Giving Birth to Books: A Call for Proposals

In Nauvoo, women like Ann Carling, Vienna Jacques, and Patty Bartlett Sessions were called to an important work: serving as midwives for the Latter-day Saints gathering from different backgrounds to build new communities and a new identity together. As the Saints crossed the Plains and settled in the West, midwives and others cared for the needs of Zion’s mothers and regularly met in council to discuss women’s and maternal health. Though many converts had left networks of family and community to settle among the Saints, pioneer women were not alone in the work of giving birth.

At the Mormon Lit Lab, we take inspiration from our forebears in the faith. Though a book hardly has the same value as a baby, we recognize that opportunities for support and counsel and ease any creative process. Over the past nine years, we’ve created opportunities for dozens writers to create short work that reflects their identity as Latter-day Saints or plays with Mormon themes and heritage in some way through the Mormon Lit Blitz contest. We’ve connected contest finalists with thousands of readers, who have seen new possibilities for Mormon literature in their work. At the release party for The Mormon Lit Blitz: The First Five Years, we made an announcement about a next step in our group’s work as literary midwives. We are launching a new program to support past Mormon Lit Blitz finalists who want to develop a book.  

Our literary midwife program will consist of three main elements:
1. Each accepted writer will attend a group orientation and get a one-on-one follow up planning session with an experienced Mormon Lit Lab advisor, culminating in approval of a process and budget plan.
2. We will match writers with a sponsor or sponsors who provide a small budget, typically up to $1000, to cover costs associated with the book’s production and promotion. Grants will be dispersed in stages, according to the pre-approved plan.
3. We will hold a series of online council meetings to provide guidance on different elements of writing, publishing, and promotion. Attendance at each will be optional, based on writers’ plan and sense of their own needs.

Writers interested in publishing under the Mormon Lit Lab brand (along with our test crop of Grace Like WaterSong of Names, and the Mormon Lit Blitz anthology) will have that option at the end of the development process. Publishing with us is not, however, a requirement. Writers who are accepted into a given year’s development class retain all rights to their work and are free to submit their book to other publishers. Our interest is helping books come into being.  

Through March 31, 2021, we will be accepting book proposals to be considered for inclusion in our inaugural development class. Only past finalists from a contest sponsored by the Mormon Lit Lab are eligible to apply. Book proposals should consist of brief responses to the following four prompts:
1. Tell us about the book you’d like to write.
2. What does this book offer to Latter-day Saint readers or others interested in Mormon ideas, imagery, and experience?
3. What parts of the writing, publication, or promotion process are you most interested in getting help with?
4. What is your anticipated timeline for completing the manuscript?
If they have already started a manuscript, writers may also attach a sample. 

If you are interested in making a small contribution to support our general book development efforts, you can make a monthly contribution on our Patreon account or send a one-time donation by PayPal to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com. If you are interested in making a larger contribution and would like the chance to be matched to a project you feel strongly about, please reach out to us via email or Facebook message

Anthology Online Release Party

If you haven’t already seen, we wanted to share the good news. Our Kickstarter ended today, after funding early–and passing both of our stretch goals!

We plan to start shipping the books from the printer in the next couple days, to both contributors and Kickstarter backers. For those in the U.S., at least, books should arrive before Christmas. Fingers crossed for the rest…though it might be Three Kings’ Day.

In the meantime, we really wish there were a way for us to gather writers and readers together from the many cities, countries, and continents in which you live into one physical room to celebrate, but the constraints of space and a pandemic make that impossible.

A Zoom call is hardly the same, but we’d love to see your faces, hear a sample reading to represent each of the seven contests in the book, and take time for your questions and comments. We’ll be gathering virtually at 7 pm MST on Thursday, December 10. We’re asking people to RSVP: you can pick up the call link on the RSVP form. (The form even has a “maybe” button, so if you might be able to attend, still RSVP.)

Look forward to seeing some of you, sharing with you, and hopefully hearing a little about your favorite Lit Blitz pieces or memories!

-Nicole and James Goldberg, Mormon Lit Blitz editors

Anthology Kickstarter!

