same thing.
What if I had to go to the Utah State Peniten-
tiary? I drive past it several times a week. Would I

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S T O R Y Then she says in this tone of voice that sounds


like the high-and-mighty surgeon general herself,
Bliss at the Burger Bar “He died of Grandma’s secondhand smoke. Grandma
might just as well have killed him.”
By Louise Plummer Secondary smoke. Puleeze. The conspiracy is
mostly against women anyway. My mom’s too busy
Follow your bliss, Bliss. That’s me. And my bliss making chicken-and-broccoli casseroles to see it.
is fast foods. I’m only eighteen, and I’m already I walk down Main Street on my break sometimes,
night manager at Burger Bar in downtown Salt and there are women standing outside office build-
Lake City. The reason I’m successful is because I ings smoking, because they can’t smoke inside.
have goals. Right after graduating from Manti I never see men. As soon as women like something,
High School, which is about two hours south of men want to make it impossible for them. So
here, I read Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of women take up smoking, and suddenly it’s a leg-
Highly Effective People. And I thought, “Hey, I can islative issue. I’d blow smoke up most men’s noses.
be that.” That was exactly one year ago this July. My fast-food managerial philosophy is to hire
I didn’t want to be like my older sister, Blythe, who good people, train them thoroughly, and then let
has three kids under the age of four and has stretch them do their work. Not as easy as you might
marks that look like truck tires running up and think. Like tonight, this homeless guy, Old Faith-
down her stomach. Good-bye bikinis. ful, appears. I saw him sleeping between two
Anyway, it was Blythe who drove me to Salt Dumpsters out in back one time. I don’t know who
Lake when she had a Mary Kay Cosmetics conven- gave him the name Old Faithful or even why, but
tion up there in the Little America Hotel. I walked that’s what everyone calls him. He’s wearing a plaid
up Main Street toward the Crossroads Mall, and I blazer with worn, dirty cuffs.
passed Burger Bar with a Help Wanted sign in the “You got a new coat,” I say. I stand back from
window. And being the kind of “proactive” person the counter to avoid smelling him. High School
that I am, I applied for and got the job that very Hannah is making fries, and I can tell from the way
day. In my future I visualize a Burger Bar franchise. she blinks her eyes that she is trying to keep from
Our Salivating Shake alone is better than anything making a face. The new boy, Dennis, stands behind
McDonald’s has. It’s a real shake—not that soft-ice- the cash register. “Can I help you?” His Adam’s
cream crap with a straw poked into it. Burger Bar apple races up and down while his nose shrinks
is my bliss. It’s the American way. into his face. I want to laugh.
And America is still the best place to be, except I doubt Old Faithful even notices. He holds out
when it comes to smoking. I’ve smoked since I was his filthy, creased hand with a few coins in it. “An
twelve, and I’m not stopping. It’s relaxing and good order of fries, please.” His voice is asthmatic, and
for my mental health. I believe those Republicans his watery eyes look over at Hannah and the tray of
who think that there’s been a conspiracy in Con- fries she’s just salted.
gress against the tobacco industry. They’re getting Dennis looks at the money. “Fries are seventy-
all these liberal Eastern doctors to say that smoking five cents an order,” he says, businesslike, and then
is bad for you. My grandma smoked three packs a as if Old Faithful might not know, “You’ve only got
day and lived to be ninety-two. I tell that to my thirty-two cents.” Dennis rubs his index finger under
mom, who thinks I should stop smoking. She’s his nose, hoping, I know, to keep Old Faithful’s
bought into all that health crap. And she says, rotting smell out of his nostrils.
“What about Grandpa? Grandpa died at sixty-five Old Faithful stares into his open palm, his head
of lung cancer.” trembling slightly. “Could I buy thirty-two cents’
“Well, he didn’t smoke, so you can’t blame it on worth of fries”—you can hear the phlegm in his
that,” I say. voice—“please?”

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It is seven in the evening, when most downtown That’s when Hannah’s boyfriend shows up in his
workers have gone home. Only one woman near Toyota 4-Runner. It doesn’t take looking out the
the front of the place sits eating a ham-and-cheese window to see that he’s arrived. The bass of his
and one of Burger Bar’s Salivating Shakes. Bose stereo hurls Megadeth at us. The front win-
Dennis turns to me with raised eyebrows. Can dows tremble. He double-parks directly in front of
he sell thirty-two cents’ worth of fries? Two girls the restaurant, gets out with his two clones, one
walk in and, catching a whiff of Old Faithful, stand female, and locks the car with the motor running
well back from him. I shake my head. No. The and Megadeth booming into the street: “Mama!
answer is no. Hannah stands poised and, still clutch- Mama!”
ing the tray of new fries, stares into the old man’s Hannah, half smiling, stretches her neck to catch
suffering gaze. a glimpse of him but then bites her lips when she
“Sorry, sir.” Dennis’s voice is efficient. “We can’t sees he’s not alone.
do that.” He looks over the old man’s shoulder and “Looks like he brought an entourage,” I say.
addresses the two girls. “Welcome to Burger Bar. “That’s good—more customers.” I smile and nudge
Can I help you?” her because I want her to know there’s no hard feel-
“Two Bravo Burgers, two orders of fries, and two ings about the Old Faithful incident.
Cokes.” The two girls sidestep Old Faithful as he The girl walks in first, wearing shorts and a hal-
turns toward the door. He picks three uneaten fries ter. Hannah looks stifled inside her yellow-and-
off one of the tables that hasn’t been bussed yet and brown polyester Burger Bar suit; still she manages a
thrusts them into his mouth. Then he takes the pretty cheerful “Hi” when the three of them amble
wrapper and licks the ketchup and mayonnaise up to the yellow Formica counter.
half-dried to the inside of the paper. I stand off to the back and wrap four Bravo
The two girls see it too and grimace. “Geez,” one Burgers. Dennis and Hannah can handle the high-
of them whispers. “Gross. They shouldn’t let people school crowd.
like him in here.” A couple of tiddlywinks. “Welcome to Burger Bar! Can I help you?” This
Hannah has left the fries and is now squatting
is Dennis. I look over and see him push those mam-
under the counter, digging around in her wallet for
moth glasses of his up on his nose. He is genetically
spare change. I place my hand on her shoulder and
dweebed.
say in a low voice so no one else can hear, “We’re
“What have you got to give me that I don’t
not a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. The cus-
tomers would resent it if we gave food away to already have?” asks the one with dimples. It’s Han-
some people and made others pay full price. Do nah’s boyfriend. His name is Milo, which sounds
you understand?” like a cheese, if you ask me.
She nods at me, although I can tell she doesn’t “How about an Adam’s apple?” This is his friend.
agree, and she slips the coins back into her wallet. “I like your outfit,” the girl teases Dennis. We’re
“What about the old burgers?” Hannah’s talking all wearing the same identical outfit, and I take her
about the burgers and fries that have been sitting teasing personally.
longer than a half-hour. We throw them out. It’s Hannah takes over. “What do you want with
the law. “They’re still perfectly good and he your lard?” she asks. I have to smile inside. She’s
could. . . .” She looks eager. right to take the offensive with this group.
“He can wait at the Dumpster,” I say. Milo smiles at her. He’s handsome, I’ll say that
Hannah’s face cracks like a fallen jar, and I want for him. “Can we just have lard, plain?”
to tell her how you can’t have opposing goals, how “Yeah, but it costs extra.”
you can’t be Mother Teresa and a successful Burger “Fries and Cokes then.” Milo turns to the other
Bar manager at the same time. But I keep my mouth two. “Save me a seat,” he says, and waves them off
shut. There’s nothing as pathetic as a whining fast- with his arm. They move together like cows toward
food manager. the table.

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Dennis goes to fill their order. I place the wrapped Milo jumps up and runs out the door. “Oh,
Bravo Burgers under the heat lamp. Officer,” he calls. When the door shuts, we can’t
Hannah leans across the counter and whispers, hear him any longer. Hannah watches from the
“I thought you were coming alone. I want to talk counter. I can tell that he is telling the cop a story;
to you alone.” Her voice pinches. his hands dance in gesture, a smile plays on his lips.
“I was coming alone, and then Fishbeck and Man- Judas, the guy is the devil himself. He charms the
derino show up.” He shrugs. “What could I do?” cop. They actually shake hands, and Milo gets into
“Why have you left the car running?” Hannah’s the 4-Runner and moves it down the street.
voice is irritated. “I feel like you want to make a “Can you believe it?” the girl says to Fishbeck.
quick getaway.” “Is he smooth or what?”
I am making out the schedule for next week and Smooth to his butt, I’ll bet.
look up briefly. Milo smiles at her and pushes a “He’s so lucky.” Fishbeck slurps through the ice
loose strand of Hannah’s hair behind her ear. It for more Coke. “I would have been handcuffed and
would be a tender gesture if he wasn’t so calculat- arrested by now.”
ing, but it seems to relax her. “This downtown When Milo struts back into the restaurant, they
could use a little noise.” His voice is lowered. “It’s applaud him. Even the two girls who don’t know
boring out there.” him applaud him. He bows modestly with his head,
I don’t like Milo. He’s the kind of guy who grins, and, looking at Hannah, says, “I told you not
would lay a doughnut if he wasn’t afraid of getting to worry.”
frosting on his you-know-what. Hannah talks about The guy pisses me off, so I find my cigarettes and
him like he’s some kind of transcendent Ralph go and sit out back in the alley on a plastic milk
Waldo Emerson. Like their union is spiritual or box, my back leaning against the cinder-block wall
something. The guy’s just plain horny. of the restaurant. I smoke and worry about Han-
Hannah touches his finger, which plays with her nah. She’s such an innocent. Sometimes she acts
earlobe. “I just worry,” she says. “You could get a with real—what is that word—bravado—yeah; she
ticket.” acts with real bravado. Like when she tells me that
He exaggerates a shudder. “Oh no, not a ticket! her hobby is drying roses and that she steals all the
Oh gosh, oh golly. What will I do? A ticket! Oh roses from her neighbors’ gardens. Like stealing
no!” His teeth are perfect when he smiles. Judas roses is a felony or something.
Priest, what a brat. Hannah grins. “Have you ever stolen a car?” I asked her once.
Dennis has the order ready on a tray and rings it “No!” She’s really shocked, as if I asked her about
up. Milo pays with a twenty, picks up the tray, nods venereal disease or something. “Have you?” she
at Hannah, and says, “Come sit with us.” asks.
I look at my watch. I want to get a smoke in “Yeah,” I say. “Down in Sanpete County, you’re
before Hannah goes on break. She must see this on not a grown-up until you’ve stolen a car.”
my face, because she says to him, “I go on break in She gives me a careful look and then slugs me
five minutes. I want to talk to you alone. Meet me harmlessly across the shoulder.
out in back, okay?” “You’re kidding me.”
He nods and sits down with the other two cuties “I’m not.”
and tells some kind of joke that makes them all She lowers her voice for confession. “Sometimes
guffaw. They watch a cop walking around the I drive my mom’s car when my folks aren’t home,
4-Runner, looking down the street, scratching his and I don’t have a license.”
head. Whoop-de-doo. The point is that Hannah, for
The guy, Fishbeck, pretends to speak as the cop: all her talk—I should tell her about my breaking-
“Duh, what’s this doing here? Duh.” and-entering experience—is Snow White.
The girl covers a snicker with her hand. But that Milo guy is no prince.

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When I’m on my second cigarette, Hannah and her bashed-up face reflected in the mirror. Tears
Milo come out the back door. “Mind if I take my and blood run together down her cheek and into
break?” she asks. the sink.
I blow smoke out my nose and nod. “Judas H. Priest,” I say. Quick as anything, I wet
“Let’s walk down to the end of the alley,” Han- some paper towels and begin wiping her face as
nah says. They pass the backside of the Tall Man’s gently as I can while she whimpers.
Shop, which is now closed, then Wong’s House, a “Did Milo do this?” I already know the answer.
Chinese-food place. The Wong brothers, who work She answers by crying louder.
in their father’s restaurant, are also smoking, qui- “I’ll take you to the hospital,” I say. I can tell she
etly speaking in Chinese to each other. Hannah has a deep gash by her eye, which is already closing.
leads Milo past the backside of the bookstore and “No, no, no,” she cries. “I can’t go to the hospi-
the electronics store until they are at the end of the tal.” She weeps into the sink.
alley, a brick wall, lined with five Dumpsters, one “You need stitches,” I say.
for each business whose backside faces the alley. “No! I can’t go—” She clutches my arms. “Please,
Each has a painted name on it identifying the owner: they’ll find out—”
Burger Bar, Wong’s House, and so on. The Dump- “You can’t hide this.” Her face looks like road
sters are overflowing with bulging plastic bags. kill.
Milo’s arms are around her, and he’s feeling up She shakes her head violently. “They’ll find out
her backside. They’re all kissy face. He’s trying to I’m pregnant.” Her face is pressed into my shoul-
get his tongue down her throat—the guy is greased der, which hardly muffles the convulsing cries. “I’m
with testosterone—but she pushes away slightly, as pregnant.”
if she wants to talk. I can tell by the way she keeps “Oh,” I say. I stroke her hair. “Oh.” I don’t know
turning her head from side to side, trying to avoid what to do. Nothing in The Seven Habits of Highly
his body heat. Finally his open mouth covers hers. Effective People has prepared me for this.
They don’t seem to care about moderation and “He doesn’t believe it’s his.” This sends her into
public space. They don’t care where they are. a fresh wail.
I am finished with my cigarette and go in. The “I believe you,” I say, and I kiss her hair. I don’t
Wong brothers stay to see the action. They grin like know what to do. And then, remembering that
they’ve just discovered the adult channel on their Hannah takes the bus to work, I say, “I’ll drive you
parents’ television. A couple of real dinks. home.”
I don’t think of Hannah again until about a half She looks up at me and nods. “Thank you,” she
hour later when a big group of kids comes in and says, her voice shuddering.
orders Bravo Burger meals, which means fries, I leave her long enough to give Dennis instruc-
drinks, and chocolate sundaes along with the ham- tions on how to close up, because he’s never done it
burgers. It’s one of our most popular items, because before. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down nerv-
like the jingle says, “It’s a Burger Bar Best Value.” ously, but he says, “I can do it.” I hire good people.
Anyway, Dennis and I are working our butts off It’s part of my managerial style.
trying to fill the order, and that’s when I realize that In the car, I tell Hannah that she should call the
Hannah hasn’t come back. I’m pissed at first, but police and have Milo arrested for assault, and she
then I make a paradigm shift, which has become says—and this kills me—“He didn’t mean to.” Like
part of my managerial style, and I begin to think of he has a neurological disorder that makes him
Hannah as the valued employee that she is—Han- wham people with his fist. I try to talk her out of
nah is reliable to a fault—and as soon as we com- this, but she gets so upset with any of my sugges-
plete the orders, I go looking for her. Even before I tions that I decide I better cool it. “Put first things
reach the bathroom, I can hear her crying. It’s a soft first.” That’s what Stephen R. Covey says. So instead
wail. It wrenches my guts. I open the door and see I tell her I wish I could find a dozen more people

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like her to work for me because she’s so dependable. We’re both holding on to the garbage burger
“You really know how to work,” I tell her. now. “Hey,” I say, “come inside with me and I’ll fix
Then we are at her house. I look up the slope of you a fresh hamburger—a Burger Bar Special with
the lawn. The house is dark, and it looks like all the trimmings—okay?”
nobody’s home. I say this to Hannah. I say, “Please He hangs on to the garbage burger like maybe he
let me take you to the hospital to get some stitches. doesn’t trust me.
Nobody’s going to give you a pregnancy test. You I hold his arm and lead him to the back door,
don’t look a bit pregnant. Please—” where I let go just long enough to get my key out.
“No.” She’s already opened the door. “It’s almost “Is that okay if I make you a burger?”
stopped bleeding.” She removes the wadded-up “Okay,” he says, nodding his head.
paper towel and shows me the cut, and it does look “What’s your name?” I push the door open and
as if it’s mostly stopped. It’s dark now and I can’t see pull him inside.
much. He squints when I turn the lights on. “Harold.”
“Bye.” Hannah waves at me. She stands on the He hugs the old burger to his chest. “Harold
sidewalk and waits for me to leave. Finlayson.”
“Take a few days off,” I call through the window. I think I just stare at him for a few seconds, I’m
“I’ll cover your shift.” I accelerate slowly up the so surprised. Harold Finlayson is like—you know—
street. Is there something else I should do? In my a real person’s name. I guess I was expecting some-
rearview mirror, I can still see her standing there, a thing like Bud or Lou or Hey You.
shadow under the streetlight. She continues waving “Well, Harold”—I recover myself—“follow me
as if to prove to me that she’s fine. I think of turn- and we’ll have dinner.”
ing back, but instead turn right at the end of the I’ll bet there’s a lot of stories behind a name like
street and head downtown. You can’t save someone Harold Finlayson, and as we walk into the lighted
who doesn’t want saving. Any idiot knows that. Burger Bar kitchen, I decide to find out what some
For the first time since I have come to Salt Lake, of them are.
I feel lonely and wish I had a roommate. Rather
than go home, I drive back to the Burger Bar. I’ll
Louise Plummer’s first novel, The Romantic Obses-
calculate the receipts tonight. It’ll get my mind off
sions and Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier (1987),
Hannah and the way she looked like she was eleven
won honorable mention in the Delacorte Press First
years old. Hannah’s pregnant. Judas Priest. In the
Young Adult Novel Contest and was a children’s
alley, the truck from the waste-disposal company
that empties the Dumpsters passes me. One whiff choice book of both the New York Public Library and
of its wormy hamburger stench lifts me involuntar- the International Reading Association. Her second
ily off my seat. I park in my space and get out of novel, My Name is Sus5an Smith. The 5 Is Silent
the car. (1991), was an ALA Best Book, a School Library
There is a shuffling behind me. I turn quickly Journal Best Book, Utah Arts Council Best Young
and see a dark figure just a few feet from me. In the Adult Novel, AML Best Young Adult Novel, and a
middle of my shriek, I realize it is only Old Faith- New York Public Library Children’s Choice Book.
ful. “Geez,” I say, “you scared the crapola out of me.” The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman (1995)
He nods with wet, startled eyes as if I’ve done the was an ALA Best Book and a School Library Journal
same for him. He has dropped something, and I Best Book as well as an AML Best Young Adult Novel.
lean over to pick it up. It’s an old hamburger in an And her latest work, A Dance for Three (2000), is
opened Styrofoam box. The lettuce is brown and an ALA Best Book. Louise has also written a collection
slimy. He reaches for it with a crusty hand. Is he of personal essays called Thoughts of a Grasshopper:
drunk? Sick? Stupid? Out of his mind? Does it Essays and Oddities (1992). In her spare time,
matter? I realize that although I felt helpless with Louise is a professor of creative writing at BYU and
Hannah, I know what to do for this guy. teaches a memoir class with her husband, Tom.

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S T O R Y Veona. If they heard us at all, they discounted our


cries as just another prank.
The Day We Lost Max What could we do? Leonard volunteered to crawl
out of the truck bed onto the running board, but
By Lael Littke Aunt Veona saw him in the mirror and, in turning
around to tell him to get back in, made the truck
We probably wouldn’t even have noticed that zigzag across the road.
Max had fallen out of the truck if Randolph hadn’t Through the window of the cab we could see
seen him go. That’s the way Max was. He could sit Mama and Aunt Veona talking together, so engrossed
right next to you for hours, sucking his thumb and in their conversation that they probably wouldn’t
sometimes humming a little to himself, and you have noticed if all of us had fallen out. They always
wouldn’t know he was there, and when you finally discussed Life when they were driving along like
noticed he wasn’t you wouldn’t be able to remem- that, and any child lucky enough to ride up front
ber just when it was he left. He was Aunt Veona’s could learn some pretty interesting stuff since they
youngest, the last of eleven robust children, and were apt to forget you were there, especially if you
Aunt Veona herself said she sometimes had a hard sat still and pretended to be asleep.
time remembering he was around since in all his
four years he had made hardly any more noise than
the soft slurping as he sucked his thumb, and the
occasional humming. Max was nowhere in sight
Aunt Veona, Mama, three of our kids, and six
of Aunt Veona’s were on our way to visit Aunt when we got to the place
Blanche up Pigeon Creek when Max fell out. It was where he had fallen out.
crowded in the back of the pickup truck, what with
nine of us kids trying to cling somewhere so we
wouldn’t bounce out. Randolph said Max stood up,
probably to shift his position, and just then the I had an idea they were talking about how Opal
truck hit a bump in the rutted dirt road. Max went Calder had run off with a linoleum salesman three
over the side without a sound. months ago and had just come home, and how
“Max fell out,” said Randolph in a hoarse, scared everyone told Arden he shouldn’t take her back.
voice. But he said he was tired of getting his own meals,
We didn’t hear him over the roar of the old and Opal was a good worker and a fine cook even
truck’s engine, so Randolph began pointing franti- though she did crave a little excitement now and
cally back down the road. There, beside a clump of then.
weeds into which he had fallen, Max stood watch- By the time Aunt Veona stopped the truck in
ing us retreat, a thumb still in his mouth. Aunt Blanche’s yard, we were all in a state of shock
“Mama!” screamed Utahna, banging on the dri- and just sat there trying to find our voices.
ver’s cab. “Mama, Max fell out!” Aunt Blanche and several of her children came
“Stop that banging!” bellowed Aunt Veona. running out to welcome us.
My brother Orvid pounded on Mama’s side. “My stars,” she said, looking into the back of the
“Max fell out!” he hollered. truck where we crouched. “The kids are all carsick.
Mama called something, but we couldn’t hear it All pale and bug-eyed.”
above the engine’s noise. Aunt Veona climbed down from the cab and
We all looked at one another, our eyes enor- looked us over. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
mous. “Mama!” we wailed collectively. “Stop!” “Max fell out,” whispered Utahna.
Alas! Too often had we cried “Wolf ” in the past. “Max?” said Aunt Veona.
Too often we had played tricks on Mama and Aunt “Fell out,” whispered Randolph.

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Mama got down from the running board where children, Aunt Veona urged us all into the truck
she was standing, and she and Aunt Veona stirred and started back down the road, all of us peering in
through all of us children as if they expected to every ditch and behind every bush for a small boy
uncover Max somewhere in our midst. who sucked his thumb.
“Max isn’t here,” Aunt Veona said. “If Max was here,” Randolph said as we bounced
“He fell out,” said Maudie. along, “I would ask him if he was hurt and I’d tell
“In some weeds,” Arthur said. “He isn’t hurt too everybody to be quiet long enough to hear what
bad.” he said.”
“Unless his head was cracked,” suggested Utahna. “Look,” cried Utahna, who was standing up so
Aunt Veona grabbed the nearest child, who hap- she could see better. “Here comes the sheriff.”
pened to be Arthur, and glared at him. “Why didn’t We cowered down in the truck bed, since we
you tell me?” she demanded. were all a little afraid of the tall lawman with his big
“They banged on top of the cab,” recalled Mama. hat and vast stomach.
“I thought they were playing.” As the sheriff ’s car drew alongside us, we saw
“We’d better hurry back and get him,” said Aunt Max sitting beside Sheriff Smith.
Blanche. She, Mama, and Aunt Veona climbed into “Maybe it’s against the law to fall out,” whis-
the cab, and five of her kids got in back with us. pered Utahna.
Max was nowhere in sight when we got to the Sheriff Smith hailed Aunt Veona, who stopped
place where he had fallen out. the truck with a jerk. “Max,” she shrieked, tum-
“He’s gone,” Aunt Veona said weakly after we bling from the cab and almost strangling Max as
had searched all the clumps of bushes nearby. she hugged him through the open window of the
“Maybe he’s dead,” whimpered Utahna. sheriff ’s car. After a short spell of weeping, she
“Hush,” Mama said. “If he were dead, he’d still lifted him out and felt his head for possible injuries.
be here, wouldn’t he?” Sheriff Smith cleared his throat. “Feller picked
We stared at one another silently. him up and brought him to town,” he said.
Maudie sniffed back tears. “Remember how he Max looked at the ground, sucked his thumb,
used to not cry when he fell and hurt himself? How and said nothing.
he’d just suck his thumb all the harder?” “I didn’t know whose kid he is,” continued the
“Remember how he used to just sit and listen sheriff. “Said his name is Macth. Said he fell out
when all of us were talking around the table at of a big truck full of more people than he could
night?” Randolph said. “And how once he fell count.” Sheriff Smith looked us over and nodded.
asleep underneath and we forgot he was there and “Had to be you.”
left him all night?” “He said all that?” exclaimed Aunt Veona.
Georgie broke into loud wails. Violet, one of The sheriff nodded. “Lady, that isn’t all he said.
Aunt Blanche’s kids, joined him. “I can’t remember About talked my ear off. Told me you said his
which one was Max,” she wept. Uncle Archie wears a girdle. Said your kids found a
Aunt Veona was close to tears herself. “He was cigarette yesterday and tried to smoke it out behind
the best little boy,” she sniffed. “Made me a little the barn.”
birthday card last week all by himself.” We wilted under his stern gaze.
“No, Mama,” Leonard objected. “That was me.” “Let’s see now. He said he didn’t think you’d notice
“Well,” Aunt Blanche said briskly, “let’s not stand he was gone because his Uncle Ellis said you’re kind
here talking. Let’s all get back in and drive down of careless and it runs in the family and that’s why
the road. Maybe somebody picked him up and is you’ve got so many kids.”
looking for us.” “That’s enough!” snapped Mama. She nodded
“Maybe he’s kidnapped,” whispered Utahna, cre- toward all of us who were listening with our mouths
ating another crisis. Faced with fourteen blubbering ajar.

