Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Give LDS Fiction a Chance

by Stephanie Black

“I don’t like LDS fiction.” “LDS fiction is cheesy.” “LDS fiction is sappy.” “LDS fiction is trite and poorly written.”

Anyone out there view any of the above statements as true?

Okay. What if I remove “LDS” from the statements, but otherwise leave them the same? Anyone still agree with them? Well, maybe the first one. Some people simply don’t care for made-up stories and prefer to spend their reading time with non-fiction. But I doubt that any fiction reader would dismiss the entire body of fiction—of all genres—as sappy, cheesy, trite, or what have you. Some fiction IS unquestionably sappy, LDS or otherwise. Some fiction is cheesy, some is poorly written.

But not all of it.

If you are in the habit of dismissing LDS fiction as worthless, please choose the answer below that most closely reflects the reasons behind your dislike of LDS fiction.

A—I’ve sampled a variety of LDS novels by a variety of authors, established and new, and none of it was really to my taste.

B—I’ve sampled several LDS novels in the genre or genres that I like to read in mainstream fiction and didn’t feel they matched up to their national equivalents.

C—I read an LDS romance novel in 1991 and thought it was cheesy.

D—I read half an LDS romance novel in 1991 and thought it was cheesy.

E—I read “Charly” when I was in junior high and didn’t like crying at the end.

F—I’ve never read any LDS fiction, but someone told me it was sappy.

If you answered A or B, we authors would love to hear what you didn’t like about the novels you read. Where did they let you down? How can we improve? Let’s talk.

If you answered C-F, please give the market another chance. Bestselling author Jennie Hansen made the point that it strikes her as ridiculous when someone says they don’t like LDS fiction, but the only LDS fiction they’ve read is a romance novel—while in the national market, their taste is in techno-thrillers. Try some LDS novels that match your reading interests. If you prefer romances, try some LDS romances and enjoy reading a novel where you never have to worry about skipping pages due to objectionable content. If you prefer mysteries or thrillers, try an LDS mystery or thriller.

If you click on the links at the right showing the most recent releases of our blog contributors, you’ll see that even among the six authors on this blog, there’s plenty of variety. Candace's latest release is a book of true stories. Jeff's is a mystery. Julie's is romantic suspense. Rob's is humorous suspense. Sariah's (to be released in July) is a historical romance. Mine is a semi-futuristic thriller.

We're not sure what genre the frog prefers. He won't tell us what he's working on. Any guesses?


52 Comments:

At 4/12/2006 1:36 PM, Blogger C.L. Hanson said...

LOL, is Charly really still the most famous LDS novel of all time? Say it ain't so!! :D

Okay, here's a stumper for you: I like light, fairly comic stories that portray ordinary people in everyday LDS culture. I'm not so much into mysteries/crime/violence. Any recommendations?

 
At 4/12/2006 1:52 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Not to be purely mercenary, but my On Second Thought would probably fit the bill.

Matthew Buckley's Chickens In The Headlights is another good choice.

 
At 4/12/2006 2:31 PM, Blogger C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks!!

Unfortunately I'm not in a position to get any more books in English for the moment, but I will make a note of these titles for the future. :D

 
At 4/12/2006 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that a lot of people just don't have the opportunity to read much LDS fiction.

I would love to read more of it, but I am a SAHM with no extra money, so I'm limited to what I can get from the library.

I'm in California, so that means no LDS fiction.

I wonder if LDS people as a group tend to be more budget-conscious, and don't actually purchase many fiction books.

 
At 4/13/2006 1:35 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Both the books Rob recommended are great fun.

An author friend recommended "Mormonville" by Jeff Call. I haven't read it, but she enjoyed it.

Have you read any of Robert Farrell Smith's books? He's written some very funny novels, but a lot of his characters are very eccentric (except the main character and love interest) and the portrayal of Mormon culture is sometimes pretty wacky, so I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for. They're a lot of fun, though.

If you enjoy youth books, Patricia Wiles' "My Mom's a Mortician", "Funeral Home Evenings" and "Early Morning Cemetery" are highly acclaimed.

Since my tastes run more to mysteries and suspense, I don't have a lot of recommendations, but I passed the question along to some other authors and if they give me some suggestions I'll post them.

And if you do ever want a taste of suspense in a highly funny and clever book, Kerry Blair's "This Just In" is fantastic.

Thanks for your comments!

 
At 4/13/2006 10:39 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

If you live in an area where LDS fiction isn't available at the library, you can get it through interlibrary loan. I haven't tried this yet, but an author friend who used to work at a library recommended it.

Sometimes you can find great bargains on LDS fiction on eBay.

 
At 4/15/2006 11:59 AM, Blogger annegb said...

My answer is A and B. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but there is a reality missing in Mormon fiction. Are you trying so hard to be positive you miss the boat? I don't know.

Like I said, Orson Scott Card and Douglas Thayer's short stories are pretty good.

A friend once said to me that LDS fiction falls under two categories:

1. They just give the answer without the question

2. They ask the question but don't give the answer ie, negative

I believe Wallace Stegner said it's impossible to write Mormon fiction because there's just too much to explain first.

I'm sorry, you guys, I've never heard of any of you, that is my bad, probably because I just don't pay attention. I worked at the bookmobile as a volunteer and we had the Mormon fiction in a separate place, I know Laurie Hansen, maybe it's Jennie, there are a whole bunch of names.

I just don't see excellence in writing in those books. I think they are popular with Mormon women (it's mostly women)because they are afraid of breaking a commandment by reading The Color Purple, so they settle for mediocrity.

What's wrong with Danielle Steele's books is the same thing that's wrong with most of the Mormon novels I've read. They lack something, depth, I can't put my finger on it.

I wish somebody would write realistically. That doesn't mean negatively, but realistically. These books don't touch me. They don't speak to my experience as a Mormon woman. They don't interpret Mormon life.

 
At 4/15/2006 12:21 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4/15/2006 12:22 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I think they are popular with Mormon women (it's mostly women)because they are afraid of breaking a commandment by reading The Color Purple, so they settle for mediocrity.

I'm not afraid of breaking any commandments, particularly since the D&C specifically tells us to seek learning out of good books. I don't think that's a valid argument.

Nor do I think people settle for "mediocrity." One man's mediocrity is another man's literary genius. People have different tastes and different things they enjoy. Like you want to have a "realistic" read. I don't want that. I wouldn't even be tempted to pick a book like that up off the shelf. I don't read for realism. I read to escape the realities of my life.

My particular problem with LDS fiction in the past has been the preachy aspect of it and the poorly written aspects of it. Even now I have a difficult time finding the sort of fiction that *I* enjoy reading in the LDS market. It's why I wrote my own book of what I wanted to read. I've seen other authors doing the same.