Yesterday, we launched a Kickstarter campaign for the anthology of finalists from the first five years of the Mormon Lit Blitz and related themed contests. Eric Jepson, who has work in the book, reminded me today to put up a post here. Between the time I started and the time I went to copy the link, the campaign reached its funding goal!

That means you can now pre-order a copy knowing we’ll be sending it out in early December. You can also help us reach our first stretch goal: funding enough to get started on a second anthology next year, covering 2017-2021.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. It means a lot to us to know these stories will be finding a good home on your shelves. We’ve loved all the work that’s come out of the contest and are glad to have it in print. These pieces stand the test of time.

Palabras de Mormón contest winners in El Pregonero de Deseret

This summer, we published English translations alongside original Spanish texts for the top three stories in the Palabras de Mormón contest, which we co-sponsored with the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas. All the winners, including several unpublished honorable mentions, were just released in the beautifully designed fall issue of El Pregonero de Deseret.  Take a look!

2020 Mormon Lit Blitz Winners: Audience Choice and Judge’s Choice

This year’s contest will stand out in our memories. The year when the Church marked the 200th anniversary of the First Vision has turned out to be one where we also wrestle more than usual with the weight of mortality. By the time the call for entries went up, we were well into a pandemic with a high death toll and no end in sight. Between the writing and the contest itself, racist violence in the United States drew sustained international attention to the cause of racial justice. There was a lot for readers to reflect on as they read the finalists.

And this year, many of the finalists in the contest spoke to the things we were thinking about: sickness and death, closed temples and quiet moments, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, Black experience and our call to discipleship across difference.

Thanks to support from our patrons, we’ll be awarding two prizes this year. There will be a $100 prize for the 1st place winner of the Audience Choice Award, and an additional $100 prize for the winner of the Judge’s Choice Award.

Audience Choice Award

We had over 300 people vote in the contest. Every single finalist had many voters choose it as their first, second, third, fourth place choices. With some help from Excel, we’ve tabulated people’s preferences.

The four audience favorite finalists this year were:

4th place: “Perfection is a Fullness” by Jeanine Bee

3rd place: “Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand

2nd place: “In the Locker Room at the Temple” by Darlene Young

 

and for 1st place, an essay from Cape Verde:

O Nosso Cão Stromberg” (“Our Dog Stromberg“) by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Spotlight on César:

César Augusto Medina Fortes was born in the city of Mindelo, on São Vicente island in Cape Verde. He graduated as a teacher with a degree in comprehensive basic education from the Pedagogical Institute of Mindelo, and a degree in educational sciences and praxis from Jean Piaget de Mindelo University; he did postgraduate work in youth and adult education at the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil; he also holds a Masters in Pedagogical Supervision and Evaluation from the University of Cape Verde (UNICV).

He was a primary school teacher for nine years, taught secondary education for seven years, and since 2017 he had been a coordinator for social action for the Ministry of Education in São Vicente. He has enjoyed writing since high school, and one of his favorite hobbies is writing the stories of his family.

The bio in Portuguese:

César Augusto Medina Fortes Natural da cidade de Mindelo, ilha de São Vicente, Cabo Verde. Formado como professor de Educação Básica Integral pelo Instituto Pedagógico de Mindelo, Licenciado em Ciências da Educação e Práxis Educativa pela Universalidade Jean Piaget de Mindelo; pós-graduado em Educação de Jovens e Adultos pela Universidade Federal de Paraíba, Brasil; mestrando em Supervisão Pedagógica e Avaliação pela Universidade de Cabo Verde (UNICV). Foi professor do Ensino Primário durante nove anos, lecionou por sete anos no Ensino Secundário e desde 2017 é coordenador de ação social na delegação do Ministério de Educação em São Vicente. Gosta de escrever desde o tempo que andaandava no liceu. Um dos meus passatempos preferido é escrever a história da nossa família.

Judge’s Choice Award

This year, we invited Katherine Cowley to select the recipient of the Judge’s Choice award. Katherine Cowley is a past winner of the Mormon Lit Blitz and of Segullah’s annual writing contest. She is currently leading the team creating an anthology of the first five years of finalists in the Mormon Lit Blitz. Her debut novel, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet, will be released in Spring 2021.

