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.

Mormon Lit Lab: Book Mentoring Program

Book Mentoring Program: Mormon Lit LabOver the past 10 years, the Mormon Lit Blitz contest has published more than a hundred unique works of Mormon microliterature—short essays, stories, and poetry that stretch our sense of what literature can accomplish in a community of faith.

We’re excited to take the next step. This year, we’re mentoring four prose writers  and four poets as they develop books. We’ve already brought together a volunteer team of people with expertise in writing, editing, publishing, and advertising to provide monthly classes and personal consultations. We also aim to raise a $1,000 to $2,000 budget in support of each project. Even a small budget can help make someone’s dream project a reality.

To help bring these new titles into the world, make a tax-deductible one-time or monthly donation to the Mormon Lit Lab today. Whether you are able to contribute $20 or $100, any and every contribution will make a real difference.

If you would like to designate a specific project as the preferred beneficiary of your gift, you may do so. The writers and projects are:

PROSE

Book Mentoring Program Prose (Mormon Lit Lab)

Luisa Perkins

Mid-Century Murder is the first novel in a mystery series featuring Annette Van Doren, a 54-year-old recently widowed Latter-day Saint. Through Annette’s employment at a business specializing in historic real estate, each mystery will involve different houses and architectural styles. At the same time, the book will explore how a Mormon woman redefines herself after years when her energy was far more focused on family needs.

Target draft completion date: Fall 2021

Luisa’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

César Fortes

César Fortes has been the most popular Portuguese-language writer in the Mormon Lit Blitz. He is working on a collection of autobiographical short stories featuring Mormon experience in his family and ward in Cape Verde. These slice-of-life stories, at turns humorous and poignant, give a strong sense of place and community while raising important spiritual and social questions.

Target draft completion date: Fall 2021

César’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

William Morris

The Courtship of Elder Cannon is a short literary novel about a recently widowed member of the Seventy and a U of U literature professor who are set up on a blind date in 2009 in the wake of scrutiny over the Church’s involvement in California’s Proposition 8. Told through conversations, journal entries, talks, emails, scriptural commentaries, and so on, the novel explores how Mormon conceptions of grief, eternal marriage, and personal revelation impact Elder Cannon’s relationships with the woman he courts, his family, her family, and his identity as a husband, father, and church leader.

Target draft completion date: Summer 2021

William’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

Gabriel González

El periplo de Melitón González Trejo [The Quest of Melitón González Trejo] is a historical novel steeped in magical realism. Based on the life of the primary translator of the Book of Mormon into Spanish, it recounts his travels from Spain to the Philippines to Utah to Mexico during the second half of the 19th century. As an immigrant and translator himself, the author will explore the sense of gain and loss that comes with immigration and crossing boundaries.

Target draft completion date: Late 2023

Gabriel’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

POETRY

Marianne Hales Harding

Halfway to Heaven: Poems Crafted in Utah’s Wild Places is a poetic trail guide. Written on hikes in Utah and linked to specific trails, the work lends itself to being read in the space where it was written. Framed by her grandfather’s work as a landscape photographer of Utah’s Grand Circle of National Parks, this book is a tribute to the land and an exploration of how the land has mixed into Mormon consciousness and seeped into our sense of self.

Target draft completion date: Fall 2022

Marianne’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

Jared Forsyth

How does our view of God relate to our views of money? In a collection of poems about money and religion, Jared Forsyth explores individual attitudes and shared financial structures, looking at both our shortcomings and the possibilities we have to exercise discipleship in our own finances and in our society.

Target draft completion date: Spring 2022

Jared’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

Scott Hales

Scott Hales’ Hemingway in Paradise and Other Mormon Poems is a poetry collection about lives and afterlives. Exhibiting the same wry humor and unique Mormon perspective that made his The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl a beloved webcomic, Hales invites readers to join him at the crossroads of fact and fantasy, memory and invention, and life and death. Hemingway in Paradise is a deep dive into a Latter-day Saint imagination, moving freely from playful engagements with Church history and doctrine to poignant meditations on the everyday incidents and occurrences of Mormon experience.

Target draft completion date: Summer 2021

Scott’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

Selina Forsyth

Selina Forsyth is currently pursuing a PhD in social work. She’s interviewing Latter-day Saint social workers and writing a collection that mixes nonfiction with poetry to explore the principles in Matthew 25:31-46. What insights can social workers give us into Christ’s call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner?

Target draft completion date: End of 2022

Selina’s Mormon Lit Blitz pieces:

Please note that, while we want to help every  project reach completion, the Mormon Lit Lab does not guarantee the success of proposed projects. Funds will be disbursed to writers for use on approved book-related expenses. In the event that a book project stops progressing, we reserve the right to shift its budget to support other projects. Donations are not refundable. 