I don't see a lack of depth because I'm not looking for it. Obviously I'm not a classical author, nor do I have any hopes of becoming one. And I am more than okay with that. I also don't want to interpret Mormon life. Again, that sounds very boring to me to read and/or write. All of us here read and write genre fiction, which it doesn't seem that you care for.

It sounds as if you prefer literary fiction, and admittedly there isn't a great deal of that in the LDS market, however, there are LDS writers that publish nationally that are known for their literary fiction.

 
At 4/18/2006 12:05 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I don't accuse you of being afraid to read deeper, but many Mormon women are caught in a cycle of mediocrity, Sariah. They're afraid if they read a book that has bad words in it, they are damned. I don't associate crudeness with excellence, but also, I don't reject it.

You're right, I prefer fiction, but I find Mormon non-fiction more well written than fiction. But you said it yourself"preachy and poorly written aspects."

I do want to see our lives interpreted. I do want someone to validate my experience as a Mormon woman. So far, few have.

 
At 4/18/2006 2:57 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

You know, I disagree. I don't think Mormon women think they will be damned if they read bad language. We just know that it is better to avoid. Who wants that bad stuff in your head. It is better to avoid it.

I agree also that some LDS fiction is preachy, especially if they take actual scriptural stories and make it really preachy. That is why I like Lund so much. He doesn't make his writing preachy, but it is really spiritual. Love him.

Anyway, I have read the classics for class, and they are boring to me. I never have thought provoking revelations. I like fiction because it is an escape!

 
At 4/18/2006 7:09 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

annegb, could you clarify what you meant by the two categories of LDS fiction (giving the answer without asking the question/asking the question without giving the answer)? I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean.

I don't think readers of LDS fiction settle for mediocrity because they are afraid of reading books like "The Color Purple." People have different tastes in books and some people just don't WANT to read "The Color Purple." Some people like LDS fiction. They aren't "settling" for it--they genuinely enjoy it.

As writers, we understand that not everyone is going to love our books. But some people do love them. The LDS novels you've read might not speak to your experience, but they do speak to some readers' experiences. I've read some LDS novels that I didn't like--but then I see comments from other readers and reviewers who absolutely loved those books. Everyone has different tastes.

I agree that there is a lot of poorly written LDS fiction. But there is also some very good LDS fiction and the market is growing.

What type of LDS fiction would speak to your experiences?

 
At 4/18/2006 7:15 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

To C.L. Hanson:

I got some more recommendations for light, comic fiction from a writer friend. Here are some more author names:

Lisa McKendrick
Stephanie Fowers
Taunia L. Bean
Joni Hilton
Juli Caldwell and Erin McBride

 
At 4/18/2006 9:11 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I can't remember the name of the author, but one --oh, I remember, Carolyn Hofeling Morris, or a reasonable facsimile. She wrote the Bonsai and another book which name escapes me about adultery.

Orson Scott Card is a wonderful writer, but he hasn't written any books about Mormonism.

I know people love the LDS fiction, like Jennie Hansens or Anita Canfield's, but I think they are people who wouldn't appreciate Les Miserables, they are morons. They like Danielle Steele, too.

I ordered Julie's book (did you know there are about 5 books of the same name?). And I will tell you the truth of what I think. I've read Joni Hilton and it's just not superlative. It's just not. It's simple.

The guy who gave those categories, I can't explain it, but I understood him. Most LDS books answer the question without asking it. They're Pollyanna-ish. There is no depth.

Those that ask the question, are negative in tone, simply saying that the gospel isn't the answer. They think that negativism is realistic.

Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorites, is realistic without being negative. She gets in your gut without traumatizing you.

Although, think of Les Miserables, for instance, all the layers and nuances. One might call it negative. I read a letter in the paper the other day that called, oh, what was the book, Where the Red Fern Grows, negative. Give me a break.

So far I've seen very little excellence in this genre of Mormon fiction, which is sort of like Big Brother just feeding the masses who don't want to think deeply.

 
At 4/18/2006 11:35 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I'm sorry, but when you reach the point of name-calling, that's the point at which it becomes impossible to have any kind of a beneficial discussion about this. To suggest that people are "morons" because they enjoy LDS fiction is just beyond the pale.

 
At 4/19/2006 10:44 AM, Blogger annegb said...

Sorry, yeah, that's an insult. I think it's kind of funny that I stumbled in here with my obvious bias. This isn't the first time I've gotten in trouble on a blog for my choice of words.

Some of my best friends read LDS fiction. They're not morons, but I don't understand that insistence on only reading LDS fiction. It doesn't seem like an intelligent choice.

But my neighbor does, as well, and she wouldn't know good writing if it bit her. I'll let you know how she reacts when I show her Julie's book and say I've been e-mailing the author. She pretty much is convinced I'm headed for outer darkness.

 
At 4/19/2006 10:49 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Yeah. I have to agree with Stephanie. If you really want to discuss the topic, cite a couple of LDS books you've read -- give us some examples and some worthwhile critique. I admit that there's some shallow LDS stuff, but I also have to wonder exactly how much LDS fiction you've read (particularly in, say, the last five years). If you have really read a lot of LDS stuff, then by all means, let's dig in and discuss. But if you haven't, quit stereotyping a genre.

 
At 4/19/2006 3:46 PM, Blogger jmm43 said...

This is in response to Annegb. Let me first start by saying that I have read Les Miserables, the unedited version. I have also read a wide variety of classics. I also enjoy non-fiction. I also happen to enjoy lds fiction.

Quite frankly, I am suprised at the logical inconsistencies of your argument against lds fiction. You attack those who only read it for not branching outward, yet you refuse to acknowledge which books you have read, or if you have read any recently. It seems your bias is the same as those who will not read the classics. A bias against one thing that will not allow you to discover what it really is about is the same no matter where it is directed.

To make sure that my comments are taken seriously here are some of my favorite works of literature:

A Tale of Two Cities
Les Miserables
Othello
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
The Harry Potter Series

You are guilty of the very thing you are accusing us of doing. You are generalizing and refusing to try new things.

In reply to realism and applying to your experience--that is all subjective. I can read books about all sorts of things and events that don't apply to me, or even non-fiction that seems completely unrealistic because my life experience has been so different.

In conclusion, it seems to me that reality in a work of lds fiction would be different than the reality of "the color purple" because the reality of the characters is completely different. I know that my reality is very different than the reality of my friends who are not members of the church. It doesn't make my reality less real, it makes it different.

