To celebrate the 7th anniversary of the Mormon Lit Blitz, we decided to fund an additional $100 “Judge’s Choice” award, with a winner selected by Kylie Turley, a scholar of Mormon Literary history and a longtime teacher of Mormon Literature classes at Brigham Young University’s Provo campus. Turley’s award selection and citation follows:
In a set of Mormon Literary Blitz finalists, William Morris’s “Proof that Sister Greeley Is a Witch” stands out. Though all of the finalists developed their works from compelling and dramatic ideas; and some had especially unique diction and used powerfully vivid imagery (“Beneath the Visiting Moon”); while others developed intriguing plots that grabbed the readers’ attentions (“Counsel” and “Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets”) or closed powerfully (“Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together”) or moved through interesting plot twists (“After the Fast”); and yet still others conveyed powerful emotion in a non-sentimental way (“The Last Swing”), Morris was able to do all of those things in his short 10-step list while creating a strong sense of character within an LDS context.
Morris developed his idea in a creative manner: his use of a sort of “top 10” list incorporates both humor and serious moments, uses imagery and sensory description to not only tell a story, but also to develop his character. For example, Heidi’s sense of comedic timing is matched by her clever turn of phrase and wise insights. After listing gradually lengthening numbered reasons why Sister Greeley is strange, Heidi suddenly announces in reason number eight that “Sister Greeley has a wart on the side of her nose.” Heidi claims that she should have told the reader this important detail earlier, “but it seemed rude to point it out right away.” The length of the reason matches the lengths of the first two reasons, which not only supports Heidi’s argument, but also provides an abrupt and pert contrast to the lengthy run-on sentence in reason number seven. By writing in this manner, Morris masterfully reveals Heidi through her diction and thought processes, even as Heidi is revealing Sister Greeley through her astute observations and glib commentary. Despite the brevity required by the contest, readers finish the list understanding Sister Greeley and Heidi. Sister Greeley, from Heidi’s perspective, is a “witch”—but readers understand Heidi well enough by the last sentence to know that this bright and feisty young Mormon girl may not always be saying exactly what she means. Heidi tells us that “she didn’t know exactly what [Sister Greeley] meant” when she insists that Heidi—like her mother–is “one of these sisters” and demands that Heidi promise that she “won’t let them drive [her] away” from the church. Heidi says she doesn’t understand, but she concludes reason number ten with a series of shrewd contradictory statements that let readers know she understands exactly what is going on: Heidi tells readers that she is now sure that Sister Greeley is a “Mormon witch,” even though “Mormons don’t believe in witches” and she, Heidi, just promised Sister Greeley to remain in the church and to be “one of those sisters”—thus promising to be a “Mormon witch” herself. William Morris’s “Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” is well worth the few minutes it takes to read it. And who knows? Readers may discover a few LDS witches in their own wards now that they have read Heidi’s observations. Hopefully Morris will provide Heidi’s next list, so readers know what to do with the Sister Greeleys of the world—but, if he does not, I’d suggest Heidi’s approach: Brigham tea and a nice chat (reason #10).
One more thing: if readers run out of things to chat about with their Sister Greeley, I’d recommend reading and discussing “Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” and “Beneath the Visiting Moon.” If they have a bit more time, they could include “Counsel” and “After the Fast” or “The Last Swing” and “Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets” and “Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March – 3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”—although the reader and his or her Sister Greeley might find that the best idea is to read all the finalists and set up a weekly discussion about LDS authors and LDS writing.