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Aunt Veona’s mouth was ajar, too. “Max said all E S S A Y


that?”
“Oh yeah,” the sheriff said. “And more. Talked A Taste of the Year’s Best
like he’d never get another chance.”
Our gazes shifted to Max, who stood tracing a By Lu Ann Brobst Staheli
furrow in the dust with his toe while he sucked his
thumb and hummed softly. When you think of children’s publishing, you
“Max,” said Aunt Veona. “Are you all right? How most likely think New York City. When you think
do you feel?” about children’s authors, you might envision Will
Max looked at her. His eyes shifted to the vast Hobbs in Colorado, Eve Bunting in California, or
crowd of us kids who looked at him quietly and Gary Paulsen aboard his sloop Felicity in the mid-
expectantly. It was probably the first time he’d ever dle of the Pacific Ocean. But don’t forget Utah and
seen us all silent. the abundance of talented and award-winning chil-
Suddenly he removed his thumb from his mouth dren’s authors with a direct tie to this state. Follow-
and shoved his hand into his pocket. A grin split ing are reviews of some of the best and latest entries
his face. into the national market by Mormon authors.
“Thwell,” he said.
Breaking Rank, Kristen D. Randle (Morrow
Lael J. Littke’s thirty-six books for children include Junior Books). The Clan is not your typical gang.
Trish for President, Shanny on Her Own, and Loy- They don’t commit crimes or take drugs. Instead,
dene in Love, all on the New York Public Library’s they don’t socialize with other kids at school and
Recommended List for Teenagers. Blue Skye received refuse to take any type of test that would show they
the Notable Book award from the Southern Califor- really are intelligent. Thomas Fairbairn, better
nia Council on Children’s Literature, and Prom known as Baby, is a member of the Clan. One day,
Dress has been dubbed “the book most often stolen” at he takes the test, scoring high enough to get him-
one school library. Her current books are Haunted self moved into honors classes. To make such a
Sister and Lake of Secrets. She is also the author of drastic move, the school asks Casey to become
the story later made into the Feature Films for Fami- Baby’s tutor, but how can she help him when he
lies video Seasons of the Heart (1993). Lael grew up won’t help himself? Randle brings a Romeo-and-
in Mink Creek, Idaho. After graduating from Utah Juliet-like story to the modern day. She takes the
State University and studying at City University of reader inside the world of teenage cliques and
New York, Lael and her husband, George, moved to romance, perhaps to the point that we begin to
Pasadena, California, where she studied writing with understand how to remove differences that result in
Helen Hinckley Jones as her mentor. The above story anger and violence among teens.
was originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Brothers in Valor, Michael O. Tunnell (Holi-
(October 1969) and then reprinted at least thirty-five day House). Hamburg, Germany, 1937. Rudi
times (she lost count), including in several textbooks, Ollenick, the narrator, and his best friends, Karl
such as Child Development through Literature, Schneider and Helmuth Guddat, German boys, are
edited by Elliott Landau at the University of Utah. members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
The story also sold in at least seven foreign countries, day Saints. The boys aren’t sure how they can fol-
including South Africa, Germany, France, and Den- low the teachings of their church yet still be good
mark. The last reprinting was about four years ago in German citizens, willing to follow the Führer.
Norway. When the boys are forced to join Hitler’s youth
group, they learn about the ruthless and violent
ways of the Nazis and begin to formulate a plan to
spread the truth among the German people. The

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flyers they print and distribute put them in danger, spots to search. If there was ever a time she wanted
but all three boys are willing to take the risk, even her friend, Raf, to be near, it was now. In the spirit
if it means they lose their lives. Tunnell, a BYU of Newbery Medal book Walk Two Moons by
School of Education professor, has based his story Sharon Creech, Torres takes the reader on a journey
on personal interviews, published biographies, and of understanding ourselves by understanding our
Nazi archival records, bringing to life the story of family history.
three heroes who had to decide on whose side they A Dance for Three, Louise Plummer (Dela-
would stand. corte Press). Milo wasn’t the first boy to kiss Han-
Charlotte’s Rose, A. E. Cannon (Wendy Lamb nah, but he was the first one to slug her. She knows
Books, Random House). Ann Cannon brings to the baby she carries is his because he’s been the only
the national market the tender story of twelve-year- one. He demands she’s lying. Hannah doesn’t under-
old Charlotte, a Welsh immigrant who crossed stand. Milo told her he loved her, but now he’s back
America with a handcart company. Along the Mor- with his old girlfriend and wants nothing to do
mon trail, Charlotte volunteers to care for the baby with Hannah or the baby. Hannah’s father is dead,
daughter of a woman who has died. At first, she is and her mom has agoraphobia. She must take care
proud of herself, believing she has shown the adults of Mama when Hannah needs mothering herself.
that she is nearly a woman. But she soon realizes Hannah’s story is told from her own voice and the
how difficult a task she has undertaken. Charlotte voices of Trilby, her best friend, and Roman, Milo’s
is frustrated by the baby’s cries, her own lack of younger brother. Although this book is a departure
sleep, and not being able to spend the time she from Plummer’s usual light-hearted look at love, it
would like with John, who she wants to see her as is a novel that should be read and discussed by
more than a child. Eventually she can stand it no teenage girls and their mothers.
longer, and she leaves the baby sleeping beneath the Herd of Cows! Flock of Sheep! Rick Walton,
handcart on a rest stop, going on a walk with John illustrated by Julie Olson (Gibbs Smith). Do you
instead of taking care of her obligation. When she know what clowder, rafter, army, cloud, or drove
returns, the baby is gone. Charlotte searches franti- refer to? Well, by the end of this story, Farmer Bob
cally and finds the infant Charlotte has named does as these groups of animals (cats, turkeys, frogs,
Rose being cared for by Catherine Jones, a strange gnats, and pigs) and more come to his rescue,
woman with a marked scar on her face. This com- pulling him from a deep sleep and his bed out of
ing-of-age novel demonstrates that the feelings that the rising river just in time. Learning collective
come into the hearts of adolescents remain the nouns has never been so much fun, and it won’t be
same through all generations. Read this one with a just the kids who learn from this clever adventure.
box of tissues handy. Called by his publisher “The King of Language
Crossing Montana, Laura Torres (Holiday Arts Picture Books,” Rick Walton is a collector of
House). Callie decides to take charge and search for words. In eighth grade he won a class contest by
her grandfather, who has disappeared. Why compiling a list of 1,500 compound words, written
shouldn’t she? After all, she’s been in charge of her by hand. Explore his playful way of teaching lan-
younger brother most of his life, and she has taken guage for a fun read with your children and a giggle
care of herself since her father died. All her mother of your own.
and grandmother seem to care about is auctioning The Hero, Ron Woods (Alfred A. Knopf ).
off the farm. Callie thinks she knows exactly where Fourteen-year-old Jamie West can hardly wait to
her grandfather has gone: fishing in Montana. She gather wood for the raft he is building with his
takes the car, some cash, and her mom’s credit card, cousin Jerry. When weeding the garden takes too
then heads to the state where her father died. What long, Jamie decides to set the weeds on fire. He
she hasn’t counted on is a stowaway, a credit card hasn’t counted on the speed at which dry grasses
that won’t work, and hundreds of great fishing burn, however, and soon the blaze is beyond his

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control. Jamie realizes only water will halt the fire, Parks, and Malcolm X are prominent. The Mont-
and he cuts the ditch bank, flooding the area and gomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, and the March
dousing the flames. Nothing could be more fright- on Washington are listed as important events in the
ening, Jamie decides, before he and Jerry are forward movement of the cause. But one name and
stranded on the raft in the middle of the Payette event is often missing in the story: Emmett Till, a
River with Dennis Leeper, a neighborhood boy fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago who was
whom everyone tries to avoid. Their situation brutally murdered, his body dumped in the Talla-
doesn’t seem too bad, until they go over the first hatchie River, for allegedly whistling at a white
dam and lose Jerry from the raft. Hold onto your woman. While doing an interview for a biography
seat for a wild ride, which leads Jamie to discover titled Presenting Mildred D. Taylor, BYU professor
what it takes to be a hero and a man. Chris Crowe first heard about Emmett Till and knew
A Hundred Days from Home, Randall Wright it was a story that must be shared. Though the eyes
(Henry Holt). Elam is a loner. Since the death of of Hiram Hillburn, a white teenager who has come
his best friend in a river accident, Elam prefers to to stay the summer with his grandfather, the reader
spend his time in the mountain wilderness. Elam’s is taken into the heart of racism at a time when the
father doesn’t think the solitude is good for his son. passions of the south were volatile and violent.
He decides to move the family to Arizona, hoping Hiram sees changes in his beloved south, his friends,
Elam will make new friends and come out of his and even his grandfather; changes that make him
self-imposed loneliness. But Elam doesn’t fit in with doubt his own safety. Hiram witnesses R. C. Rydell
the locals his father wants as his friends. Instead, he force Emmett to eat a raw fish at knifepoint. Hiram’s
meets Refúgio, a boy his father doesn’t approve of grandfather offers no sympathy, warning that “col-
because of his nationality. Will Elam be forced to ored boys like Emmett should know better than to
give up his first real friendship since Brett’s death push himself on white folks.” After Emmett is mur-
because of his father’s prejudice? dered, Hiram doesn’t want to stay silent; he wants
Making Waves, Barbara Williams (Dial Books the truth to be told, even if it uncovers secrets
for Young Readers). Emily Brewer doesn’t under- about his own family. Parents should read this book
stand why she survived the sinking of the Titanic along with their teens and discuss the issue of
when her friend Albert lost his mother in the ter- racism as it stands in our country today and what
rible disaster, but she knows she must somehow can be done to prevent it.
make a difference in the world. Albert begins a A Mother to Embarrass Me, Carol Lynch
letter-writing campaign, intending to contact every Williams (Delacorte Press). No matter your age,
member of Congress about the inadequacies aboard you can probably remember a time (or ten, or
the luxury liner. When Emily’s own attempt to visit twenty) when you were embarrassed by your
Congress fails, she turns to the rights of children mother. Her words, dress, and actions all combined
who are forced to work under dangerous condi- to humiliate you in front of your friends or, worst
tions in the garment-industry sweatshops, even if of all, the love of your life. No matter what you
pursuing this cause loses her the new friendships she tried to do to stop her, Mom only became more
is forging at school. Like Mother Jones, Emily is embarrassing by the minute, and you thought
determined to make her message be heard and save you’d never be able to face the world again. Twelve-
other children from the fate that has befallen little year-old Laura Stephan feels the same way and
Ruth and the hard life forced upon her friend Mag- keeps a list of all the things she would like to
gie. A wonderful story of resilience against all odds. change about her mother. But her mom doesn’t
Mississippi Trial, 1955, Chris Crowe (Phylis mean to be embarrassing. She just wants to stay
Fogelman Books). The Civil Rights movement. good friends with the daughter she loves. She’d do
Search the topic on the Internet or in a history text- anything to keep Laura happy, but her best efforts
book, and the names Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa all seem to be wrong. How could Mom have

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known Dad would hurt his neck while break-danc- leave. She wants more than the Shaker life can offer.
ing at Laura’s party? So what if Mom and Christian Ben helps her find a position with the Erastus Snow
talked about Laura behind her back? Why should family, where she meets a young man and must
Laura be concerned that Mom has a modeling job choose between love and her developing faith in the
while several months pregnant? Will the birth of newly organized Mormon religion. The book pro-
the baby make things better or worse? Williams vides an interesting look into the Shaker commu-
takes a humorous look at mother/daughter rela- nity and the search for spirituality, even if finding it
tionships that are cross generational. A great read brings a change of religion and the loss of love.
for a mother/daughter book club, a teen or preteen Soldier Boys, Dean Hughes (Atheneum Books
who feels embarrassed by her own mother, or a for Young Readers). Spencer Morgan is just sixteen
mother who wants to understand her emotion- when he convinces his father to sign his induction
packed daughter a little bit better. papers so he can fight in World War II. He wants
Say You Are My Sister, Laurel Stowe Brady to be a paratrooper, the toughest soldiers in the
(HarperCollins). Twelve-year-old Mony Keddring- world, to prove to his family and all of Brigham
ton turns to her older half-sister Georgie for com- City, Utah, that he can amount to something. Of
fort and strength when their mother is killed by a course, he would also like to impress LuAnn
tornado. She doesn’t look much like Georgie, but Crowther, the girl he has a crush on even though
that doesn’t matter to Mony, who has learned from she doesn’t think about him as anything more than
her pa that “family is family.” On a trip to town, a friend. Dieter Hedrick is a member of the Hitler
Mony witnesses the realities of racial issues in her Youth movement. He has met and been praised by
Georgia town when the barber is thrown through the Führer himself. He wants to make it to the
the plate-glass window of his shop for giving a front lines and defend his country’s honor. Both
black man a haircut, a crime under the Jim Crow boys get their wishes when they end up in the Bat-
laws. When their pa is killed by a bull, the girls are tle of the Bulge. A realistic story that looks at the
determined to take care of themselves and their feelings of soldiers on both sides of the conflict, this
baby sister, Keely Faye. Magnolia Hewitt would would be a good book to read together as a family
like to take Keely Faye to raise as her own, and she and then discuss the feelings of patriotism, honor,
uses her position as the banker’s wife to attempt to and duty to country.
force Georgie to give up the baby. Mony begins to
learn who Georgie really is as they struggle to keep Lu Ann Brobst Staheli is the English department
their family together. Brady’s story is entertaining chair at Payson Junior High School and serves on the
as well as important as it looks into our country’s district book review committee. She is the current pres-
history of racial discrimination. ident of the Utah Council of Teachers of English Lan-
The Shakeress, Kimberly Heuston (Front guage Arts and is a past president of the League of
Street). Naomi will do anything to stay with her Utah Writers. Staheli has won the Utah Arts Council
siblings after the death of their parents, even if it Award for Best Juvenile Fiction, the League of Utah
means they must leave their aunt’s home and join Writers Round-Up for Juvenile Novel, the Mont-
the nearby Shaker community. There are other gomery West Literary Agency talent search, and hon-
advantages to joining these simple people; they orable mention in Writer’s Digest magazine’s annual
have a school where Ben, Eli, and Glory can learn competition for children’s story. She has been a
skills and trades they will need in life. Naomi is national judge for the Romance Writers of America
given training with herbs that builds upon those Young Adult Fiction Contest and served on the nom-
things her mother taught her about treating ill- inating committee for the Children’s Literature Asso-
nesses before she died. For five years, Naomi is sat- ciation of Utah’s Beehive Award.
isfied she has done the right thing for her family,
but then she realizes the time has come for her to

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S T O R Y “So, uh . . . where did you get the Gizmo?” Jack


asked Mary Elizabeth as they stood in the lunch
Monster Lie line. He wanted to sound only mildly interested, so
he pretended to be looking through his pockets for
By C. B. Decker something.
She looked at him from the corners of her nar-
It was a lie. Not a polite, little lie—the kind you rowed eyes and replied, “What would you know about
say to make people feel talented or pretty when the GPS Gizmo?” emphasizing the part he left out.
they really aren’t—or one of those ridiculous medium Jack started to tell her he read about it in a maga-
lies you tell when you want to feel more important zine on his uncle’s coffee table, but instead he threw
than you really are. No, it was a BIG, MONSTROUS out, “Well . . . my uncle designed it.”
LIE, the kind that keeps you out of trouble when She immediately whirled around. Her narrow
you really deserve it. The dangerous kind of lie that, eyes changed to round ones. “Your uncle designed
once spoken, follows you around trying to ruin every- this?” she asked, pointing to the band on her wrist.
thing. And no one was more surprised than Jack He pulled a quarter out of his pocket and studied
when it stepped out of his mouth and into his life. the date as though it were very important before
“A man took it.” replying, “Sure,” and then added, “In his spare time
There it was, staring him in the face. when he wasn’t designing rockets and shuttles and
space station stuff.” He put the quarter back where
She annoyed him in two ways. First, she was a it came from. Before lunch was over, Mary Eliza-
girl, and second, she thought she knew everything. beth agreed to let Jack wear her Gizmo during recess.
If, for instance, Jack said to his teacher, “My, Jack timed himself running the fifty-yard dash
Miss H., what a beautiful dress,” Mary Elizabeth with the stopwatch part of the Gizmo and then cal-
added, “That shade of blue is the opposite of your culated his heart rate with the blood-pressure fea-
hair color, and on a color chart it’s called a comple- ture while swinging. He tried to get a fix on his
ment.” Or, if he said, “Miss H., I loved the story location using the global positioning system as he
you read to us. You made it seem real,” Mary Eliz- hung upside down from the monkey bars, but it
abeth jumped in with, “Your voice took on a dif- was complicated. Just when he thought he under-
ferent inflection with each character.” stood, the bell rang. He jumped down and got in
On Thursday, before the big multiplication test, line. Mary Elizabeth slipped in line behind him.
Jack raised his hand and said, “Miss H., you’re the Inside the classroom she asked, “Well? Did you
best teacher I ever had.” Mary Elizabeth’s hand figure out the global positioning feature?” and before
immediately shot up in the air. She quoted some- he could answer she added, “I thought you might
thing about the nature of comparisons, which Jack have trouble. Let me show you how to do it.” She
didn’t understand at all. Actually, he wasn’t really held out her know-it-all hand.
listening. He was focused on her wrist or, rather, Jack felt for the band on his wrist. It wasn’t there.
what Mary Elizabeth was wearing on her wrist. He glanced at his other wrist. The Gizmo wasn’t
From the outside it looked like a pocket watch there either . . . and the only thing in his pocket
attached to a red wristband, but Jack knew, under- was the old quarter. He thought quickly. Did I
neath that simple cover, there was a watch keeping leave it by the swing? Did I set it down on the mon-
time in six different zones, a calculator and a com- key bars? Did I let someone else hold it?
pass, a stopwatch, and a device that measured blood Mary Elizabeth’s foot started to tap. “Well, where
pressure and pulse. However, the best part was the is it?”
global positioning system. It could tell where you He had no idea. And in that moment while his
were standing, anywhere in the world, within mind groped around in the darkness trying to find
eighteen inches. It was called the GPS Gizmo. an answer, he heard himself say, “A man took it.”

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“What?” She punctuated the “T” at the end of “Quiet, everyone!” Miss H. had to shout to be
the word so loudly he jumped. He looked up at heard. “Where did the stranger go, Jack?”
Mary Elizabeth and was horrified to see a short, fat He didn’t know. He looked at the monster. Its
monster standing right next to her, grinning up at black pupils danced and sparkled. “Shall we show
him. It was a putrid shade of green with patches of them, Jack?” it suggested as it waddled out of the
sick, stringy hair. Its chin jutted out unusually far, classroom.
revealing two lonely, odd-sized, yellow teeth. Its “I’ll show you,” Jack said. And he followed, a
nose was rather piggish. Nevertheless, it was the little stiff-legged, behind the monster.
monster’s black eyes that caught and held him. With the monster’s help, Jack pointed to the
They were wild and exciting. place he was standing when the “stranger” took the
“What did you say?” she demanded again. Mary Gizmo and added, “He walked past the monkey
Elizabeth obviously didn’t see what Jack saw. bars, across the playground, through the gates, and
Jack tried to whisper to her. “Well . . . I said a out of sight wearing Mary Elizabeth’s red Gizmo.”
man took it, but I . . .” The monster hummed a happy tune and hopped
Miss H., who was startled by Mary Elizabeth’s about on one leg and then the other.
outburst, appeared and, without knowing it, stood While Miss H. and the still-crying Mary Eliza-
dangerously close to the other side of the hideous beth looked for evidence, Jack looked for the
creature. In her let’s-be-calm voice Miss H. asked, Gizmo. It must have fallen off somewhere. He care-
“What man took the Gizmo, Jack?” fully retraced his steps as the monster played on the
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out, swings.
not even an innocent-sounding “huh?” Jack could When Miss H. found a large, suspicious foot-
see he was in a very tight spot. print next to the gate, she decided this was a mat-
The monster spoke. “They’re waiting, Jack.” It ter for the principal to handle, and she hurried
had a voice that made Jack think of slow, sticky Mary Elizabeth, whose face looked red and
syrup. “You said a man took it. Why don’t you blotchy, and Jack, who felt sickly green, to the
describe the man? Was he tall?” office.
“He was tall,” Jack blurted out. “Very tall . . . Jack paced nervously in the hallway, waiting to
extreeeemely tall.” be summoned. “This is a terrible mess,” he scolded
“Did he have a mustache?” the monster asked. himself. “I should tell them what really happened.”
“And he had a mustache . . . uh . . . a dark mus- “That won’t do,” came a voice from behind.
tache like this.” Jack drew his fingers across his lip “What would Mary Elizabeth say?” It was the mon-
to show the children who had been quietly inching ster. It put its hairy arm, which didn’t smell nice at
their way toward the commotion. “And he told me all, around Jack’s shoulder and continued, “Why,
Mary Elizabeth’s Gizmo was his and that I better she would say you’re only a big talker and that she
give it back to him, So, I did, ’cause he was uh . . . never should have loaned you the Gizmo in the
uh . . . a scary stranger!” first place. Miss H. wouldn’t trust you with the key
At the word stranger there was a collective gasp. to the paper closet this month. And what would
“I saw a stranger yesterday at the grocery store,” your mother say, Jack? Irresponsible . . .”
Emily blurted out. “Now, wait a minute!” Jack threw off the mon-
“I saw a man with a mustache in the park,” ster’s arm. “Who are you? Or what are you? And
Steven added. why are you here, and why am I the only one who
Everyone started talking all at once, except Mary can see you?”
Elizabeth, who began to cry. At first she made a The monster’s eyes flashed for a second before
sound like little hiccups, “But . . . it . . . isn’t . . . his,” softening. “Jack, Jack, Jack. We’re very old friends.
and step by step it escalated to the level of a police How could you forget Old Harry? You’ve gotten
siren, “It’s mine . . . and I want it b-a-a-A-A-C-K!” yourself into a sticky situation, and I’ve come to

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On the way back from the office, Jack spotted


Mary Elizabeth at the far end of the hall. She had
stopped crying, but now she appeared to be talking
to herself. Jack added talks to herself as the third
item on his list of annoying things about Mary
Elizabeth. He slipped into a nearby restroom to
avoid her.
The light fixture was broken, and in the dim,
half-lit mirror Jack was startled by his own image.
His nose seemed rather piggish, and he looked like
he could use a haircut. “It must be the light,” he
told himself.
“We’re a handsome pair, aren’t we?” Jack recog-
nized the creature’s smooth voice before he saw him
appear in the mirror next to him. “Stick with me,
Jack. I’ll get you out of this terrible trouble.” Harry
licked his hand and tried to slick down an unruly
tangle of hair.
“I have my own plan, thank you,” Jack replied.
“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but it doesn’t
protect you, and alas, no one can see me except you involve you.”
because you don’t want them to.” Harry continued to groom himself. “And what
Jack look confused. “I don’t want them to?” would that be?” he questioned, without looking at
Just then the door opened, and Jack was invited Jack.
in. “Let’s be careful now,” the monster whispered, Jack went on in a stronger voice, “I’m going to
squeezing through the door behind him. sneak outside and look around the playground until
With promptings from his new “old friend,” I find Mary Elizabeth’s stupid Gizmo. I’ll bring it
Jack retold the story. This time he added a ski hat back and tell everyone that the stranger must have
and a pair of sweat pants to the description of the dropped it. Then we forget this whole thing.”
stranger. When Jack was dismissed, the principal Harry smiled a crooked smile. “That’s a great
was on the phone to the police. plan, Jack. It certainly is.” He stopped licking and
“You’re very creative, Jack,” Old Harry chortled turned to face Jack. “But haven’t you forgotten
with glee. something? You told everyone you saw the stranger
wearing the red Gizmo as he walked through the
News of the stranger spread around the school gate and out of sight.”
like melting butter on a bagel. Everyone was filled Jack’s face fell.
with delicious talk. “Trust me,” coaxed Harry in a sugary voice. “I’ll
“Did you hear about the guy that strangled Jack think of a plan.”
and stole a red gecko from Mary Elizabeth?” a boy
at the drinking fountain gushed with excitement. Curious classmates surrounded Jack during the
“The school nurse told us there were two of afternoon recess. He wasn’t in the mood to answer
them, a guy, seven feet tall, with a mustache like a questions. “It was traumatic. I’d rather not talk
broom, and a sweaty one with a ski mask,” was the about it.” Then he closed his eyes and tried to think
response. about butterflies or fluffy clouds or daisies.
Jack began to wonder if maybe it really did Old Harry, on the other hand, was working his
happen. way through the excited crowd. “Stand aside!” he

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sang out with gusto. “Make way for my hero! He The monster’s lips curved down into a clownish
faced the stranger and lived to talk about it! Give frown, which made his prominent chin stick out
him room; the poor boy is exhausted!” His words even further. “Now, now, Jack. Not only have you
were heard only by poor Jack, of course. insulted your dear mother, you also hurt me,
Jack was miserable. The fluffy cloud he finally deeply. I’m not a liar, Jack. You are . . . don’t you
managed to imagine morphed into a daisy-stomp- remember?” He mimicked Jack’s boyish voice, “A
ing, butterfly-eating, puff-thing, which bore down man took it.”
on Jack with a slobbering tongue poised to lick him Jack did remember. He remembered the monster
to death. Right at the brink of his slimy destruc- first appeared the moment those words came out of
tion, an earsplitting whistle pierced the air. Jack his mouth. He remembered Old Harry said he was
opened his eyes and saw, standing on the school “very creative” and he remembered being called
steps in front of him, a very serious-looking police- “my hero.” Jack wondered. Did I create a monster?
man, the principal, Miss H., the school nurse, and He was afraid the answer was yes and . . . if it was,
his mother. he was even more afraid he was becoming just like
the monster, one stinking, ugly lie.
Jack did a very brave thing. There, in front of
He was even more everyone, including Mary Elizabeth, he called out,
“I . . . I . . . need to say something.”
afraid he was becoming “Don’t do it!” the frantic monster cried. “Don’t
just like the monster, let them see me.” He grabbed Jack around the legs
and began kissing and stroking him, “Please, I’m
one stinking, ugly lie. your old friend!”
Jack didn’t stop. “I need to say that I . . .”
“Wait a minute!” interrupted Mary Elizabeth
“Jackie, oh Jackie,” his mother cried as she rushed from the crowd. She seemed confused. “Are you
to him with outstretched arms. She stopped short going to . . . leave me alone . . . are you going to . . .
and wrinkled up her nose. “Jackie, are you all right? stop it, I said . . . are you going to tell us there wasn’t
You look a little sick,” and she whispered in her a stranger who took my Gizmo?”
don’t-share-this-with-anyone-else voice, “And you Jack shuffled his feet and swallowed hard. “Yes,”
don’t smell too great, either.” he admitted. “It was a lie.”
What he wanted to do was cry, and what he There was a long, mournful shriek. Old Harry,
wanted to say was, “I lied!” but the perceptive mon- who in a sudden flash was exposed to everyone,
ster quickly squeezed between Jack and his mother. staggered backward, clutching his heart. His eyes
Nose to nose, Harry’s black eyes were blazing were wide and fearful. With a wave of his dramatic
into Jack’s. “Think about it, Jackie. She would be arms, the monster fell into the seeing crowd.
so disappointed if she knew. Don’t let Old Harry If Jack hadn’t felt so horrible, he might have
down now. I’m trying to protect you.” laughed at the panic Old Harry created. There were
Jack couldn’t help noticing little beads of mois- squeals and screams. People gulped and gasped and
ture across Harry’s sweetly curled lip and hear his clung to each other for protection. The whistle
fast, shallow breathing. And while Harry was dropped out of the policeman’s lips; the school
speaking, Jack felt the monster’s bony fingers clos- nurse fanned Miss H., who had collapsed into the
ing, a little at a time, around his wrist. principal’s waiting arms.
“You’re a liar!” Jack shouted at the monster as he Jack’s mother held a tissue over her wrinkled
pulled away. His mother, who couldn’t see what nose and peered over Jack’s shoulder at the uncon-
was wedged between them, thought Jack had yelled scious thing. “What is it, Jackie?” The words quiv-
at her. She was stunned speechless. ered as she spoke them.