 
At 4/19/2006 6:01 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Well, haven't you guys heard of The Bonsai, The Merry Go Round, and I can't think of the name of the other one, by Carolyn Hofeling Morris (spelling could be off)? She's an LDS writer. Also Douglas Thayer, I've read a couple of books of short stories by Mormon authors, whose names I don't recall, that I felt were excellent.
Orson Scott Card wrote a book of short stories. His novels are not LDS fiction, but he's a wonderful writer.

I read Mormonville, it was okay, I read something about a woman leaving an abusive husband, I've read Charly, of course, and several others of Jack Weyland's. I bought, read, and donated to the bookmobile a book called The Secret Journal of Brett Coulton, which again, was okay.

I read the Work and the Glory series, which I did not find to be mediocre, but I got bored after awhile. Series usually lose me, had the same problem with Orson Scott Card's books.

That's not the first place I look when looking for reading material, though.

I, too, have read the unedited version of Les Miserables (and didn't it make you realize that the true hero was the priest?). I've also read crap (ie, you guys definition of A Million Little Pieces).

I don't know how to do it, but I believe it should be done. I think the reason you guys are successful is because women (mostly women) are seeking an interpretation, a validation, of their experience as Mormon women, the stress involved. And it's huge. That's why Charly was popular in the beginning, because she wasn't into canning and cleaning. Gasp, somebody said it. Sex worked for her.

There is no need to get in the gutter to read these, but I believe my neighbor is starving for this, and just doesn't know where to look, so she settles for Anita Stansfield.

I have ordered Julie's book, I'll read it and I'll tell you what I think.

And like I said, I can't put my finger on what I feel is wrong, the books I've read are too superficial, they don't describe what I experience as an active (albeit iconoclastic, not feminist) Mormon woman. There is an immaturity to the writing.

Of the books I've read. And you're right, I just pass them by these days. Don't bother.

Some of you write science fiction, no? That's a different genre, not usually books I read, so I couldn't say about those.

But, hey, I'll go to the bookmobile and get some of your books.

The "morons" (besides my neighbor) I refer to are women who refuse to read anything that isn't written by an LDS writer, like it's a sin to read something other. That's a moronic point of view.

I'm looking for a book written by an LDS writer that makes my spirit soar, that I can say, "yes, that's it." So far, no luck.

 
At 4/19/2006 6:07 PM, Blogger annegb said...

And let me say, I'm not offended that you are mad at me. I'm not trying to make you mad, either. If I'd read more carefully (a character defect), I probably would have just passed this blog over.

I am a little older, suffering from menopause, and some cognitive loss due to do physical problems, and I love a good argument.

So I hope we can be friends, even if we never convince on another. I would love for one of your books to be the "aha!" one.

See, you've expanded my horizons already.

 
At 4/19/2006 10:49 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Okay, the bookmobile stopped at my house and I got Stephanie's book and Robison's book.

I'll let you know.

For what it's worth, I actually sent Tracy Kidder my notes on his Pulitzer award winning book saying how boring it was. He called me, long story.

And I think Toni Morrison is over rated, although she can write. She's just so masochistic.

 
At 4/20/2006 11:35 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I've heard of The Bonsai, but haven't read it.

I'm surprised to hear that there are people who limit their reading solely to LDS authors.

I think that LDS fiction is successful for many reasons, only one of which is people seeking validation for their experiences as Mormon women. Some readers (like me) are just seeking a good, entertaining, gripping, clean read. I like mysteries and thrillers.

Thanks for giving my book a try.

 
At 4/21/2006 2:53 PM, Anonymous kerry blair said...

I realize I'm entering this discussion at the end, but reading through the comments today I've felt such empathy -- for both sides of the discussion. I am perhaps one of the shallowest LDS writers (by talent and design)but I am also a menopausal, voracious reader of mainstream fiction and classics like Annegb. (When I moved to Utah and saw that the local library had fifteen copies of my books but only two of Anne Tyler's and none of Alice Hoffman's I went back out to my car and cried.)

Like Annegb, I love the "aha" (which I believe comes from the Spirit) and tend to find it more in literary works than I do in romances, mysteries and humor. This doesn't surprise me. I don't eat chocolate expecting to be well-nourished, but I do eat it! And I love it. I also love some LDS fiction. Jeff Savage wrote a book (Into the Fire) with an "aha" for me. So did Stephanie Black (The Believer). Marilyn Arnold is a literary writer of some note. But last year my youngest son was in Iraq disabling roadside bombs and I didn't need something that spoke to my experience -- I had too much experience to face as it was. Rather than "aha" my spirit needed "a-ha-ha-ha" and I was thus more grateful for Robison Wells than I could ever be for Alexadre Dumas!

The point is that I read what I love and try not to judge my neighbor by what they read -- any more than I judge them by what they drive or the color they paint their house. But I think we might be kindred spirits, Anne. E-mail me privately so we can swap book lists. Plus I'd LOVE to hear the Tracy Kidder story!

Finally, I have a quote by Washington Irving hanging by my computer. It was his response to well-meaning people who labeled him a hack:

"Methinks I hear the questions asked by my graver readers, ‘To what purpose is all this—how is the world to be made wiser by this talk?’ Alas! Is there not wisdom enough extant for the instruction of the world? And if not, are there not thousands of abler pens labouring for its improvement? It is so much pleasanter to please than to instruct—to play the companion rather than the preceptor.

"What, after all, is the mite of wisdom that I could throw into the mass of knowledge; or how am I sure that my sagest deductions may be safe guides for the opinions of others? But in writing to amuse, if I fail, the only evil is in my own disappointment. If, however, I can by any lucky chance, in these days of evil, rub out one wrinkle from the brow of care, or beguile the heavy heart of one moment of sorrow; if I can now and then penetrate through the gathering film of misanthropy, prompt a benevolent view of human nature, and make my reader more in good humour with his fellow-beings and himself, surely, surely, I shall not then have written entirely in vain."

You know, I honestly think that's what most of us in this genre aim for -- and 99% of the time I think we succeed! In the words of a far better writer than I, "God bless us, every one."

 
At 4/23/2006 10:55 AM, Blogger annegb said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4/23/2006 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can not believe someone just cussed on an lds blog. I thought that would not be an issue here. there are other ways to word comments.

 
At 4/23/2006 4:20 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I didn't read the whole thing - I'll be more careful about that in the future. This is definitely a swear-free zone. :)

 
At 4/23/2006 6:37 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Sigh...and thus the problem.

Kerry, my e-mail is gardnera@netutah.com.

Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg both have new books out. The book by Viann Prestwich, oh, they edited it, that's a good book. She writes honestly, like Berg. There are elements of The Patchwork Planet in this book, Stolen Identity.

