Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Open Letter to LDS Writers

by Kerry Blair

I practically promised last week that if you were diligent in supporting the WHITNEY BENEFIT AUCTION I'd post a guest blog this week instead of another promotional spot for the AUCTION. While I can't be certain any of you actually bid, what with those weird code-name things eBay has going on, I can report that we're doing pretty well. (We would do much better, of course, if each and every one of you would go HERE and find something to bid on. We've got great stuff!)

Not that this is another promotion for the AUCTION, of course. It's not. (Really!) It's a well-earned reward for the writers among you. (I swear!) Last Wednesday, a remarkable young woman, Christy Gruber, posted a heartfelt letter to LDS writers on an LDS line. I know this won't include everybody who reads this blog, but it includes a whole lot of us, so I asked Sister Gruber's permission to reprint it here. (If you are not an LDS writer, you have my permission to spend the next few minutes perusing the WHITNEY AUCTION instead of reading Christy's touching post.) I want the rest of you to know I kept my itchy little editor's fingers off. This is exactly the way Christy wrote it. If you're a writer and it doesn't make you cry, perhaps you should check your pulse.

My dear friends, especially to you that write LDS fiction:

I'm sure that there are many times that you sit at the computer screen and just stare at that blank screen with the cursor blinking insanely just driving you mad as you struggle with writer's block. Sometimes, you may feel frustrations at rejects and many other things or maybe even wonder if your stories are really wroth it. Then there are many other things that runs through your head that probably makes you feel frustrated and sometimes I want to give up or wonder if it's all worth it.

But it is wroth it. You are doing a very wonderful thing. You are helping to roll the Kingdom of God forward. You are using words and stories to help uplift and bring people closer God.

Some might tell me that the stories are just fiction. That may be but they are more then just fiction. To me they deal with real life, real people and real situations. Anywhere from abuse to just a simple love story with a few gospel principles throown in. What you do is important. We need authors like you to help carry the work forward. Maybe sometimes someone might read something in the Book of Mormon, they might not understand but when they read a good story they might get an "Ah ha!" moment. I know I have a few times. Somewhere, someone has or is reading one of your books, and has tears down their cheeks. Maybe it is a simple love story but somehow, that story gives them hope.

Your books are unlike any books in the world. It is the ONLY fiction where the spirit can be felt. ((well not ONLY i'm sure there's a few non LDS fiction too :) but you knwo what i mean)) I feel that Heavenlyl Father is pleased with your writings. I wouldn't be surprised if your books are being treasured and bronzed in gold on the other side of the viel. Maybe someday, someone will meet you in this life or the next and say "This book has changed mly life thank you so much!" Or maybe "I've joined the church because of your book. Thank you"

Granted, the Book of Mormon should be the most read and most important but I feel that your books are almost up there. Sometimes, maybe the only way for the Lord to speak through someone is through a fictional story. Giving an abused person hope, givving light to a depressed person, or giving a frusterated person a sense of hope and excitement. Is it any wonder that we have been commanded to look for things that are virtious and of good report? Those are your books, the music that is being written. and the words you say.

Your books important. We are now living in perioulous times, and during those times we will need your books even more. Maybe it'll help bring someone closer to the gospel, or remind of their duty to God. Who knows, I do know....that even as things get ecomically hard, and the persecution of the saints wosening, I want to see another great love story by Michele Bell or a book review of Teri's or a houmours story of Susan Corpany. I bear testimony, and I am gratefful that the Lord has given you inspiritation so that you can write these stories. They are not just stories to me. They are real and wonderful.

Christy Gruber

Sister Gruber is a recently-returned missionary and one of the kindest, sweetest, and most spiritual women you'll ever hope to meet. I hope she knows how deeply I appreciate her for letting me share this marvelous piece of inspiration with you.

If, like me, you'd like a nicely printed and framed version to hang above your computer monitor, that could probably be arranged. I'll check with Christy for copyright permission while you check the WHITNEY BENEFIT AUCTION site to see if I have it up yet.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! When I count my blessings, I always count the dear, dear friends I've found here!


24 Comments:

At 11/21/2008 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen Sister Gruber.

