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

2019 Mormon Lit Blitz Winner

As always, we owe thanks to all the writers who submitted to this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz and to the many readers who read the finalists, shared them on social media, and cast votes in the contest. Special thanks go to the core of supporters who have pledged a monthly contribution on the Mormon Lit Lab Patreon page: their support has been vital to our expanding efforts to support writers.

We’ve tallied the votes and the top pieces are:

4. “The Hills of Heaven” by Scott Hales

3. “Paradisiacal Glory” by Katherine Cowley

2. “The Casting Out of Spirits” by Jeanine Bee

and this year’s winner

1. “The Seven Deadly Housewarmers” by Emily Harris Adams

Congratulations!

We hope you’ll join us for next year’s contest and other events. To keep posted on future contests, we encourage you to sign up for our email list.

Winners for the Around the World in Mormon Lit Contest

We loved this contest. It has been wonderful reading the stories people sent us,  sharing the finalists, and seeing people’s reactions to these writers and their work.

Thank you to the writers, the translators, the readers, and the voters who made this such a great experience. Thanks, especially, to those who shared these stories with friends and encouraged them to help us choose a winner. It was wonderful to see so many people from around the world voting.

We have two $100 awards to give. The Grand Prize goes to the piece with the most votes from readers. We also have a Judges’ Choice Award to recognize great writing in other pieces.

Grand Prize

After counting all the votes, the top stories were:

5. “Victor” by David Hurtado

4. “La Muralla del Tiempo” (“The Wall of Time“) by Camila Andrea Fernández

3. “Duas Missões” (“Two Missions”)  by Andreza Castro

2. “O Amigo Secreto” (“The Secret Friend”) by Amanda Araújo de Castro

and the winner is….

1. “Um Domingo na Laginha” (“A Sunday at Laginha”)  by César Augusto Medina Fortes

Congratulations!

Judges’ Awards 

As judges, we also wanted to recognize three pieces for their contributions to the contest.

Honorable Mention:
Anexo documental I” (“Documentary Appendix 1”) by Gabriel González Núñez
Judges’ Statement:
The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that God gives us eternal truths in ways that reflect our own language and understanding. In this alternate history, Gabriel González Núñez uses striking imagery to help us to reach toward the eternal in the restoration by imagining the same truths unfolding in a different time and place. A vital contribution to Mormon literature–and the Mormon imagination.

Honorable Mention:
創造教室」 (“The Creation Workshop”) by Mitsushige Takaki
Judges’ Statement:
Mitsushige Takaki’s “Creation Workshop” stood out to us for receiving an even amount of votes from each language votes were cast in. By helping us imagine how our different personalities in the premortal existence might be reflected in the beautiful diversity of the natural world, Takaki gave us a story that resonated around the world and gave voice to the contest’s theme.

Judges’ Award Winner:
TIEMPO una partícula” (“TIME a particle”) by Citlalli H. Xochitiotzin
Judges’ Statement:
Christ’s Atonement is beyond the scope of human imagination, but Citlalli H. Xochitiotzin uses lyrical language to help us draw closer to this most vital of all moments. We feel nature cry out, sense time collapsing around its meridian, see the tendrils of empathy extending through centuries and around the world from a central point in the Garden before being snapped back into the moment, locked once again into the rhythm of each step as events fall forward toward Golgotha.

Reminder: Next Chance to Submit

If you enjoyed this contest, we’d love for you to submit to, or encourage others to submit to, our next contest, the 8th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz. Stories, essays, poems or other written works under 1,000 words are welcome. Email up to three entries to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com.

2018 Mormon Lit Blitz Winners

As always, we owe thanks to all the writers who submitted to this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz and to the many readers who read the finalists, shared them on social media, and cast votes in the contest. This year, we also want to thank the core group of supporters who have pledged a monthly contribution to the Mormon Lit Lab Patreon account: we’ve almost reached the funding goal to add a second contest this fall!

To wrap up this contest, we’ve counted votes and after a historically tight race the top four stories are:

4. “Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March-3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by Mattathias Westwood

3. “Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins

2. “Beneath the Visiting Moon” by Lee Allred

and…

1. “A Perfect Voice” by Katherine Cowley

Congratulations!

We’d also like to recognize the winner of this year’s special “Judge’s Choice” Award, chosen by literary scholar and longtime Mormon Literature teacher Kylie Turley: “Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” by William Morris. You can read the complete citation, with honorable mentions of other finalists, here.

We hope many of you will join us this fall/winter for our next contest, with a theme to be selected by patrons of the Mormon Lit Lab, and next spring/summer for the 8th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz.

2018 Mormon Lit Blitz: Judge’s Choice Award

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 March3 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.

