Monday, October 13, 2008

No Good (dirty rotten) Mormon Writers

Oh hey.  You back? 

What up?  

You came to hear about how my creative writing teacher etched a thou wilt not prophecy onto the frontal lobes of my brain when I was but the tender age of 25?
Do you really want me to dig up that past just for your reading pleasure?  Cause it's not an easy place to go.  And anyway you might not like it either.  It could seriously dash some of your dreams too.  

Since it's a holiday, and holidays are supposed to be fun, I should just talk about K-Mart. 

I definitely don't want to talk about my secret admirer anymore, (since I don't have  a secret admirer anymore, thanks to Pat!)  Pat totally disregarded my plea to please (I even asked nicely) don't come forward (you guys heard me say that, right!?) 

Well, she just popped right out of the closet and asked me if I wanted to go to a Donny and Marie concert and to be her BBFF.  I just don't know if I can make that transition from SA to BBFF that quickly (unless she can get me one of those sparkly purple socks, because I totally lied about that.)    Now I feel stupid for eyeballing the first counselor in my bishopric all through sacrament meeting. 

What?  Stop getting sidetracked and tell you about my creative writing teacher already? 

Okay! But you could have just asked politely!

So my creative writing teacher--we'll call him Dr. Crowe since his name was Dr. Crowe--etched a thou wilt not prophecy into the frontal lobes of my brain at the tender age of 25. You sure you want to hear this?

"There will never be a great Mormon writer," he said. "Good Mormons don't make good writers."

These words were like daggers in me. They cleft my heart in twain.

"Think about it," he said. So I did.

Shakespeare . . . not Mormon. Dickens . . . not Mormon. Hugo, Austen, Elliot . . . all not Mormon. Jack Weyland . . .

He was right!

And still he rubbed salt in my wounds. "Good Mormon's don't have time to be great writers. They can be great dad's and great mom's. Great husbands and great wives. Great Bishop's and great . . ."

"I get it!" I said, with my talk-to-the-hand hand. "But what about in between the dishes and the diapers and while the kids are napping and after they go to bed and once the laundry is folded and right before my Young Women's lessons or my Relief Society meetings, and . . . anyway my time and talents will be magnified after they are consecrated, right?"

He just smiled.

"Are you telling me that all the hundreds of thousands of hours I've spent not learning to cook or sew or play the piano or lead music or make family trees or get ready for an earthquake/hurricane just so I could be completely unprepared to contribute to the Mormon world in any substantial way are all for naught?"

He just smiled (and kept rubbing the salt).

"Plus, Mormons don't have the courage to be great writers," he sighed. I really loved him, but I really wanted to punch him. "Mormon's want to uplift and inspire. They want to write about life as it should be, and not as it is."

I confess I put those words into my creative writing teacher's mouth. Those words are mine, all mine, and it took me 15 years to come up with them. (But I could be wrong. Maybe Mormons just want to read about life as it should be and not as it is.)  

I don't know, but I'm feeling a little verclempt.  

Can you give me a minute? 

Tualk amongst yourselves.  I'll give you a topic.  


No really, I'm okay.   It's nothing a few deep breaths and some yoga poses and a couple of Mountain Dew's can't fix. 

So I know I'm making my own bed with this blanket statement which I'm going to have to lie in later (pun intended), but can we talk about this tomorrow?    

And please don't yell at me (or my creative writing teacher) in my comment box because then I'll never be able to lie  honestly about anything but K-Mart again.


Kristina P. said...

You mean, books about vampires which are entirely too long, and pretty much lame, aren't great literary works by a Mormon author?

Lisa (Funny Farmer) said...

What about Orson Scott Card? He's a pretty great writer, and also Mormon.

I think you hit it on the head about Mormons don't want to read about life as it really is.

Oh, and can you have more than on bbff at a time? Because I thought I was yours. I'm trying to decide whether to be offended that Pat's trying to move in on my territory. I know where she lives, actually. Accidents can be arranged.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Ha ha. Okay girls. I thought Twilight and Orson Scott Card would come up. I'll be dealing with both.

And Lisa, there's bbff's (best blogger friends forever) and BBFF's (BESTEST blogger friends forever) You'll always be my BBFF.