Pat

 
At 11/21/2008 10:50 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

Christy, what a kind, thoughtful letter. Thank you, Kerry, for posting it for all of us to see.

 
At 11/21/2008 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not an LDS writer, but a huge LDS fiction fan, and Christy, I agree with every syllable you wrote. Thank you for letting Kerry post it. Every LDS writer needs to be reminded how much their words can impact the heart of the reader.

Deb

 
At 11/21/2008 4:01 PM, Blogger Th. said...

.

Some of category pages on the auction page aren't working --- dead links.

 
At 11/21/2008 4:17 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Th: Thanks! I just tried it on my laptop and they all worked for me. Would you please write to me at kerrylynnblair@aol.com and tell me specifically the ones you're having trouble with so I can check them out? Thanks so much! Sorry for the inconvenience.

 
At 11/21/2008 6:51 PM, Blogger Heather Justesen said...

Kerry, thanks for posting this, and Sister Gruber, thanks for writing it. I DO want a framed copy for my office wall! And I'll stop in and check out the ebay auction. I'm sure my husband would like a 'hint' or two about Christmas gifts. lol

 
At 11/21/2008 10:56 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Christy, thank you SO much!

 
At 11/22/2008 11:51 AM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

It is the ONLY fiction where the spirit can be felt.

Really? This quote especially, and the letter in general is WAY over the top. Was she being sarcastic?

To be honest, I've been turned off by Mormon fiction as much as I've been uplifted, if not more. I even told one story on A Motley Vision about how a story tripped me up (see What Trips Up Mormon Lit?)

In addition, Sis. Gruber then suggests that LDS authors can be pleased when their works help others to join the Church. Nonsense. While I think its possible, there are too many things in most Mormon fiction that non-members won't understand for those books to be effective missionary tools. I wrote about this also, in Every Publisher a Missionary.

I'm sure some LDS authors felt justified by Sis. Gruber's letter. And I suspect that she actually meant in all sincerity. But it is too unrealistic for anyone to take it seriously. Its nice to get letters like this. But broadcasting them to others makes it seem like you are desperate for compliments.

 
At 11/22/2008 12:36 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Kent: Just to set the record straight, Christy didn't write this letter to me. (I doubt she's read even one of my books.) She posted her letter on a public line, hoping to reach a certain group of LDS writers she admires. I copied it here to help her along a little.

Your views are well-expressed and certainly widely shared. Not a day passes when those of us "preaching to choir" don't see a post or letter or comment somewhere eloquently point out all the things we're doing wrong. When one little voice pipes up somewhere in the wilderness, singing a different tune, it's hard not to put it on the loudspeaker. You'll just have to shake your head over our self-indulgence and move on.

Before I close, I do want to speak from personal experience to back up what Christy surmised. I'm a nobody in the field of LDS fiction -- a mid-lister on the days I want to be generous to myself. Yet I get at least one or two "fan" letters a day from generous, tender-hearted people like Christy Gruber. More importantly, I've been to two baptisms and three temple weddings of women who "knew" me only through the pages of sappy LDS romances. There's no fame, no glory, and certainly no money in this business, but I can attest that sometimes the rewards are indeed heavenly.

That said, I'm as grateful for Kent's comment as Christy's letter. It is people like him who will make us better writers and more accountable Latter-day Saints. Truly.

(The Whitneys help, too, of course. Go bid on something!)

 
At 11/22/2008 1:14 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

Kent:

I call your contention and raise you two more contentions.

I'm ahead.

Your bid.

 
At 11/22/2008 1:14 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11/22/2008 2:29 PM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

Kerry said: "Just to set the record straight, Christy didn't write this letter to me."

I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I did realize that she didn't write this to you personally.

"You'll just have to shake your head over our self-indulgence and move on."

Of course. No harm done.

"More importantly, I've been to two baptisms and three temple weddings of women who "knew" me only through the pages of sappy LDS romances."

That's great. If you read my post on A Motley Vision, Every Publisher a Missionary, you will see that I was actually calling for publishers to do a better job at making their books missionary tools than they are now (even though that should usually NOT be the focus of their books). I just don't think we should decieve ourselves into thinking that the occasional baptism can be easily replicated.