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Jack’s shoulders sagged. He took a long, deep decided, after two weeks of intense searching
breath and slowly blew it out between his lips. “It’s revealed no trace of either monster, to officially
a lie, and I think it’s mine.” report the incident as: “A group hallucination due
“I knew it!” sang out Mary Elizabeth. She marched to hysteria brought on by stresses related to multi-
to the top of the steps and shouted, “I already knew plication testing.”
that!” Nevertheless, because Jack and Mary Elizabeth
Everyone focused on Mary Elizabeth. Her eyes had disrupted the whole school by lying about the
were swollen, her face was red speckled, and there Gizmo, the principal and Miss H. put their heads
was something about her hair that reminded Jack together to develop a fitting punishment for them,
of goose down. She tilted her head as though she which they did. And, by the way, they developed
heard something, hesitated a moment, then squared more than that.
her shoulders and stuck out her little pointed chin. Jack’s uncle suggested, since Jack wouldn’t be
Jack braced himself for what Mary Elizabeth playing or watching television for a while, that he
might say next. He was a big talker with a loser write letters of apology to everyone involved, and
uncle. He was an irresponsible boy who smelled bad, his mother, who has a very sensitive nose for things,
or . . . or . . . she would hate him forever . . . but she added that perhaps Jack would learn to be more
didn’t say anything. responsible by doing his own laundry.
Instead, she reached into her pocket and pulled Jack had a lot of time, which he used to think
out the famous red Gizmo. A surprised silence set- about two things. First, being good at polite little
tled over the crowd. They pressed closer. Mary Eliz- lying and ridiculous medium lying must somehow
abeth fingered the device nervously as she began grease the way to big monstrous lying . . . and sec-
to explain. “Jack . . . didn’t realize he dropped the ond, Mary Elizabeth doesn’t really know everything.
Gizmo, and . . . I . . . wanted to teach him a lesson. “You misspelled that word, Mary Elizabeth.
And I didn’t realize . . . until now . . . that I . . . was Always has only one L.”
lying, too.” She hung her head. “I’m sorry, Jack.” I will allways tell the truth.
“EEeeeeeyyyoooowEE!” A second creature
I will allways tell the truth.
appeared, clutching its head in agony. It had nar-
I will allways tell the truth.
row slits instead of eyes. Its face was a variety of red
splotches, and its wild, wispy hair, which was gath-
Cynthia Decker was born and raised in the Salt Lake
ered up into a little tuft on the top of its head, flut-
tered this way and that in the breeze. The creature Valley. She studied art at the University of Utah and
stumbled forward, made a no-less-dramatic dive Brigham Young University and worked for a time in
into the very surprised crowd, kicked its legs twice, the graphic department of the LDS Church. A cre-
and then went stiff. ative spirit, she reluctantly admits to meeting a few
“Get out of the way!” yelled the principal, who monsters of her own making, which accounts for her
was trying to carry the twice-unconscious Miss H. being able to illustrate them in precise detail. Wife
to safety. and mother of four, Cynthia lives and works as an
“Clear the area!” directed the policeman to the illustrator in California. To see more of her work, go
children clinging on his pant legs. to www.cbdecker.com.
“What is that terrible smell?” cried Jack’s mother
to the school nurse.
The school nurse screamed, “It’s an alien inva-
sion—run!”
And everyone did, in every direction.

Time healed the panic created by Jack’s mon-


strous lie. The Bureau of Paranormal Investigations

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E S S A Y school English teachers. As the semester progressed


I noticed an interesting subgroup emerge from
“And the Moral of the Story Is?” among my fellow students. There were several who
The Ethical Dilemma of Young-Adult seemed to feel their roles as teachers were not only
to teach their students about reading and writing
Literature core curriculum but also to teach correct moral val-
By Jessie L. Christensen ues through classroom literature. In their minds, a
good book was one that taught a clear moral lesson,
In Latter-day Saint culture we are raised on sto- and a bad book was one that did not.
ries from the time we start nursery at eighteen At the end of the semester everyone rated the
months old, if not earlier. Scriptural stories, Friend, books we read, and The Giver, by Lois Lowry,
New Era, and Ensign magazine stories, family his- emerged as the clear class favorite. (In The Giver,
tory lore, missionary memories, testimony meeting the protagonist, Jonas, lives in a utopian society
recounting, and the Joseph Smith story—we are where there is no pleasure or pain. Twelve-year-old
people of the story. Perhaps Mormons place such Jonas’s “calling” is to receive pleasure and pain
faith and importance in the written word because memories, hands on head, from the societal patri-
our religion has at its core a book and a story. But arch.) Now, I agree The Giver is an excellent book,
why do we tell and retell all of these stories? but I think many people liked it simply because it
Many people would answer: to illustrate a point, is an allegorical story that clearly shows the
or to teach a gospel lesson, or to apply scriptural dichotomy between good and evil. In other English
principles to everyday lives. I have always known classes I haven’t ever noticed students bringing up
this instructive line of reasoning applies to the moralistic concerns, but I don’t think this recogni-
scriptures and those stories that get told in Sunday tion has so much to do with the particular students
school, but I never thought to apply gospel lessons involved as it has to do with the fact that we were
and principles to literature outside the world of dealing with literature meant for teenagers. Some
gospel teaching. As I grew up, there were certainly parents and teachers seem to feel that while it may
books I chose not to read because I felt they con- be all right for adults to read something for pleas-
tradicted my values; at the same time, I didn’t feel ure, heaven forbid teenagers spend their formative
what I did read needed to have some sort of moral, years filling their minds with fluff.
perhaps because no one told me it should. When I It was only later I realized what bothers me most
was a child my parents encouraged reading because about this narrow view of literature. Yes, literature
it was an enjoyable activity, it stretched the brain, is powerful, but I don’t think it is as powerful as
and it helped you learn more about the world some fear, even for young adults. More impor-
around you; the scriptures and the Friend were the tantly, people who read only looking for confirma-
only sources meant to teach something explicitly. tion of their values are severely limiting themselves.
The first time I ran into people who tried to Moralistic readers don’t know what to do when
extract lessons from most everything they read was confronted by a text that seems to teach a lesson
in a young-adult literature class at BYU. Initially I contradictory to their own beliefs, by a book that
took the class for the sheer pleasure of being able to seems to have several contradictory lessons, or even
read thirty to forty books in one semester and to by a book that doesn’t really seem to have a lesson
give my mind a break from the rigors of more “seri- at all.
ous” literature. It turns out my mind actually got That last option reminds me of our class discus-
quite a workout, and so did my ethical sensibilities. sion of Holes, a Newbery Medal winner with an
The young-adult literature class is required for sec- amazingly complex and fun plot. (It’s about a boy
ondary-education majors, so the majority of my who gets wrongfully sent to an unusual juvenile
classmates were planning to be middle and high detention center where he digs holes in the desert

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and manages to thwart his enemies and save his older, I can name a few lessons I have learned from
family from a generations-old gypsy curse.) For me, it (such as the evils of prejudice, the injustice of
the pleasure of reading Holes comes from the men- sharecropping, and the importance of family), but
tal effort required to make all the connections that’s not what I thought the first time I read it. As
between the diverse elements in the plot, so I was a seventh grader, I did not put down the book after
surprised when a girl in my class tried to stretch the finishing it and think: Now I finally understand why
book into some sort of lesson about juvenile delin- prejudice is so awful! Instead, I cried along with
quency. In a Horn Book interview, author Louis Cassie for the unfairness of her world. The book
Sachar insists he was inspired mainly by the heat in doesn’t offer easy answers. It presents a tragically
Texas and just wanted to write an intriguing story. realistic view of a year in one child’s life and invites
Three important questions, then: (1) If the author readers to draw their own conclusions. Books like
didn’t write with the express purpose of teaching Roll of Thunder (also a Newbery winner) are great
something, is it valid to look for a lesson that isn’t literature because they encourage readers to reread
intended? (2) Why is it that we often demand lit- the book and enjoy it for different reasons every
erature for young people to teach some sort of les- time. A book that is mainly read to learn a lesson
son? (3) Do we not have enough faith in our cannot do this: once the lesson is learned, the book
children’s abilities to draw their own conclusions has no purpose. Reading is a complex combination
without the story spelling it out for them? of aesthetic pleasure, vicarious experience, and
I also believe that heteroglossia, or the presence mental exercise, and to restrain young-adult readers
of diverse voices within a work, is one of the hall- and ourselves by moralizing every piece of literature
marks of good writing. Authors who can, within is to restrict understanding.
one single book, express views that contradict each
other should be praised, not shunned, and multiple Jessie L. Christensen grew up in California, Idaho,
viewpoints within a particular novel are often an and Maryland and managed to read nearly all the
achievement, not a disappointment. This is espe- young-adult books in the libraries of each state. She
cially important in the world of young-adult litera- served in the Spain Madrid Mission and is currently
ture. Most teenagers reach the point in their lives double-majoring in Spanish translation and English
when they begin to discover the varied contradic- at BYU, where she and her husband, Ben, will be
tions that exist in the world. They are highly aware graduating this April. She has defended young-adult
that life is complex, and they don’t want to be literature in English Journal.
talked down to.
In real life everything that happens, and every-
thing that is read, doesn’t always have an obvious
lesson. Such overt moralistic lessons require a sim-
plification of story, and most of the time this sim-
plification results in a bland, unengaging narrative
that appeals to no one, especially its intended audi-
ence. However, when an author chooses not to sim-
plify issues and instead presents a more realistic and
complex plot, without glossing over the messy
parts, the result is often an excellent book that can
be read repeatedly.
I still have a battered copy of Mildred Taylor’s
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry I bought in seventh
grade. I’m not sure how many times I have read it,
but I always want to read it again. Now that I’m

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M E M O I R “I think she was,” I say. “Thank you.” The man


puts his arm around the woman’s shoulders, and
Natural she leans into him as they turn away to speak with
my father.
By K. L. Jackman There seem to be a lot of temple workers. It’s a
part of Mom’s life with Father I never took part in.
“She looks so peaceful. So natural.” When I left for college after a mission, Father was
I smile and nod and say thank you, then let the effectively inactive and my parents were struggling
sad-faced woman hug me tightly. As she moves with their marriage. Temple work wasn’t even a
away I look into the casket again and try to see possibility.
what the woman saw. But all I see is a cakey face
made up to look like someone else’s memory. She I saw my parents now and again after I left for
looks neither peaceful nor serene. And she certainly school, and talked to them on the phone. Snippets
doesn’t look natural. here and there, bits of talk separated by weeks or
I’ve seen many expressions on my mother’s face— months. But it was all distant, remote from the life
hurt and anger, joy and contentment, sorrow and I had begun to establish for myself.
peace. And bemusement. I’ve even seen a certain Even her health failed during that time. She’d
mischievous glee after she said something she had diabetes since I was eight, but it wasn’t until
thought wonderfully wicked. she got pregnant at forty that the combination
But I’ve never seen the expression the embalmers overtaxed her system and drove her kidneys to fail.
have put on her face. The edges of her lips turned The baby was stillborn. All I ever knew of my little
sharply upward, but the overall line of her mouth
sister was a story, a photograph, and a wooden cra-
down. The corners of her eyes have also been
dle that appeared in my old bedroom one Christ-
turned up, and though her forehead is smooth her
mas when I went home to visit. She never talked
eyebrows are tightly knit. It’s a mismatch of expres-
about it, but there was a new sadness in her eyes
sions, a mix of surprise and pain and confusion
covered over with a clown smile. that never went away. After that my parents drew
An elderly couple walks up. The man hangs together, overcame the problems that had nearly
back, but the woman reaches out and embraces me. ended their marriage two years before. I learned
She’s very short, just like my mother. The top of about it all—the pregnancy, a sister, the stillbirth,
her white hair just touches my chin. It tickles, and the reconciliation—over the phone and after the
I consider lifting my head, but that seems rude, so fact. A story told by a little voice in my ear as my
instead I let my head drop forward and down, and roommates watched Aliens in the other room.
my face presses into the stiffly sprayed blue-gray I didn’t mean to abandon her, but I guess that’s
curls smelling vaguely of lavender and dust. I wait what happened. I moved away to college in another
for the woman to let go. state; how could I be a part of her daily life?
Her husband steps forward and puts his hand on I knew diabetes was slowly destroying her, but it
my shoulder. His voice is smooth with an accent I happened over a period of years. There was no cri-
can’t place but that sounds generically rural. “We sis point, no single moment when it changed from
worked with your mother in the temple. She was an ongoing condition to an immediate fear—at
always so helpful and willing to do whatever least not for me. Just a slow progression of intrusive
was needed, even when it was hard for her. She was but workable symptoms that became familiar over
a special woman.” time. Nearly invisible.
The woman steps back and takes my hands. “She She started to lose her eyesight while I was still
was always so happy in the temple. Now she’s greet- on my mission. Mom was never very attentive
ing people on the other side of the veil. I think she about her diet and didn’t monitor her blood sugar
was ready to move on.” or regulate her insulin shots effectively. The result

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was that the liquid inside her eyes became saturated Father has moved to the far side of the room, to
with sugar, and tiny blood vessels began to grow the right of the casket. He seems tired, and he’s aged
randomly in that ultra-rich environment, not unlike a lot since I last looked closely. I see relief in the set
algae growing in a pond. Of course many of them of his face, the slump of his shoulders. I know it’s
grew through her retinas, both blocking the light unfair, but it bothers me a little that he should be
and making it harder for her eyes to focus. It’s so obviously relieved at Mom’s passing.
called diabetic retinopathy, and they can use lasers There should be more evidence of grief, shouldn’t
to burn some of the blood vessels away and restore there? But all I feel is a vague sense of hurt and dis-
some sight. But once the process has started it can’t tance and increasing loneliness.
really be reversed.
When I first came home from my mission Mom Mom never actually used the word adultery
told me about it. She said it was like wearing dark when she told me why she was crying that morn-
sunglasses all the time. Outside in bright light she ing, but that’s the word that has rung in my mind
still felt confident enough to drive, but indoors since that day two months after I got back from my
or at night she had a hard time making out fine mission.
details. Reading became difficult; there were mag- What she said was, “I think your father is being
nifying glasses all over the house. unfaithful to me.” Then she told me about how
Sometimes she got tired or frustrated or angry, he’d been trying to convince her to divorce him for
but she always managed and she didn’t ask for a lot the past year. She told me details about things he
of help. She was always independent that way. At had said to her—cruel words carefully chosen to
the time I thought it was cool and I was proud of enrage, to push her into legally ending their mar-
her for refusing to give in to her condition. riage. He told her he wouldn’t contest it. It was
important to him that she take the action to
No one has come past in the last few minutes, so divorce him, not the other way around. I didn’t see
I move from the casket to the edge of the room and the distinction.
pretend to look at the cards attached to large floral The words poured out, and I saw the terror that
arrangements lining the wall opposite the doors. filled her at the prospect of being left alone, the fear
I recognize some of the names, but most are as that her isolation was inevitable. As her eyesight
unfamiliar as the faces around me. failed she had become dependent on him and didn’t
I step out into the hall, use the restroom. The know how to survive by herself. She needed him.
funeral home is elegant and clean, with oak wain- I didn’t know how to comfort her, so I tried
scoting and brass sconces and tasteful wallpaper in everything I could think of. I reviewed her medical
a tiny floral pattern against an ivory background. It and legal options, offered space in my apartment at
surprises me a little, though I’m not sure why. college, quoted missionary scriptures about hope
Maybe I expect an odor of formaldehyde or myste- and judgment and justice until she looked up at me
rious thuds behind the walls or the muted sound of with tired eyes and said, “Please don’t lecture me
employees laughing in a distant room away from any more.”
somber strangers. Instead, everything is quiet and After that I stayed silent and just listened when
orderly and odor-free. My gut tightens as I step she needed to talk, helped her with the things she
back into the viewing room. couldn’t do herself and wouldn’t ask my father for.
While the room is hardly crowded, it still seems I ended up driving her to the other woman’s house
full with people standing together in groups of one night when he said he was working late. He
three or four. This is only a viewing; the funeral will was there. When he came out I was tense. I expected
be at the church tomorrow. The sound of mur- a sordid scene with screaming and threats and curi-
muring voices is oddly comforting. ous neighbors peeking through windows to see

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what the row was about. Instead, he talked quietly The scene stings. I’ve never been very close to
with her for a moment, then they walked together my father, and I can’t remember the last time I felt
to his car and drove away, leaving me standing comfortable in his presence. Still, it seems like these
alone on the sidewalk in front of a harlot’s house. people have usurped my rightful place to stand
Mom stopped talking with me about it after with him, to know the death of my mother in a
that. The only thing she ever told me about that way no one else can.
night was their decision to seek counseling and her Except they may well have known my mother
belief that he had never actually committed adul- better than I did. Certainly they’re closer to my
tery—that he lied to her about it so she would father.
divorce him. That distinction was important to her.
I didn’t see it.
We spent the rest of the summer successfully It wasn’t until the
pretending nothing had happened. Father never
said a word to me about it, and the normal com- gurney arrived and they
petitive distance between us grew into a gulf, at began to take her away
least for me. I don’t think he knew I had been ready
to kill him that night—to literally end his life—if that I finally panicked.
he had made any kind of aggressive move toward
my mother. I don’t think it even occurred to him I
might have been injured by any of it. He certainly But isn’t that how the system is supposed to work:
didn’t think I deserved an explanation. leaving father and mother to cleave unto your wife,
to make your own life and family? Isn’t that Gospel
A hand touches my elbow, and I startle and look Truth? Yet I used the distance as an insulator, a bar-
up. “How are you holding up?” Father asks. rier between me and them—between me and him.
“I’m fine. How are you holding up? This has got It was easier to be distant, to avoid him. I thought
to be harder for you than it is for me.” my anger would go away with enough time.
He sighs. “I had plenty of time to prepare.” He Mom wasn’t supposed to die so soon; there was
shrugs. “The dialysis was really hard on her. You supposed to be more time. She was supposed to
didn’t see it, but she really slowed down a lot over bridge the growing gap between Father and me, to
the past few years. We both knew she would die provide me with safety while I learned how to not
young. Still, fifty seems too young.” feel hurt by him any more.
I stand quietly for a moment looking at a spot I’m not sure it’s possible now. That idea hurts
on his shoulder. Father lost his mother when he more than I thought it could.
was only twenty—ten years younger than I am
now. She died after a slow, debilitating convales- She looked exhausted the night before she died.
cence. I have no memory of Grandma; she died Mom flew to Salt Lake for her annual summer visit
when I was less than a year old. to see her only son; Father was scheduled to fly in
I try to imagine my wife dying, as with my father two days later, after work on Friday.
and his father before him, and the thought takes Mom liked to shop at Mormon Handicraft and
my breath away. I say, “I think it must be harder to walk around Temple Square and visit with friends
lose your wife than your mother.” who had moved back to Utah. I think she liked
“Maybe.” being in a place where her religion had so many
He moves back toward the casket to speak with outward representations, so much of a public pres-
another elderly couple I don’t recognize. They hug ence. I think she felt comforted by it. She stayed at
Father and stand close to him, and he seems at ease the Marriott in downtown Salt Lake. My wife and
with them. Comfortable. I got a room three doors up the hall so we could

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drive her to the University of Utah medical center “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said loudly. “This is
for dialysis the next morning. security. Would you please come to the door? Your
She ate dinner in her room that night; she was son is here.”
too tired to deal with a restaurant and ordered sand- When she didn’t answer after two more tries he
wiches from room service. Mom picked at her fruit used his radio to call for a tool to open the door.
bowl and ate most of the cottage cheese. As we ate I started to pace, feeling stupid for not doing this
our turkey clubs (without mayonnaise) we told her earlier. Time mattered with an insulin reaction, and
about all the things happening in our lives, how we I had been unable to reach her for over an hour
were dealing with the challenges of a newly motile before I finally called security. Why did I wait so
one-year-old, how we were expecting our second long when I knew she could be in trouble?
child in March. I noticed Mom’s eyes fluttered as A thin clerk arrived with a hooked tool, and the
she struggled to keep them open, and I thought I big security man reached it into the gap in her door
heard her snoring once. and popped the hinge out of the privacy latch. The
We finally excused ourselves as Mom loaded her door burst inward, and I stepped into her room.
evening insulin shot. It was only eight-thirty. She had fallen in the narrow gap between the
I called her the next morning to see if she wanted bed and the wall. As soon as I saw her I knew she
breakfast. When she didn’t answer I assumed she was dead. I whispered, “Oh, Mom,” as the security
was in the shower and waited fifteen minutes before man pushed past me and felt for a pulse. I helped
calling again. When she didn’t answer the second him move her out into the room, where he gave her
time I knocked on her door and listened for the mouth-to-mouth and I performed CPR. Her skin
sounds of the shower. Nothing. She must have gone was cool and a little blue, and I knew she had been
for a walk. She was on the list to receive a kidney dead for over an hour. I wondered if I had caused
as soon as a donor became available and needed to this, if I had startled her with my first phone call
keep her weight down to hold her place. that morning, causing the stroke or heart attack or
When we got back from breakfast I called her whatever it was that had killed her so fast she fell
again; we had to leave within the next half-hour to where she had stood, garment tops clutched so
get to the medical center on time. She didn’t answer tightly in her hand I couldn’t pull them out with-
her phone or my knocks at her door, and it finally out first prying her fingers away.
occurred to me Mom might have forgotten to take Then the paramedics came in a bustle of noise
her insulin shot. She could be having an insulin and equipment and hurried movement. It seemed
reaction and unable to respond to either the phone obvious their efforts were useless, but the security
or the door. man said once they started they weren’t allowed to
I called security and they told me to wait at the stop until a doctor told them to. I sat there on the
elevator; someone would be up in a moment with foot of the bed staring at her as the paramedics
a master key and some glucose. I felt a little silly; worked. I was startled when my wife pulled the top
she’d probably just stepped out for a walk and lost sheet out from under me and spread it over Mom’s
track of the time. With her poor eyesight she could naked legs and belly as the paramedics worked at
easily have gotten lost. her head and chest. I had forgotten my wife was
The man from security was huge. I stand over six even there.
feet and weigh almost three hundred pounds, but It wasn’t until the gurney arrived and they began
this man dwarfed me. I led him to her room, and to take her away that I finally panicked. My car was
he inserted his electronic master key in the slot; the in the parking garage, so I lost touch with the para-
light turned green and the door clicked. He pushed, medics for a few minutes while I ran down the back
but the privacy latch was thrown and the door stairs. As I emerged onto the street I could just see
opened only about three inches before the sliding the ambulance turning the corner a half-block away
bolt stopped it. and I drove recklessly to catch up, swerving around

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cars and running two red lights. As I sped through I had forgotten she was even there. My own wife.
the second red I noticed a police car in the oncom- My own love.
ing lane. Maybe the cop wasn’t paying attention, I walk toward my father as he stands beside
because he didn’t come after me even though the Mom’s casket. I hear him giving rather than receiv-
light had been red for ten seconds. ing comfort from these strangers. Though they
When I got to the hospital they told me to wait speak words of comfort, it is my father’s quiet
and pointed at a phone so I could call Father and tell thanks and murmured assurances that bring peace
him Mom was dead. The line was busy; someone to the strangers’ faces. His words suggest a fully
from the hospital or the hotel had gotten there first. integrated faith that I have no choice but to
admire, despite my other frustrations.
The viewing is almost over, and a deep disap- The doctors said it was a sudden massive heart
pointment is settling over me. The room is mostly attack, that Mom died quickly and without pain. I
empty now and has been for much of the past hour. look down at her face nestled in white satin and
I guess I expected some grand understanding to know the doctors were wrong; it may have been
come over me, some great acceptance to pour into only for an instant, but she knew something terri-
my soul. But as I watch Father speak to another ble had happened to her. It was all there on her face
pair of temple workers I realize my epiphany isn’t despite the morticians’ best efforts to erase it.
going to come. “She looks so natural,” a soft voice says. I turn
I feel cheated. A week ago a stranger usurped my and see a tall, thin woman with sculpted features
position as son to inform him of Mom’s death. and dyed black hair. She seems familiar, but I can’t
Now, more strangers comfort him at her passing. come up with a name. Her head is tilted so she can
I should be the one offering comfort, but the wall look Mom straight in the face.
of reserve has built between us for ten years and I I look down at Mom again, and it occurs to me
don’t know how to breach it. I should forgive him maybe this woman is right. I suddenly understand
for the old hurts I still have, for the betrayals I still the look on her face because it so completely
feel, for trying to drive my mother away ten years expresses my own inner feelings: pain and anger,
ago, and for not being there a week ago when she confusion as to what this sudden sensation means,
died in a hotel room far from home, naked on the and frustration for what has been and what can no
floor, alone. longer be.
I want to forgive him, but I don’t know how. “Yes, she does,” I say. “I think she was ready to
Mom is dead, and nothing has changed between us. move on.”
For ten years I’ve held a grudge against my father The woman touches my hand, then steps toward
for ignoring me, for failing to recognize I also had my father. I look at Mom one more time, then over
a part in the little drama that unfolded the night toward Father. Though he speaks to the tall, thin
my parents met outside the other woman’s house— woman with the elegant features and soft tones, he
the night they began to repair the damage done to looks at me.
their relationship by years of neglect. The night my I step toward him. I still don’t know how to
mother and father chose to forget their son had also bridge the gulf that has grown between us. It’s been
lost something precious. so long since I haven’t been angry at him, since I
Then a week ago I sat on the edge of the bed and haven’t felt hurt. I look into his eyes and see he’s
watched my wife cover my mother’s nakedness tired, as I am. I want to say something comforting.
with a sheet, something I should have done long But I don’t know how.
before. But I was too caught up in my own experi- I hope the words will come. I trust they will. In
ence, too caught up in my own shock and fear to time.
consider whether she might also know pain at see-
ing my mother’s death from so near.

