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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post: Four Centuries of Modern Mormon Men

James Goldberg holds an MFA in Creative Writing from BYU and is the editor-in-chief of Everyday Mormon Writer. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Shofar, Drash, Sunstone, Dialogue, and Prick of the Spindle. He also blogs about religion at Mormon Midrashim.

From now until September 17th, Everyday Mormon Writer is accepting fiction and art submissions for its "Four Centuries of Mormon Stories" contest, open to short stories (preferably of 1,000 words or fewer) about Mormon life in the 19th, 20th, 21st, or 22nd century. Individual authors are allowed up to three submissions per century.

As a reader of this blog, you've probably thought about what it means to be a Modern Mormon Man now and probably have a few story ideas for early 21st century LDS experience. You may also have an interest in Church history or in speculating about the Church's future, which puts you ahead of the curve in being able to write a story from the 19th, 20th, or 22nd century.

I hope you'll try, because being a self-aware Modern Mormon Man puts you right next to the secret of great historical or speculative fiction, which is that everyone feels very modern in their moment. It may be tempting to cast 19th century Salt Lake as a simple pioneer diorama, but to the people who lived there it likely felt high tech (telegraphs! railroads! odometers!), innovative (my great-great grandmother wrote about the excitement over learning Spanish at a time when most educational institutions in the U.S. focused on Latin and Greek), and ambitious (not only were Latter-day Saints developing an alternative culture, they were spreading it through a vast Rocky Mountain corridor). Many historical fiction or futuristic stories invent a main character with totally modern sensibilities and drop them into a stereotyped past or stock future. Can you sketch a character who really belongs to his/her time and help us see them solve a problem or confront a meaningful choice in that moment?

For purposes of the contest, we're interested in stories that focus on women's experience, men's experience, and experiences where gender doesn't figure prominently. But thanks in part to the efforts of great publications like Segullah and in part to cultural expectations that make it easier for Mormon women than men to focus on creative writing, there's currently a lot more thoughtful fiction about LDS women's experience than about LDS men's experience. So if you are interested specifically in what it might mean to be a Modern Mormon Man in the 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd century, make the time to put together a contest entry. We need your voice.

For further information, see the EMW contest page, the By Common Consent interview about the contest, and the Association for Mormon Letters blog post about the contest.

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