 
At 11/22/2008 2:36 PM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

David G. Woolley said...

Kent:

I call your contention and raise you two more contentions.



Really? Contention? Please re-read what I wrote and explain exactly where the contention was!!

If you still think that was contention, please come visit me here in ZION (aka New York City) where we have developed very thick skins.

In an amusing vein, there is a big difference between walking in NYC and in Utah -- here cars do not stop just because you put a toe in the street like happens in Utah. It drives me crazy whenever I visit!

Instead, cars will often come quite close as you cross the street. If they are too close, the proper reaction is to slam your hands on the car's hood, and yell at the driver "Hey, I'm walkin' here!!"

And no, despite the reaction, no one is really angry.

 
At 11/22/2008 2:46 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Again well said, Kent. Dave was just kidding, honest. We very much appreciate your comments. Please come back. (Loved your blogs, too. You have at least one new loyal follower.)

 
At 11/22/2008 3:00 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

Kent:

I call your New York city. And raise you one downtown Guatemala City crosswalk and a Russian jayalking citation.

Your bid.

 
At 11/22/2008 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you asked, Mr. Larsen, when you quoted Christy and then said
"Really? This quote especially, and the letter in general is WAY over the top. Was she being sarcastic?" was being very contentious, ie ... arguable, touchy. But then, I guess that's why you wrote in, isn't it?

Deb

 
At 11/22/2008 6:35 PM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

Deb, I don't know you or where you are from, but nope, that's not contentious in my experience.

But, as I said, I'm here in ZION (i.e., New York City), so perhaps my experience is different from yours. This is why I added the bit about how to handle walking on the street in New York City. That didn't show anyone being contentious either.

Its a matter of culture and your experience.

 
At 11/22/2008 6:37 PM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

Kerry wrote:
"Please come back."

Hah! You can't get rid of me that easily!!

 
At 11/22/2008 6:40 PM, Blogger Kent Larsen said...

David:

I call your downtown Guatemala City crosswalk and Russian jayalking citation.

And raise you a parking ticket in downtown Durban, South Africa and a full day driving in downtown Maputo, Mozambique WITHOUT a working GPS!

Your bid.

[Not only am I probably showing my ignorance of poker at this point, I'm undoubtedly bragging here .... ]

 
At 11/23/2008 3:05 AM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

Kent:

Nice bid there, but not nice enough to beat a royal coronation receptaion at the Queen's palace off Hyde Park and four of a kind watchtowers on the Great Wall of China.

I call your Downtown Durban death trap and your African safari in Maputo.

Show your cards cowboy.

They do have those in New York, don't they? :)

 
At 11/23/2008 1:35 PM, Blogger hi, it's me! melissa c said...

What a beautiful tribute! I agree whole heartedly with everything she said!

 
At 11/23/2008 1:42 PM, Blogger hi, it's me! melissa c said...

PS, I LOVE the poker game going on here! This is what makes people and life great!

You gotta love humans!

 
At 11/23/2008 9:20 PM, Anonymous cgruber said...

*blinks* Well dang.....I didn't mean to start a bit of an argument.

At the time, I wanted to write and reach the writers that I admire such as Michelle Bell Kerry and many others who probably at times feels discourage.

At no time whatsoever was I trying to be sarcastic. When I mentioned about 'only lds fiction', I probably should'e added at some point that even in the non LDS genre sometimes you can find the spirit, such as James Wright "Wensdays letters"

I was only trying to speak through the heart. Someties my word would come out as you say over the top or sometimes completely opposite of the way I meant it.

But what i was trying to convey was a testimony of how I feel about LDS fiction.

Thanks al lfor your comments.

 
At 11/23/2008 9:23 PM, Anonymous cgruber said...

*checks her letter again* Heyyyy waaaaiiit a minute. I DID say non-lds fiction too! I put them i (()).

I do know there are some good ones out there. I"ve just given up on them after coming across too many dirthy ones by accident at the LIbrary back home in pa.

 

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