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S T O R Y she knew, was death, the place where delirious,


adventurous men would go, leaving their wives and
Flight daughters standing in windows between where they
were and where they wanted to be.
By Jack Harrell Knowing this, she thought she should turn away
from the window. She thought she should walk
She was standing at the window on the third down the hall and deliver the sleeve of files to the
floor of the office building where she worked. She Accounting Department. But something tugged
had a sleeve of files in her hand. She had stopped to on her, beckoned her—something sudden and irra-
look at the blue, summer morning sky. Sparrows tional. She closed her eyes for a moment, still
were fluttering excitedly in and out of each other’s facing the window. She took a breath, hoping that
paths in the clear space before her, and one slow, when she opened her eyes, her world would not
black, and iridescent crow was flying in the dis- silently and utterly scatter, like hosts of sparrows in
tance beyond the sparrows, its horizontal path nervous flight.
bisecting her field of vision.
Her father had died when she was twenty-two, Jack Harrell teaches English at BYU–Idaho. Signa-
awakening from a coma an hour before his death, ture Books will publish his first novel, Vernal
delirious and drugged, to whisper to her mother Promises, in June.
that he’d glimpsed the other side and wanted to go.
Her husband had left six years later, going back
to North Carolina. One week each year he returned
to see their daughters. He spent ridiculous amounts
of money on them, unraveling the truce she would
spend the rest of the year mending. He owned a
dune buggy. He went skydiving. He always smelled
good. All his girlfriends were under twenty-five.
Each evening of his visit, she watched from the
doorstep as he and her daughters drove off in his
red Corvette, his North Carolina “First in Flight”
license plates reading SELL HI. She believed his life
was empty, and sometimes she felt bad for that.
Looking down at the parking lot, she found her
car among all the other cars, sitting mute and still.
If she took that car and drove somewhere far away,
where would she go? How would anything there be
different than anything here? She knew that some-
day everyone would leave her, and after that, she
would die and leave all of them—as her father had
done. Even her daughters would leave someday,
marrying men like her husband, because they were
like their mother, after all.
Seeing her reflection in the office window, she
knew that only two places existed in the world—
here, where it’s tough and real, and somewhere else,
where it’s only happy until it becomes familiar,
until it becomes another here. Beyond this world,

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E D I T O R I A L P O E T R Y

A Krill of Words Summer Journey


By Harlow S. Clark, IRREANTUM Poetry Editor Now it’s up to me
To bring in the can.
We are whales feeding I wrap my fist around the hard green handle
on a krill of words And heave.
—LaVerna B. Johnson, “Like Whales”
Maria Ann and Elizabeth
Words as food, an ancient tradition, ancient Flash through my mind.
when Emily Dickinson’s boy “ate and drank the A trashcan is so mundane
precious words,” and Joseph Smith declared that Compared with wagons and soap sticks.
words of truth taste sweet, ancient when St. John I smile at the nonsense of that.
ate the book that tasted sweet to the tongue and
bitter to the belly. Humans as sea-going mammals, Stripped to the sinew,
ancient when Jonah called out from the belly of I take on my summer journey
that fish we often refer to as a cousin, a mammal Plain nourishment, faith, children.
like ourselves, a whale.
In this issue, Judith Curtis’s “Appaloosa” is also —Janean Justham
about words, the joy of saying words, of discover-
ing what they mean, and what they mean (and
don’t) to others.
Janean Justham’s “Summer Journey” is also about Even So Shall It Be in That Day
words, words that connect us to our past. It reminds (Matthew 24:32–33)
me of a question I used to ask my writing students.
Why did the pioneers, American and Mormon, When Layne, who has Down syndrome, speaks to me
take covered wagons across the plains? Because the of fig trees sprouting tender leaves of green,
railroad hadn’t come through. of plain reminders he would watch to see—
I would explain that my mother’s grandmother how big his thoughts, how much they come to mean.
was in the last handcart company into Salt Lake
Valley, not because immigration stopped but because “We need to buy a fig tree right away,”
the next year the railroad had come through. She he said. “We need to watch for signs of spring.”
didn’t walk the whole way across the plains, either, “Agreed,” I say. “Then we’ll eat figs each day!
just from the end of the tracks. It’s good to see a The bed’s all set to plant a tree.” The thing
poem that creates a charming image to remind us
that we have our own journeys, no less important I miss he has the patience to point out.
because they involve pulling a garbage can up the “Not that! Soon Jesus come . . . I read the book.”
driveway, and not all the way across the country. Insisting that I learn, he turns about,
And LaVerna Johnson’s other poem is also about lays flat the scriptures that I, too, might look.
words and heritage, words that link us to our tradi-
tions. “Even So Shall It Be in That Day” carries “He be my friend. When Jesus come again
such a natural conversational tone, I didn’t realize it I see my Mom—and—I be normal, then!”
was rhymed the first few times I read it, and not
only rhymed but a sonnet, a love poem well crafted —LaVerna B. Johnson
and loving.

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E S S A Y was so unceasingly bizarre in its dedication to “B-


ness” made the whole experience, as I said, surreal.
The State of Dutcher’s Baby: To Smith’s credit, I think he may have actually
A Report on LDS Cinema to Date succeeded in either paying homage to or spoofing
bad B horror movies. Inescapable, however, was the
By Preston Hunter question, why? In the days that followed the pre-
mier, Smith and I discussed Zombie Campout at
“Surreal” is the best way to describe the experience. some length. I was shocked to learn he had spent
I attended the world premier of Zombie Campout only $5,000 to make the movie; I would have
at the swank Angelika Theater in Dallas, Texas, on guessed at least $20,000. Smith also revealed that
October 30, the day before Halloween. In some most of the other films he has written or is plan-
ways the actual movie itself was almost tangential, ning at this time are about Latter-day Saint charac-
a mere subset of the entire experience. The sold-out ters and topics. With these dreams, Joshua D. Smith
audience was filled with folks dressed as vampires, joins a shockingly large number of filmmakers with
drag queens, and other Halloween favorites, with similar plans.
an emphasis on zombie attire and makeup. The With a single night in a commercial theater,
invitations had specified there would be two con- Zombie Campout is easily one of the least-known
tests: for zombie and nonzombie costumes. feature films (if you can call it that) released this
Joshua D. Smith, the Latter-day Saint filmmaker year by a Latter-day Saint filmmaker. On the other
from Provo, Utah, who had written, produced, and end of the spectrum we have The Santa Claus 2, a
directed Zombie Campout, was the only person $65-million Disney film written by Latter-day
there wearing a tuxedo. It made him easy to pick Saint screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul.
out of the crowd. Unfortunately Smith arrived late After grossing over $125 million in its first six
and had time to utter only a few words of welcome weeks of release and earning positive reviews from
before starting the film. more than half of its reviewers, Santa Claus 2 could
The film had an actual built-into-the-reel inter- be seen as cinematic redemption for Daurio and
mission, complete with music and a wobbling graphic Paul, whose last movie was the critically lambasted
from a 1950s drive-in. During the intermission box-office flop Bubble Boy (2001).
Smith stood at the theater entrance, greeting ghosts Neither Zombie Campout nor Santa Claus 2 fea-
and goblins as they went for refreshments or a ture Latter-day Saint characters or any other overt
bathroom break. This was the first time he had ever clues identifying the religious affiliation of the
had a film screened before so many people. His movies’ writers. It is only because the filmmakers
smile was broad and frantic. I’ve rarely seen a body took the time to contact LDSFilm.com that we
look more nervous. know about them at all. But Latter-day Saints
The big party after the movie featured multiple whose films do not feature LDS characters and are
bands, refreshments, and presumably enough alco- made for mainstream rather than specifically LDS
hol to help the Texan audience escape the memory audiences are the rule, not the exception.
of the movie they had just seen. But I had to skip What is often forgotten in this Dutcher era is
that portion of the event. As I drove home, my that Latter-day Saints have been making movies
“date” for the evening—my ward’s high priest almost since the medium was invented. Latter-day
group leader, a man with decades of experience in Saints have been writing, directing, photographing,
live theater—observed that it is very difficult to and starring in major studio films on a regular basis
make a “spoof of a spoof.” at least since 1913, two years after the first studio
Had this been the premier of a typical movie, the was built in Hollywood.
night might not have been as memorable, costumes But what everybody wants to talk about these
notwithstanding. But the fact that Zombie Campout days is the trend started by Richard Dutcher’s God’s

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Army: commercial feature films by and about count should at least double the four movies
Latter-day Saints. released during 2002. If this rate of increase con-
God’s Army was released in 2000, the only movie tinues, by 2009 the number of LDS-themed films
of its kind that year. The number doubled to two released would exceed the total number of feature
in 2001, when both Dutcher’s Brigham City and films released in the United States this year (about
Mitch Davis’s The Other Side of Heaven were released. 440). Obviously this is not going to happen.
That number doubled again in 2002, which saw Associated Press reporter C. G. Wallace wrote an
the release of four such movies: Kurt Hale’s The article about Latter-day Saint–themed movies that
Singles Ward, Ryan Little’s Out of Step, Jack Wey- appeared in newspapers across the country, includ-
land’s Charly, and Kels Goodman’s Handcart. I fully ing the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle,
expect 2003 to be a fourth year of doubling, with Baltimore Sun, Arizona Republic, Milwaukee Journal
at least eight LDS-themed movies released in the- Sentinel, and CNN.com. Wallace said that Latter-
aters. Five movies have already been filmed and are day Saint–themed movies have “been flooding Utah
in postproduction or simply awaiting release: Kurt screens.” Is seven movies during three years really a
Hale’s The R.M., Nathan Smith Jones’s The Work flood? Will eight LDS-themed movies during a sin-
and the Story, Mark Potter’s Suddenly Unexpected, gle year really be so many? That will represent only
Adam Lawson’s Day of Defense (which may or may two percent of the movies released in theaters dur-
not be released theatrically), and Curtis Taylor’s ing the year. As two percent is roughly the percent-
American Grace (which may or may not be com- age of Americans who are Latter-day Saints, this
pleted). Other films well into preproduction with would seem to be a minimal level of parity.
good chances of being completed and released in Of course, the artistically minded might protest
2003 include Ryan Little’s Saints of War, Gary that one LDS-themed movie during a year is too
Rogers’s Book of Mormon movie, Scott S. Ander- many if it’s not any good, and twenty would be fine
son’s The Best Two Years of My Life, and Robert if they’re all as good as Citizen Kane. About God’s
Smith’s Baptists at Our Barbecue. Army, Dutcher told Wallace, “I wanted it to bring
This list of probable 2003 releases doesn’t even all these filmmakers and writers out of the wood-
include The Legend of Johnny Lingo, which has work. Now that I’ve seen how it’s gone, however,
already been filmed by the Latter-day Saint pro- I’d like some of them to go back into the wood-
ducers and editor of The Other Side of Heaven. The work.” Perhaps Dutcher feels the same way his fel-
release of this Polynesian-themed movie means that low church member Philo Farnsworth did years
producer Gerald R. Molen’s last-ever movie will not after inventing television when he realized most
be Minority Report, the Steven Spielberg–directed Americans weren’t using his invention to watch
science-fiction thriller released in theaters last June opera and the equivalent of C-SPAN.
and on video/DVD in December 2002. The Leg- Latter-day Saint filmmakers are indeed coming
end of Johnny Lingo, which will be marketed to “out of the woodwork.” It seems that every week
Latter-day Saint audiences when it is released in we receive word about new film projects. Some of
2003, is based on an expanded version of the same these are LDS-themed films. Some are mainstream
story that was adapted by Wetzel O. Whitaker as a projects. Rocco DeVilliers (Pure Race, Only Once)
BYU movie in 1969. The movie shares its title and is currently wrapping up Fly Boys, an action movie
characters with the BYU video that has, more than featuring young protagonists and actor Stephen
any other, entered into Mormon pop-culture con- Baldwin. Canadian Latter-day Saints Chris Triffo
sciousness. But without any actual Latter-day Saint and Ron Goetz are always busy with substantive
characters, should Johnny Lingo be classified as part documentary work; their latest is a documentary
of the LDS cinema niche? about Canada’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
That’s a discussion for another day. Even with- Martin Andersen’s latest short inspirational film,
out Johnny, the 2003 LDS-themed feature-film Journey to Harmony will soon be available at LDS

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bookstores, as will John Lyde’s upcoming inspira- LaBute’s previous movie, Nurse Betty, grossed $25
tional comedy about home teaching, In the Service million in the United States.
of God. Christian Vuissa has won awards nation-
wide with his short film about a mixed Catholic/
Latter-day Saint family, Roots and Wings. Two films If the measure of a film’s
by BYU students were chosen out of 1,800 entries
nationwide for inclusion in the prestigious Slam- artistic worth is the amount
dance Film Festival in January 2003: Andrew Black’s
The Snell Show and Jared Hess’s Peluca. T. C. Chris- of controversy it generates,
tensen and Scott Swofford are putting the finishing
touches on a multi-million-dollar IMAX documen-
nearly all of the LDS-themed
tary called Texas: The Big Picture. Disney’s IMAX feature films have been
drama The Young Black Stallion is being photo-
graphed by prolific cinematographer Reed Smoot. extraordinarily artistic.
Bruce Neibaur is giving famed astrophysicist
Stephen Hawking the IMAX treatment. Many
other recently completed or soon-to-be-finished Another feature film premiering at Sundance
films could be listed. was The United States of Leland, starring Latter-day
Of course, the biggest event in the world of Saint actor Ryan Gosling in the title role. In
independent film is the Sundance Film Festival. December 2002, Gosling received critical acclaim
Held annually in Park City, Utah, the festival was when the American Film Institute named The
founded by Latter-day Saint filmmaker Sterling Believer as one of the top-ten TV programs or
van Wagenen and his then-brother-in-law Robert movies of 2002. The AFI named Gosling’s tour-de-
Redford. This year’s festival lineup included the lat- force performance in the film as the reason the
est feature film by Neil LaBute, The Shape of movie was selected for the honor. In The Believer,
Things. Yet another feature that LaBute has adapted Gosling stars as an Orthodox Jew who becomes a
from one of his own plays, Shape has been neo-Nazi. The film’s writer/director said he chose
described by some as a gender inversion of his crit- Gosling for the role because the actor’s background
ically acclaimed directorial debut, In the Company in a devout Latter-day Saint family meant he really
of Men. In Shape, a female art student remakes a understood the religious nature of the movie’s title
simple museum guard in her own image as an art character.
project. In a December 2002 newspaper interview, Yet neither critical acclaim (such as LaBute has
LaBute was asked if he was rethinking his church received) nor box-office success (such as Daurio and
affiliation after being disfellowshipped as a result of Paul’s Santa Claus 2 has seen) have interested the
his play Bash. He answered: “I don’t question my average Latter-day Saint film fan as much as movies
faith at all. I question my place in the church.” with Latter-day Saint characters and themes. The
The Shape of Things is something of a return to most common topic people ask me about is Richard
his roots for LaBute. His most recent movie, 2002’s Dutcher and whatever he might be working on.
Possession starring fellow BYU graduate Aaron Eck- News about his plans for a Joseph Smith biopic
hart and Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow, was sen- seems to have seeped into every corner of Mor-
timental and romantic rather than dark and cynical mondom. But The Prophet isn’t exactly on the fast
like In the Company of Men, Your Friends and track to production. These days I tell people to
Neighbors, and virtually all of his plays. Possession watch for Dutcher in a starring role in the upcom-
earned mostly positive reviews, but its $10-million ing mockumentary The Work and the Story, written
U.S. box-office performance was lackluster, especially and directed by Nathan Smith Jones with consider-
considering its production budget of $25 million. able plot input from Dutcher himself. The movie

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will be distributed by Excel Entertainment, the Unlike every other LDS-themed feature film,
company that has distributed four of the seven Out of Step was released only in Utah. In fact, it
LDS-themed feature films released so far. was released twice: once on February 15 during the
People in my stake frequently ask me about The Olympics and again on September 30. I believe but
Singles Ward, which was recently released on video have not yet been able to confirm that the box-
and DVD. As seems to be the case everywhere, office gross for the movie surpassed its reported
many people loved it, many people hated it, but it’s $200,000 production budget. This alone doesn’t
hard to find a lukewarm reaction. If the measure of mean the movie was profitable for its investors. But
a film’s artistic worth is the amount of controversy Out of Step may well have a second life on DVD
it generates, nearly all of the LDS-themed feature and video. Early indicators are that shipments are
films have been extraordinarily artistic. selling out. The home DVD and video sales for
One cinema lover in my ward called The Singles God’s Army exceeded its box-office gross within
Ward the best LDS-themed film yet. Another film- months, setting a pattern that other LDS-themed
loving member of my ward called it “an abomination,” movies seem to be following.
essentially echoing the sentiment of many of its A theatrical release may be the best way of mar-
detractors. Equal levels of vitriol have been leveled keting an eventual video to a Latter-day Saint market
against God’s Army, Brigham City, The Other Side of accustomed to waiting for most of its movies—
Heaven, and Charly, although usually by different whether made by Spielberg or Dutcher—to be view-
people and for different reasons. For every person able at home. Some filmmakers seem to be counting
who hated one of these movies, it meant at least on this. The producers of Handcart announced
two people had purchased tickets. dates and details regarding that movie’s DVD
The relatively small amount of controversy and release before the movie hit theaters, although later
argument stirred up by the two lowest-grossing press releases omitted mention of when the DVD
LDS-themed feature films, Out of Step and Hand- will be released. Gary Rogers described details of
cart, represents the worst fate of all. Few, if any, edi- the DVD for his planned Book of Mormon feature
torials, letters to the editor, or online flame wars film before he even cast the movie.
erupted in the wake of these two movies. Judged While the Handcart camp may be planning the
purely on content—not on technique or quality— most jam-packed DVD yet for a LDS-themed fea-
these are potentially the most controversial LDS- ture film, they have not yet given up on the show’s
themed films of all. Handcart features as a main theatrical run. The historical epic, which cost
character a Mormon-hater who joins the church $300,000 to produce and publicize, earned only
and treks west out of the desire to prove the church $70,000 during its initial release, which was pri-
is false. And thematically Out of Step is largely marily in Utah theaters, along with Rexburg,
about sex. It is the first and only LDS-themed fea- Idaho; Cardston, Canada; and Evanston, Wyoming.
ture film whose climax revolves around the ques- This means Handcart is the lowest-grossing LDS-
tions “How far did they go?” and “What is she themed feature film so far, presuming Out of Step
going to do about it?” earned more. Kels Goodman, the movie’s director,
It would have been good if the producers of Out reports higher revenues from theaters outside the
of Step received thousands instead of mere dozens Wasatch Front and believes that as Handcart opens
of complaints about the “inappropriate” outfits in California, Nevada, Arizona, and other states the
worn by Alison Akin Clark’s character in the movie. movie will do much better. He even plans to bring
It would have meant that hundreds of thousands it back to Utah after out-of-state audiences have
more people had actually seen it, most of them seen it.
understanding that the character’s shifting modes Goodman believes Handcart failed to sell more
of dress were outward reflections of internal tickets because they spent relatively little on mar-
changes. keting and, more importantly, because Utahns were

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“burned out” with LDS films. Perhaps that’s true. director of The Legend of Johnny Lingo. Kels Good-
But Charly opened just before Handcart, and man is still working hard on the distribution and
moviegoers were not too “burned out” to go see DVD of Handcart, and it will be some time before
that. Did seeing Charly turn moviegoers off to the he begins filming his next planned film, which is
next film that came along? Or did audiences simply about Boy Scouts, not Latter-day Saints. Adam
not like Handcart very much? Charly, which cost Thomas Anderegg, the director of Charly, has not
$700,000 to produce, actually received lower over- announced what he plans to do next.
all marks from reviewers at the state’s major news- Ryan Little will probably be the next director to
papers than Handcart did. But Charly sustained release a second LDS-themed film. Little filmed
ticket sales for week after week without the steep Saints of War in January and February. The producer
drop-off seen by most movies, a sign of strong is Brian Brough. Its pedigree alone means that this
word-of-mouth recommendations. could become one of the genre’s best movies.
The R.M., a new comedy from the makers of Little’s directorial debut, Out of Step, earned praise
The Singles Ward, debuted in early 2003. As was from Richard Dutcher and better marks from Utah
The Singles Ward, this new movie was written by movie critics than any of the non-Dutcher LDS
John E. Moyer and Kurt Hale, directed by Kurt films. Little has earned national awards for his
Hale, and produced by Dave Hunter. This time the short films, such as The Last Good War and Freedom
star is Kirby Heyborne, playing an earnest returned on the Water. Furthermore, Brian Brough not only
missionary who encounters Joblike trials in his worked with Little on The Last Good War but he
postmission life. In The Singles Ward, Heyborne was also the assistant director for Brigham City and
costarred as the young roommate called to serve a the production manager for The R.M.
mission in Idaho. Will Swenson, the star of The While I wait to hear more about these and other
Singles Ward, plays Kirby’s best friend, a young man projects, I look forward to seeing Richard Dutcher
who did not serve a mission and now seems to have on screen again, although this time it will be in a
a great life. Canadian pop singer Maren Ord film he stars in but did not direct. The trailer for
costars as Heyborne’s engaged sister. Nathan Smith Jones’s soon-to-be-released mocku-
With the release of The R.M., Kurt Hale mentary, The Work and the Story, states ominously:
becomes only the second director (Dutcher was the “The founder of LDS cinema is missing and pre-
first) to release a second LDS-themed feature film. sumed dead . . . and the race to take his place has
Whatever its artistic merits (audiences and non- begun.” Because this movie was written and
Utah critics liked it more than Utah critics), The directed by Jones, most people will not realize that
Singles Ward enjoyed sufficient financial success this ostensibly self-annihilating plot was actually
that its producers were able to make another devised by none other than Dutcher himself. When
movie; it cost $500,000 to produce and market and you figure out the significance of that, be sure to let
grossed $1,250,798 at the U.S. box office. Not me know.
only did The Singles Ward do well at the box office,
but hundreds of thousands of DVDs and videos are
now selling out, the movie’s soundtrack CD spent
many weeks at the top of the LDS CD sales charts,
and a spin-off CD, A Very Singles Christmas, was
released. (I’ve never actually heard of a soundtrack
CD spawning a spin-off CD that is not associated
with a movie. Maybe this is some kind of first.)
Mitch Davis has no current plans to direct
another movie, although Steven Ramirez, Davis’s
film editor for The Other Side of Heaven, is the

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E S S A Y twenty-four hours, and the theme for this year’s


marathon was “redemption.” The filmmakers had
A Festival for Winners: to incorporate a bar of soap and the line “You can’t
A Look at the Second LDS Film Festival just change . . .” The films showed a variety of dif-
ferent approaches to the same subject matter, and
By Ludwig Einklang many films were surprisingly high-quality produc-
tions. The two winners were Outward In by
The second LDS Film Festival was held Novem- Christopher Clark and Patrick Parker and Why I
ber 13–16, 2002, at the Provo City Library at Hate Myself by Tim Skousen.
Academy Square. After a successful second year, the Much like the previous year’s “Best of 2001”
LDS Film Festival has proven that it is becoming a program, the best films of last year’s competition
gathering place for LDS filmmakers, audiences, will go on a national and international tour. The
and industry professionals. With over thirty events tour program is offered to wards, stakes, institutes,
and screenings of more than eighty films, the sec- private parties, high schools, university campuses,
ond LDS Film Festival offered a broad variety of media arts centers, museums, libraries, and inde-
current LDS filmmaking. pendent theaters across the country and abroad.
Thirty-six films were screened in the four com- Last year’s program was screened eighteen times in
petition programs, eighteen of which were selected several states as well as in England and Italy. The
for the “Best of ” screenings. To get an idea of the “Best of 2002” program is a collection of the best
quality of this year’s competition program, it twelve short films in last year’s competition. The
should be noted that two films (Peluca by Jared program includes comedy, drama, documentary,
Hess and The Snell Show by Andrew Black) were and experimental films. It is enjoyable for all
also official selections for the Slamdance Film Fes- ages and can be appreciated by members and non-
tival 2003 in Park City. The competition programs members alike, and it will tour throughout the
were an audience magnet, with over 1,000 people coming year.
attending the screenings. A total attendance of Over $3,000 was awarded to the winners this
1,500 gave the festival a great boost in its second year, with the award money generously donated by
year; that was twice as many attendees as the year R. Don Oscarson. The prestigious Lightbox Award
before. The festival also had an astonishing went to Chet Thomas for his film Simplicity, which
response to its first feature-screenplay competition, won the short-film competition. Simplicity is a film
with over forty scripts submitted, many of which about redemption and forgiveness. Second place
dealt with LDS themes and characters. Interest- went to Tyler Measom for Fall of Man and third
ingly enough, none of the competition films dealt place to Bryan Lefler for Warplay. Festival judges
directly with LDS themes, although some imple- included Eric Snider, Alisa Anglesey, David Sapp,
mented gospel principles in their work. Thomas Baggaley, Scott Reinwand, Eric Samuel-
Parallel to the competition programs were sev- sen, and Melissa Leilani Larsen.
eral special screenings. Scott Tiffany’s documentary Among the dozens of festival presenters were
Forgotten Voyage about the Mormon sea trek that several of the new Mormon filmmakers, such as
sparked the gold rush, Chris Heimerdinger’s Lehi’s Dave Hunter and Kurt Hale, makers of The Singles
Land of First Inheritance, and Christian Vuissa’s Ward and The R.M., and Micah Merrill and Adam
award-winning Roots and Wings were among the Anderegg, the makers of Charly. Two upcoming
noncompetitive screenings. projects were introduced by Nathan Smith Jones
A new addition to this year’s festival was a (The Work and the Story) and Gary Rogers (a Book
twenty-four-hour filmmaking marathon that of Mormon movie). Both films are supposed to be
turned out to be a huge success. Thirty-four film- released in 2003. Another interesting presenter at
making groups signed up to create a film within the festival was Jose Maria Oliveira, who made two