No cussing, but she writes what she knows. No New America, or contrived jokes (Robison, you're trying too hard). Aha!

 
At 4/23/2006 6:39 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Anonymous, for me, that wasn't cussing. Guys, I didn't say anything grossly profane. For heaven's sake.

 
At 4/23/2006 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, annegb, I would hate to hear what you consider real cussing. I'm really not sure how our profanity scales compare, but it seems they don't agree. To me, ANY cussing on an LDS blog is unacceptable. As it says in the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth,
"How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholsome mind." (p. 22)

I think that on an LDS blog, the goal is to create the kind on environment that promotes the growth of bright and wholsome minds. I value your comments on and appreciate your opinion, but I believe both can be expressed in ways that are not offensive.

 
At 4/23/2006 8:57 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

annegb, I did see the comments that you posted earlier, so let me respond to them. First of all, thank you for the feedback. Naturally, I'm disappointed that my book doesn't appeal to you, but I appreciate your taking the time to have a look at it. I appreciate your candid advice. But I disagree with the assertion that an author can only write according to her/his direct experience.

Has J.K. Rowling ever ridden a broomstick or battled a powerful dark wizard? Did J.R.R. Tolkien ever fight incredible odds to destroy a powerful magical ring? Did Shakespeare ever dance around the forest with magical sprites? A novelist or playwright draws on the power of imagination and empathy in the same way that a reader does--all of us identifying with people who don't exist, yet whose stories engage us because of the power of imagination and empathy.

Please understand that I am not holding myself up as a great writer. I don't claim to be a great writer. Clearly, you feel I didn't do my job well enough to engage your empathy or your imagination. I understand that. But while you found my book boring, uncompelling and unrealistic, I've heard back from other readers who find the book compelling, thought-provoking and scarily realistic.

Your opinion is, of course, just as valid as the opinion of readers who liked the book. While I'll always be working to improve my writing, I just don't agree that the only way to do that is to write literary fiction that deals with my day-to-day life. I enjoy my life very much--dropped pie-dough and all--but I love a good escapist read.

I know you have a strong preference for literary fiction. My book is not literary fiction. Nor is Rob's. There are many types of humor, subtle and not-so subtle. I personally find Rob's humor very funny.

It sounds like you've had many difficult experiences in your life. If you ever decide to write them down, I'm sure you'd have many very compelling stories to tell.

I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed Viann Prestwich's book. I haven't read that one yet, but it sounds great.

 
At 4/23/2006 10:10 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

If Rob comes in to read this, I think you're hysterical. I get emails about how funny you are. I don't think you're trying too hard. I think you try just the right amount. :)

And kudos for Stephanie on replying so coolly and calmly. I'm more of a if you don't like my book not only do I not want to hear about it, but I might actually cry for a pox on your house.

 
At 4/23/2006 11:15 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Well, I'm by no means offended. Anne, once you actually read the book and have a basis for a legitimate opinion, then tell me what you think.

Sigh...

Not to argue, but for someone who is complaining that we (readers and writers of LDS fiction) are close-minded, you continually make your arguments look silly. By your own admission, your reading of LDS fiction is slim at best, and then you offer criticism based on "skimming" my book and only beginning Stephanie's. Read both of them (with the same level of open-mindedness that you ask we have of literary fiction) and then we'll discuss them. If you still don't like it, then tell me in detail why not.

(Incidentally, which of my books are you referring to?)

 
At 4/24/2006 12:08 AM, Blogger annegb said...

Why did you guys start a blog, to cheer each other on? To only hear the positive? To only get pats on the back? Why did you open it to blogger?

I gave good, positive advice in the post you deleted, you could have just deleted one word and it would have been better. I just got discouraged with trying to communicate with you guys. Your minds are far more closed than mine. And I was too tired to re-type it. I thought, forget it, they don't want to hear.

Stephanie, I'm not sure what you mean. Are your books (yours and Robisons) non-fiction, then?

I believe that one problem with Mormon writers is an avoidance of "writing what you know," Mormons write wonderful non-fiction, expressive essays, aha! ones, if you write what you know into fiction, you will write more truly.

A lot of LDS blogs allow a little cussing, some none, I've been corrected before. But if that's all the cussing you guys can take, why don't you live in gated communities, with judges to decide who is worthy of you and your celestial kingdom? You are shutting out so many good people who are Mormon with your narrow views. You can say, "hey, Annegb no cussing allowed" and guess what, I don't do it again. I don't need to be condemned for it. The self-righteous tone is just laughable.

Stephanie, JK Rowling has a gift that you do not possess. But you're trying to write in a genre that doesn't work for you, in that book. You have gifts she doesn't possess.

You're all clear and grammatically correct writers. You could perhaps be great writers. You don't have to cuss, but you can be authentic.

Robison, your book has a picture of a guy with his rear up with his head in the sand. I will read it and I will be honest. I was kinder in the terrible first reply where I cussed so awfully.

You criticize me for not reading enough LDS fiction, yet none of you have read one of the books, LDS fiction, I've recommended. Not one. You say nothing about Orson Scott Card or Douglas Thayer. They are great writers.

Read The Bonsai. You'll see the difference.

I believe, and this is why I'm still here, plucking away at you, that you all CAN write better, maybe even greatly. Carol Lyn Pearson, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, they don't cuss, but they write and speak to my soul. You, too, can do that. Don't settle.

I recommended a couple of books in my earlier deleted post, one is Escaping Into the Open, by Elizabeth Berg and Strunk & White's Elements of Style.

I don't make the case that sad experiences make good writers. I personally don't like writing books, it's not fun to me. But I could, like I said, write authentically about being cold and hungry and scared. Stephanie, you simply didn't pull it off.

And again I ask, if you guys only want approval, strokes, why did you start a blog?

My best teachers were my best critics. They pulled my best writing out of me. If all I say is positive, thus seeking "the spirit" and feeding into Anonymous' idea of an LDS blog as a bland experience, lacking in real dialogue and rejecting the sinner, how do you learn from me?

I'm willing to look into LDS fiction, I don't see you guys looking beyond your noses. I've already read two of the four books I checked out Friday. Have you even thought about looking into one author I recommended?

My e-mail is gardnera@netutah.com
Just tell me if all you want is compliments. I find that cowardly and despicable and totally destructive to the spirit of the true writer.

 
At 4/24/2006 12:09 AM, Blogger annegb said...

And further, all you famous Mormon writers, where are all your fans writing to your blog? Where are anything but the minimum of bloggers? You're shooting yourself in the foot if you want bloggers to come here.

At the back of your books, you say you love to hear from your readers. Only the ones who love you?