2017 Mormon Lit Blitz Winners

A huge thank you to all the finalists and to all our readers this year. The new work that’s produced for each contest and the audience that gets to experience it is the thing that has made six years of Lit Blitzing worthwhile.

Votes are in and this year’s winners are:

4) “Pride” by Hillary Stirling

3) “On the Death of a Child” by Merrijane Rice

2) “Celestial Accounting” by Kathy Cowley

and…

1) “Forty Years” by Jeanna Mason Stay

Congratulations!

We hope you’ll join us for next year’s Lit Blitz.

2016 Mormon Lit Blitz Winner + Updates

The Winner

Five years.

We have now held the Mormon Lit Blitz contest for five years. And we’re pleased to report that Mormon literature is alive and well. Over the past five years we’ve published 60 pieces in the Mormon Lit Blitz contests and 17 pieces in our other contests. Each year, we’ve had the opportunity to share new poems, new essays, and new stories that engage with the fundamental question of what it means to be a Mormon.

It was a tight race this year, with the top four places in question throughout the entire week of voting. And now, readers’ four favorite pieces for the 2016 Mormon Lit Blitz: Continue reading 2016 Mormon Lit Blitz Winner + Updates

2015 Mormon Lit Blitz Winner

Declaring a winner in a literary contest is silly in many ways. As the ballots and comments make clear, different pieces resonated with readers for different reasons–a piece might resonate with you because you feel a deep connection to the theme, because the story speaks to your life experience in some way, because of a line that lingers with you days after you read the piece, or because on the day you read the piece, you needed the emotional experience it offered.

We love it when people vote, though. Several of you commented on how you enjoyed the process of going through the pieces again. Some kept writing after ranking their top four and told us what they loved about a few other pieces that hadn’t quite made their ballot. And a few people mentioned how the pieces inspired them to start working on their own short-form writing, or how they changed their ideas about Mormon Lit.

The purpose of this contest has been to show off Mormon writers, but an important side-effect has been to reassure us that engaging Mormon readers also exist.

Here’s what you voted for this time around:  Continue reading 2015 Mormon Lit Blitz Winner

Meeting of the Myths Voting Results

Thanks to all who read the finalists and voted in the “Meeting of the Myths” contest. The results are as follows:

Third Place (tie):

“A Voice Not Crying in the Wilderness” by Jonathon Penny

“Daughter of a Boto” by Katherine Cowley

Second Place:

“The Trail” by Stephen Carter

First Place:

“Spring Hill” by Luisa Perkins

Congratulations to the winners!

We hope both writers and readers will come back in the spring to join us for the Fourth Annual Mormon Lit Blitz, featuring short Mormon works  and in all genres (1,000 words limit for prose, 30 line limit for poetry, similar reading times expected from comics and other forms) . Our working submission deadline (subject to possible rescheduling) is 15 April 2015, with finalists appearing in May.

We also hope to release an eBook anthology of finalists and semi-finalists from the Third Annual Mormon Lit Blitz around the same time.

For those looking for interesting reading by Mormon writers between now and the spring, we would encourage you to look for other work, online and in print, from our finalists.

-Nicole and James Goldberg, Contest Editors

2014 Mormon Lit Blitz Winner

Lit Blitz Winner

After counting and recounting votes in a tight race for literary impact, we are pleased to announce this year’s top finalists:

Fourth Place: “The Primary Temple Trip” by Laura Hilton Craner

Third Place: “Yahweh: Prologue to the Temple” by Jonathon Penny

Second Place: “Living Scriptures” by Scott Hales

and our Grand Prize winner:

First Place: “Slippery” by Stephen Carter

Thank you again to all who submitted to the contest, who read and shared the finalists, and who emailed in votes. It’s been a lovely time.

Because of the strong submission pool this year, we have decided to compile an eBook anthology of all twenty-four semi-finalists. Watch our Facebook page for details, or email everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com and tell us you want anthology updates.

Next Contest

Can’t wait for the next Lit Blitz? From now through September 30th October 31st, we’ll accept entries for a fall Mix-and-Mash Mythos contest. The rules are simple:

-Entries must be under 2,000 words
-Entries must draw on or sample from Mormon mythos (scriptures, history, hymns, traditions, etc.) AND another mythos (modern pop culture, a scientific model, another culture or religion, etc.)
-All genres are welcome (and bending genres is encouraged). Previously published work is acceptable if the author retains republication rights.
-Works should speak to an audience of religious Latter-day Saints

Send entries to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com, preferably attached as Word documents or pdfs. Please include author’s contact information in the body of the email, but not in the attachment with the story.

Finalists will be selected in October and published in October or November. A cash prize will be awarded to the winner of an audience vote.