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theatrically released films in Spain in the 1970s. of the LDS film audience: exactly who and where
His films implemented gospel principles and even they are, what it is they “want,” and what further
had an appearance of two Mormon missionaries. In steps are necessary to truly establish an audience
addition, two prominent LDS documentary film- and, therefore, an identity for “LDS cinema.”
makers were invited to talk about their work. Among the panelists were Adam Anderegg (direc-
Matthew Whittaker (Saints at War) introduced his tor of Charly), Sharon Swenson, Chris Heimer-
newest film Truth and Conviction: The Helmuth dinger, Ben Unguren, and Dean Hale, with Gideon
Huebner Story, and Lee B. Groberg (American Burton again mediating.
Prophet) talked about his new documentary Sacred The LDS Film Festival was initiated and organ-
Stone: The Temple at Nauvoo. Linda Thomson of ized by Christian Vuissa, a BYU film graduate from
Thomson Productions and Dean Hale of Excel Austria. He established the nonprofit organization
Entertainment covered the distribution end of LDSBOX to “sustain creative people in their pur-
LDS filmmaking in their presentations. suit to uplift the human spirit and support spiritu-
The purpose of the festival is to create a space for ality, religion, and transcendence in the arts and
LDS filmmakers to interact and network. Film- media.” Another goal of the organization is to con-
makers got to know producers, distributors, and nect LDS artists around the world and give them
other filmmakers. This aspect of the festival will be the opportunity to interact and exchange ideas.
expanded in 2003. “We now feel ready to expand Information on the festival can be found on the
the festival to a gathering place where filmmakers website at www.ldsbox.com or by e-mailing feed-
can be discovered and producers can find new tal- back@ldsbox.com.
ent,” says Christian Vuissa, founder and president
of the festival. A filmmakers’ lounge and a mingle Winners of the Feature Script Competition
party are already planned for 2003. Additionally,
screenings of all released LDS-themed motion pic- 1st Place ($400 award):
tures are planned, with the filmmakers present for Emily Stephens, The Last Hope
Q&A. The third LDS Film Festival will be held
November 12–15, 2003, at the Provo City Library 2nd Place ($150 award):
at Academy Square. Ben Gourley, Tusouka
Another important part of the festival was this
year’s Second LDS Film Forum. The theme of the 3rd Place ($50 award):
forum was “Fantasy and Reality in LDS Media.” Hubbel Palmer, Something That Happened
Perhaps no other debate in film history has been as
great as that about the nature of reality in cinema. Honorable Mention:
LDS films pose an even greater challenge due to the Nathan Scoll, Serpents in the Wild
Latter-day Saint view of reality in life and divergent Brian Taylor, Forgotten Apple Seed
views on its place in fiction. Presenters were invited Aaron Orullian, Mt. Pleasant
to discuss the roles of reality and fantasy in LDS
media past, present, and future. Presenters included Winners of the Short Screenplay Competition
Sharon Swenson, Susan Rather, Ben Unguren, and 1st Place ($400 award):
Eric Samuelsen, with Gideon Burton mediating. Barrett Hilton, Car Keys
Following the forum was a panel discussion about
“The LDS Cinematic Audience.” The 2001 festival 2nd Place ($150 award):
had featured a panel discussion on the nature of Cameron Hopkin, Mary’s Cross
LDS cinema and its place in private and commer-
cial distribution channels, and the 2002 panel 3rd Place ($50 award):
focused on this question by examining the nature Mary Christenson Aagard, Washington County Fair

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Honorable Mention: P O E T R Y
Brandon Dayton, Coney Island
Hubbel Palmer and Tim Skousen, Rainbows with a Like Whales
Great Circumference
Hubbel Palmer and Tim Skousen, ? We are whales feeding
on a krill of words, swimming
Winners of the 24-Hour Filmmaking Marathon between past and future shores,
sounding to find each other.
Tie for 1st Place ($200 awarded to each): Dictionaries fill our space with words like
Christopher S. Clark, Outward In thysanoessa spinilera, euphauslids—
Tim Skousen, Why I Hate Myself as generations swim back and forth
together, worlds overlapping.
Honorable Mention:
Spencer Arntsen, Mara Schooling through despots, we feed on
Jacen Brewer, The Bond between Brothers micro-histories of war and faith,
Christian Lambert, You Can’t Just Change . . . Can of strength and courage,
You? of marketplace, of medicine,
Jarond Suman, The Jacket of weak and wanton ways.
Tyree Pini, Redemption for Five Cents In every language, words are scattered there.
Smaller than whales, or larger still, we
Winners of the Short-Film Competition scoop eternal sounds, sift them through senses,
1st Place ($1,000 award) and winner of the Light- digest them as we dive through darkness,
box Award: light sometimes filtering down.
Chet Thomas, Simplicity
Who will define us?
2nd Place ($300 award): Who will learn our songs?
Tyler Measom, Fall of Man Will I feed within your hidden depths
if I descend or rise seeking your words?
3rd Place ($100 award): Who, in your eyes, has read you
Bryan Lefler, Warplay through and through?
When we are gone,
Audience Choice Awards: who can say like Nephi,
Susan Teh, 500 N 600 W & Beyond “I knew them?”
Chet Thomas, Simplicity
Spanky Ward, Number 9 We scatter words
to mark our wake, alone.
Honorable Mention: —LaVerna B. Johnson
Andrew Black, Avernus
Andrew Black, The Snell Show
Jared Hess, Peluca
Christopher Rawson, I Will Weep No More
Susan Teh, 500 N 600 W & Beyond

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R E V I E W S But The Hero is not just for boys. And it’s not
just an adventure story. It is a skillfully crafted,
Not Just for Boys thoughtful, and often moving chronicle of a young
boy’s movement toward maturity. Throughout the
A review of Ron Woods’s The Hero (Alfred A. Knopf, course of the novel, fourteen-year-old Jamie comes
2002) to recognize the complex and often puzzling ambi-
Reviewed by Sharlee Mullins Glenn guities of life. In this, The Hero is reminiscent of
that other great raft-on-a-river novel, Huckleberry
This was a tough review to write—not because I Finn. The parallels are obvious: the raft, the river,
didn’t like the book, but because I couldn’t keep my the journey, and the themes of prejudice, commu-
hands on the darn thing. nity, and self-discovery.
When the review copy of The Hero first arrived Ron Woods, an administrative assistant to the
in the mail, my thirteen-year-old son pounced on dean of the College of Humanities at Brigham
it. “Cool, another book about a raft on a river,” he Young University, is a very able writer. Although
said, then disappeared with it into the basement. The Hero is his first novel, he handles such elements
When I asked him how he’d liked the book several as dialogue, character development, foreshadow-
days later, he said, “It was great!” When I asked ing, and pacing with the ease and confidence of
him where it was, he said, “Uh, I think Patrick’s a seasoned craftsman. His language is fresh and
reading it.” lively—and very much in keeping with the tone of
After Patrick, my eleven-year-old, finished it, the novel: “But the thought of having to deal with
he passed it to his nine-year-old brother, who got Arlie Leeper or his fence—I’d rather shampoo a
through only chapter two before my husband spied porcupine,” says Jamie at one point. And later, Jamie
it on the dresser and hid it in his nightstand so he comments: “Right then, I was sure you could’ve
could read it in his spare time (which he seemed to hid Arlie’s brain in a gnat’s hind end with room
find in abundance over the next few days, especially, to spare.”
I might add, when he was supposed to be helping The setting of The Hero is the small community
me clean out our closet). “Wow, they should make of Union on the Payette River in Idaho. It is the
this book into a movie,” he once surfaced long summer of 1957, and Jamie and his older cousin,
enough to say, while I glared at him over an arm- Jerry, are busy building a raft. The last thing they
load of DI-bound dress shirts. want is to have their dweeby neighbor, Dennis,
When I finally laid hold of the book, I had to hanging around. But Jamie’s parents insist that the
stash it under a stack of Good Housekeeping maga- boys include Dennis, and they finally consent to let
zines whenever I wasn’t reading it, to keep it from him hold the rope as they take the raft out on the
the greedy paws of the remaining males in my fam- river. What happens next will test the physical,
ily. But, alas, when I sat down to write the review mental, and moral strength of all three boys in ways
this morning, the book had once again vanished. they could never have imagined.
A thorough interrogation of all possible suspects The Hero is an interesting blend of hair-raising
revealed that my husband was the repeat offender. suspense and a sort of quiet, philosophical intro-
He had taken the book to church on Sunday to spection. In the hands of Ron Woods, it’s a combi-
read to his class of deacons and had left it in his nation that works.
briefcase. My one complaint about the novel is that the
As you might have gathered, The Hero is a book ending seemed contrived to me. Let me explain.
that appeals to males. “Three boys. Two waterfalls. I almost got the feeling while reading the book that
One raft. And a ride that will change their lives for- the story had originally gone one direction and
ever” reads the back cover. What testosterone-driven then had later been changed, perhaps at the urging
reader wouldn’t be excited by that? of an editor, and most certainly so that it would

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seem less manipulative, less moralistic, less pre- Naomi, the novel’s protagonist, is twelve years
dictable. The problem is, the very effort to avoid old when the book begins. She and her siblings live
predictability produced, in my opinion, an ending with their spiteful aunt and uncle, characters typi-
that seems somewhat forced and not entirely ful- fying the harsh religiosity of early Puritan beliefs
filling. My thirteen-year-old son’s comment was: about God. Aunt Thankful is, for instance, the
“I really, really liked the book—but I wish it would polar opposite of her namesake virtue. Sadly, the
have ended this way.” I agree. The other ending children are just recently orphaned. A fire killed
would have been much more satisfying and, I believe, their parents and baby brother just months before.
ultimately more moving for the book’s targeted When the elderly pair decides that the children are
audience (young readers, particularly young male too much of a burden, they resolve to send Naomi
readers). to work in a mill where she can earn her own way
But the ending notwithstanding, The Hero is a in the world. Determined to keep her brothers and
powerful, finely crafted story. Should you read it? sister with her, she comes up with the idea to go to
Absolutely. Just keep your hands off my copy. the Shaker community to live. Here the children
thrive and Naomi gets an education in herbs and
Sharlee Mullins Glenn lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, healing. More importantly, she learns that “all heal-
with her book-stealing husband and her five children, ing is God’s work.” Drawing from her reserve of
all of whom are avid readers and none of whom are familial love and from her memories of life with
above snatching a good book right out from under her her parents as well as the experiences she has as a
nose. Sharlee has a graduate degree from Brigham healer in the Shaker community, Naomi develops
Young University. Her work has appeared in the a remarkable self-assurance that leads her in ways
Southern Literary Journal, Women’s Studies, IRRE- she does not anticipate.
ANTUM, Cricket, Wasatch Review International, The tone of this book is thoughtful and tender,
and BYU Studies. She has published several books for not at all heavy handed or sentimental. It is also
young readers. happily unpredictable. I particularly like the sub-
tlety of the reference to family in the following pas-
Tender Tale of a Nineteenth-Century sage. Heuston captures the happiness and comfort
Girl Naomi experienced when her parents were still
alive by describing Naomi working in the Shaker
A review of Kimberly Heuston’s The Shakeress (Front garden and remembering earlier gardening days.
Street Press, 2002)
Reviewed by Kelly Thompson The earth was cool and moist against Naomi’s
fingers as she felt around under the germander
Kimberley Heuston’s The Shakeress charms its plants for weeds. She had forgotten the way
readers on several levels. The most obvious is its contentment seemed to seep up from the very
presentation. Its cover is a beautifully painted pic- soil when you were working in a garden, even
ture of a contemplative, young 19th-century one as humble as her family’s little plot of veg-
Shaker girl wearing a black dress and a white cap, etables and herbs at home. When you had
surrounded by rich, broad, contrasting strokes gardens like these to work in—acre after acre
of yellow, purple, and green. As explained in the of well-planned, beautifully maintained kitchen
author’s note, Heuston’s daughter Jenny is the tal- and herb and flower gardens—you just about
ent behind the art. Their coming together illus- couldn’t help but be happy even when Sister
trates on the production level charming thematic Martha was prosing on at you.
aspects of Heuston’s work: a thoughtful reflection While Naomi’s desire for a close family seems a
on family and how family can bolster individual, bit romantic, it’s certainly not overdone. Usually
unmitigated spirituality. it is very realistically presented. In fact, Naomi’s

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yearning for home and family (which eventually opinion, a more textured and complex book than
translates into congruence within her self ) is often his previous offerings. To be sure, his usual themes
what drives her away from those she loves. of chastity among youth, loves gained and lost, the
The Shakeress by Kimberly Heuston is a quick importance of living the gospel in everyday life—
read. I highly recommend this enjoyable book for these are all here and accounted for. But this is
anyone interested in 19th-century New England. combined with a riveting account of the attack on
I especially recommend it for young women because the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
it is not the typical quest novel for a girl coming Cheyenne Durrant is a native of Idaho, a child
of age. It advocates self-reliance of the Emersonian of devout Mormon parents, and on summer break
kind, something needed in this era of commercial- from BYU she arrives in New York City to intern
ism telling us that happiness is found outside of for the summer with a large ad agency. There she
ourselves. The only letdown for me with regards to meets B. D. (Ben) Morelli, described on the back
this fictional work was that it came to an end. I cover of the book as “a typical, brash, up-and-com-
wanted to know the rest of the story. But, a hunger ing New York City ad agency executive.” Cheyenne
for more seems to me to be a sign of a good book. is assigned to Ben for the summer, and Ben does
not welcome this intrusion. Cheyenne is smart,
Kelly Thompson, a Ph.D. student at Claremont spirited, and not willing to yield an inch to Ben as
Graduate University, is a native of Salt Lake City. She they pursue a breakfast-cereal account. Worse, she
received her MA in English at Utah State University, insists on calling him “Beady,” something he finds
where she wrote her thesis on several contemporary very irritating.
Mormon women writers. But as the two spend time together, Ben learns
that Cheyenne is a capable, quick thinker. She has
Weyland’s Twenty-Fifth Book Shows qualities that seem to attract everyone but him.
Progress When Ben takes Cheyenne home for a family
reunion, his entire family falls in love with
A review of Jack Weyland’s Cheyenne in New York Cheyenne. They all hope the two will ultimately
(Bookcraft, 2003) marry, but Ben will hear nothing of it.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Needle But nature and the dangers of propinquity take
their course. Ben soon falls hopelessly in love with
When Cheyenne in New York arrived, I was in a Cheyenne. But this is a match that simply won’t
bit of a quandary. My prior experience with Jack work. Ben is not a member of the Church. And—
Weyland novels was not altogether positive. I’ve gasp—he drinks coffee! Questions hang in the air:
always found him to be a bit formulaic and often Will Ben see enough in Cheyenne to motivate him
too preachy for my liking. His novels, of course, to change his life? Will he join the Church? And if
have been very popular among the LDS-youth he does, will he join for the right reasons?
reading crowd, and, frankly, given his audience, Weyland has Ben narrating the entire book. The
he’s a pretty good writer, skilled with words and many self-effacing references are often charming
able to present his story in a readable manner. and sometimes surprising. Ben is often surprised at
This is Weyland’s twenty-fifth published book. how Cheyenne has affected his life, his way of liv-
This is a great milestone for any writer. Anyone ing, his way of thinking. Yes, he frequently comes
who has tried to write a book knows the discipline up short, and sometimes he acts like a fool. But
needed to map out, launch, and actually complete this, I suspect, is what real life is like.
a project. It helps to have an intimate knowledge of Fiction writers are notorious for introducing
your subject. Weyland knows Mormon life very story arcs that try to explain how the characters get
well. His books live and breathe Mormon idealism. from point A to point B. Weyland is no exception.
In this current volume, the author offers, in my And here is where I have a problem. In order for

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the story as a whole to be believable, the pieces transitions, this is a very good story. Weyland’s
must be believable. Weyland’s story arcs are often depiction of the WTC attacks and their aftermath
strained and stretch our credibility. is riveting reading. And he spares nothing in his
Let me set it up: Cheyenne’s parents are very description of the effect on Ben’s family. He explores
conservative, very protective of their daughter. Her the meaning of family and of love, of parental dis-
father is described as someone who would meet his affection and the fracturing of families. And, as
daughter’s less-desirable suitors at the door with a would be expected, he plumbs the depths of how
shotgun in his hand. They send her to BYU, pre- the gospel can enter into people’s lives and change
sumably to keep her among the righteous. Now, them for the better.
she’s off to New York City for a whole summer, all Weyland develops the main characters convinc-
on her own, and her father lends her his truck so ingly. Their interaction is brought along at a
she can drive, alone, across the country. leisurely but sure pace. As their love grows, so does
One must wonder why her parents would the acknowledgement of how far they each need to
permit her to spend an entire summer, without a go emotionally before there can be a real connec-
chaperone, in the Big City. In fact, when Ben is tion between them. Some of the characters sur-
introduced to Cheyenne’s father, he comes across as prised me. Without giving away the end of the
a rabid dog, questioning Ben again and again as to book, Cheyenne’s father brings the story to a close
whether he’s sleeping with Cheyenne. Why would with an act of extraordinary Christian charity. It
such a man allow his daughter to travel, cross- came out of nowhere; I was completely surprised.
country, by herself, to New York? It didn’t add up. I read the book in two sittings. Because there
Later, at the time of the WTC attacks, Cheyenne were several story threads, I found myself wanting
is back at BYU when she hears of the disaster. She to know not only how each would be resolved but
talks with Ben, learning that Ben’s father, grandfa- how they would intertwine and mature together.
ther, and uncle have likely perished in the collapse Weyland does a good job in bringing closure to the
of the towers. She decides to drop out of school and various story lines.
come and help Ben with his niece and nephew, his Older teens and young adults will certainly enjoy
mother, and the rest of the family, all of whom this book. There’s plenty in here to cause them to
adore Cheyenne. She applies for a refund on her think more deeply about the nature of tragedy and
tuition, apparently gets it in a day, goes to a car grief, the importance of family, and the enduring
agency and purchases a vehicle (her father disap- power of the gospel to change lives.
proves of her decision and won’t lend her the truck
again), and takes off for New York and Ben and his Time Travel Trio
family. Cheyenne doesn’t have enough money to
buy a reliable vehicle, so Ben tells the salesman he’ll A review of Chad Daybell’s Emma trilogy: An Errand
kick in $5,000, gives the salesman his credit-card for Emma (Bonneville Books, 1999), Doug’s
number and a fax number, and tells him he’ll sign Dilemma (2000), Escape to Zion (2000)
the faxed copy of the credit slip when he can get Reviewed by Katie Parker
back into the city and to his office and the fax
machine. Despite the cheesy titles of the first two books,
Does all this sound just a bit too tidy? In the I found the Emma trilogy to be quite an enjoyable
wake of the terrorist attacks, does a salesman in an young-adult series. The premise is that Emma and
auto agency just hand over a vehicle on the prom- her brother Doug find themselves traveling through
ise of some person in New York City? Does BYU time in order to fulfill certain missions.
issue tuition refunds so quickly? Does Cheyenne In the first book, An Errand for Emma, Emma
really know what she’s doing? That being said, if ends up in the 1860s and discovers that her task is
you can get beyond the obvious difficulties in the to travel to Denver from the Provo area to find

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some missing family-history information. This trip the ruins left behind by the righteous, unable to
is no small task in the 1860s; Emma must enlist the construct or do anything useful themselves. The only
help of her future great-great-great-great-grandpar- safe places are the temples, which are protected by
ents in the form of horses, traveling companions, electric fences. Zion and the remaining temples are
and supplies. The trip lasts for weeks, and needless the only places in the world that make any use of
to say there are no McDonalds or Holiday Inns technology and have gasoline and electricity.
along the way. Emma and her comrades must deal I could question the validity of the setting of this
with life on the trail, a gang of thieves, and other book. I wouldn’t recommend it as an authoritative
unsavory folks who will do anything to prevent her guide to conditions surrounding the Second Com-
from speaking with the people who have the infor- ing. But I do recommend it as entertaining. Emma
mation she needs. and her family (in this case, her aged parents and
Doug’s Dilemma sends Doug on a mission to the Doug’s teenage kids) have quite an ordeal as they
New York City area and then back in time to fight try to escape from killers in Utah County to the
in World War II alongside his future great-grandfa- safety of the Provo Temple, and then all the way to
ther. We join them in training camp, on the battle- Zion to join Emma’s middle-aged husband and
field, in prison, and as refugees hiding from the Nazis. adult children. The main villain is a fun mix of
Their lives are in jeopardy at every turn. Doug has comic relief and deadly evil, and there are other
opportunities to save some lives and do some mis- cute futuristic touches, like the marquee for the
sionary work as well. Although the book is suitable “Utah Gladiatorzz.”
for sensitive readers, we see many of the horrors of Something else I like about this book is that we
war: the killing, the maiming, the death marches, actually get to see Zion and the great events leading
the unsanitary conditions, and so on, described just up to the Second Coming. Daybell isn’t vague about
enough to let us imagine the rest if we choose. them, and he doesn’t try to hide anything or make
In an interesting aside, Doug shares the following it feel too distant. We get to see it all, including the
early on about the language he hears around him: coming of the Lord and a conversation He has with
Emma herself. Again, I’d guess that things won’t
Before I go on, I’d just like to clarify that from
really happen exactly like this. But the fact that I
this moment on in 1944 I heard profanity was allowed to see it all left me feeling like I’d wit-
used in nearly every sentence . . . but rather nessed something real.
than subject you to such vulgarity, I’ll just give The tone of all the books is fluid and casual, per-
you the dialogue, minus the colorful language. fect for young-adult readers. An Errand for Emma
Although it was educational to hear people uses too many exclamation marks, but this is cor-
use the same profane words as adjectives, rected in the other two books. And the narrators
adverbs, and nouns—often all in the same never take themselves too seriously. While they have
sentence—this story is much more enjoyable some amazing adventures, they always sound like
without the profanity, believe me. (70–71) regular people who are just doing what they are
In many ways my favorite of the three is Escape called upon to do, and Daybell injects lots of
to Zion. Here Emma has another time-travel mis- humor along the way. In Escape to Zion, the Emma
sion to fulfill, only this time she is whisked into the of the future is married to a bishop and has the
future right before the Millennium. Emma is thrown wonderful opportunity to attend the meeting at
into a time following World War III when all the Adam-ondi-Ahman. She describes the bus ride, the
righteous in Utah have traveled, with wagons and benches, the opening hymn, and the glorified
handcarts, to Jackson County. Almost all of those beings seated on the stand:
remaining in Utah are completely depraved. They There wasn’t a microphone, but Seth’s voice
are also apparently complete idiots who live off carried across the acoustically perfect valley.

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“Welcome to this great gathering,” Seth said. A Spoonful of Sugar for This Medicine
“Father Adam presides here today, and he has
asked that I conduct this meeting.” . . . To say A review of Charly (Excel Entertainment, 2002)
the least, I was blown away to be there, espe- Directed by Adam Anderegg
cially when Noah—yes, that Noah—offered Produced by Lance Williams and Micah Merrill
the opening prayer, pleading that we would Screenplay by Janine Whetten Gilbert
do the Lord’s will that day. (160) Reviewed by D. Michael Martindale,
IRREANTUM Film Editor
Keeping situations light in this manner also
allows Daybell to get away with other things, like I’d been particularly naughty this week, and Christ-
using two-dimensional characters and a few (but mas was coming soon, so I needed to cleanse myself
not always) easy resolutions. While it may not be with a little purgatory so I could end up on Santa’s
fine literature, it doesn’t pretend to be, either. The nice list. What better penance than to inflict the
primary purpose here is not to teach lessons or movie Charly on myself?
to impress with fine prose, but to entertain. For It was the ultimate “Oh, no!” LDS film. It was
example, in An Errand for Emma, Emma learns the novel adaptation that Richard Dutcher once
about the lives of her ancestors and the sacrifices used as an extreme example of how smarmy he was
that they made, but her real objective is to find the afraid Mormon cinema might get. And here it was,
genealogical information. This is also the objective waiting for me to knuckle under and watch, so I
of the book; it isn’t one big lesson set up to con- could go on record as hating it and do my small
vince young readers to be more like the pioneers. part to try to raise the bar of movie quality among
Daybell’s primary purpose is to tell a story. He does the peculiar people.
this well enough that when those moments come I was in college when Jack Weyland’s novel
that could move the reader, they work. Charly first came out. It was a new thing, a modern
Besides all this, there are all sorts of fun little popular novel written by and for Mormons. I read
time-travel side effects, like Doug’s startling realiza- it and came away shrugging my shoulders. It was
tion that he’s named after himself. (He was named okay, I guessed, but certainly no big deal. I went
after his dad, who was named after Doug’s great- back to reading science fiction and watched as the
grandpa’s war buddy, who was actually Doug him- Deseret Book shelves filled with new Mormon
self.) And by the end of Escape to Zion, Emma has novels by this Jack Weyland guy, all seeming to be
discovered that the future isn’t set in stone and that titled with a girl’s name, all showing the face of
the choices she makes now can even change what some luscious model ostensibly representing the
she’s already seen. title character.
Chad Daybell is a competent storyteller, and the I watched them proliferate—but read them?
Emma trilogy is a set of three really fun, positive Heck, no! Why read Weyland when the likes of
books. We should see more from him in the future. Asimov and Herbert and LeGuin were around?
No pun intended. So I had no expectation of liking the movie. What
was to like? It was the original cheesy Mormon
Katie Parker graduated with a B.A. from the Univer- romance with a manipulative plot development that
sity of Oklahoma. She currently lives in Salt Lake was the ultimate lazy approach to evoking a tear.
City with her husband and son, where she works as an Then Heather Beers showed up on the screen.
editor. Her work has appeared in the New Era and She’s the one who plays Charly. No, she’s the one
Westview. who brings Charly to life in a spectacular way that
Jack Weyland’s words couldn’t begin to match.
A few years ago I fell in love, and I’m not talking
about my wife. I fell in love with Sandra Bullock.