 
At 4/24/2006 9:01 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Actually, no I couldn't edit out just one swear word from your post. I have the option of either publishing it or deleting the entire thing. I can't edit what's already been said either by myself or someone else. So it's an all or nothing sort of a thing.

Just tell me if all you want is compliments. I find that cowardly and despicable and totally destructive to the spirit of the true writer.

So I suppose this is directed towards me because I said I didn't want to hear it.

All I'm hearing is your opinion. One person's perspective. And that's the most important thing that I've learned in all my writing and conferences and professional groups is that everything is just a matter of perspective. In selling a book you only have to get one editor interested in it. Five hundred editors could say no, could say it's the biggest piece of garbage they've ever seen, and you will still be a published author if just one person says yes.

If there's some sort of consensus by multiple people that something stinks in the story, well okay then. But I'm not going to get worked over one person's comments about whether or not they like my writing when said person has repeatedly asserted they do NOT like genre fiction and choose to read only literary fiction. You may call it cowardly and despicable, I call it protecting myself from comments of people who hate what I write. :)

There was nothing self-righteous about deleting the post. We are courting an LDS readership with this blog and yes, LDS readers are going to be offended when they read comments with swearing in them. By proclaiming this to be an LDS blog we are making it a sort of safe zone for people who won't have to worry about language or other sort of content. Obviously we can't keep from offending every reader, but we can take out the rather blatant things that we know for a fact will offend people.

I'm willing to look into LDS fiction, I don't see you guys looking beyond your noses.

I've read "Elements of Style." Repeatedly. I've read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I've read Carol Lyn Pearson. I refer you to my earlier post on this subject - I would be willing to bet I have read just as much literary fiction as you have, and I continue to particularly with the things that hit the bestseller lists like "Prep" and "Life of Pi." But now I do it for professional reasons - I'm reading a book to uncover what makes it good, what makes it something that millions of people want to buy.

why did you start a blog?

Well I certainly didn't start it to have people come in and tell me how much I suck.

The honest truth is this - we started this blog because in order to keep readers coming back to our websites and interested in us, we need to provide daily content for them to read. The most important thing an author can do these days (besides write a good book) is publicity. Publishers expect it. There are over 185,000 new books put out every year. How are you supposed to make your book stand out in that crowd? Publicity.

Also, many people prefer to lurk rather than post.

And further, all you famous Mormon writers, where are all your fans writing to your blog? Where are anything but the minimum of bloggers?

Okay, this made me actually laugh out loud. I don't think anyone here has proclaimed themselves to be famous. Least of all me. Because I think only my mom thinks of me as being famous.

I also don't know what constitutes a "minimum of bloggers." According to the site statistics, we've been getting between 20 and 40 NEW visitors every day. That's not including the returning visitors. I think that's pretty good for a blog that's been up for about a month and a half. I also think that number will continue to grow, particularly if we keep our target audience in mind and make this the sort of place they want to come to.

Also, Rob Wells posted a while back on another message board that the majority of buyers in our market were females over 30, so that if you want to do well you write books for females over 30. While this is certainly not the case with every female over 30, I can tell you that the whole blogging thing seems foreign to many of them. My mother and aunts have had conversations about this whole blog thing and what's the point of it and what are they supposed to do with it. These are women who search the Internet all the time, write lots of email, etc. But this strikes them as strange. So we keep this site up knowing those facts, but hoping that if we build it, they will come.

I also don't need to have a particular number of people coming to this blog to feel validated or to feel that it is "successful." It is accomplishing what I want it to accomplish, and that makes me happy.

At the back of your books, you say you love to hear from your readers. Only the ones who love you?

None of my books say that (yet) but yes, I would love to hear from a reader that picked my book up in a bookstore because it appealed to them in some way (even if their review was negative), rather than hearing from someone who picked up my book with the sole purpose of tearing it apart and telling me what a crappy writer I am and how I'll never be a great literary writer and that without knowing the experiences of my life will assume that I've never experienced certain emotions because it isn't written the way the reader thinks it will be.

I'd be more inclined to take your opinion on these books seriously if you didn't start the exercise with such an obvious prejudice. What good will it do any of the authors here to read the books you've recommended if we go into it with a similar mentality? Do you think we'll get anything out of it? You've stated repeatedly how much you hate LDS fiction, how weak you think the writing is, and a myriad of other things you have issues with. I don't know how I can take your opinion on the works of talented authors like Stephanie and Rob seriously when I know your extreme biases and prejudices you had before ever even cracking the book open.

This sort of stuff makes me hot because of how freaking hard it is to write a book. It is not easy for anyone I know. I've heard the statistics on how few people (less than 5 percent) who start a book actually finish it. Then the numbers are even less (something in the neighborhood of 1 to 3 percent) for those who finish and somehow manage to get published.

I have the utmost respect for the people here and what they've accomplished. I won't allow that to be disparaged.

 
At 4/24/2006 9:13 AM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

annegb,

Constructive criticism is always helpful to writers, no question. But I have read your comments as you have single-handedly attacked a number of authors, not out of being helpful, but simply being hurtful. You have your head so firmly in the national market, accepting of novels that are in turn, wonderful and boring, and denigrate what we hold dear.

I'm a reader of the national and LDS markets. I haven't limited myself to just one. I have favorite authors in both. I read fiction (all genres), nonfiction (all topics) and am an information hound. There are authors I believe to be marvelous writers beyond description, others that are great storytellers and not-so-good writers, and so on. . . But really - you have a very narrowminded view and are desperately in need of expanding your horizons.

Do I say all LDS writers are flawless? No. Do I say there is no room for improvement? No. Good writers are always honing their craft and attempting to improve in every way. But your criticism is harsh and unforgiving, constructive in no way. I don't think you want to make us better writers, I think you're having too much fun attacking writers who have chosen to share their accumulative knowledge in an increasingly competitive field. Writers, who by the way, are very sucessful and have sold thousands upon thousands of books.

If the authors who comprise this group choose to exert certain standards through Six LDS Writers and a Frog - then they are well within their rights to do so. If you're annoyed at not being able to swear because other LDS blogs do, then, please, feel free to head on over there.

I am certain, although I am no longer part of this blogging format, that these writers are aware of their shortcomings, as I am of mine. But I don't think setting yourself up as the know-it-all and then accusing us of not writing well because we don't write what we know . . . Stephanie's book is futuristic fiction for crying out loud -- which is an expanding genre, she did a good job in creating a world that could easily exist. Robison has a delightful sense of humor that comes out in his books.

