“Final Exam” by Jared Forsyth

The final exam will be administered
at random
and
repeatedly
you will be notified
at least halfway through
each time
that it is taking place

Cheating is
impossible
and any corners cut
will teach you
about the shape of the world

Lecture notes
will only be helpful
if written on your heart
and you must balance preparation time
between private study
and public practice

Collaboration is
encouraged
though the timing
of your tests
will not always line up

Feedback will be provided
each time you remember
and sometimes when you do not

I am, like the rest of you
excited to see
how the earth will pass.

“Unfit Mother of the Year” by Susan Law Corpany

Years ago I did a book signing with an author on whom the title “Mother of the Time Period Lasting 365 Days” had been bestowed. (It is from said honored mother that I learned that the phrase represented by the initials MOTY is copyrighted and that the national organization takes copyright infringes very seriously. My hope is that they are too busy busting ten-year-old kids who wrote it in crayon on a Mother’s Day card to get around to me, but I can’t take any chances.)
She had written a book about motherhood. I had also written a book about motherhood. They are very different books because we are very different mothers.

People began to approach the table.
Her: “I was (insert year) Utah Young Mother of the Time Period Lasting 365 Days.”
Me: (cue inner monologue) I got nothin’.
People all flocked to her side of the table.

A few minutes later, I was desperate to lure some of the people to my side of the table.
Her: “I was (insert year) Utah Young Mother of the Time Period Lasting 365 Days.”
Me: “I, too, have written a book about motherhood, even though I was once turned down by the local animal shelter when I tried to adopt a kitten.”
Success!

The world needs us both. We need ideals of perfection so we have something for which to strive. But when we fall short, as we inevitably do, we desperately need someone who tells us it is okay to be imperfect. I have taken the low road, preferring to be the person who is willing to share her imperfections because, well, that perfection thing just looks too dang hard.

About the Kitten

My son was four. I did not need a flattened frog or a bygone goldfish to teach him about death, because his father had died in an accident before he was a year old. He had learned about death along with learning his ABCs. I did my best to answer his questions when they came up.
On a visit to the cemetery, which I called “the remembering place,” he posed a question.
“Mom, is this where my dad is buried?”
“How do you know about being buried?”
“Ben across the street found a dead bird and I helped him bury it.”
“Yes, this is where your dad is buried.”
“Did people walk by and look at him before they buried him?”
“Yes, it’s called a viewing.”
“I sure hope he looked better than that bird!”

When we had lost two cats in a row to drivers who came around our blind curve a little too fast, I was upset that my young son had to experience further loss. In fact, I was more upset than he was. After the second cat funeral, I heard him say to a neighborhood friend. “And if your cat dies, you can bury it in our yard for only a dollar.” I guess learning about death early in life gives you a matter-of-fact approach to the whole thing.
We replaced Snagglepuss with two little kittens from a “free to a good home” advertisement. That way if we lost one, we still had one left to love–the heir and the spare, as they say. We set up their feeding dishes and a comfy cat bed in a corner of the garage. Grover and Clover stayed close to home, and close to each other. I always checked their corner before backing out of the garage to make sure they were both there.
I had started back to college to finish my degree. I had already dropped my son off at the neighborhood preschool and was in a rush to be on time for my first class. That was the day I forgot to check for both kittens before I backed up. They were always together I told myself, and if I had seen one, the other was surely nearby.

“So we’re going to start with Steven here and have everyone tell us your name and something about yourself,” the professor said.
“I’m Susan, and I just ran over my son’s kitten.”

It was what defined me that day. I didn’t know that it would continue to define me. If I am ever nominated for “Mother of the Time Period Lasting 365 Days,” I’m sure it will surface in my file. Racked with guilt, I determined I was going to replace the kitten. I stopped at all cardboard “free kitten” signs, but my little boy wanted a kitty the same size as dear departed Clover. Finally we ended up at the local animal shelter. There we found a little striped tiger kitty that was the spitting image of Clover and exactly the right size. Bingo!

“Why do you want to adopt a kitten today?” the lady asked.
Before I could answer, my son piped up. “All our cats got runned over.”
“We live on kind of a blind corner. You know how cats are. They roam.”
“Have you considered keeping them inside?”
“Yes, we’ve been keeping them in the garage now.”
“That’s where my mom runned over one of them,” my son added.
“I see.” Her arched eyebrows told me this was not going to be as easy as I thought.
She left and conferred with a colleague and returned momentarily.
“I’m sorry, but with your record, I’m afraid we can’t in good conscience entrust you with one of our animals.”
It was a low point in my life. Being a single parent is tough, and after that when I had a bad day, there it was, that reminder that the local animal shelter would not even give me a baby kitten to raise.
Let the record show that we kept Grover alive long enough for him to die of old age. He is buried in the backyard with all the others.
And when your cat dies, you can bury him in our backyard for only a dollar.

“116 Pages” by Merrijane Rice

I know how you felt, Martin,
niggled in turn by hope and fear,
longing to be part of something great
and ready to suffer or sacrifice—
yet still bartering for some guarantee.

I’ve also craved approval, respect,
a little kindness from the world.
I’ve offered mankind my evidences,
half-turned and ready to run
at first sign of smirk,

and I have failed to do
what I knew was right
because I wouldn’t relinquish
what I wanted even though
it was never mine to begin with.

So I don’t wonder at your faults
now held up as warning
to future generations of saints,
but at your persistence:

how you returned and returned
hat in hand, abashed witness
to a Father’s infinite mercy.