The Judge’s Choice Award goes to:

Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand

The following is a brief citation that Katherine Cowley provided for the award:

Madison Beckstrand’s poem, “Part Heaven,” is both brilliantly written and timely. The poem takes a simple moment–a black woman having her hair done by her mother–and uses this moment to expand our understanding of history, culture, race, family, sacred ordinances, and the very nature of God. The poem does not shy from struggle, and addresses the black pain not just experienced in broader society, but in our religious communities (“Divine wrath smells like chemical straighteners–stings like compliments from strangers”). Intrinsic in this experience is the weight of memory, and “the many that bled…for the future.” The imagery of blood has extra significance in light of the current worldwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and the treatment of blacks in the United States and worldwide. The poem also explores the importance of physical moments: touch is used to minister to others as the Savior did, to perform sacred ordinances, to give blessings, and to style hair. The final stanza paints a beautiful picture of divinity, and the way that the act of having a mother do your hair can be a window to understanding the nature of God.

Spotlight on Madison Beckstrand:

Madison Beckstrand is a writer and university student majoring in English Education. She loves writing, sewing, creating, and uses her talents to connect with her family and community. Madison is involved with her local chapter of Black Lives Matter, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Genesis group, and the Humanity Sews project. She plans to write much more and is only encouraged by everyone’s support.

 

Please join us in congratulating César Augusto Medina Fortes and Madison Beckstrand on their awards in this year’s contest.

We hope you’ll join us in August to read the top three finalists in the Spanish-language “Palabras de Mormon” contest, co-sponsored by the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas and the Mormon Lit Lab. And stayed tuned for updates on our forthcoming anthology and future publishing projects.

-Nicole and James Goldberg, Editors

2020 Mormon Lit Blitz Voting

Voting Instructions

Time to vote in the 2020 Mormon Lit Blitz!

To vote, take a look at each of the twelve (very short) finalists and rank your top four in the form below by the end of the day on Saturday, June 26th. You must enter four ranked favorites in order to submit a vote. We’ll announce the winner on Monday, June 29th.

The finalists are:

Resurrection by Easter 2020” by Selina Forsyth
Perfection is a Fullness” by Jeanine Bee
Orpheus Sings to Mary and Martha” by Emily Harris Adams
Family Tree” by Merrijane Rice
Three Generations of Sonder” by Chanel Earl
Airplanes that Crashed: A Book of Mormon Coloring Book” by Jared Forsyth
Final Report” by Mattathias Westwood
Portal Friends” by Annaliese Lemmon
Part Heaven” by Madison Beckstrand
O Nosso Cão Stromberg” (“Our Dog Stromberg“) by César Augusto Medina Fortes
In the Locker Room at the Temple” by Darlene Young
Brother and Sister” by Scott Hales

 

While you’re here, you might be interested in some updates:

Palabras de Mormon Contest Winners

This year, we also supported the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas in running a Spanish-language contest for Mormon Literature. Winners will appear in the July issue of their periodical, El Pregonero de Deseret. English translations of the top three pieces will be published on this website in August.

Mormon Lit Blitz Anthology

Thanks to encouragement from our patrons, we’ve also been working on a print and ebook anthology of finalists from the Mormon Lit Blitz and related contests (Four Centuries of Mormon Stories, Meeting of the Myths) from the contest’s first five years. We anticipate launching a Kickstarter later this summer as we prepare for print. Stay tuned for details.

New Program for Alumni

Finally, we’ve been working on a program to support past Mormon Lit Blitz finalist writers who are interested in developing a book-length work for publication. Details are forthcoming, but if you’ve been a finalist in any of our contests, this is advance notice that we’ll be inviting people to submit book proposals this fall.


Congratulations once again to all this year’s finalists. If you’re interested in additional updates, you can follow us on Facebook or sign up for our email list.