Everyone's style of writing is different. Readers enjoy different styles, that's what makes the world go around. Myself, I don't enjoy Tony Morrison, Steven King or a number of other national authors. Not because they aren't good writers, simply because I don't enjoy their writing styles or their subject matters. Orson Scott Card is a great writer, but I'm sorry, his stories don't interest me. I have never been able to finish one of his books. But that's just me and what I like, it doesn't make him great or bad. I just don't care for his stories. And you know what? That's okay.

So you really need to lighten up and not take such offense in a debate that you started.

 
At 4/24/2006 10:00 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Anne,
What an interesting debate you have started! I have read your comments (agreed with some, not with others) and one thing that sticks out in my mind is when you said, "I do want to see our lives interpreted. I do want someone to validate my experience as a Mormon woman. So far, few have." It sounds to me like you are looking for LDS fiction to tell a realistic experience or view of a Mormon woman? If so, there are more issue oriented fiction books out there---Rachel Nunes addresses child abuse, foster care, adoption things like that and I'm sure there are others I just can't think of at the moment. No Way Out by Christine Kersey comes to mind because it's about this Molly Mormon married to what she believes is a wonderful man who's had problems in the past and repented and moved on, but then some things happen that start her wondering and going down another path. Fiction isn't meant to be real life experience, though. I believe Candace Salima's Forged in the Refiner's Fire is a non-fiction book about overcoming different trials we face in life. I just don't know of a lot of fiction that necessarily correctly interprets or validates anyone's view beyond the author's since everyone sees things differently. My book, Time Will Tell, begins with a missionary dying in the field and the reaction to it kills a marriage. Realistic? Maybe. Validating? I don't know. It's all in how your life experience has taught you to look at things.

I have thought your comments were thought provoking, although I am nervous for you to review any of my books after seeing what you said about some others! :) Honesty is a good thing, but as I said in my blog about a thicker skin, criticism is sometimes hard to take unless you are very specific. I haven't read Viann's book that you liked. I'll try to pick that one up and see what you mean.

 
At 4/24/2006 10:32 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Where did you get the idea that we’re only asking for compliments? I went out of my way to express appreciation for your feedback and was nothing but polite. I simply (politely) disagreed with the premise that an author can only write what she has directly experienced. I wasn’t claiming to be JK Rowling. In fact, I made the point that I wasn’t claiming to be a great writer at all. You hold the position that my book is fundamentally flawed because I’m not qualified to write it. In stating that there are people who like the book very much, I wasn’t saying that I can’t handle criticism. I was only trying to express my opinion that though the book isn’t to your taste, I don’t agree with your premise that the only thing I’m qualified to write is the story of a contemporary Mormon woman. I understand that you dislike the book and find it boring. I’m fine with that. I don’t expect everyone to love it. We can politely agree to disagree.

When I said Rob’s and my books are not literary fiction, I meant they are genre fiction. Mysteries, suspense, thrillers, romance, westerns, science fiction, fantasy—these are genre fiction, as opposed to the more realism-based, serious, thought-provoking literary fiction, like The Bonsai. You have a strong preference for literary fiction. That’s fine. But sometimes I get the feeling that you are condemning genre fiction (like mine) for not being literary fiction (like Carol Lynn Pearson’s). That’s like condemning an apple for not being an orange.

Again, I’m NOT saying I’m some kind of great writer. Of course there are lots of ways my writing can improve. I do thank you for your feedback and will seek ways to make my character emotions ring true.

And yes, I’ve read Orson Scott Card. I love his Women of Genesis series and think he’s a very gifted storyteller with an incredible knack for creating riveting characters. I enjoy Anne Tyler and find her novels fascinating. I’m glad to hear she’s released a new one. Life of Pi—was it Sariah who mentioned that one? Whew! Interesting book. Crime and Punishment was interesting. Gone With the Wind is one of my all-time favorites.

I’m just puzzled as to what we did to earn such a scathing attack. None of us has EVER in ANY way claimed to be “famous.” I assume you were angry because you didn’t know that our moderator couldn’t edit your post—she could only leave it as is or delete it. We weren’t trying to silence you because we’re too narrow-minded to hear another opinion. I’ve spent a great deal of time and thought responding to your posts.

And can we please just set the whole profanity issue aside? Keeping blog standards For the Strength of Youth approved doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. My young daughters read this blog.

As for Rob’s post, he was just irked because you were attacking his book without even having read it. He invited you to give him specific criticism once you’ve finished it. Does that sound like an author who is only looking for compliments?

I’m sorry this discussion has taken such a contentious turn and hope we can get back on track in discussing our opinions in a mutually respectful manner.

 
At 4/24/2006 11:38 AM, Blogger annegb said...

I don't think you can only write to LDS women. I don't remember saying that, but I'm tired. You wrote about Ian, right? What I was saying was "no you're not JK Rowling, but you're not supposed to be, you're Stephanie Black." I haven't read your book yet. I don't know if I dislike it.

I honestly didn't know about genre fiction vs literary fiction. I thought all literary fiction was a genre.

I didn't think Rob was irked. Maybe dismayed. I thought he was fine with it. Call me crazy.

You're right, my scathing attack was immature and groundless. I think part of this is the blogging experience for me, on LDS blogs has been so freeing, and most encourage a kind of brutal honesty, I just assumed that's where we are here.

I also think you guys haven't blogged much or you would have been better prepared. Blogging, I think, but am not positive, LDS blogging, is relatively new, maybe three years? And I've been blogging about a year and a half. You wouldn't believe the lifetimes implied in those figures.

It can be quite the dog eat dog.

Speaking of, I just couldn't read The Life of Pi because people eat each other. Also, because I dislike series, I've avoided Orson Scott Card's series, although I have read the Alvin and Ender's Game books, becoming thoroughly bored at the end.

Honestly, I'm quite surprise you guys haven't thrown me off yet. A tribute to your forebearance. :)

Also, I didn't realize how young you are. I'm a dinosaur. Old enough to be your mother.

 
At 4/24/2006 12:15 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I apologized before that last post. I think blogger is having a problem. I hope you find my apology and we can put all this behind me.

It was a long and sincere and hopefully abject enough apology. If they don't find it, can you use your imagination?

 
At 4/24/2006 1:11 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Boy howdy, leave you people alone for a few days and all "heck" breaks loose. ;)

Annegb, I can tell you where the fans are on this blog--hiding under the couch so they won't be taken to task for enjoying a book that is marketed to LDS readers. Also, if you are into blogs, it is hard to realize that the majority of people on the planet have never even been to a blog, much less commented on one.