Pat said...

Oh dear, Lisa I am sorry, do I need to check my brakes before I drive to Wal Mart?
Crash I have to tell you that my big mouth and my inablity to keep it shut are one of my biggest character flaws. I am one of those people who can not keep from blurting out the answer when the teacher asks a question. You know those annoying types that all the other kids hate, but some how feels smug in the fact that I knew the answer. Something to do with being the oldest perhaps. Because yes you did ask nicely that I remain in the closet, and I couldn't do it. I hope we can still be friends.
And I think you are an example of a great mormon writer, but what do I know. The fact that Lisa thinks you are a great writer, well that is something to hang your hat on.

Lisa (Funny Farmer) said...

You're safe if you're going to Walmart. But I wouldn't plan a trip to K-Mart any time soon.

Annie Valentine said...

Don't feel bad, it's not just the Mormons. I heard some European yutz saying that there will never be a truly great American writer, something about how an American will never win the Nobel Prize. I don't even know what they give that for so I guess I'm out of the running.

*MARY* said...

What?! Some of the greatest writers in the history of the world were Mormon. Nephi published four amazing books, has he never read them?

The Rogers Family said...

You maybe right about mormons and writing. Most great writers have used things like coffee, alcohol, tabacco, and drugs to help inspire them. Then again it could be a great reason to bring polygamy back. You could offer to write while the second wife takes care of the more mundane tasks. Good mormons usually don't like to tackle controversial topics because they are overly afraid of church and family reactions. There are very good mormon writers who write the warm fuzzy stuff and only appeal to mormons. Joel Osteen is not mormon but writes warm fuzzy positive self help stuff, and sells millions.

Jen said...

BUT - there are the Osmonds. So at least we can all rest assured that Mormons can be great singers.


The Crash Test Dummy said...

YAY Rogers Family. So happy to see you back. I've been missing you. (That's my family, btw)

You forgot to mention sex and rock-n-roll.

And about the polygamy thing . . . Give me a fewwww days to tackle that one, but the rest is slotted for Wednesday.

Stay tuned!

Jami said...

I'd be interested in your take on OSC. He definitely can be gritty, especially his earlier stuff. How realistic that grittiness is...another conversation. I always like listening to him talk/write about teaching writing. (Hm...if I follow that plan I'll sound just like...)

One of the things I've noticed about great writers is that they seem to be inclined toward misery, insanity, suicide, etc. Perhaps if we stopped taking our SSRIs, we could be truly great writers.

Jami said...

P.S. If that man doesn't spit out his Wives of Israel soon, I am going to have to get mean. It's bad enough to split every story he's got into splinters, but then to make us wait FIVE years for our next tid-bit, it's more than a body can stand!

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Was this professor at BYU? Because my brother had one say the same thing. He said that the first great mormon writer would probably be excommunicated or something like that.

I have to admit (don't hate me) that I really hate mormon literature. I don't like all the overly sentimental, warm and fuzzy take on life. Life isn't like that. You can have a realistic story that can also be spiritual, but I don't think the mormon publishing world has figured that out yet.

Annette Lyon said...

First time dropping by, and this post caught my eye (gee, I wonder why . . .).

I'm guessing that your professor was a the Crowe that's an award-winning writer in his own right. Ironic.

What bothers me about this is that sure, there are oodles of sappy, fluffy, BAD Mormon writers, there are some great ones, too. But nationally (heck, WORLDWIDE), 99% of writers suck. It's not a Mormon ailment to have a lot of bad writers.

Another issue is that almost everyone I know who says they despise Mormon fiction HASN'T READ IT IN AT LEAST FIVE YEARS. The market is totally different than it was then. I can point to a lot of LDS writers who write books about real people with real problems. Plus genre writers who put together great mysteries, thrillers, historicals, and more that rival the quality of the national market.

I can give a few titles if anyone's interested. I can also tell you who to stay away from (cause yes, there is still plenty of trash). But I don't know that I'll dare admit to those names (I might get hate mail. It's a small market.)

Lisa (Funny Farmer) said...

I'll admit a name: Anita Stansfield. Ba-had writing.