“In the Locker Room at the Temple” by Darlene Young

First, in goes the coat
and her oldest’s failure to get a job.
With the black shoes go
her husband’s sarcasm this morning;
with her scarf goes her own.
The blouse carries the lesson
she hasn’t prepared,
the dirty bathroom tile,
and the dying tree in the backyard.
Her teenager’s refusal to get up
and all of those tardies
hang from her skirt like tassels.
Insidious,
gathered in the folds of her half-slip
with tentacles like clammy drier lint:
all the ways she is a terrible mother.

Her white stockings, hope
that there is another page,
another day, a horizon somewhere,
stay on her calves, enduring.

She stands a moment, shivering.

Then,
silky slip washing down her
like good enough.
Dress of standing straight
and facing forward.
Slippers of small things,
little graces, daily manna
that can’t be hoarded
but can be found
unlooked for,
just in time.
She takes up her packet of
God’s daughter
and steps out into the light.

“O Nosso Cão Stromberg” by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Read the English translation here.

“O Nosso Cão Stromberg”

by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Eu desde sempre gostei de cães. Em 1983, meu tio João Miranda chegou em casa com um cão da raça “Dogue Alemão”. Um cão alto, forte, bonito mas muito desajeitado. Era preciso arranjá-lo um nome. Foi aí que o tio Miranda, um grande adepto do Benfica, se lembrou de colocá-lo o nome de “Stromberg” em homenagem ao grande jogador sueco, o Glenn Stromberg, que tinha acabado de chegar ao Benfica F.C. e que tinha dado muitas alegrias ao clube naquela época. Stromberg, o jogador, também era forte, loiro e alto, daí o nome cair como uma luva ao cão. O cão, Stromberg, também dava muita alegria para mim e para o meu primo Sílvio, filho de tio Miranda e da minha tia Rosa.

Lembro-me que o tio Miranda certo dia nos disse:

– “Stromberg só fica aqui em casa se vocês se comprometerem a cuidar dele, de dá-lo de comer, de beber e limpar o terraço, quando ele fizer as suas necessidades.”

É claro que ele ouviu um duplo “sim” da nossa parte. Até acrescentamos mais:

– “Comprometemos em dá-lo banho na praia da Laginha todos os domingos, não se preocupe”. E isso, já na nossa esperteza de irmos para o mar a cada domingo sem ser fiscalizados pelos adultos.

Íamos com o cão para todos os sítios. Stromberg era o nosso fiel companheiro e guarda. Ninguém ousava meter-se connosco porque estalávamos o cão para cima dele. Sentíamos seguros ao lado do Stromberg. Quem via o cão grande e forte a ladrar, fugia logo de medo. Só não sabiam, que por trás daquele cão enorme e forte, existia uma alma doce, gentil e brincalhão. Não me lembro se alguma vez, o Stromberg tenha mordido alguém. E assim Stromberg foi crescendo connosco.

Mas os anos foram passando e o Stromberg envelheceu. E num triste dia, o tio Miranda deu-nos uma notícia que não queríamos ouvir. Ele nos comunicou que iria mandar abater o Stromberg porque já não queria vê-lo a sofrer até a morte, e se ele tivesse que morrer que fosse longe de casa. Além do mais ele andava a comer algumas galinhas que ele criava no terraço. Nós imploramos, choramos muito para que ele não fizesse tamanha maldade ao Stromberg, mas ele foi irredutível. Numa sexta-feira de manhã, ele mandou chamar o Leandro, que era um senhor, que quando alguém tinha um serviço sujo para fazer, ele estava sempre disposto á fazê-lo em troca de 50$00 ou de um copo de “grogue”. Ele era conhecido como “Leandro matá-cahorro”.

O nome já dizia para o que ele vinha. E assim foi. Meu tio pagou-lhe antecipadamente e ele lá levou o Stromberg, com uma corda ao pescoço, arrastando o coitado do cão para o corredor da morte.

Ele saiu e nós as crianças chorando, fomos atrás dele, pedindo que por favor não matasse o cão, mas ele não nos deu ouvidos. Ficamos nos degraus junto ao portão, vendo o Stromberg sendo levado pelo Leandro que iria enforcá-lo, lá pelos lados da Ribeira de Julião, certamente numa acácia espinheira.