I belong to a book club made of mainly LDS women. We read a ton of books and we all have our favorite authors/genres/styles and formats. Our last book was 1776. We have never read a book that everyone loved or that everyone hated. We read bestsellers, classics, non-fiction, non-fiction LDS, science fiction, Christian fiction and all other forms of writing. We tease each other for our choices but no one is hurtful to Hannah because she thinks historical fiction is an abomination or lectures Laura because she thought the sex scene was beautifully written.

I have read books in this club that I NEVER would have picked up off the shelf. Some I don't finish (Red Tent, blech for me, favorite book ever for Gwen) but most I do read and I'm glad I did.

Because our book club has a range of ages, experiences and even (gasp) intellect, it has been lively, fun and thought provoking. No one name calls or implies intellectual superiority because “my genre is better than your genre” or “anyone who reads X is a fill-in-the-blank.”

It’s what we have in common—a love of reading—that brings us together. Which is why I suspect that you haven’t been “banned” (your word) from this blog. Obviously you love to read. We all do. We all have opinions and reference frames and real lives. That’s what makes us interesting. Respect is what makes us understood.

 
At 4/24/2006 2:52 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Please, please, publish my apology. It was ten miles long and abject.

I'm feeling like the lady on the movie Airplane who has people lined up to slap her.

 
At 4/24/2006 2:58 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Things I consider a high compliment: "Obviously you love to read."

Things I do not consider a compliment: "I cannot believe an LDS blog allows cussing"

Things that do not insult me: "you're a moron"

Things that do insult me: "you're a racist"

Things that do not usually do not insult me: "you're a lazy gut"

Things that do insult me: "you're a troublemaking low life."

Things that do not insult me (indeed, I laugh and commiserate with those who say it): "you are incapable of keeping a secret" (especially if it's funny and embarrassing)

Things that do insult me: not too much else.

please print my apology. I beg you.

 
At 4/24/2006 3:29 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

annegb, we very much appreciate the apology and thank you for it, even though Blogger erased it instead of posting it. It's frustrating when a post gets lost. I've had trouble posting before too.

And I apologize if I misinterpreted some of your comments :-)

I think you might like Orson Scott Card's Women of Genesis even if you don't like series, because you can read each book as a stand-alone book. It just fascinates me how Card takes these Old Testament stories, which are missing so many pieces, and then fleshes them out by creating characters with such believable motivations that all of a sudden the stories make perfect sense. Of course Jacob and Esau acted that way! This is what Isaac was thinking! This is why Sarah did this or that!

Of course, I know it's all Card's imagination and maybe it didn't happen anything like he writes. I'm enjoying it purely as a story, not as doctrine. Some people don't like the way he characterizes these Old Testament people. But it just fascinates me to see how brilliant he is at creating believable characters.

I liked the "Sarah" and "Rebekah" books better than the "Rachel and Leah" book.

I really enjoyed Ender's Game, but didn't read the sequels. I read a couple of Card's books that are set in the modern world but had some supernatural elements. Page-turners! Wow! He can really tell a story.

 
At 4/24/2006 5:31 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Well, I basically said I'd almost finished Rob's book and it was better than I expected and I thought the part where he and Rebekah discuss old testament scripture could make a book inself, it intrigued me, but can't put my finger on it.

Also recommended he write a book solely about the Berlin Wall coming down (didn't know the facts there), like make a whole book about a few days, and the LDS aspect incidental. Because if you were writing about a Catholic East German, the Catholic part would be part of the story, but it wouldn't be THE story.

Said I'd misinterpreted the picture and words on the front, and advised against using words like "hilarious adventure" on the front of his books again. It somehow tells the reader what to think and sets them up in a way. I think there were profound points that made the front cover sort of off topic.

also said he could write funnier than I thought. But I could help him improve, as well. One small example, eliminate the word really.

I said I'm not a writer, well of fiction, but I am a reader.

I said,Sariah, (I think), I was talking to anonymous, not you. Being all worked over about a small cuss word which didn't refer badly to anybody well....you know how I feel about cussing. No, you don't. I feel it can be marvelously descriptive, if not gratuitous.

I think I said, I hadn't read Stephanie's book, don't know if I like it, maybe not. The plot on the face was interesting, but it wasn't working for me. John Grisham has great plots, but he has trouble developing them.

And I said that Tracy Kidder won the Pulitzer for the book I found boring and I don't like Hemingway, or Mailer or Updike, or the guy who wrote The Cider House Rules, although they make good movies.

That's about it. I have got, got to do my laundry.

 
At 4/24/2006 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annegb,
When I objected to the use of profanity on an LDS blog, please know that I didn’t mean to insult or offend you in any way. I merely meant to explain why cussing was an issue. I had no intention of insulting your intellect or intelligence. I was trying to let you know that far from being stiff or self-righteous, I was sticking up for myself. The reason I was so pinched about the cussing was that there are a lot of people around me (at school, the mall, etc.) that don’t respect my standards. I didn’t want to think that it would be an issue among fellow bloggers on an LDS blog. Again, I truly hope there are no hard feelings. I had no intention of making you feel belittled. I was not attacking you personally in any way or singling you out. Although I don’t share all of your same opinions, I really enjoy reading your posts and hope you continue to comment on Six LDS Writers and a Frog.

 
At 4/24/2006 10:41 PM, Blogger Sweebler said...

Annebg, you asked where the fans of these authors are. I'm a fan. I've read The Believer numerous times and recommended it to my book group, who all loved it and can't wait for the sequel. (And by the way, the other books we've read recently include March, Anna Karenina, The Kite Runner, Pope Joan, Mutant Messages Down Under, These Is My Words, and Memoirs of a Geisha, so you can see we don't limit ourselves.) I thought Robison Well's book Wake Me When It's Over was hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed Kerry Blair's This Just In. I also recently read Jennie Hansen's Code Red which was a nice clean thriller, albeit with an ending I didn't care for.

Just because we're not posting all the time doesn't mean we don't exist.

 
At 4/25/2006 8:51 AM, Anonymous Marnie Pehrson said...

This subject of writing from your own personal experience that Annegb mentioned intrigues me. Someone mentioned that JK Rowling’s never done things like ridden a broom, etc. The thing is how many people have ever ridden a flying broom? Julie writes about secret agents, but very few people are secret agents. Anita Stansfield might write about someone who committed suicide, but most of those people haven't lived to tell the tale or probably aren't reading her books about it. So who's to know whether the authors are getting it right?

I kind of got the impression that Annegb’s life might have been so difficult that those of us who write from "empathy" and "imagination" rather than "experience" might not quite cut the mustard when it comes to writing about events we've never experienced. Am I right, Annegb? Is that what you're saying? While the average reader who hasn't endured them might enjoy it and never notice the difference, someone who has been through the ordeal would know what's lacking.