10th annual Mormon Lit Blitz Call for Submissions

Since 2012, the annual Mormon Lit Blitz contest has encouraged people to use Latter-day Saint ideas, values, beliefs, or imagery in very short stories, essays, poems, or other forms of writing. An anthology of contest finalists over the contest’s first five years is available here. We are now accepting submission for our tenth annual contest. 

Submission details: 

Submissions for the Tenth Annual Mormon Lit Blitz writing contest are due on 30 April 2021 to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com. Submitted works may be in any genre so long as they are under 1,000 words and designed to resonate in some way with a Latter-day Saint audience. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions are acceptable. Up to three submissions are allowed per author.

Finalists will be posted on the Mormon Artist magazine website (lit.mormonartist.net) in June. At the conclusion of the Lit Blitz, readers will vote for their favorite pieces, and a $100 prize will be given to the audience choice winner. All finalists will later be published in a print anthology, and their authors will become eligible for our new book development program.

To facilitate the judging process, we prefer to receive submissions as .doc, .docx, or .pdf attachments with the author’s name and contact information in the body of the email but not included in the attached text. Please email submissions and any questions you may have to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com.

As a writer, you retain the right to republish your piece in your own collections or other venues. By submitting, authors give us nonexclusive rights to publish their work electronically and in a future print anthology (with an anthology copy as payment). As stated above, previously published work is fine if you still have the rights to the piece and if it meets the above contest requirements.

Stay in touch: 

For updates about the 2021 contest and other Mormon Lit Lab news, follow the Mormon Lit Blitz Facebook page or sign up for our email list.

If you would like to support our efforts to create space for Mormon literary work, please consider making a monthly donation pledge on our Patreon account.

Thank you for your interest in Mormon Literature!

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!

Second Runner-up: The memory of that rain I do not remember by Santiago Vázquez

Read the original version in Spanish.

“Palabras de Mormón” is a Spanish-language Mormon literature contest, which was a collaboration between the incredible organization, Cofradía de Letras Mormonas, and the Mormon Lit Lab. The winners received cash prizes and will be published in the Spanish-language magazine, El Pregonero, as well as here on the Mormon Lit Blitz.

We are pleased to present the second runner-up for the contest, the flash fiction story “The memory of that rain I do not remember” by Santiago Vázquez.

The memory of that rain I do not remember

Santiago Vázquez
Translation by Gabriel González Núñez

Flower petals then began raining toward the black depths of the heavens. The fragile, purple leaves rose upward until they vanished into infinity or melded into the trembling brightness of the stars.

“That will be your new home,” he said, pointing to one of them.

“My new home…,” I repeated without speaking.

“Are you afraid?”

“A little,” I admitted and noticed that some of the petals floated in place as if not wanting to ascend. “I will not remember any of this, right?”

“No. And yet you will. You will remember it outside of your memories. You will remember it when the rain, which is so different over there, touches your skin. You will know that somewhere very far away and yet very close, on the other side of the rain, at the origin, is where I will be. I will be the memory of this rain you will not remember.”

Segundo accésit: Recuerdo de la lluvia que no recuerdo — Santiago Vázquez

Read the English translation here.

Recuerdo de la lluvia que no recuerdo

Santiago Vázquez

Y entonces comenzó a llover pétalos de flores hacia el negro abismo del cielo. Los frágiles copos púrpuras ascendían hasta perderse en el infinito o fusionarse con el trémulo fulgor de las estrellas.

—Aquel será tu nuevo hogar —me dijo señalando una de ellas.

—Mi nuevo hogar… —repetí sin palabras.

—¿Tienes miedo?

—Un poco —admití mientras advertía que algunos pétalos flotaban sin decidirse a ascender—. No voy a recordar nada de todo esto, ¿verdad?

—No. Y a la vez sí. Lo recordarás fuera de la memoria. Lo sentirás cuando te toque la lluvia que allí será tan diferente. Sabrás que muy lejos y muy cerca, del otro lado de la lluvia, en el origen, estaré yo. Seré el recuerdo de la lluvia que no recordarás.

First Runner-up: Birch by Jonatan I. Walton

Read the original version in Spanish.

“Palabras de Mormón” is a Spanish-language Mormon literature contest, which was a collaboration between the incredible organization, Cofradía de Letras Mormonas, and the Mormon Lit Lab. The winners received cash prizes and will be published in the Spanish-language magazine, El Pregonero, as well as here on the Mormon Lit Blitz.

We are pleased to present the first runner-up of the contest, the story “Birch” by Jonatan I. Walton.

