Category: Creative Writing

Review: Fresh Courage Take, or What It’s Like to Be a Mormon Woman

Fresh Courage Take

I recently read the new book Fresh Courage Take: New Directions by Mormon Women (Signature Books, 2015; publisher’s page), edited by Jamie Zvirdin with a foreward by Joanna Brooks. Twelve enlightening essays reflecting the plight, fight, and delight of being a Mormon woman circa 2015. You might ask: Not being a Mormon woman myself, who am I to write a review of this book? I know at least a few Mormon women rather well (mother, wife, daughter). Also, I have read lots of blog and Facebook posts by articulate Mormon women sounding some of the same themes and experiences, albeit shorter and less polished than these published essays. There’s a certain “I’m mad as heck and I’m not going to take it for much longer, only a few more years, but I really enjoy teaching the Sunbeams” quality to a lot of Mormon feminist writing. These essays show even less mad and more enjoyment.

Day 2 of Gratitude

Jenna

Prayers of Gratitude—Sunday, November 9 . . . was the annual Primary Program, one of my favorite Sundays of the year. Though many find this day difficult, I simply have to smile at the unpredictable entertainment, as well as the sincere belief and sincere silliness of little children. Moreover, there is the pleasure of watching someone else discipline my rowdy children while I sit and enjoy whatever message I can glean from the too-close-to-the-microphone yelling of three-year-olds. This year I did get a message.

Learning to Yell

woman_pulling_hair_out

You probably think the title is a joke or some nice irony or a typo. It is not. It is not even a feminist manifesto about reclaiming my “voice.” This really is a story about me re-learning to yell. I used to yell. No problem. All I needed was a slight provocation

4 o’clock

closed

A few years ago, my sister handed me a lumpy white envelope for Christmas. I opened it carefully, able to feel the jumble of small parts beneath my fingertips. Inside were perhaps 30 or 40 small, dark seeds. “Um. Cool,” I said, mystified.

Gay : Marriage :: Mormon : Christian

A Play in One Act Heber: . . . and that’s why we should all recognize that Mormons are Christians. Aquinas: Whoa, whoa. I understand your enthusiasm. The label of Christian is really valuable. But it also has a set definition. And I don’t think Mormons are in that definition. Heber: Why not? We believe in Jesus, don’t we? Christianity is defined by one thing: Belief in Jesus. Aquinas: That’s where you’re wrong. In fact, there’s a lot more to Christianity than belief in Jesus. Throughout human history, the word “Christian” has included a complicated package of additional, interrelated ideas. There is the Nicene creed, the Trinity, and a variety of other beliefs. And no entity satisfies that particular combination except for mainline Christians. Heber: But those are peripheral, cultural, possibly wrong. And when you look at it, even those have changed repeatedly over the years. Aquinas: Yes, there has been some shifting over time. But the label has always…

A Mother Here – New Art and Poetry Contest

A Mother Here

There have been LDS art contests in the past, either sponsored by LDS church institutions or by private organizations, but none have yet focused on Heavenly Mother as their theme. That changed this month with the newly announced A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest. Aiming to stimulate the visual and poetic expression of Heavenly Mother, as well as highlight the nascent divinity that resides in women as well as men, monetary prizes in excess of $2200 will be awarded to the best entries. The contest accepts two-dimensional art submissions to be considered in its visual arts awards, and all forms of poetry for the poetry awards. The contest will accept submissions until March 4, 2014, after which award-winning entries will be chosen by prestigious judges Susan Elizabeth Howe (esteemed poet, playwright, and professor) and Herman Du Toit (former head of the Durban Art School and former head of museum research at BYU’s Museum of Art). Winning entries will be announced…

Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons

My friend and neighbor has written a beautiful parable that I am pleased to share with you today. David Harding works actively in his ward and neighborhood. His daughter is my daughter’s best friend. As those of you with children know, it is a great blessing to have your offspring fall in with good people who help support them as they grow into themselves. Periodically, maybe once or twice a year, David writes something that he thinks could be shared beyond his close circle. The topics range, but as often as not they are gospel related. And so I’m introducing David, and one of his writings, to you.   The Parable of the Two Sons by David Harding The master of the vineyard was setting out to travel foreign lands for a number of years. He had two sons whom he loved more than anything else. They had recently come-of-age and now had their own budding households. The first son was…

King Noah’s Blues

Chicago-Blues-Festival-2013

I could see them before I crossed Michigan Avenue into Grant Park. There were probably five of them, holding big yellow signs with blocky letters, Bible verses. It seemed out of place, fifty feet in front of the entrance to the Chicago Blues Festival, but maybe I just didn’t understand the logic behind it. I don’t remember the verses the signs promoted, and the picketers seemed nice enough, holding signs but not harassing the passersby, passersby who, like me, basically ignored them. Maybe they’d picked out verses of scripture with special applicability to fans of the blues; then again, maybe these were just generic holy protest signs.