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Or rather, I fell in love with the character Sandra Finally they get married, and it’s happily-ever-after
Bullock breathed life into in the film While You time. But the movie doesn’t end. And you find
Were Sleeping. Try doing that in your living room yourself sitting there wondering, It’s over. Why isn’t
while watching satellite TV with your wife and act- the movie ending?
ing like nothing’s happening. Sandy Bullock owned Instead, the sequel begins. Sam and Charly are
that movie, which would have been nothing with- married and replenishing the earth with a cute little
out her. To my relief, that experience has never boy. They are living their good Mormon lives in
repeated itself. wedded eternal bliss, with a little Charly craziness
Until Heather Beers hit the screen. grafted onto it so we don’t go to sleep watching.
Heather owns Charly. She turned the character Then Charly gets a (please forgive me) charley horse.
into something worth watching. She turned the char- She feels a little muscle pain that eventually
acter into someone that affected me. To my enor- becomes diagnosed as the big C, pancreatic version.
mously embarrassing chagrin, I fell in love with a The sequel to the movie Charly, which is included
Jack Weyland character. free of charge in the original movie, is how Charly
Jeremy Elliot playing Sam did an adequate job, and Sam deal with the challenges to their faith of
and Adam Johnson playing Mark, the other man in this unexpected and horrifying intrusion into their
this romantic triangle, shined in the performance perfect Mormon lives.
the script allowed him, but this movie was all about But don’t think you’re getting a good deal with
Charly. We came to care about her, because Beers this two-for-one offer. You’re being short changed.
made it easy to do so. We care about Sam because The themes of the two-in-one movie deserve better
he cares about Charly. And we empathize with treatment than they can get sharing one film.
Mark because we understand why he is hurt that Charly’s conversion and Sam’s fitful efforts to con-
Charly rejects him. front her past are much too glossed over for themes
It all works because of Charly, and Charly works that are ripe with possibilities. The Mormons-
because of Heather Beers. I hope the producers get confronting-mortality theme in the sequel portion
on their knees and thank God every night for Heather is handled with tolerable competence, but it still
Beers, because without her, the movie Charly would feels hollow compared to the development it
have been as maudlin as I had expected. should have received.
In fact, Beers’s performance is almost too good. There just wasn’t enough time to do justice to
It is so good that I wish it hadn’t been restricted by the potential in all the themes. And that was a
the Jack Weyland plot. A blind man could see why direct result of following the Weyland book too
Sam fell in love with her, but she fell in love with closely. As Provo Daily Herald film critic Eric Snider
Sam because the plot required it. What was to love wrote, “It attempts to compress a lengthy story span-
about Sam? Just his Mormon goodness, it turns out ning several years into 100 pages, rushing through
when she finally explains, and that’s classic Mormon every conflict like a videotape on fast-forward.”
maudlin storytelling: love me because I’m good. The enchanting performance of Heather Beers
The plot also requires that Charly convert to the makes that medicine go down much easier, but it
gospel. So she does. Her conversion isn’t handled as cannot disguise the fact, once the credits start
ineptly as such things have been in the past (includ- rolling and Heather is a fading image on your reti-
ing by Jack Weyland himself ), but it still feels nas, that all you’ve consumed was cotton candy
forced onto the character. Charly is such an inter- when you could have had a full-course meal.
esting person that I’d like to see how she’d convert Charly commits the same sin that too much Mor-
in real life rather than the rushed conversion the mon art commits: using the tried-and-true clichés
movie needed so it could get on with the sequel. of Mormon culture to evoke easy emotions, but offer-
Because, you see, Charly is really two movies in ing no new insights into life. More feel-good, but no
one. The first movie is the conversion of Charly think-good. All Heather Beers could do was make
and the development of her and Sam’s relationship. the empty experience a pleasure to live through.

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M O R M O N
P O E T R Y L I T E R A R Y
S C E N E
Appaloosa
I don’t know much about horses Compiled by Christopher Bigelow
unlike my Uncle Ken who lives
for his slender-legged quarters Books
bred to run. • LDS romance novelist Anita Stansfield was
recently profiled in a Salt Lake Tribune article about
I ride with him down to the pasture to feed and romance books. “I want women to be educated and
point out two appaloosas, my favorite breed, uplifted when they read my books,” Stansfield said.
because I like to say the name, “The characters solve their problems by using gospel
like the way it rolls and tumbles principles. Women know they can pick up an LDS
out of my mouth—appaloosa. novel and know they’re not going to be assaulted
I can say the word with authority with offensive material.” According to the article,
and someone might think, breaking into the LDS market wasn’t easy for Stans-
That girl sure knows her horses. field because many of her stories deal with emo-
tional conflicts and serious issues. “LDS romance
Besides, there’s no mistaking them for something else had been very idealistic and trite, and here I was
with that splotched hide like thin-peeled pineapple. writing about a temple marriage gone bad,” Stans-
In late winter you wouldn’t even see them— field said, adding that she feels her books have been
just mud spots in melting snow. successful for the same reasons they were initially
But now they stand out sharp hard to sell to publishers. She has sold more than
against shin-high alfalfa that is starting 600,000 copies of her twenty-two novels.
to head purple along the ditch banks. • Deseret News columnist Jerry Johnston
reported that, as part of Deseret Book’s recent con-
Ken is silent. tent purge, the retailer has removed three Anita
Then, with his laconic drawl, Stansfield novels from its shelves. Making an argu-
I don’t think much of them kind. ment that Deseret’s and Stansfield’s positions both
Uneasy, caught outright in my own ignorance, have merit, Johnston wrote: “Sheri Dew urges
I press my forehead to the window people to ‘come home’ to Deseret Book, implying
and watch the stippled shapes disappear many have been staying away. Some customers felt
in the fanned-out dust behind the truck. the store was selling objectionable books. She
I don’t care, I think, wants readers to see Deseret Book, once again, as a
they are still my favorite. guiding light, as a polar star that people can use to
A name like that is as good as Pegasus’s wings. chart their course. Anita Stansfield, on the other
I say it over to myself— hand, sees her books as companions for those
Appaloosa, Appaloosa. struggling along the path. Like the people Christ-
—Judith Curtis ian meets in Pilgrim’s Progress, the characters in a
Stansfield novel help us bear our burdens en route
to the Celestial City.” He continued: “In short,
Sheri Dew is the keeper of the flame in the city on
the hill. Anita Stansfield holds the hands of those of
us who struggle up that hill. Tell me we don’t need
both.” Stansfield told Johnston: “I get letters from

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people who feel strengthened by my books. There letters have a lyrical quality to them,” Petersen told
are two sides, of course. Some people would use my the Deseret News. “Most are really readable and
books against the church. That is wrong. But oth- witty — not incomprehensible. They seemed to me
ers who complain about them are simply being self- a gold mine. The problem with his journals is that
righteous. I feel I have a message for women that he wrote them in a combination of shorthand with
will help them hold to their dreams.” Johnston Egyptian and Greek thrown in.” Petersen worked
continued: “Sheri Dew’s heart breaks at the sight of on the book for fourteen years, using a topical
suffering, but she is in a role as defender of the approach instead of chronological “because Hugh
faith. In her letter [to customers] she says the store had such a big life. I’m a literature person, so I tried
will stock items that deal with abuse, even adultery, for a Grapes of Wrath effect to give more pace to the
as long as they show ‘honest consequences for indi- narrative.” Petersen conceded that being 92-year-
vidual choices.’ Anita Stansfield defends the faith, old Nibley’s son-in-law may have clouded his
but her heart is with those who end up bleeding on objectivity but also gave him extraordinary access
the rocks with no idea why.” to source materials.
• Kent Larsen announced the launch of a New • Mormon play and film writer/director Neil
York City–based LDS book-publishing imprint called LaBute has sold a collection of short fiction to
Mormon Arts and Letters, as well as its first pub- Grove/Atlantic. Many of the stories have previously
lication, Silent Notes Taken. According to a press appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, and
release, “Mormon Arts and Letters publishes Mor- elsewhere. The acquiring editor was Morgan
mon thought and Mormon works of art and litera- Entrekin, and the agent who brokered the deal was
ture, both for LDS Church members and for the Suzanne Gluck of William Morris.
general public. The publisher seeks unusual works • BYU Studies published the results of a survey
by Mormon writers, musicians, thinkers, and artists, of 303 scholars who were asked to vote for the most
especially those who are unknown to mainstream important books in Mormonism. “We discovered
Mormon culture.” Further information about Mor- that a significant portion of Latter-day Saint schol-
mon Arts and Letters, including its manuscript- ars apparently do not read Mormon fiction,” wrote
submission policy, is available at www.mormonarts the survey’s author. “In fact, 40 percent of the
andletters.com. According to Larsen, “Silent Notes respondents left the ‘Fiction’ part of the survey
Taken is subtitled Personal Essays by Mormon New blank.” The top choice, Gerald Lund’s Work and the
Yorkers and contains fifteen superb essays by Mor- Glory series (1990–2001), received seven times more
mons on a variety of subjects, such as urban life, votes than the next highest book, Maurine Whip-
the clash of cultures, and September 11. Included ple’s The Giant Joshua (1941). The rest of the books
is one woman’s striking account of her experiences in order of ranking are as follows: Children of the
on September 11 and its aftermath, another woman’s Promise series (1997–2000), Dean Hughes; Added
amusing look at her chocolate obsession, and a third Upon (1898), Nephi Anderson; Fishers of Men
woman’s experiences with the clash of cultures as (2000), Lund; Fire and the Covenant (1999), Lund;
she returns to her Filipino roots on the death of her The Tales of Alvin Maker series (1987–), Orson Scott
father. The volume begins with an introduction by Card; Prelude to Glory series (1998–), Ron Carter;
nationally known historian Richard L. Bushman.” The Backslider (1990), Levi Peterson; Heaven Knows
Excerpts from the book and further information Why (1994), Samuel Taylor; The Alliance (1983),
are available at the book’s website, www.silentnotes Lund; Charly (1980), Jack Weyland; The Canyons of
taken.com. Grace (1982), Peterson; Gadianton and the Silver
• Boyd Petersen, author of the new biography Sword (1991), Chris Heimerdinger; Sarah (2000),
Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life published by Card; Tennis Shoes among the Nephites series
G. Kofford Books, based much of the book on the (1989–), Heimerdinger; Charlie’s Monument (1980),
famous Mormon scholar’s correspondence. “His B. Yorgason; The Christmas Box (1993), Richard

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Paul Evans; No Man Knows My History [the contro- art major (Rachel Weisz) at a California college
versial biography of Joseph Smith] (1945), Fawn takes a nerdy fellow (Paul Rudd) under her wing,
Brodie; The Rummage Sale (1972), Don Marshall. cleaning him up into a handsome young hunk—
• Scheduled for release this September, Into Thin and taking over his entire life in the process. The
Air author Jon Krakauer’s next book is titled direction is unobtrusive and functional. Writing is
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent LaBute’s forte, and his dialogue brims with cultural
Faith. According to Entertainment Weekly, the references and personal invective, much of which is
book is about “American religious fundamentalism, caustically funny. But LaBute’s intriguing concepts
namely the polygamy-practicing renegade Mor- are also the source of his stumbling. His writing
mons who live in remote regions of the West.” is such that we are less interested in the characters
Krakauer said, “This is my attempt to understand themselves than in what they might do to each
religious passion and the terrible things people do other. The mechanics of the plot are what’s inter-
in the name of God.” According to his Doubleday esting, not the people caught in it, and that lessens
editor, the book shows that “there are Taliban-like some of the film’s impact. Or, from another point
theocracies within the borders of the U.S.” of view, it makes us as uncaring toward the charac-
• The LDS Booksellers Association reported that ters as they sometimes are toward each other.” After
Deseret Book is ending the practice of selling to seeing the film, national reviewer Roger Ebert wrote,
the source supplying “Big Box” stores. “One of the “Once again LaBute proves himself one of the most
biggest concerns of our retail membership over literate, penetrating, and darkly humorous of direc-
the past several years has been the growing domi- tors.” In other LaBute news, the New York Online
nance of the ‘Big Box’ stores, like Wal-Mart, in sell- Film Critics named the script he cowrote for Pos-
ing LDS books. That concern has centered around session, an adaptation of A. S. Byatt’s same-titled
the ‘Big Box’ stores’ practice of basically selling their novel, as runner-up for their Best Screenplay Award.
books at their cost to attract LDS customers to • Tucker T. Dansie has written and plans to
their stores. It seems that they look at the top-sell- direct a romantic comedy titled Love Logs On.
ing latest titles from our industry as simply adver- While Tucker says the movie is not necessarily an
tising to pull away our customers. This has resulted LDS-themed film, it is “about local things and local
in draining the lifeblood from our member stores culture, and so there is a lot of humor that is about
who must support their operations from the sale of LDS things and LDS culture. Even the characters,
these very same titles.” Expressing relief about the although we never come out and say it, are most
new policy, the LDSBA president wrote, “This likely LDS. I just don’t find it necessary to sit and
announcement signals a reemphasis on the close talk about religion.” Tucker’s previous films include
and mutually beneficial relationship between our the documentary Colors: Up Close & Personal and
member publishers and wholesalers and our mem- several short films, and he was director of photog-
ber retail stores. It gives new reason and is renewed raphy for the upcoming missionary comedy Sud-
cause for our retail members to support our whole- denly Unexpected.
salers as they support them.” • Helmuth Huebner, the teenaged German
Mormon who turned against the Nazis and conse-
Film quently lost his life, is the subject of a new docu-
mentary called Truth & Conviction, written and
• Neil LaBute’s film The Shape of Things, a directed by Matt Whitaker and Rick McFarland
version of his play of the same name, debuted at and produced by Covenant Communications.
the Sundance Film Festival in January. Eric D. According to Salt Lake Tribune reporter Peggy
Snider of the Provo Daily Herald gave the film a B+ Stack, “In 29 different fliers, he contradicted the
and observed that LaBute “returns to misanthropic government’s assessments about the war, satirized
form with this wicked lesson in human cruelty. An Nazi propaganda, and even called Hitler the great

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‘Anti-Christ.’” After eight months in prison, during inappropriate materials or who present materials
which Huebner refused to recant, he was executed in inappropriate ways.”
by guillotine. Stack noted that “Huebner’s tiny LDS • Screenwriter and standup comedian John E.
branch in Hamburg was divided in its support for Moyer’s latest script, a feature comedy about home
Hitler. Arthur Zander, the branch president, was a teachers, has been greenlit by HaleStorm Entertain-
member of the Nazi Party. He sometimes brought ment for production beginning in summer 2003.
his radio, locking the door so members would have Moyer wrote both of HaleStorm’s previous LDS-
to listen to Hitler’s speeches. One Sunday in 1938, oriented film productions, The Singles Ward and
Zander posted a sign, ‘Jews Not Welcome Here,’ on The R.M. The new script is described as “Planes,
the church’s front door.” On the other hand, “Zan- Trains and Automobiles meets home teaching on the
der’s first counselor, Otto Berndt, was sympathetic very last day of the month.” Previous HaleStorm
to Huebner and critical of the Nazis. Some thought actors Kirby Heyborne and Michael J. Birkeland
Berndt might have been behind Huebner’s activities. are tentatively attached to star.
He was briefly questioned by the Gestapo, who let • Orson Scott Card has completed a new
him go but gave an ominous warning: ‘After Jews, screenplay adaptation of his novel Ender’s Game
Mormons will be next.’” Stack further noted, “In by adding story elements from his recent parallel
1937, LDS Church President Heber J. Grant had novel Ender’s Shadow. In an online interview, Card
visited the country and urged the members to stay said, “The single biggest problem with writing the
there, try to get along, and not cause trouble. Some Ender’s Game screenplay was that all of Ender’s
saw Huebner as a troublemaker whose actions character dilemmas were internal. His important
made things tough for other Mormons.” Huebner’s decisions were all made in isolation; he explained
story has previously been told in a play and several very little to anyone. But with Ender’s Shadow, you
articles and books. The documentary, which fea- can move the focus off Ender’s personal dilemmas.
tures interviews with several German Mormons Because now we have Bean being set up (in the
familiar with Huebner or the LDS branch where he minds of the adults) as a rival to Ender as the vir-
worshiped, is available on video and DVD. tual commander of the International Fleet, while
• BYU professors are now operating under Bean and Ender actually become buddies in a very
more restrictive guidelines on using R-rated films 48 Hours kind of way. It’s a much easier movie to
in the classroom to illustrate historical events or visualize, a much clearer story to tell.” With a major
artistic principles. According to the new policy, fac- studio and director Wolfgang Petersen interested in
ulty should not “require students to view unedited the project, Card has fought to protect “the moral
R-rated movies, as a matter not simply of content core of the story. The story is not Ender’s Game if
but of obedience to prophetic counsel.” Professors the protagonist is not a prepubescent child. It’s that
are urged to use visual media that are “appropriate simple. But that is also what makes it so very diffi-
to BYU’s mission” and “invite the spirit of God cult to find funding. This will be an expensive
into the classroom.” The policy document contin- movie, because the special effects are still pushing
ues: “It is important to help students not only to the envelope. But how will they make their $50-
understand the world but to stand firm against its million-plus investment back? There is no role for
evils, prepared to respond to its challenges with a star whose name would spur overseas sales. The
love, testimony, wisdom, eloquence and inspired special effects, while they are vital, are not the pay-
artistry of their own.” BYU spokeswoman Carri P. off—that is, they are background, they are meant
Jenkins said that faculty members won’t be disci- not to be noticed. The focus is on the characters,
plined if they don’t follow the guidelines and that who have to be exquisitely well acted. And that
selection of teaching materials “will depend on the brilliant acting has to be done by children.” In
wisdom of the faculty.” However, departments may other Card film news, a producer hired Card’s son
“counsel” with professors who “repeatedly choose Geoffrey Card to write a screenplay adaptation of

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Card’s novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christo- why he took nine months to decide to do this proj-
pher Columbus. ect, Kilmer said he didn’t want to be attached to the
• Opening on ten screens in Mexico City in Jan- world of pornography and have more bad things
uary, Richard Dutcher’s God’s Army became the said about him. But his mind was changed by Kate
first LDS film to play internationally in a different Bosworth, who plays Holmes’s girlfriend. “And I
language. “We’ve had to fight to get this film in really got excited about this guy who slept with
Mexican theaters—it’s been an uphill battle,” says thousands of women but who was hopelessly in
Dean Hale, VP of motion picture distribution for love with one girl.” Asked if he wears prosthetic
Excel. “Because we had already dubbed the film, as genitals in the film, Kilmer admitted they talked
opposed to having it subtitled, and because we are about it. “You’ve got to address this guy’s, uh—the
a new distributor to the Mexican market, regula- reason the story takes place is because of how he
tory forces in the Mexican government had us jump was built.” In the end, however, the director decided
through a lot of hoops.” Mormon Mexican film- it would be stronger if viewers didn’t see it.
maker Jorge Ramirez played an instrumental role as • Enjoying the biggest-ever opening weekend for
Excel’s marketing liaison to Mexico. A graduate of a Mormon film, The R.M. received slightly better
BYU, Ramirez teaches film directing at CECC reviews than its HaleStorm predecessor, The Singles
Pedregal, a private university in Mexico City. Dutcher, Ward. A Meridian reviewer wrote, “Although it
who served as a missionary in Mexico’s Veracruz starts out strong, it has several lulls along the way,
region from 1984–86 and based some of God’s and about two-thirds of the way through the film it
Army on his own experiences, told the Deseret News seems to stop even trying to be funny. The ending
that he hopes the film “will inspire Latin LDS of the film has several plot elements that are just
filmmakers to tell their own stories from their own plain unbelievable—which would be fine if they
point of view and share that point of view with the were unbelievable in a funny way, but they’re not
world.” Commenting on his current project, a big- even meant to be funny. Also, a couple of the
budget biopic of Joseph Smith titled The Prophet, underlying themes of the film are never satisfacto-
Dutcher said, “The economy has been fighting us. rily resolved. Jared seems to come to peace with
But we’re pushing forward. I’m hoping it won’t be himself over them, but you are left wondering how
my Gangs of New York and take 25 years to get to he does so because the events in the film don’t seem
the screen.” Speaking about Mormon filmmaking to justify this conclusion.” A Salt Lake Tribune
in general, he said, “There’s a potential for so much reviewer wrote that the film “bears many of the
more, and I’d hate to see it get hijacked by mar- same problems as their first one: amateurish per-
keters. We should be making films no one else is formances and production values, pointless local
making. We need to reach deep into our experience cameos, and a parochially exclusionary tone that
and doctrine and history and tell stories no one else penetrates all the way to the movie’s title. The good
is telling. And those will be powerful, beautiful news is that the boys are learning filmcraft and
movies.” show they can at least set up a humorous premise—
• Actor Val Kilmer, who may or may not soon even if they don’t yet know how to make it pay off.
become a figure of considerable interest to Mor- The R.M. shows Hale & Co. at a crossroads: Start
mon filmgoers, is the star of this summer’s Won- reaching to a crossover audience or stagnate until
derland, based on the life of the infamous porn star their LDS fans get bored with the same old stuff.”
John Holmes. “I’m not playing a porn star,” Kilmer A Provo Daily Herald reviewer called the film “an
told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m playing a guy who altogether amusing, nongrating, nonstupid comedy.
used to be a porn star.” Holmes claimed to have It benefits from solid acting and sharp, good-natured
slept with 14,000 women, was acquitted in the humor. The script, again by John E. Moyer and
1981 Wonderland Avenue murders referenced in Kurt Hale, is more focused than last time, and so
the movie’s title, and died of AIDS in 1988. Asked are the cameras. The first half of the film, especially,

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is a treat to watch. What separates The R.M. most permission you can’t do that. That seems a bit far
from The Singles Ward is its attitude. In The Singles reaching to me.”
Ward, things were thrown haphazardly onto the • J. Scott Iverson, writer, producer, and owner
screen with regard only for whether the filmmakers of JSI Creative, has completed an LDS-themed,
thought they were funny. There was a smugness full-length motion picture screenplay titled Road-
about it: If you don’t laugh, there must be some- show! Iverson’s past involvements include a story
thing wrong with you. The R.M., on the other hand, credit on the film Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, an Emmy
reaches out to its audience and actually wants to be and Iris award-winning kids’ TV series called ZiNj-
liked. The parts that make you laugh outnumber TV, and employment as vice president of acquisi-
the parts that make you roll your eyes.” According tions, development, and productions for Bonneville
to a Deseret News reviewer, “The R.M. looks and Worldwide. According to a press release, the new
sounds a lot more like a real motion picture than screenplay’s “storyline follows members of the Yor-
the filmmakers’ freshman effort. Besides the obvi- gason family during the production of the ‘Gilmer
ous technical improvements, the filmmakers (espe- Park Ward’ roadshow in the summer of 1965—a
cially director/coscreenwriter Kurt Hale) have also time of war, personal turmoil, and new assaults on
made great leaps in the areas of storytelling and family values. The screenplay celebrates the LDS
character development. In fact, the first third of roadshow genre and creative process, which draws
this silly, sporadically amusing comedy comes as a from events in people’s lives and weaves them into
really pleasant surprise. Then, however, the film works of art: sometimes simple, sometimes pro-
takes an ill-advised—and pretty serious—turn for found, always impactful on the lives of those who
the dramatic, which makes its 100 minutes seem participated in the act of creation. We were able to
much, much longer. And the final third is even weave excerpts of an actual roadshow from the era
more sketchy, right down to its all-too-inevitable into the script, which gives it a much more authen-
happy ending.” Speaking to BYU NewsNet, Hale tic feel. While the roadshow production is impor-
said: “We learned that we had a good thing with tant to the story, the central theme is how each of
The Singles Ward, and we didn’t want to reinvent us must endure the hardships life throws at us to
the business model. We could have easily pulled gain our own personal testimony of the gospel.”
together more money and used a bigger budget for The film is currently in the financing and develop-
The R.M. but we still believe there are not enough ment stage, and more information is available at
movie-going Mormons that trust ‘Mormon com- www.jsicreative.com.
edy’ enough for us to risk a bigger budget.” • Although Richard Dutcher’s film Brigham City
• Utah-based ClearPlay is trying to remove itself sold fewer theater tickets than The Other Side of
from a Hollywood lawsuit against Clean Flicks Heaven, God’s Army, and The Singles Ward, Dutcher
because the company argues it is a completely claims more people have seen Brigham City.
different kind of service. While Clean Flicks helps “Brigham City has done very well on foreign televi-
consumers physically cut scenes they find objec- sion,” Dutcher told AML-List. “I licensed the film
tionable from VHS tapes, ClearPlay’s DVD soft- to HBO Latin America. They have broadcast the
ware does not alter the motion picture in any way; movie many, many times throughout all of Latin
rather, it programs DVD players to skip or mute America, from northern Mexico to southern Chile.
portions of the film. However, the Hollywood It would be hard to estimate how many hundreds
directors claim that they don’t see the distinction, of thousands (if not millions) of people have seen
and Clear Play remains named in the suit. “They’re the film.” In addition, Dutcher reported that
questioning whether consumers have the right, Brigham City has aired on television in Greece and
in their own home, to pause, rewind, or fast- Israel. “I can’t tell you how much satisfaction I get
forward a video,” said ClearPlay founder Lee Jar- out of having a Mormon bishop protagonist and a
man. “They’re saying without the director’s sacrament meeting broadcast in Israel. This should