Birch

Jonatan I. Walton
Translation by Dan Call

She fell like all the others. She tumbled between weeds, dry leaves, and humid earth until arriving at the base of the valley, where she had grown together with her sisters. The wind in that region carried her a little further, separating her even more from her family; nature’s cycle gave her the chance to carve out a spot in the rich earth and grow. Time wrought upon her the same as on anything. The seed sprouted, and as she saw the sun, was able to recognize who had shone upon her all that warmth she felt prior to birth.

She felt happy. She was alive. She understood that life was hard, and that only a few manage to overcome, with help, the earthen and clay barrier.  In her case, the invisible wind had carried her toward the light and warmth of the sun; and placed her in a wide space so she could freely rise up.

But many questions intruded on her existence, doubts she couldn’t answer on her own: why her and not some other seed? If everyone met the requirements, and they all had the same shot. She’d grown together with her siblings in the same bouquet until she had become a seed. If they were all the same, why had only a few made it? Why her?

An emerald moth told her that we all have reasons for growing and living; everyone and everything has a fundamental purpose in life, a cycle to complete and a mission. “I, for example, eat your leaves and you provide me with sustenance,” he told her while biting into one of her leaves with his mandibles. “Perhaps you think I’m hurting you, but your leaves will soon grow back, you’ll go on living and I’ll go on my mothy way.”

As she kept growing, the anxiety made her tense. To what end was she born? Why was she so far from her siblings? The seasons dressed and undressed her, and she grew into a robust, strong tree. Thousands of insects and hundreds of birds lived between her leaves and bark for ages.

Painted men, with clothing made of animal skins and feathers passed by her, and she witnessed colonizing wars. She thought that perhaps one of them would burn her to death, or some arrow or bullet would go right through her. But none of that happened; only a young soldier with a strange accent laid down beneath her to recover some strength, before going on his way. “Maybe I’ll end up as pulp for paper, or printer’s ink, o part of a shovel or a rifle, or some doll, maybe. Maybe an herbologist will take and turn me into part of some cure.” She thought like this while the earth spun, aging her bit by bit.

Now she was an adult but couldn’t (for some unknown reason) have offspring. She saw that her siblings were growing, and that some were being used as firewood and fences: a group of settlers had invaded those parts, and cabins sprung up as forests were cut down. But she went on unnoticed. The English arrived and the climate turned colder and colder, and her tree-heart felt heavier.

The birds told her that in other regions her species was held as sacred and that her distant relatives, able to withstand the great frosts, formed vast expanses of forest. But there, she was just another tree, looking like any other tree, not standing out in any way.

The sun came and went, the wind shook her from time to time, when she felt depressed. Her dreams of being someone important disappeared, like her autumn leaves. Time passed; she was old and large.

It was night or day, she couldn’t recall. It rained hard. All was so dark that it wasn’t possible to make out the stars or anything else. The furious wind blew, strong and threatening. The frightened birch asked the wind to calm down, but it couldn’t hear her and seemed to rain down even more copiously. Suddenly she heard a crack; her trunk, her support, had split, causing her to noisily fall to the earth. The birds flew off, avoiding being crushed, towards the safety of closer trees. She knew her roots would die. A drop of syrupy sap fell, a tear and reproach. She cried.

The sun kept coming out, drying her out. Many times the children from nearby farms flashed smile after smile as they played hide and seek around her dry trunk. The years went by, and her trunk dried to the point where it was nothing more than hollow bark. No saplings, no belonging to anything useful. Far from her family. She was born without motives, lived without motives, now she was dying without motives.

Months later she heard hurried footsteps. A young man with light brown hair knelt frightfully before her, in the hollow part. He seemed tired, but certain about what he was about to do. He carried with him something large, rectangular, and heavy, covered in a thin, worn out brown leather. It was a beautiful day, still morning. A light gust of wind lifted the leather just enough to let her see what the young man was bearing, as the sunlight revealed golden sparkles: they were thin sheets of gold, beautiful and held together by three rings, also made of gold. It looked like a huge book with engravings carved on its pages.

In her own way, the birch smiled like she hadn’t smiled in ages. She knew that everything which had happened, everything she had suffered, all that longing brought her to this shard of fleeting time.

The young man carefully hid the golden plates in the body of the tree, and, stroking the coarse birch, said, “Hide them well, so that they don’t find them.”

The birch smiled happily and died.

 

 

[Note: “Joseph soon learned why Moroni had charged him so strictly to guard the record taken from the hill. No sooner was it rumored that he had the plates, than efforts were made to seize them from him. To preserve them, he first carefully hid them in a hollow birch log.” (Hinckley, Gordon B. [1979], Truth Restored, 2002, p. 13)]