Quando dobraram a última esquina de Ilha de Madeira em direção á ribeira, desconsolados, entramos para casa. Nós, as crianças, ainda com um nó na garganta dissemos para o tio Miranda:

– “Bossê é mau!” E fugimos para o terraço para chorar o nosso cão.

Naquela tarde, eu e o Sílvio fomos para a escola tristes.

A noite, quando cheguei em casa, jantei e fui dormir cedo. Durante a noite eu tive um sonho. No meu sonho, vi Stromberg a caminhar sem energia, vindo na mesma rua que o vimos pela última vez, só que desta vez, ele estava voltando para casa. Parecia cansado, fraco, com fome e com sede e ainda com uma corda ao pescoço. Quando acordei de manhã, contei o sonho para o meu fiel amigo e primo, Sílvio.

No sábado de manhã, ficamos a ver para o fim da rua de “Nhá Tanha d’aga doce”(uma senhora que tinha uma fonte e vendia água), na esperança que o meu sonho se concretizasse mas, nada de Stromberg. No domingo, levantamos bem cedo e mais uma vez, antes de irmos á igreja, fomos para a porta, esperando ver o Stromberg. Nós tínhamos esta esperança porque sabíamos que o Stromberg era forte o suficiente para fazer aquilo. Estava um lindo dia e o sol começou a lançar os seus primeiros raios.

Um domingo ideal para ir à praia da Laginha mas, sem o nosso cão, já não seria a mesma coisa. Mas tal foi o nosso espanto, quando vimos o Stromberg aparecendo exatamente na esquina que o vi, no meu sonho. Vinha cansado, sujo, magro e com a corda com que o Leandro o tinha enforcado. Certamente, o Leandro o içou numa árvore, mas não o esperou morrer. Stromberg mordeu a corda e fugiu. Corremos ao encontro do nosso querido cão que tinha escapado da morte. Ele já sem forças, perto de nós, lambeu-nos a face e caiu de cansaço e de felicidade. Carreguei-o no colo até ao terraço da casa da minha tia Rosa. Demos-lhe comida e água e ele foi dormir como um guerreiro que depois de ter lutado pela vida, durante três dias de caminhada, desde da Ribeira de Julião, conseguiu chegar ao seu castelo, em Ribeira Bote, rua 10, onde nós, os seus queridos amigos, o recebemos com muita pompa, pois ele merecia.

A nossa alegria maior, foi quando o tio Miranda chegou em casa e viu o Stromberg e logo disse:

-“ Caramba pá, o Leandro não serve nem para matar um cão. Mas já que ele conseguiu escapar da morte e andar durante três dias até encontrar o caminho de casa, é um sinal de Deus, portanto, o stromberg fica aqui até o fim dos seus dias.” Nós explodimos de alegria, gritando: “Stromberg, Stromberg, Stromberg”. E assim, Stromberg continuou connosco por muitos e felizes anos de vida.

O cão sem dúvida, é um dos melhores amigos das crianças.

“Our Dog, Stromberg” by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Read the original Portuguese version here.

“Our Dog, Stromberg”

by César Augusto Medina Fortes
translated by Katherine Cowley

I have always loved dogs. In 1983, my uncle João Miranda came home with a Great Dane. He was a tall dog, strong and handsome, but very clumsy. For this reason Uncle Miranda, who was a big fan of the football team Benfica, gave the dog the name “Stromberg” in memory of one of the great Swedish players, Glenn Stromberg, who had come to play for S.L. Benfica and brought much happiness to the club at that time. Stromberg, the player, was also strong, blond, and tall, and thus his name fit the dog like a glove. The dog, Stromberg, also gave much happiness to me and to my cousin Sílvio, who was the son of Uncle Miranda and my aunt Rosa.

I remember one day that my uncle Miranda told us, “Stromberg can only stay here in the house if you promise to care for him, feed him, give him water, and clean the terrace whenever he relieves himself.”