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be a great lesson to LDS filmmakers how, through what it is and how we know who belongs and why.
entertainment, we are able to accomplish a certain And ‘if a community as strong as the one portrayed
type of missionary work in a country where mis- in the film has the power to transform a person,
sionary work is prohibited.” Dutcher also pointed why wasn’t Terry transformed? These are the moral
out that more copies of Brigham City have sold to questions the film could have contemplated, but
video stores outside of Utah/Idaho than either God’s the opportunity was missed, because the film wanted
Army or Singles Ward. He concluded: “Although my to present a moralistic portrayal rather than a moral
movie didn’t break any records in the Mormon inquiry.’” Brown countered that the film shows
market, I humbly point out that it is kicking some that “a community based on faith cannot only face
serious butt in the rest of the world.” In other Mor- evil and overcome evil but can expand its vision to
mon film news, Mitch Davis’s The Other Side of experience hope in the face of hopelessness.”
Heaven was picked up by Disney Home Enter- Brown said Dutcher originally approached her to
tainment for video/DVD release. write a novel called Kirtland County as a sequel
• The Deseret News reported on a session about to Brigham City, but she persuaded him to let her
Dutcher’s film Brigham City at the annual AML explore the first story further.
conference in February. Utah Valley State College • In addition, the Deseret News reported on play-
philosophy professor Michael Minnich delivered wright and BYU drama professor Eric Samuelsen’s
a paper titled, “The Tragedy of Brigham City: How paper at the annual AML conference. According to
a Film About Morality Becomes Immoral,” and the newspaper, “Samuelsen says Mormon culture
novelist Marilyn Brown talked about her regard could work effectively in crossover films just as
for the movie and her experience novelizing it for Greekness worked in My Big Fat Greek Wedding,
future publication. “Dutcher certainly seems to a surprise hit at the box office.” Samuelsen said:
have intended that Brigham City would be a vehi- “The key is to focus on the inclusiveness and cul-
cle which would draw persons to Mormonism,” tural negotiation that goes on in a social structure
Minch said. “But I suggest that persons paying like the LDS culture. I’d like to suggest that cul-
close attention to this film would find the moral tural negotiation is the key to the film’s extraordi-
vocabulary of the community in this film unsatis- nary success. Greek culture, as portrayed in this
factory, thin, unappealing, and perhaps even offen- film, seems loud and boisterous and earthy, but we
sive.” Brown said: “I have believed that Brigham can also see how confining it is. And yet, in the
City is as good or better than God’s Army. I believe film’s finest moments, the film reveals a culture
this film is a true classic. I was one of the proud confident enough to open itself up to redefinition.”
Mormons skeptical of the idea that someone who Samuelsen said that the story “really is about this
lived such an apparently good life could be capable woman’s gentle rebellion as she attempts to carve
of such terrible acts.” In her novelization, she is fill- out a place for herself ” in a loving but controlling
ing in the back-story of killer Terry Woodruff, who family. On the other hand, LDS movies such as
was raised by an abusive stepfather and exposed to The R.M., Singles Ward, and Charly “seem to say
pornography, a combination that lead him to rape you need to fit into the culture, like a bunch of
and then murder. According to the Deseret News, square pegs into neat little round holes.” Samuelsen
“Minch declared the film immoral because it por- said he is considering writing his own screenplay.
trayed morality in black-and-white terms, which “It could work. I actually think Mormon culture is
led to a self-righteous Clayton determining that more inclusive than we get credit for. We know, in
Brigham’s citizens and their cause are so righteous our hearts, we’re as big—and as fat—as any Greek.”
that he orders an unconstitutional search of every • The Christian Research Journal recently
home in the city. Minch believes the film missed explored how the Mormon film movement is
two opportunities for greatness. First, it could have intersecting with Protestant Christianity. After
wrestled more with the question of community, some Southern California newspapers ran ads for

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The Other Side of Heaven, some readers complained Miscellany


that the ads didn’t make it clear enough that the
film was about Mormons, and one anti-Mormon • After several years of effort by many scholars,
group accused the filmmakers of deceptive market- librarians, and others, the Mormon Literature Data-
ing. “One of my specific desires was to make an base has come online through BYU’s Harold B.
ecumenical film,” director Mitch Davis told the Lee Library at mormonlit.byu.edu. Although signifi-
journal. “We don’t preach any Mormon doctrines, cant data entry still needs to be done and organizers
although we make it clear that he’s a Mormon mis- consider the database to be in a beta testing stage,
sionary.” Davis said that if people reject the film it is fully functional. IRREANTUM readers are invited
because of its sympathetic portrayal of Latter-day to explore the database, provide feedback that organ-
Saints, “that’s just 100-percent bigotry, and there’s izers can use to improve the database, and suggest
no other way to describe it. If I had one wish, it works or authors not yet entered. The database
would be that we focus less on who is right and includes a feature that allows authors to submit
more on what is right.” He expressed his hope that biographical information about themselves and a
relations between Mormons and evangelicals will complete list of their publications. According to its
improve enough that “we will look back on this organizers, “The Mormon Literature Database is a
era with as much disdain and disgust as we look scholarly resource to literary writings and associ-
back on the treatment of blacks in the South.” The ated artistic works by and about Mormons. It is
journal also spoke with Richard Dutcher: “Despite intended to serve students, scholars, library patrons,
his clear theological differences with evangelical and the general public by providing current and
Christians, Dutcher believes niche filmmaking historical information about Mormon authors, play-
could be a means of dialogue between evangelicals wrights, critics, filmmakers, and other creative
and Mormons. ‘There seems to be a real bridge personnel involved in the literary, cinematic, or
there that people don’t even try to cross. I see some theatrical arts. Within these artistic fields, the data-
of the bigger Christian films out there and find base provides bibliographic data for published
myself just wishing that they had called me for help works by or about Mormons in literary genres such
on their script,’ he says, citing the multiply flawed as fiction, the short story, poetry, and drama going
Omega Code as an example. ‘If we could share work back to the nineteenth century, as well as in film
with one another, I think it would be mutually and such genres as sermons, hymns, literary biog-
beneficial.’” raphies, and literary writings found in Mormon
periodicals.”
Drama
• Entertainment Weekly gave Neil LaBute’s recent
play The Mercy Seat a grade of B–. Sigourney
Weaver is “miscast as a Manhattan executive whose
young, married lover (Live Schreiber) blew off a
meeting at the World Trade Center to hook up
with her on the morning of the attacks. Actually,
the words World Trade Center are never uttered amid
the half-finished sentences and semantic loops of
LaBute’s occasionally incisive, often frustrating exer-
cise in Mametism.” The reviewer concludes, “By
using the tragedy as little more than a backdrop for
one of his patented battles of the sexes, LaBute risks
reducing it to a dramatic gimmick.”

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A M L - L I S T speare than learning a Spanish dialogue. The ques-


H I G H L I G H T S tion is much on my mind because Bruce and I have
just taken in a foster son who has had a lousy
Compiled by Marny K. Parkin upbringing. We know there will be huge gaps in his
education, and we’ve already started observing
AML-List provides an ongoing forum for broad- where we need to fill in.
ranging conversation and a stimulating exchange of Barbara R. Hume (Aug. 13): My teenage grand-
opinions related to LDS literature. Discussion during son has been in some trouble with detention. He
August, September, and October 2002 included topics has found himself drawn into Orson Scott Card’s
such as movie death-wish scenes, revelation and style, Ender books and S. A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf books.
getting started with LDS screenwriting, teaching at Many of these young people who are intelligent but
BYU, feeding your inner Gnostic, good and bad prone to making poor life choices seem to find fan-
Mormon culture, and Mormon publishing options. tasy novels a form of both escape and learning.
Read on for a sampling of the sentiment on some other Harlow S. Clark (Aug. 13): The first thing that
interesting topics. If you find yourself champing to chime comes to mind is I Am the Cheese by Robert
in, send an e-mail message to majordomo@lists. Cormier, an interesting thriller, and they might
xmission.com that reads: subscribe aml-list. A con- respond well to the sense of paranoia. Of course,
firmation request will be sent to your e-mail address; there’s always One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by
follow the directions to complete your subscription. Ken Kesey if you want to talk about people abused
AML-List is moderated by Jonathan Langford. by institutions. If it’s in print, A. E. Cannon’s The
Shadow Brothers could be used as a textbook for
High School Literature Curriculum how a writer creates symbols, or how they emerge
if you let the setting let them emerge. Real good
Cathy Wilson (Aug. 12): I just accepted a posi- read, too.
tion teaching at our detention center. I was all pre- Hal Borland’s When the Legends Die, about a
pared to refuse the offer but then visited the facility rodeo horse-killing American-Indian cowboy,
and had a look in the eyes of the students . . . and worked well when we used it at North Seattle
it was a big yes. The pay and hours are better than Community College in a class for people working
what I had at the college, oddly enough. And the towards their GEDs. If you want a different look at
curriculum is totally flexible. That means I must the destruction of AmerIndian culture, try Brady
consider what types of books might be life chang- Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint or Michael
ing for kids who will be in and out of my presence Fillerup’s The Last Code Talker, though the first
within about forty-five days. Most of them are might be too obscene for the boys’ parents (haven’t
pretty good readers, but they have big gaps in their read my brand-new $2 hardback from DI July 5
educational experiences because of family and their yet, so I’m not certain) and the last too stylistically
whole experience. Actually half of the kids have difficult. [. . .]
been in trouble and half of them are seriously at Shaxbeard could be interesting, esp. Llyr, McBeth,
risk to be taken into official custody. and R&J, or Orange Julius Sneezer, or the Taming
So . . . what would you have them read? of Petruchio. All these plays have a lot to say to
Margaret Young (Aug. 13): I think it’s a really people who come from troubled backgrounds.
good idea to ask the list what subjects are truly Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is quite interesting,
essential, and what subjects are particularly helpful as is Peter Straub’s Floating Dragon. There’s a sec-
to students with special needs. I can certainly rec- tion in each novel that looks like the two were hav-
ommend a good language course, but I’m not sure ing a contest to see who could handle a certain
it’s essential to learn a second language. Some stu- premise best. Straub’s Ghost Story (What was the
dents would benefit far more by performing Shake- worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that,

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but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened good, but Jane Austen has no action and Mont-
to me . . . the most dreadful thing . . .). gomery’s books are all pastels and pretty paintings
Young people in the swearing time might respond and so probably would be judged by the cover.
well to the chapter on verbal subversion from Paul I never stopped reading when I was a kid but I
Fussell’s Wartime, available at www.theatlantic.com/ never liked any book that was assigned me in school.
unbound/bookauth/battle/fussell.htm. The chapter Besides the above-mentioned “classic,” I also had to
on “Fresh Idiom” may also be useful. That might read Woolf’s idiotic Three Guineas, several bad jokes
also be available on theatlantic.com. by Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner, Billy Budd,
Ender’s Game or several other novels I haven’t The Scarlet Letter, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, etc. I’d
read by OSC. give anything to have that time back now. I’ve read
Black Boy by Richard Wright (have only read the most of them again since my school days, on the
part where Richard gets a library card—some inter- off chance that I was just too immature to under-
esting comments on Mencken), or “The Man Who stand them. With the exception of Billy Budd I dis-
Was A’mos’ a Man.” Chester Himes’s The Real Cool like most of them more now than I did then.
Killers is a fascinating look at teenage gang life. Any Getting a kid to start wanting to explore is worth
of the Coffin Ed Johnson / Grave Digger Jones all the enforced learning in the world. One of my
novels would probably work, though that’s the only brothers never read much of anything in school,
one I’ve read. and “hated” reading because of what they forced
A lot of Ray Carver’s stories and poems, particu- him to read. When he got older he discovered that
larly “So Much Water So Close to Home,” and some he loved reading, and his favorite book now is The
other stories in Where I’m Calling From. Brothers Karamazov. If somebody had encouraged
There are lots and lots of others. These all deal him to read anything he might’ve learned that much
with young people in difficult circumstances, and sooner. I tried, but I never had much patience and
might show the boys some part of themselves, some failed. Don’t torture the poor kiddies; show them
hope or some way out. Moby Dick might be a good that the world is a much brighter and bigger place
piece (I keep remembering Robby Benson on a b- they’d ever imagine alone.
ball scholarship in One on One quoting Ahab). Preston Hunter (Aug. 15): Let me second the
Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Gimpel the Fool” might
motion for Kristen Randle’s The Only Alien on the
work well—esp. the part where Gimpel plans to
Planet, an excellent and enthralling book!
pee in the bread dough. Moving story.
And you cannot go wrong with Zenna Hender-
Jim Wilson (Aug. 14): I believe that they would
son. Everybody who reads her People stories, espe-
be best served not by a life-changing book that has
cially any disaffected youth or people who don’t
answers they need to hear but rather by reading
anything at all. It would be best to choose books feel they completely fit in, knows that Zenna was
that are easy, fun, and captivating. Edgar Rice Bur- writing about them personally. Magical stuff, and
roughs and Louis L’Amour wrote very short books nary an offensive word. And they’re bite-sized. You
that are often a lot of fun, and the language is not can get the People experience with just one or two
the sort of thing that’s usually forced on kids like 20-page short stories.
that miserable To Kill a Mockingbird. Sir Walter Mary Jane Ungrangsee (Aug. 15): As a teen I
Scott’s Ivanhoe is another good one, or anything by loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
Robert Louis Stevenson but particularly Treasure Catcher in the Rye didn’t mean as much to me as did
Island. This is a boy’s list, of course. Though I love Franny and Zooey, also by J. D. Salinger. One of my
them myself you might have a hard time convinc- HS lit teachers introduced us to a lot of Russian
ing boys to read Jane Austen or L. M. Montgomery, and African lit—I especially enjoyed Fathers and
but it wouldn’t be so hard to get girls to read them. Sons by Turgenev and Things Fall Apart by Chinua
I think they would do your boys every bit as much Achebe.

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Paris Anderson (Aug. 15): Hatchet by Gary did. I’d have ’em read A Heartbreaking Work of
Paulsen is a really good one. It’s the story of a boy Staggering Genius, for example. I think the harsh
who survives a plane wreck, then has to survive a language in that book would not trouble today’s
year of solitude in the wilderness. At least for me youth, and it’s a great book in so many other ways,
(a troubled teen who is going gray), when it was they’d probably love it.
over I felt like a survivor too. It’s an interesting question; what’s supposed to
Eric R. Samuelsen (Aug. 16): Okay, let me toss be cool, and what really is. I see it in the two recent
out a question I don’t know the answer to, because Star Wars movies, which I think are supposed to be
some of y’all do have an expertise in this area that hip and cool and are supposed to connect to “youth,”
I don’t. but the youth I know are bored by them, and the
I remember when I was a kid really liking The Out- audiences I’ve seen have been fortyish. Kids much
siders too. Shared it with my kids, and they thought prefer The Matrix, the first of which was a wonder-
it was funny: dated and phony and unreal. I had ful movie, and a great religious movie. But a lot of
much the same experience a few years ago with my kids I know love, currently, the Blade movies, which
students at BYU. Showed them West Side Story, which are awful. And yet kids absolutely love Lord of the
I always have liked and which I think is sort of Rings (I mean the movie, though it’s also turning
interestingly stylized. They hooted. They thought them on to the book). As well they might; it’s a
the gangs were, their word, “gay,” by which I think magnificent movie (it just blows me away to think
they meant sort of ludicrous and silly, not necessarily that anyone, absolutely anyone could have thought
specifically SSA. Here’s the thing, these are two texts that a competent but utterly conventional biopic
that are intentionally youth oriented, works that like A Beautiful Mind was a better picture, by any
specifically are intended to speak to young people. standard, than Lord of the Rings. Let alone Moulin
And the young people I know find them funny. Rouge, Gosford Park, or Memento.) So kids today
Have you guys noticed this phenomenon? What can respond to a frankly fairly old-fashioned film
constitutes datedness? What makes one book res- like Lord of the Rings, provided that it’s done as bril-
onate with succeeding generations, while another liantly as Peter Jackson did LOTR.
just feels like it came out of a museum? And why Of course us middle-aged types don’t know what’s
do so many works we liked as young people just cool. I am not, as my daughter reminds me, a hap-
not speak to young people today? penin’ dude. I’m convinced that kids will find the
Goes without saying that what’s hip and cool to stuff that really speaks to them. Just remember, if
one generation looks real dated to the next. In WSS, we thought it was current and cool and a good book
for example, those dancing street gangs singing for Today’s Youth, we’re almost certainly wrong.
“gotta rocket in your pocket, stay cooly cool boy,” I do know a few things, though, about kids. First
which may have seemed all slangy and with it in of all, if it has a good wholesome message aimed
the ’50s, seem pretty funny to kids raised on hip at today’s youth, they’re almost certainly going to
hop. And yet they still sort of like Rebel without a hate it.
Cause, which is every bit as dated. They’re willing If it features a tragic death, they’ll like it dispro-
to forgive its datedness, because, well, why? Because portionate to its actual quality, the way teenage
James Dean’s a hottie? (That was the opinion of girls twenty years ago loved Charly, and boys loved
one young lady in my class.) I do know that I Brian’s Song.
wouldn’t have kids today read The Outsiders, not Mostly, they won’t be bothered by stuff that we
because it’s a bad book, but because a conflict parent types are bothered by, like harsh language or
involving who’s going to fight in the local “rumble” violence.
is going to seem tremendously dated. Any book that uses a lot of slang is going to seem
And yet Catcher in the Rye invokes a specific time tremendously dated, and they won’t like it at all;
and place and kids today still love it as much as I in fact, they’ll think it’s funny.

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Kids like an exciting story, and are surprisingly Story. In the meantime, maybe they should be
willing to wade through a bit of prose to get the exposed through film to Clueless first, then Emma,
story. Jane Austen still reads well, though she’s wordy then Romeo and Juliet (maybe the DiCaprio weird
by today’s standard. Though kids today do like the version), then West Side Story. Might make a great
movie better. discussion of how artists through the ages have told
Don’t tell ’em it’s a classic. Tune-out city. and retold the same stories trying to make them
Kim Madsen (Aug. 20): Eric’s reported experi- accessible to different audiences.
ence of kids being derisive of West Side Story has Cathryn Lane (Aug. 20): A “classic” book may
not been my experience. Same goes for The Out- mean to some a work that remains relevant genera-
siders and Catcher in the Rye, but I must admit to tion after generation but to most teens it means
hanging out with unusual teens, I guess. Because that it’s assigned reading and thus something oppres-
my husband and I were very involved in theater all sive and hateful and often with good reason. I had
during my kids’ younger years, they (and the friends a literature professor at UALR a couple of years ago
they acquired, which were usually based through who said that the reason high school students hated
theater) were exposed to a lot of musicals and assigned reading (such as anything on the Advanced
learned to appreciate the cultural climate the works Placement reading list) was because teens didn’t have
were originally created in and accepted them on enough life experience to make the literature mean-
those terms. They found the parallels with WSS and ingful. He claimed that the high school AP list had
Romeo and Juliet to be fascinating. They thought the dubious distinction of making more people
the stories were moving, even if the settings were avoid literature throughout their lives than any other
not “modern.” single program. I was made a believer when last
But then all three of my kids and most of their spring I spent countless agonizing hours helping
friends were voracious readers, loving Jane Austen, my bright, virginal, 16-yr.-old daughter wade through
gothic romances like Frankenstein, old movies—in Tennessee Williams’s “punishment” plays for a term
fact, most movies including musicals and bizarre paper. There was no way she could really relate to
modern movies like Christopher Guest’s mocku- Williams’s themes of suppressed homosexuality and
mentaries. (I still have a 14-year-old, but the other rejection of religion. How did she get that topic?
two are 24 and 21.) This broad exposure to stuff Her section chose last from a required list of authors
led to some uncomfortable moments along the and “all the good ones had been taken.” Datedness
way. I admit to feeling sheepish that my three-year- (is that a real word?) may be because the literature
old quoted lines from Monty Python’s The Holy was only relevant to a certain time or it was popu-
Grail at inappropriate times. Nothing like hearing lar because it was controversial at that point in time
your kid note that Sister So-and-So of the impos- or our children (students) may just not have enough
ing bosom had “huge tracts of land” in sacrament life experience to relate.
meeting, and in a British accent no less. On the I too have experienced what Eric seems to have
more normal side, they played lots of video games gone through that when we recommend a book,
as well, particularly liking WWF and Soul Caliber, play, or movie it may be rejected just because the
lots of Sim computer games. So in many ways they old fogy recommended it. When we recommend a
were ordinary teens, but had a lot of exposure to wonderful piece of literature (and buy a good hard-
theater, both musicals and stage plays, movies and bound copy of it for their birthday) and they react
all different types of literature. Maybe it’s the with indifference or mirth it’s hard on our egos but
breadth of stuff teens are familiar with that makes so is a lot of parenting. I think we have an obliga-
them accepting of “dated” material. tion to our kids (and/or students, younger relatives,
To me it’s a sign of immaturity (what else should etc.) to sell the literature. Not everything we like
we expect from teens?) and the need for further will be liked by kids (look at this list—do we agree
education that makes someone “hoot” at West Side on book reviews?) but there is a lot that they can

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enjoy and love. We just need to find it and help list, hoping to generate some kind of permanent
them access it. recommendation sheet. But I also wanted to know
I’ve found that the way to get kids to love Shake- if they recommended different books for girls than
speare is to take them to plays. Movie tie-ins of for boys, or if there were any books they would only
classics are wonderful. O Brother raised great inter- recommend for girls or boys. The membership of
est in Homer among the teens in my circle both this list ranges in age from mid-teens to late-fifties,
related and not. Victor Hugo really rocks when he’s and includes a number of academics and several
on stage. I’ve tried to read Lord of the Rings to my librarians.
kids for years and had all but given up when two What I learned was surprising to me, since I had
years before the movie was released my older sons always heard that boys will only read “boy” books
discovered the website for the movie and suddenly and that girls will read either “boy” or “girl” books.
requested copies of the books and have stolen my First, there was no consensus on what a “boy” or a
good copies a couple of times over. LOTR was “cool” “girl” book was; even the idea that boys wouldn’t
again but it wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t good read a book with a strong romance element was
literature to start with. shot down by the men on the list, and a few of
At least some kids do like books. I have noticed them admitted to having read a romance novel or
a strange phenomenon in my life. I’m the mom at two. Second, the men (whom I queried directly on
football games, mutual functions, and any other this point) all said they’d never (as teens) felt put off
place who always has a book. I also have a living by a book just because it seemed girly. They didn’t
room with a 20-ft. floor-to-ceiling bookcase that is prefer action-adventure, thrillers, spy novels, or
overflowing (I’m promised another for my birth- books with steely-eyed male protagonists. They just
day), mostly with science fiction and young liked reading, and they liked books that interested
adult/children’s books. Some high school boys who them, whatever that meant. I don’t know how rep-
come to the house and see the books or see me at resentative they are, as heavily self-selected as this
school or church with a book will ask me about list is, but their answers were not really what I
what I’m reading or approach me about whether I expected even from fanatic readers.
think that a certain book is “good.” Often I get The final thing all of them (male and female)
queries about which AP books I would recom- insisted on was that the best way to figure out what
mend. Yes, they are the “geeky” boys but I do love a teen will read is to know that teen well. This
them. I never have had a girl approach me in that doesn’t help me, and probably won’t help Cathy,
way. Weird? because it implies that there is no master list to
As we talk about what books we would recom- consult when you’re trying to get delinquents/cheer-
mend to young people, delinquent or not, I often leaders/science wonks/insert category here to read
see a huge gender divide. Does anyone else see something. Even kids who are “troubled teens” are
a difference in what boys like compared to what troubled for so many different reasons that there’s
girls like? no one perfect book for all of them. But because
Melissa Proffitt (Aug. 21): I started this discus- there’s no certainty, I think it’s important not to
sion on another list I’m on, which is devoted to sci- rule out any book, even if we think boys (or girls)
ence fiction and fantasy (for all ages). The reason is in general wouldn’t like it, because it’s impossible to
that I’ve now had three young men in my ward know that for sure.
approach Jacob and me because they’ve started
reading fantasy (usually Lord of the Rings or the Generalizing from Experience
Harry Potter books) and they don’t know where to
go next. (And their parents have no idea.) Despite Richard Dutcher (Oct. 22): It should be inter-
years of reading the stuff, this question makes my esting to us, as Mormon writers, that even those of
mind go blank. So I took it to my friends on that us on this list tend to universalize our personal LDS