Mormon Lit Blitz 2021 Finalists

From 31 May through 12 June, we’ll post the finalists in this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz here on lit.mormonartist.net. Join us for a daily poem, essay, or short story and vote for your favorites at the end. Here are the twelve pieces you can look forward to:

31 May: “116 Pages” by Merrijane Rice
1 June: “Unfit Mother of the Year” by Susan Law Corpany
2 June: “Final Exam” by Jared Forsyth
3 June: “Reformed Egyptian” by Lee Allred
4 June: “Oh, a Dove” by Aiko Tokuzawa
5 June: “We Must Overcome” by Jonathon Penny 

7 June: “Padrenuestro multiforme” by Gabriel González Núñez
8 June: “Not of Necessity” by Jeanine Bee
9 June: “Golden Plate Controversy Erupts with ‘Mormon Storm’” by Devin Galloway
10 June: “Weight of Souls” by Selina Forsyth
11 June: “Sacrament in Solitude” by Marianne Hales Harding
12 June: “Perspective” by Jonathon Penny

Congratulations to the finalists! We are thankful for what you do each year to engage our imaginations and widen our sense of what is possible in Mormon Literature.

Two Reminders

At the Mormon Lit Lab, we are interested in developing writers as well as sharing their work. On June 12, the last day of this year’s Lit Blitz, Sandra Tayler will be teaching her phenomenal class on making room in your life for creativity from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. MDT. Anyone who has ever submitted a piece to the Mormon Lit Blitz is invited to attend free of charge via Zoom: RSVP here to register.

We’ve also selected our first class of eight writers who will be developing a full-length Mormon Lit book project. If you’d like to be a part of bringing new literary visions into the world, you can choose a project to contribute towards here. Donations to the Mormon Lit Lab are tax-deductible.

Thank you for your investment of time, attention, energy, and resources to help explore our tradition through art.

Mormon Lit Blitz 10th Anniversary Announcement + 2021 Longlist

It’s easy to count the ways that 2020 was a hard year: pandemic, quarantine, economic instability, civil unrest. Looking back, it’s just as easy for us to count the way it was a strong year for the Mormon Lit Lab: our amazing board completed and launched a successful Kickstarter for an anthology of the first five years of the Mormon Lit Blitz (available as print or ebook here), we partnered with the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas to sponsor a Spanish-language Mormon literature contest, and we introduced the Mormon Lit Lab book mentoring project to help new full-length works by past finalists come to life.

We are so happy with the community that’s developed around this work. 2021 marks ten years of the Mormon Lit Blitz–a project launched with vision of bringing short works for and by Latter-day Saints to a larger reading public. When the Lit Blitz was introduced in 2011, online literary publishing was still a new field. Many wondered about its legitimacy. Since then, Mormon Lit Blitz has been recognized as one of the most lively spaces for Mormon literature in the last decade. Stories written for the contest–including many that were not chosen as finalists–have since appeared in other online and print publications. Thanks to support from donors, we’ve also been able to expand our global reach and our support for writers and become an important venue for Mormon writing in languages other than English. Thanks to everyone who goes out on a limb to write pieces to submit, people have gotten new chances to experience the diversity of imagination within our religious tradition. 

As we read through the wide range of submissions for each year’s contest, it’s always difficult to decide which twelve pieces to feature as contest finalists. This year, to celebrate our tenth anniversary, we decided to offer a gift to anyone who has ever submitted to the Mormon Lit Blitz or our other contests. As part of our book mentoring program, creative consultant Sandra Tayler will be teaching her phenomenal class on making room in your life for creativity on 12 June from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. MDT. She’s agreed to extend an invitation for the class  to anyone who’s ever made time to write a contest submission for us. Our board members still talk about insights we gained from the class: RSVP here if you’d like to attend.  

The class will be held at the conclusion of the 2021 Mormon Lit Blitz, which will run from May 31 through June 12. Finalists and the publication schedule for this year’s contest will be posted on Monday, May 24.

Longlist -- The 10th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz. by Mormon Lit Lab.

This year’s long list (alphabetized by author’s last name) of our top twenty-four submissions includes a wide range of pieces, including poetry, flash fiction, short essay, and an excerpt from a graphic novel:

“Reformed Egyptian” by Lee Allred
“All the Togetherness” by Lisa Hains Barker
“Not of Necessity” by Jeanine Bee
“Ausente” by Rosa María Cantero
“Unfit Mother of the Year” by Susan Law Corpany
“Final Exam” by Jared Forsyth
“Language Lessons” by Selina Forsyth
“Weight of Souls” by Selina Forsyth
“Golden Plate Controversy Erupts with ‘Mormon Storm’” by Devin Galloway
“Padrenuestro multiforme” by Gabriel González Núñez
“Mary and Martha Comment in Sunday School” by Marianne Hales Harding
Sacrament in Solitude” by Marianne Hales Harding
“Gift to Be Healed” by Annaliese Lemmon
“Hugging Death” by Jean Knight Pace
“Cheerio Church” by Lehua Parker
“Perspective” by Jonathon Penny
“We Must Overcome” by Jonathon Penny
“The Least of These” by Luisa Perkins
“Colibrí” by Leticia Teresa Pontoni
“116 Pages” by Merrijane Rice
“Oracle of Questions” by Sandra Tayler
“Oh, a Dove” by Aiko Tokuzawa
“Midwife on the Wild Frontier” by Melissa Tyler & Luciana Maruca
“Colors of Eden” by Rachel Unklesbay

Congratulations to all the semi-finalists!

Thank you again for all your support as readers and writers. To keep up with the Lit Blitz and other Mormon Lit Lab projects, you can also follow our Facebook page or sign up for our email list. And if you’re able to support our projects financially, we hope you’ll consider donating to a book project or making a monthly pledge of support for the Mormon Lit Lab.