Of course, he heard a double “yes” from us. And then we committed to even more: “We promise to bathe him at Laginha Beach every single Sunday, don’t you worry.” This was a rather clever way for us to go to the sea every Sunday without adult supervision.

We went everywhere with our dog. Stromberg was our faithful companion and guard. No one dared to mess with us because we could set our dog on them. We always felt safe with Stromberg at our side. Whenever someone saw our big, strong dog barking, they ran away in fear. What they didn’t know was that inside our enormous, strong dog was a sweet soul, gentle and playful. I can’t remember a single time that Stromberg actually bit someone. And in this manner Stromberg grew up with us.

But the years went by and Stromberg grew old. It was a mournful day when Uncle Miranda gave us the news we didn’t wish to hear. He told us that it was time to have Stromberg put down, because he did not want to see him suffer until he died, and if he had to die, it was better if it were far from home. Besides, Stromberg kept eating the chickens that were kept on the terrace. We implored him, we cried endlessly that he could not do such a cruel thing to our dog Stromberg, but he was immovable. That Friday morning he called a gentleman named Leandro; if someone had a dirty job to do, he would do it for 50 escudos or a cup of “grogue,” an alcohol made from sugar cane. He was known as “Leandro the Dog Killer.”

The name itself said what he came to do. And so it was. My uncle paid him in advance and he took Stromberg, a rope tied round his neck, dragging the poor dog to death row.

He left and we children were crying, running after him and begging that he would not kill our dog, but he would not give us his ears. We stood on the steps by the gate, watching as Stromberg was taken by Leandro to be hung on the banks of the Ribeira de Julião—the Julião River—on a large, thorny acacia, a tree that can be blown with fierce winds and bend without breaking.

When they turned the last corner of our neighborhood, the Ilha de Madeira, and headed toward the river, we returned, disconsolate, to the house. We children still had lumps in our throats when we said to Uncle Miranda, “Sir, you are mean!” And we fled to the terrace to weep for our dog.

That afternoon, Sílvio and I went to school, sadly.

That night when I returned home, I ate and went to bed early. During the night I had a dream. In my dream I saw Stromberg walking with no strength, on the same road where we had seen him for the last time, only this time, he was returning to the house. He appeared tired, weak, consumed by hunger and thirst, and still wore the rope around his neck. When I woke in the morning, I told the dream to my faithful friend and cousin, Sílvio.

We spent that Saturday morning watching the road that we called “Missus Tanha of Sweet Water” (named after a lady with a fountain who sold water), full of hope that my dream would be realized, but we saw nothing of Stromberg. On Sunday, we woke very early and one more time, before going to church, we went to the gate, hoping to see Stromberg. We held onto this hope because we knew that Stromberg was strong enough to do this. It was a beautiful day and the sun had begun to cast its first rays.

It was the ideal sort of Sunday to go to Laginha Beach, but without our dog, it wouldn’t be the same. To our great astonishment, we saw Stromberg appear at the exactly the same corner where I had seen him in my dream. He was tired, dirty, thin, and the rope with which Leandro had hung him was still around his neck. Leandro had clearly hoisted him up on a tree, but he hadn’t waited for him to die. Stromberg had chewed through the rope and fled. We ran to meet our beloved dog who had escaped death. He had no strength left, and when we reached him, he licked our faces and then fell to the ground from fatigue and happiness. I carried him in my arms to the terrace of my aunt Rosa’s house. We nursed him with food and water and he slept like a warrior after the fight of his life: three days of walking, all the way from the Julião River until he reached his castle, in Ribeira Bote, 10th Street, where we, his dear friends, received him with much pomp, because he deserved it.

Our greatest joy was when Uncle Miranda arrived home and saw Stromberg and said, “Caramba! Leandro couldn’t even kill a dog. But since he managed to escape death and walk for three days until he found his way home, this is a sign of God. Stromberg can stay here until the end of his days.”

We burst with joy and shouted, “Stromberg! Stromberg! Stromberg!” And so it was that Stromberg stayed with us for many happy years.

Without a doubt, the dog was the best friend that children could have.