If that is the case, can someone like myself who's never been there, done that... really authentically write the emotions that would resonate with someone who has?

I do have one book I wrote that had a secondary character whose husband abused her. To write it I called one of my best friends who was in an abusive marriage for 8 years before she finally got out of it. She bore her soul to me... spoke of all the emotions and why she kept coming back to him and leaving him and coming back. It helped immensely in writing that character's perspective, and I sent it back to her to confirm that it was well done. But still, I don't think I would have dared to build the entire story around this character because I don't enjoy delving that deep into negative emotions. I like to understand them, but I'm one of those people who enjoys the brighter side of things too much. Heck, I don't even watch the news!

I know Anita Stansfield uses psychologists to help her understand the issues she writes about. Personally, I don't want to get that engrossed in bibliotherapy... that's not what my books are about. I write southern fiction (most times historical), so I'm more concerned with researching the period and what it would be like to live during that time. Again, I'm sort of like JK Rowling here... how many people lived during the Civil War and can tell me that I'm wrong from personal experience? As long as I research the history, who's to say? And I do work from personal experience from living all but 3 years of my life in the South. That's a big part of my books - the Southern culture. For example, in Waltzing with the Light, I wanted to convey what it's like to be LDS in the South... especially in the little town I grew up in. That's something I know first hand. I know what it's like to try to explain your beliefs to someone who has very negative preconceived notions. Please Annegb, don't read it... my point of views are all messed up in that book... so if you're an editorial genius you'll find it sorely lacking! :) But if you can lay that aside and you're after the southern LDS experience of the 1930's (my parent's/grandparents generation whom I interviewed intensely) then you still won't relate... but you'll get an idea of what it was like for them. They’ve read it and said I captured it for them.

The great thing about books is that there’s something for everyone . . . and no two people see the same events the same way. It’s a great way to step into someone else’s world and see how s/he see things. :) Like the others have said, it's more in why the reader reads: for mystery, escape, distraction, intellectual stimulation, critique, education, or just to be someone else for a spell.

My very long 2 cents on the subject. :)

Marnie Pehrson

 
At 4/25/2006 11:54 AM, Blogger annegb said...

I crack myself up, I can argue till the cows come in and not get mad then somebody says something about my cussing and I get my back up.

If you guys had read the two posts I wrote that didn't get put up, you might think I was nicer because they are nice. The one I cussed in was nice.

Marnie, I feel just terrible that somebody would be afraid of me. What is These is My Words? Sounds intriguing.

I don't know about your question, Marnie. My life has been undeniably, unbelievably so tragic that I think people should send me money every day. I'll give you my address. Some people are blessed with empathy, though, so I don't know.

I can write non-fiction, but I can't write fiction. For instance, I've been suicidal. But I can't write fiction about it. I suck at fiction. I don't even think it's fun to write.

Of course, Marnie and Kerry, now I'm going to read your books.

The really great thing about this for me is that my neighbor, who revels in her Anita Stansfield collection (hard back) and never even heard of Jane Eyre, is such an onery person and convinced I'm going to hell because I gave her Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman for her birthday, forgetting (I don't even usually NOTICE) there was cussing in it. Great sex also.

Now I will say, "you know, I know this woman. She's very nice. We are great friends, well, we argue also." And I will look at her speechless self as we are on the bookmobile, which parks in front of my house, and feel so superior and special.

I never thought I of all people would be friends with LDS writers. Plus I never knew there were genres within genres, I never quite got that word in my English class, but I like to throw it around as if I do because it impresses others. I didn't know literary fiction was a different genre.

I don't think Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler have had those experiences, yet they write about them so eloquently. Perhaps it's a...gift?

 
At 4/26/2006 10:20 AM, Blogger annegb said...

Sariah, going back to your comment on 4/15, you say "I'm not afraid of breaking any commandment." so you don't think that's a valid argument.

A lot of Mormon women are afraid of breaking a commandment, so they are so careful what they read they only read Dagwood in the comics section.

Just because you don't feel that way, doesn't mean the majority feels that way.

How much LDS fiction do you read?

I checked at the library yesterday for several books and they don't have them! They actually don't have that many. The librarian there described the books as "insipid" which I'm not sure what that means.

However, I know for a fact that the bookmobile has every LDS fiction book written, so I'll go there. These books are the main books they check out. And women fight over them. So we have lots of righteous women in....Enoch. No lie. That's where I live and my living here is probably the reason why Enoch 2nd hasn't been translated yet.

 
At 6/26/2006 2:14 AM, Blogger Gamila said...

Well, this is was certainly an interesting argument. Personally, I used to really like Anita Sansfield but after reading her for a while and maturing in my reading tastes I really think she's not that good of an Author. Her prose style really isn't all that great and while she can tell an interesting story, everyone one of her stories have the exact same theme or a variation of. In my opinion a profilic author as she is should have something more to say. Some of her books are good and others really do lack depth. She really isn't that great at deep characterization that is needed to really make her psychological plotlines really genius. So, I suppose to be fair, she's a good writer but she's not great. LDS fiction though fascinates me. I've read it in copious amounts since the mid 90's. Part of what Anne says is true. Some of the fiction out there is trite and some of it unrealistic. I know that the tiny sci-fi branch of LDS fiction is way less complex than many national Sci-fi novels. That doesn't really stop me from enjoying it though, and it doesn't stop a good story from being told. But perhaps it might say something about our writing maturity. I mean all that literary fiction is built off of a powerful and long tradition. A tradition that inherently adds depth just by mere alllusions, symbols, themes, and etc. LDS fiction hasn't been around long enough to build their own themes, symbols, and allusions. Of course we can borrow off of the other literary traditions but that isn't really us. We are different.
Then there is this trend I think, where LDS believe that if they are "realistic" they can solve this unrealistic problem that we all complain about. So they write stories about hard-core porn addictions, rape, abuse, and a whole other bunch of "real" issues. Don't get me wrong they are real issues and they are serious and all that jazz, but just merely writing about rape doesn't make your book realistic. Or even the genre realistic. What makes fiction realistic is pure honesty, good characterization, and real emotion. That is seriously lacking in some authors of LDS fiction. Honesty. A willingness to go to the deepest darkest pits emotionally. Oh, yes the characters get there psycologically and phsysically but there is a serious lack of honest emotion. I couldn't really tell you why. Maybe it's because we all have to end up happy. Of course, there are authors, especially recent ones, who really do this quite well but there even still there is room for improvement.

 
At 6/27/2006 11:57 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Interesting comments! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

It's interesting that drama/literary fiction usually doesn't sell well in the LDS market. I wonder if that will change? Or is it the same way in the national market?

 

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