How a concussion made me think of Stephenie Meyer and Francis Hutcheson

thehostcover

Last semester, my first semester studying Greek, I sustained a mild concussion. I have mostly recovered now. I still have problems with bright lights that makes nighttime driving intolerable, but for the most part, I’m functioning normally. But for a few weeks there, I couldn’t think straight. It hurt to concentrate. Reading even a light novel was difficult, and translating Greek was nigh impossible. Just looking at Greek letters caused me pain. But my handwriting was spectacular. Any notes I took about lectures I attended during that time are the most clearly written, beautifully precise notes I have ever taken. Sketching was fine too, so the concentration required to look and draw was painlessly available to me. It was strange to experience this involuntary shift in my capacities. I tend to think that what I think, how I think, is what I am. But if my cognitive functions are subject to physical manipulations, some of which are outside of my…

Authenticity and The Book of Mormon

I know, I said a year and a half ago that I wasn’t going to see The Book of Mormon. But then it came to Chicago and, in spite of the fact that it is sold out through at least March, a friend set me up with a ticket. So I’ve now seen the show. I’m not going to review it, though. It’s already been widely reviewed, and frankly, I don’t have the musical theater chops to provide a credible review.

Book of Mormon Comics

iPlates_Volume_1_Cover_for_Kindle

I love stories. A narrative strikes me as the most fundamental way of ideas with other people. And by ideas, I mean not only the bare events of the narrative, but also abstract concepts, morals, and emotional truths. It makes sense to me that our basic scriptural texts have strong narratives. The Old Testament is a collection of stories, with the consequences of one generation’s choices setting the stage for the actions of the next. The Book of Mormon also has very strong narratives. Other classic stories that we are familiar with, we feel free to reimagine. We update fairy tales, retell myths in modern settings. Even the stories of Genesis are recognized as archetypes that we re-present and reinterpret. But too often Mormons tend to shy away from this type of creative engagement with the text and narratives of the Book of Mormon, perhaps from a kind of self-censorship that fears corrupting in some way the most true book…

MR: Exquisitely Loud and Indelibly Close

The Mormon Review vol. 4 no. 1 is presented here, with Jonathon Penny’s review of Stephen Daldry’s 2012 film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. By Jonathon Penny I’m late with this, as with so much in my dog-eared, half-buttoned, last minute, Subway-sandwiched, twenty-first century life. I wrote the other day, on reflection about the harried nature of workaday (and workanight) life that I was precocious as a child, ambitious, full of expectations for myself and for the world around me bending to my will made holy for a borrowed righteousness and then the sag set in and I lost all of that to work and weekend and the paying of bills and the buying of groceries and clothes—the valid preoccupations of a grown up and the invalid occupations of a man of today that suck the meat and marrow, if I let them, if I forget them see them objects and not tools and not excuses to move about the…

Home Waters: Overview

Home Waters

George Handley’s Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River (University of Utah Press, 2010) practices theology like a doctor practices CPR: not as secondhand theory but as a chest-cracking, lung-inflating, life-saving intervention. Home Waters models what, on my account, good theology ought to do: it is experimental, it is grounded in the details of lived experience, and it takes charity – that pure love of Christ – as the only real justification for its having been written. It is not afraid to guess, it is not afraid to question, it is not afraid to cry repentance, and it is not afraid to speak in its own name. The book deserves some time and attention. It’s what you’ve been wanting to read. It may also be what you’ve been wanting to write. At the very least, it made me want to write about it. I’ve planned a few posts that will air some of my ideas about Handley’s ideas:…

Unique Outreach by the Rochester Stake

This week, the Rochester Stake in New York is sponsoring a special performance of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East, to be followed by a fireside featuring a discussion led by the Rochester Stake President. Notably, the performance is being directed by Jerry Argetsinger, who was the long-time director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant throughout the 90s, and costume design is being handled by Gail Argetsinger, a Tony award-winning costume designer who designed and supervised the construction of thousands of pageant costumes during the 90s. For those unfamiliar with Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple who is grappling with the suicide of their gay son. It was written by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon playwright and whose husband (and the father of her four children) left her to confront and explore his own homosexuality.  He returned to live with her 6 years later after being diagnosed with AIDS, with Sister Pearson caring for him in the months…

Rough Dawn Breaking

The marble skin of Joseph’s perfectly-muscled chest sparkled like diamonds in the Palmyra sun. Emma stared, captivated by the velvet tones of his voice, the intoxicating scent of his tousled bronze hair. “You should stay away from me,” he had warned her moodily. “I’m too dangerous.” But he couldn’t seem to stay away from her . . . My masterpiece will be available at fine bookstores everywhere, just as soon as I get it all written. I expect you all to purchase copies for home and office, and as Christmas gifts for nieces, and open-minded nephews.

