Thursday, October 23, 2014

Questions for Angela Hallstrom, Author of Bound on Earth

by Scott Hales:

Few recent Mormon novels have received as much praise as Angela Hallstrom's Bound on Earth, which was first published in 2008 by Parables. (You can read my enthusiastic review here.) Because the book is being republished by Mormon fiction powerhouse Zarahemla Books, I sent Angela a few questions about the novel, the change in publishers, and the state of Mormon fiction today.

Here is what she had to say...

Scott Hales: Tell us a little of the history of Bound on Earth. I gather that it began as a series of short stories about the Palmer family. At what point did you begin to think of it as a novel?

Angela Hallstrom: During my MFA program I was focused primarily on short story writing. Near the end of my program I took a point-of-view class that was very influential, and in it we read a few novels-in-stories. I was taken with the idea of exploring one Mormon family using such a method. I wrote "Thanksgiving" in that class, which later became the first chapter of Bound on Earth and the foundational story around which Bound on Earth was built.

The novel has recently switched publishers. What motivated the move to Zarahemla Books? Have you made any revisions to the novel in tandem with the move, or is the novel essentially how it was when it was published by Parables?

I enjoyed working with Beth Bentley at Parables, but her husband and business partner, George, recently passed away, sadly. His passing precipitated some changes at Parables and I found that the rights to the novel reverted to me. I've worked with Chris Bigelow and Zarahemla—they published the short story anthology I edited, Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction—and I approached him, knowing the novel would be in good hands. I knew I'd be in good company, too: Zarahemla has published some of the best contemporary Mormon fiction in the last decade. No changes have been made to the novel itself, but I'm grateful that my partnership with Zarahemla helps keep the novel in print.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meet Six Mormons

by John English:

I wasn't sure I was going to see Meet the Mormons in theaters. After all, it looked like something I could record on KSL in between General Conference sessions. All eight reviews at RottenTomatoes were negative, though some of them seemed to be slamming it for not being a hard-hitting expose.

It's a documentary produced by the LDS church for nonmembers, but really, it is just as much for members, maybe more so. Meet your fellow Mormons. Come meet some members of your global family.

It's hosted by New York resident and former Daily Show employee Jenna Kim Jones, and she narrates as we meet the six spotlighted members, each getting between 10-15 minutes. Watching their stories unfold made me wonder how director Blair Treu and his crew might treat my family, or my neighbors' families. I'm sure it would accentuate the positive. (Hey, Blair, if you want...)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Thoughts on New Temple Clothing & Garments Video

by Seattle Jon:

(1) Surprise at seeing actual temple clothing and garments on video.
(2) Surprise at hearing the words "magic underwear" in a church video!
(3) Surprise at hearing the church state there is nothing "magical or mystical" about temple garments.
(4) Not surprised at how well done the video was, the church makes good videos!

What are your thoughts?

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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and three chickens.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Dream Deferred

by Eliana:

You know that poem by Langston Hughes? Even if you don't do poetry, you've at least heard of the drama A Raisin in the Sun. I've always loved it, despite it being very foreign to my existence.

The options, according to the poem: a dream can dry up (like a grape becoming a raisin) or it can explode. I may be losing some of the linguistic beauty, but that's the Cliff Notes version.

I had a dream this year, the year my youngest child started kindergarten. My dream was to write a book. It has been simmering and floating around for a long time but I knew it would need more focus than I could manage with a small person around.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Seven Tips For Giving Your Best Missionary Homecoming Talk

by Shawn Tucker:

You are excited and happy to be home. Here are some ideas that might help you give the best homecoming talk possible:

Tip #1: What We Really Want Are Your Stories
As we watch you get up to the podium, all we really want are your stories. In fact, the bulk of your talk should be you telling three mission stories. You and everyone who served a mission will know that stories are creations, narratives that have been condensed for a particular audience and purpose. They are true (or they should be true), but the real events are always more complex than any one story can convey. That is okay. Formulate and give us as clearly and honestly as possible three important stories from your mission experience.

Tip #2: Use a Simple Framework
Since you cannot just tell three stories, have a framework or over-arching theme to connect them. It could be the joy of service or how the Lord blesses our best efforts or whatnot, but have some overarching idea that links the stories together. Introduce that theme at the outset, return to it very briefly between stories, and tie all of the stories together at the end with that theme.

Tip #3: Include Scriptures Where Helpful
When you introduce your framework or over-arching theme, between stories, or in your conclusion, include scriptures that support and advance your ideas. I would suggest no more than three scriptures.

Tip #4: Be You
We are glad to see you. We love you. We are glad that you have changed and grown. Simply being you is enough. Also, you are very, very excited about missionary work. That is great. Honestly, we will smile in agreement when you tell us to study Preach My Gospel every day, but there is no way we are going to actually do that. So, if you really want us to do missionary work, just talk about the joy you felt and allow the Spirit to work on us. I say that to say this—you are becoming an adult now, so you need to know that we are all doing our best and some of us have deep, painful struggles that you don't see. When you left, you may have imagined all of us as happily on the gospel escalator taking us to heaven. By now you should know that there is no such escalator, or that the escalator is broken and everyone has to take the stairs. Many find those stairs almost impossibly steep and frightening. You need to know that there is pain in every pew. The value of knowing that is that now when you speak you can rest assured that you don’t need to tell us to do anything. We are adult children of Heavenly Parents, and your job is not to attempt to correct or counsel us. Your job is to be who you are--some who is full of joy and love and enthusiasm. That is enough for us; who you are lifts us. So just be you and share who you are.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How, When and Why Do You Give?

by Seattle Jon:

The New York Times ran an op-ed recently outlining Alicia Keys' plans to "gather an army" from her fans in support of 12 groups that further social justice causes.

Here are the groups: All Out, a gay rights organization; CARE, the aid group; Equal Justice Initiative, which combats racial inequity in the criminal justice system; the Future Project, which empowers high school students in America; Girl Rising, which supports girls' education around the world; Keep a Child Alive, which helps children affected by H.I.V. and AIDS; Moms Rising, which supports universal prekindergarten, maternal leaves and tighter gun laws; Oxfam, which fights global poverty; Partners in Health, which tackles disease worldwide; the Trevor Project, which prevents suicide among gay and lesbian youths; the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which fights racial profiling; and War Child, which supports children in conflict areas.

To get the effort started, Keys donated $1 million of her own money, released a new song related to the effort and has said she will do more to address racism, injustice and poverty in future songs.

I applaud Ms. Keys' - she is one of the world's best-known singers, and with 35 million fans on Facebook and almost 20 million followers on Twitter (MMM is close behind with 1600+ followers), I'm sure her efforts will yield impressive results and I admire how she directs her time and money to causes she believes in. Naturally, this got me thinking about where my own time and money goes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mormonism and Bigfoot

by Scott Heffernan:

As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me.... His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight.... [Lycurgus A. Wilson, Life of David W. Patten [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1900], p. 50., quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 127-128.]
I love this story. I don’t believe it’s true, but I still find it fascinating. I initially came across it as I read Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness on my mission (not recommended). I’m not quite sure why President (then Elder) Kimball included it in his book. It doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than to point that murderers exist, they are evil, and Cain was (or is) one of them. I like to imagine Elder Kimball recalling the story and thinking, “This is awesome! I’ve got to find a way to work it in.”

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