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experience. As experts on Mormonism, as all of us 7. Sometimes single men are allowed to serve as
would surely claim to be (on some level), we dis- bishop. It may be rare, but it happens.
miss the representation of anything outside our 8. Bishops can be sheriffs. In fact, some of Brigham
own limited experience as implausible, unrealistic, City’s biggest fans are bishop/sheriffs. I may have to
or simply wrong. We may reject or mock someone’s go out and find an unmarried bishop/sheriff with a
work because of our own, and not the author’s, mustache and see if I can get Eric Snider to write
ignorance. an article about him. Maybe then we could put this
You’d be surprised how many negative criticisms one to rest.
I’ve received as a result of including events, charac- Oh yes, as far as the discussion of falsifying
ters, props, wardrobe, etc., based on my own life Church records is concerned . . . Come on, guys.
experiences. Someone with 1/100 of the dark talent and imagi-
Here are some examples: nation of Mark Hofmann (remember him?) could
1. Bishops and facial hair, of course. Yes, I did figure that one out in about twenty minutes.
have a bishop who wore a full beard. For the entire I would have included the specifics in Brigham
duration of his service, I believe. City, but I figured the audience was a little more
2. Occasionally imperfect men, some of them interested in how the killer committed multiple
even “brusque,” are called to be mission presidents. murders rather than how he sneaked one past the
3. Sometimes missionaries do travel alone (I ward clerk.
often did). And sometimes those who are supposed I could go on and on and on. Sometimes attrac-
to pick them up at the airport arrive late. tive women do serve full-time missions (I had
4. Sometimes missionaries who have been seri- several in my mission), some missionaries have
ously ill, even with cancer, are allowed to serve mis- actually taken photographs of their companions on
sions. And sometimes the cancer returns. And the toilet, sometimes missionaries let their hair get
sometimes, the missionaries are allowed to stay and a little longer than it should be before they cut it,
serve. And sometimes they die. The character of sometimes they walk past prostitutes (I often had
Elder Dalton, in fact, was based on a real mission- to). . . . What else?
ary from the L.A. mission whose cancer returned The LDS experience is so much more varied
and who served in the field until the day he died. than we believe. It seems strange that we would nit-
Incredible, but true. pick over the employment of unusual characters,
5. Sometimes the mission doesn’t have brand occurrences, and events in our storytelling. Are we
new Ford vans in which to transport the missionar- to be confined to that which is ordinary? And not
ies. In my mission, we used a beat-up former deliv- only to that which is ordinary, but to that which is
ery van, which if I remember correctly had been generally understood by 99 percent of us to be
donated by a man who had used it for a neighbor- truly ordinary?
hood ice-cream truck. Not long after God’s Army Perhaps one of the unforeseen benefits of LDS
was released I received a thank-you from a recently filmmaking will be the inevitable broadening we
returned missionary from a U.S. mission who will experience as we publicly share our experiences
drove the mission van . . . an old VW bus. and points of view. Perhaps we are more naïve of
6. Sometimes people are baptized in the ocean, the real LDS culture than we think.
even in the United States. The actor who played the John Dewey Remy (Oct. 23): I think that this
mission president, who was in real life an adult con- issue is a complex one. Consider the following:
vert, was baptized near the beach where we filmed I wrote a semi-autobiographical story about a
the God’s Army baptisms. Why in the ocean instead young Mormon who attends his grandfather’s funeral
of in one of the fifty-seven fonts in the area? Because in Japan while serving a full-time mission (shame-
that’s what he wanted. Apparently salt water is just less self-promotion: it will appear in the Octo-
as effective at washing away sins as tap water. ber 2002 issue of Sunstone magazine). In real life,

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I received permission from the mission and area mundane presentations are too ordinary to reflect
presidents to cross six missions, traveling alone, to acceptable reality.
attend the funeral. When I crafted the story, I felt Bill Willson (Oct. 25): This struck a chord with
it necessary to create a companion to accompany me, and I find myself compelled to respond. I have
the main character to make the situation more often thought that writers/authors have a responsi-
believable to my Mormon audience. bility to not let our imaginations fuel the minds
I stopped reading Tom Clancy because I had that are striving to formulate diabolical plans for
a hard time accepting some of the out-of-the- the destruction of the world. We need to realize
ordinary events he included in his books. He made that whatever we can dream up, or imagine, can
terrorists nuke a Super Bowl stadium in Denver become the reality of the future. When I was a boy
and had a Japanese pilot fly an otherwise empty I used to read Buck Rogers comics and think how
jumbo jet kamikaze-style into the U.S. Capitol wonderful it would be to fly to the moon and
building. (I think that most of the Democrats die explore space. Now we are doing it. Writers need to
in this attack . . . perhaps this is the real reason I be careful that we don’t create worlds we are not
stopped reading Clancy?) Years later, real-life willing to have our grandchildren live in or, in light
terrorists fly jumbo jets full of men, women, and of the exponential advance of modern technology,
children into the World Trade Center and the Pen- worlds we are not eager to live in ourselves.
tagon. If Clancy, or anyone else, had inserted this D. Michael Martindale (Oct. 28): I can’t dis-
horrible scenario into a story or a movie before agree with this more. It still amazes me that people
September 2001, would the readers have accepted think they have the right to tell other writers what
the event as plausible within the confines of the and what not to write. If we followed the above
world the author created? prescription, the vast majority of all our stories
I think that we can all point to bizarre experi- would disappear, and some of the most inspiring
ences that support Mark Twain’s observation that ones, too.
“the truth is stranger than fiction.” Writers still Who wants to live in a world where a man who
have to consider their audience, however. While steals a loaf of bread because his family is starving
Richard states that we shouldn’t limit our presenta- is caught and ends up serving nineteen years in a
tion to the plain and ordinary, I caution that just dismal prison, then can’t make an honest living
because we can point to examples of the out of the because he’s a convict, so resorts to stealing again,
ordinary in our own experience doesn’t mean that even from a bishop who gave him food and a place
we can safely include them in our works. We can’t to sleep? So you’d better throw out Victor Hugo’s
lose our audiences by inserting things which are Les Miserables.
beyond belief. The writer has to carefully convince Who wants to live in a world where a man who
the audience to suspend their disbelief. We have the won’t betray his people to aid an old friend who
tricky task of keeping the audience in a delicate became a powerful leader in a conquering nation is
bubble of virtuality for the duration of their expe- then framed by the old friend for the attempted
rience. This means that we can’t burst that bubble murder of a government official, is sentenced to a
by subjecting the audience to events that they can’t lifetime of servitude, and has his family thrown
accept. This may have been part of Stephen Spiel- into a dungeon where they develop leprosy? There
berg’s motivation when he chose not to display some goes Ben-Hur.
of the Nazis most hideous acts in Schindler’s List (he I would hate to live in a world where every move
specifically gives the example of SS troops throwing I make is watched and every product I buy is man-
Jewish babies into the air for target practice). ufactured by the government and is of pathetic
That said, God’s Army and Brigham City were quality; where I can’t trust any piece of news to tell
two of the most realistic and believable Mormon me anything remotely resembling the truth; where
movies I have experienced. By contrast, the more when the government says something is so, I am

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forced to believe it, no matter how false I know it question as to whether the net is being thrown too
to be. Good-bye Orwell’s 1984. close to the shore, or are there simply no Mormon
Science fiction has uncounted stories of dystopian writers of other backgrounds presently writing?
worlds, worlds we’d all hate to live in, which worlds 2. Does Mormon literature need to explicitly
were created by authors who wanted us to think deal with Mormon themes? A survey of books writ-
hard about the consequences of trends they see in ten by LDS writers and reviewed on the AML site
society, and ask ourselves if we want to live in such seems to suggest that this no longer need be the
worlds, and what can we do to avoid it. “Caution- case. I ask as an inquiring writer and poet, ques-
ary tales” they’re called. Throw it all out. tioning whether someday others will look at my
How do we ever learn about the negative side of work and set it alongside with other LDS writers
life, the negative consequences of sin, the dangers and say: “Is there enough here for this poet’s work
of foolishness or mercilessness? Are we allowed only to be considered Mormon literature?”
to learn about them first-hand in real life because 3. What makes a work Mormon literature? Per-
we have nowhere to experiment with cause and effect haps the test should simply be: “Could this piece
in a safe environment, through imaginary tales? have been written if the poet/writer was not LDS?”
And this because we mustn’t tell tales that paint Perhaps there are themes that are more universal in
pictures of worlds we don’t like, on the off-chance nature but still LDS. Many LDS writers explore
someone will take our vision and try to realize it? aspects of their pioneer heritage or write with an
Must we remain in a state of blissful ignorance that eye to history—yet as the Church grows more
Adam and Eve fell to rescue us from? international, the definitions of “pioneer” and “her-
Writers need to be careful that they don’t avoid itage” need to be reexamined. Each convert is a pio-
creating such worlds. Truth must be told, and if neer. Each Mormon of ethnicity has a trail to blaze,
truth is ugly, so much more the need to expose the a wilderness to tame.
ugliness for all to see. Unrecognized ugliness can- 4. Rather than seek only to define ourselves as
not be dealt with. If no story were ever written that separate and “peculiar,” should we not also explore
depicted an ugly world, would the bad guys sud- our commonality with the rest of the believing
denly lose all imagination and never be able to world? The gospel embraces all truth. Should we
think up the evil acts on their own? If we would not write seeking the intersections as well as the
just stop writing novels, perhaps peace would break separations? If my writing is informed by a strong
out and all sin disappear. acquaintance with the Old Testament, an appre-
ciation for Buddhist and Taoist thought, and/or a
Diversity in Mormon Literature familiarity with Judaism or Catholicism—am I still
a Mormon writer?
Neil Aitken (Oct. 15): I’m very new to the list, 5. Is the theme of “wanderers in a strange land”
but have several questions which I felt were perti- (Alma 13:23) a sufficiently Mormon theme? If we
nent to the discussion of what constitutes Mormon look to the Book of Mormon, we see that the
literature and other directions that need to be people frequently viewed themselves as strangers
explored. If you have any insights into these ques- and wanderers. Echoes of “I’m a pilgrim, I’m a
tions, your comments would be welcome. stranger.” The sense that we sojourn on this
1. Where are the writings of faithful Mormons earth—we are immortal beings on the strange
of other ethnicities and cultures? Where is the liter- shore of mortality. Or perhaps extended to the con-
ature of those converted to the faith? For the most vert, another stranger in a strange land?
part Mormon literature as it is presently docu- As a Canadian Mormon of mixed heritage
mented reflects the culture, tradition, and experi- (Chinese-Scottish), I find these questions particu-
ence of those of pioneer stock and pedigreed larly important in my personal exploration of place
names. While their voices are important, it raises a and identity. I have been wondering if others have

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asked the same questions or discovered anything the way; in fact, my honesty about things like the
along the way. race issue provides him some much-needed answers
Jana Remy (Oct. 16): My husband’s short story, to questions he has had or would have had, and he’s
“Ojiichan’s Funeral,” might fall into this category. pretty bold about disallowing anyone to perpetuate
It’s about a Japanese-American missionary who racist folklore. His biggest complaint against the
attends his Japanese grandfather’s Buddhist funeral. Church is the general one that it is so “flawed.” He
Look for it in the next issue of Sunstone. has, of course, reached the pinnacle of brilliance at
Katie Parker (Oct. 17): There are a couple of age 16, and so recognizes how lousy some of the
British LDS novelists out there who I know of. church talks are, etc. Why should he subject him-
One, Anne Bradshaw, has written a couple of LDS self to such crap when he could be home writing
novels set in the 1960s in the British Isles. There’s his novel, which will actually have some substance?
a character who gets involved in the IRA and it gets I found myself saying things I think might be
pretty interesting. The other, Anna Jones, has writ- appropriate to this conversation two Sundays ago,
ten a couple of books set in her native Wales, when my son, who had finally agreed to be
although the book I read really could have been set ordained a priest, refused to go to church where he
anywhere. I believe there may be another one or was to have blessed the sacrament for the first time,
two publishing with Covenant at this point. And, with his dad alongside him. It was, of course, a very
if the Deep South counts as multicultural, Betsy big disappointment for Bruce to have this particu-
Brannon Green has written a few LDS novels set lar rite of passage casually tossed aside. The reason
there. She comes from there as well. for my son’s decision? There was a particular talk a
This is more than we’ve had in the past. Although few Sundays ago which just galled him because it
there are still a lot of cultures we aren’t hearing was so disorganized and insubstantial. He global-
from, more and more novels are being set outside ized it to represent the entire Church. In tears, I
of Utah. Eventually, I hope, we’ll have literature bore my testimony to him and told him that he was
from all parts of the world. passing up the opportunity to represent the Lord in
serving the emblems of Passover (as we understand
Difficult Art the “Santa Cena” in our home) to everyone in our
Margaret Young (Oct. 9): Can I just be brutally ward—including all the “dummies” who give such
honest here? It’s not the Mormon culture that stupid talks and ask such clichéd questions in Sun-
doesn’t want art, it’s the whole dang world. With day school. Yes, the robes of grace cover even them.
the exception of the Bible (which well-intentioned Actually, in thinking about it, I’m reminded of that
folks have even pablumized into “modern” language), poignant scene in Brigham City where the bishop
readers throughout the nation flock to badly writ- becomes everyman—unworthy and so nakedly
ten schlock. Every semester, I spend an entire class aware of his lack of vision and wisdom that he can-
period talking about Harlequin romances, reading not possibly accept the gift of grace.
portions of several, and then contrasting them to The truth is, I really wish good literature would
good writing—which writing may involve romance, sell better than it does. I know the truth of Ameri-
too, by the way. But I find myself in yet another can culture, however (and of many other cultures
interesting situation which prevents me from rant- I’ve participated in), and recognize that most folks
ing about the disparity between art and popular want an easy escape and simply have not cultivated
imitations of art. the taste for the finer fare available to them. And
My son (the one who God has given to me as a others are offended by violence or sexuality and
great gift and challenge) decides periodically that so won’t be partaking of either, thanks. (As a red-
he doesn’t like being Mormon. He comes up with head, I had a particularly strong reaction to the
some interesting reasons—and the things I write murderer’s choice of victims in Brigham City, of
about are not behind his teenaged wanderings, by course.)

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I actually talk about Charly in my creative writ- prepare the soil and spread the garden. Ask any
ing classes, because I remember loving the original publisher where he gets the money to sell a purely
short story when it came out in 1974. (That issue literary offering. Those funds come straight from
happens to also contain a lovely article about black the “weeds.”
pioneers Sam and Amanda Chambers.) But man, Harlow S. Clark (Oct. 10): Flip, Margaret,
was I disappointed by the book! I recognized that I don’t know if we can stand such fetchin’ brutally
Weyland had found success far too quickly and was honest language. (Or should that be, Fetch, Mar-
falling for every temptation offered the beginning garet, I don’t know if we can stand such flippin’
writer. (Well, at least he didn’t have Sam wake up brutally honest language? Dagwoodnabit, I’m not
and discover it all had been a dream.) But I am sure about the syntax [about 30 cents/gallon] for
willing to let Charly succeed. I’m willing to sell way those two words.)
fewer books than “popular” writers. This is simply And yet. I spent a good portion of Sunday morn-
the way it is. I know that some people actually need ing waiting for someone to die in the electric chair.
what Darius and I are writing. And I think my hus- I had to be there. I don’t remember why, but I had
band in particular needed Brigham City. I can’t to be there. It was a two-round execution. Pass
really tell Richard how moved Bruce was by that some electricity through, then wait, then pass some
movie. It took him about an hour to quit being more through, but we couldn’t seem to get to
tearful. round two, and I just sat there in the chamber, all
But obviously, not everyone is a Bruce Young. this tension building in me until I escaped from it
Most people are nothing like him. That’s just the by waking myself and realizing the unspeakable
reality. The upside is that even those dummies in cruelty of half-executing someone, then waiting to
the movie theater are included in the infinite grace finish the killing. Sometimes the dream takes dif-
of the Savior, and most will find moments in their ferent form, like hanging people from the railings
lives when they will need something beyond Charly. in the stairway next to the tunnel in BYU’s Fine
Maybe by some miracle, they’ll find Brigham City Arts Center. [. . .]
or something yet to be made. [GREEN MILE SPOILER ALERT]
I personally think our (LDS artists’) best work I think Sunday’s version of this dream came from
hasn’t been done yet. We’re still building the foun- watching The Green Mile on TV a couple weeks
dation. And it does include some overdone flour- ago. One review I glanced at called the movie dis-
ishes and maybe even some vandalized brick, but honest, and I kept wondering why. At the end, if it
the foundation is a good one. When it is fully built, hasn’t been obvious, it becomes obvious as they’re
I anticipate that the structure it will hold will be kneeling at John Coffey’s feet, bathing them with
magnificent. But I also know that there will be smi- their tears, that this is the story of the Crucifixion
ley faces and other silly pictures on some of the from the crucifiers’ POV. The scene was so bla-
frame stones. (I think the Lord will accept those tantly symbolic I could understand why someone
offerings as well, just as I accepted the off-key voice would call it dishonest. After everything Coffey has
of a choir member who really wanted to sing the done for the warden, no one even pretends to search
Hallelujah Chorus but had far more desire than for a way out of the situation? Come on. Crap! The
skill.) It will be a strange temple, surrounded by only reason that movie ends that way is so the nar-
strange gardens containing weeds as well as exotic rator can play Ancient Mariner. The filmmakers
flowers and hybrids. But we’re not even to the sec- (and maybe Stephen King) have wrenched the
ond story yet, and the garden has barely been story into an allegory with a nice Ancient Mariner
planted. I’m just grateful for those who are willing twist, but they’re telling it in a realistic idiom, and
to sow their seeds, and even grateful for those what happens is not realistic. (Of course, I’m invit-
whose plants seem to be overtaking the garden ing contradiction here.)
space. The truth is, those “weeds” are helping to [End Spoiler Alert]

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The point is, I don’t like stories about execution, moved around Provo in various apartments, up to
but they keep finding their way into my writing. Seattle, back to Provo, and out to PG without
Even the RMMLA paper I’m revising has execution being read. Someday. Someday too I’ll read Tadeusz
sneak its way in. I also find stories about miscar- Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentle-
riages of justice upsetting, and stories about parents men, and get past the first line of Jakov Lind’s “Soul
bereft of living children, or families torn apart. of Wood”: “Those who had no papers entitling
Which is why it took me a while to get around to them to live lined up to die.”
Holes by Louis Sachar, and why I would have been Travis Manning (Oct. 22): Perhaps we need a
apprehensive about Sharlee Glenn’s Circle Dance if smorgasbord of artistic Mormon art and text. As
I’d known the subject matter, and why there was Mormon artists we purport to preparing (writing)
added tension for me in Laurel Brady’s Say You Are and feasting (then enjoying well-written literature)
My Sister. And then there’s that upsetting chapter in as our vision of, say, a filet mignon with crab and
Bound for Canaan about Sam Joe Harvey’s lynching jumbo shrimp, N.Y. cheesecake, and an expensive
I read yesterday on the bus. drink, as the main course, as “the best” or tastiest
I suspect that sometimes people avoid difficult dinner imaginable. But some people don’t like
works of art not because they “want an easy escape steak or seafood, or they don’t drink wine, or juice,
and simply have not cultivated the taste for the finer or water, or whatever it is. They may be content
fare available to them,” but because, like those people with a cheeseburger and side salad, a Charly. Per-
who stayed home the day Jacob preached about the haps there are those who stick with “the basics”
unchastity of some men in the community, they because that’s all they know, and they’re content
simply don’t want their souls harrowed up. with their literary selections because they haven’t
Certain things resonate at a visceral level, inde- been schooled to critically examine “art.” If this is
pendent of whether they’re well done or not. My so, shouldn’t all “levels” of Mormon artistry, be it
wife can’t stand to watch Brigham City because the filet-mignon level or the cheeseburger level, be
there’s so much tension in the film. She doesn’t considered as vital incremental steps for the matur-
deny it’s a well-made film. My niece’s husband ing Mormon audience? Line upon line, precept
doesn’t like it because it has a cereal killer (first it upon precept, here a little, there a little we move an
was Cap’n Crunch smashed to flour, then Franken- audience along.
berry fizzled into froth) performing priesthood Critiquing art is not something we overtly teach
ordinances. It doesn’t matter for him that the film in the Mormon church—except for “Don’t watch
hardly condones that (what sane film would want rated-R movies,” and once in a while the D&C is
people eating Cap’n Crunch, after all?), the film quoted with regards to seeking learning out of the
simply touches something visceral that he doesn’t best books, and there are the occasional roadshows,
want touched. concerts, plays, musicals, talent shows, and other
The film affects me in a different way, touching special programs that wards and stakes sponsor;
something I want touched, filling a hunger and a some are well done, many not.
thirst for me. So the film resonates viscerally for me I think improving the hunger for Mormon art
too. I know we can develop a taste for challenging comes down to what Wayne Booth has been saying
and complex art, but I’m not sure we choose what for years: Mormons haven’t had the “critical com-
touches or nourishes us, what sets our internal munity” necessary to push most quality Mormon
catgut vibrating. I do know there are some things art. Booth has said a musically educated and criti-
I’m not quite ready to read. More than 25 years ago cally minded church has produced the Tabernacle
Mike Lyon was teaching our Sunny Schoodle class Choir—because there were enough talented vocal-
(I was in high school) and he told us about Jerzy ists and a high enough interest level, enough “crit-
Kozinski’s The Painted Bird. I saw a copy on BYU ics” or musicians to sustain the artistic medium.
bookstore’s remainder table and bought it, but it’s Today, I think we are well on our way to amassing

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these “critical community” forces in music and R A M E U M P T O M


other artistic genres—but we’re in for the long haul
en route. There is much to pursue and improve Local Waiter Serves God, Mammon
within Mormon art. We may have to begin at the
bottom and feed the masses cheeseburgers, or By Stephen Carter
Charlys (book or film), to introduce them, then we
move Mormon art consumers along this “food LOS ANGELES, CA—Against all scriptural
chain,” teaching them to critically examine and odds, Walter Bennion, restaurant server and out-
connect with their Mormon-ness and art at other of-work television actor, served both God and
levels of meaning and importance. Mammon at TGI Friday’s Tuesday night without
As Margaret Young states, we need to “cultivate any apparent negative repercussions.
the taste for the finer fare.” Idly accepting what “I don’t think either of them knew the other was
we’re spoon-fed is not cultivating art. We need to, there,” said Bennion, as he wiped down some serv-
as Gideon Burton has said, borrow critiquing tools ing platters. “Mammon came in first and took
from all literary schools, taking the best from other booth three, which is off in a dark corner, and then
critical communities to help build our own so we God came in and got table seven since he said he
don’t have to reinvent the wheel. was waiting for someone. But whoever it was never
Perhaps another answer to the Mormon art showed up.”
dilemma lies with film, arguably the most influen- Bennion describes his experience of waiting on
tial of the mass media for our time. Perhaps film the Almighty as a pleasant one. “He was nice enough
needs the most criticism, first and foremost, if we— to talk to. He asked me how it was working in this
Mormon artists—will substantially alter the Mor- place, and I said fine, but I’m really just waiting for
mon mindset, and thus art by and about Mormons. my big break into television. I was trying to, you
Let quality Mormon art trickle down from quality know, give him a hint, but he just nodded absently
Mormon film. and asked for a refill of his water glass.”
While God looked over the menu, Bennion
served Mammon.
“When I saw Mammon, I was like, ‘Whoa, hang
on here, am I sure I want to be doing this?’ But he
was a paying customer, so I took his order.”
Despite Bennion’s initial worries, he described
Mammon as outgoing and helpful.
“I got a little more comfortable with Mammon
while he was there,” said Bennion. “He wasn’t
nearly so reserved as God. I mean, when Mammon
wanted something he didn’t make any bones about
it. But God—he would just sit there patiently until
I remembered him. I was never quite sure what
he was thinking. Was he angry? Was he just being
merciful? What?”
When the menu conversation with Mammon
veered to Bennion’s television aspirations, he found
that Mammon was exactly the person he wanted
to meet.
“He knows everyone, I swear! He said he could
set me up with this really great agent and get me a

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role in no time,” said Bennion, who just happened


to have a headshot and acting résumé with him at
the time. “Now Mammon knows everything about
me.” Bennion accepted Mammon’s business card
and is going to call him in the morning.
However, Bennion’s excitement dissipated when
God’s order of lamb chops with mint jelly came up.
“I just knew he was going to be able to sense that
I had been serving Mammon,” Bennion said, “and I
started remembering what God said about people
like me. I kinda wondered if I would finish my shift
in one piece.”
God, however, didn’t bat an eye.
“Well, maybe God isn’t quite as justice-oriented
as I first thought,” Bennion mused, “but he’s quite
finicky about his food. He would only eat stuff
when it was piping hot. If something ever got luke-
warm, like his Postum did, he just spewed it out of
his mouth.”
But the real test of a customer’s mettle was yet to
come: the tip.
“The way Mammon tips, he’s welcome to come
back any time,” said Bennion. God, however, left
only a note that said, “I will repay, saith the Lord.”
“I admit I’m kind of disappointed in God,” said
Bennion. “People are promising me this kind of stuff
all the time in this business, and then they never
come back. But this is God we’re talking about
here. He supposed to always keep his promises. But
his record with the children of Israel doesn’t give
me much hope. I’ll probably be like 60 before he
gets back to me.”

Stephen Carter is pursuing a master’s in creative writ-


ing in Alaska. This article first appeared in the online
satire publication Thesugarbeet.com.

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Thanks to Our Donors


The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to acknowledge the following members who
have made an extra financial contribution by paying AML dues at the lifetime, sustaining, or
contributing levels. In addition, we have listed those who have received an honorary lifetime
membership in recognition of their influence and achievements in Mormon literature.
To become a lifetime, sustaining, or contributing member of the AML, simply join or renew
at the rates indicated below. To be considered for honorary lifetime membership, simply
accomplish some extraordinary writing, scholarship, or criticism for a sustained period of time.

Lifetime Members ($500)


None

Sustaining Members ($250)


None

Contributing Members ($100)


Cherry & Barnard Silver
Dorothy W. Peterson
Robert Lee Joseph
Mormon Pavillion/Nauvoo Books

Honorary Lifetime Members


Lavina Fielding Anderson
Eloise Bell
Wayne Booth
Mary L. Bradford
Marden Clark
Richard Cracroft
John S. Harris
Edward Hart
Gerald Lund
William Mulder
Hugh Nibley
Levi Peterson
Thomas Rogers
Steven P. Sondrup
Douglas Thayer
Emma Lou Thayne
Laurel T. Ulrich
Terry Tempest Williams
William A. Wilson

IRREANTUM 101 Winter 2002–2003


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Association for Mormon Letters


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For Your Consideration


What is the difference between My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Singles Ward? Is it
possible one has a universal story placed in a particular cultural setting, where the other is a
cultural setting imposed on a story? The difference means $200 million at the box office.

Films based on the Book of Mormon must present a story that others can relate to as they
trumpet the message of the restoration. No insider knowledge should be necessary to appreci-
ate the story or message from such films. And such projects have to meet the world’s standard
for entertainment value.

Forerunner, listed as a quarter-finalist in the 2002


Hollywood’s Next Success script-writing contest,
relates the saga of Samuel the Lamanite.

The Coming presents the sequel story of Nephi, son of


Nephi, in a foreshadowing-of-our-day presentation,
culminating with the appearance of the Savior.

May the writers share these two screenplays with the literary community for critique,
counsel, and correction? Possibly you are the key to a production. We will never know unless
you accept this offered gift for a connection.

Write with a $10 contribution to defray costs to


P.O. Box 110791, Tacoma, WA 98411
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