M Gets a Joke

A while back our household sat down to watch an episode of Monk. We like Monk because not only is it funny, it’s also sad and tender and offers good – sometimes very good – cultural satire. As I fed M she kept turning her head to look at the TV, watching whatever it is she sees when she’s watching something. We’re not sure what that is because doctors have sent mixed messages about her eyesight. But she does see.

“What desirest thou?”

Several years ago I read a delightful book on creativity, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. It was full of interesting questions: “List ten tiny changes you’d like to make for yourself.” “What would you do as a career if you had seven more lives to live?” “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly I would try….” “List twenty things you’d like to do before you die.”

Story Time!

The day before the cliff swallows return to traditional nesting sites in canyons near where I live in southern Utah, the sky hangs quiet, with only a few ravens, hawks, and eagles spiraling through. The next day, whoosh! Swallows arrive reeling in their folklorico like revelers at an unseen party spilling onto a quiet street.

Field Notes #4

It is the destiny of mint to be crushed. –Waverley Lewis Root June 12, 2007 Rained most of the night. Morning’s cool and sweet. Good day to venture into a canyon. Because the storm has left behind puffy white seeds that could blossom suddenly into rain, I replace my extra water bottle with a rain poncho. In honor of the sky, scrubbed to a deep, shining blue, I wear my turquoise tee shirt. Usually I wear a white one with sleeves, but I like to wear this color when I hike. Weather permitting, I do.

Field Notes #2

We might use language in our attempts to set boundaries, but language contains in microcosmic acts the macrocosmic thrust toward new form. November 4, 2006 The trail into the canyon is rougher at November’s threshold; run-off from recent storms took the same trail to the canyon’s main water course that I must take.

Quothing the Raven

Some weeks ago a friend (an archaeologist and therefore a man of science) and I were discussing a nature writer who was coming to town to promote his latest book. I asked my friend if he liked this writer’s work. He said he did. I said that I did, too, and that I thought this writer one of the better nature writers out there. My friend agreed then added, “Although I wonder if a lot of them aren’t actually writing fiction.”

Field Notes #1

Remember the silence around Pueblo Alto in Chaco, so heavy you felt blanketed by its snows, and the desert landscape spread out below, unmoving for miles? That was silence. Not even a breeze singing on the stones. June 8, 2006 Hiked in the rain this morning.

Sweat

All winter I plotted how to improve the garden, my first focal point for exercising “good stewardship” over the acre plus we moved to a year and a half ago. Last year’s garden had gone all right. I loved every minute in it, especially the time spent with animals, like Woodhouses’ toads and cliff swallows, which helped keep the garden in good order. But I got a late start and the harvest fell short. This year, I pushed to start my tomatoes on time along with other herbs and veggies that don’t mind sprouting indoors. I schemed how to improve our red, clayey soil. I saved money to hire a local man to till our ground.

MWS: Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is the Campbell-nominated author (twice-nominated now) of the fantasy novels Elantris and Mistborn: The Final Empire. His novel Well of Ascension, second in the Mistborn trilogy, will be published in a few months. Other projects (including the playfully titled Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) are on the horizon. Brandon also recently released another full novel in draft form, Warbreaker, which is available for free at his website. He blogs at BrandonSanderson.com and posts frequently on the message board at The Official Time-Waster’s Guide. Brandon graciously agreed to be interviewed, as part of our ongoing Mormon Writers Symposium. [Interview questions by Kaimi Wenger] 1. You’ve established a reputation as a writer of genre fiction (fantasy). Many LDS writers (Orson Scott Card; Glen Larson) have used the genre of speculative fiction, broadly speaking. Is there something uniquely LDS about speculative fiction (or perhaps something uniquely speculative about the LDS mindset)?

MWS: Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale is a Newbery Honor-winning, New York Times bestseller-listed author of youth and fantasy fiction, most particularly Goose Girl and Princess Academy. This week sees the release of her latest novel Austenland, her first adult fiction novel. She is a returned missionary and lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and two under-three-years-old children.

MWS: Doug Thayer

Douglas Thayer is one of the pioneers of what Eugene England called “faithful realism” in his definitive study of Mormon literature. Besides having taught literally thousands of Mormon writers during his fifty years as a professor of English at Brigham Young University, his short story collections Under the Cottonwoods and Mr. Wahlquist in Yellowstone have become a template for those writing about the interior life of Mormons today. He has also published the novels Summer Fire and The Conversion of Jeff Williams.