Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Whitney Awards--Something Pretty Great

Yeah, I kept my pretty great title on purpose to sort of make fun of the wonderful, pretty, great state that I live in--Utah. Not too long ago our state's slogan was "Utah, A Pretty, Great State." I'm serious! People weren't sure if we were just pretty great, or pretty and great--either way the motto is lame, but now we have a new slogan, something not so pretty or great--"Life Elevated." It sounds like the name of caffeinated water to me, but whatever. Now on to something rather cool, or pretty great. This ambitious group I'm involved in, The LDSTORYMAKERS has come up with something to honor LDS authors books of note. It's called the Whitney Awards and this is how it works.

PROVO, UT—JUNE 18, 2007

WRITING GROUP ANNOUNCES PRESTIGIOUS NEW LDS FICTION AWARD

“We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. . . . In God’s name and by His help we will build up a literature whose tops will touch the heaven, though its foundation may now be low on the earth.”

When Latter-day Saint Apostle Orson F. Whitney first spoke these words, the literary canon of his people didn’t contain many works. Fast forward over a hundred years, and literally thousands of novels are published, enjoyed by readers each year.

The quality of fiction has significantly increased in recent times. New writers are finding it harder to break into the industry each year. This is hard for upstart writers, but great for readers.

While LDStorymakers began several years ago to serve only as a support group and opportunity for networking for LDS writers, it has morphed into a powerful force into LDS market.

Today they unveil their newest project, the brainchild of LDStorymaker and novelist Robison Wells: an annual fiction award named after Orson F. Whitney, honoring his vision of having LDS “Miltons and Shakespeares.”

“The Whitney Award will be given annually in conjunction with the LDStorymaker writing conference each March,” Wells, the author of three novels published through Covenant, explains. “This is an exciting time to be part of the LDS fiction industry, and we hope the Whitney will become a prestigious and sought-after award.”

Anyone can nominate a novel published during the previous calendar year in any of six categories, and a final academy of industry professionals will vote on the final ballot. Nominations are being taken for books published in 2007 by LDS authors at the Whitney Awards website: www.whitneyawards.com

So all you readers out there start nominating your favorite books of the year. I have a few in mind myself.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Read "My Not So Fairy-Tale Life" by Julie Wright



Occasionally in my blog, I will write about a book I’ve read. I’ve chosen to write about Julie Wright’s book “My Not So Fairy-Tale Life.” I know Julie Wright in person. It’s a little weird reading a book written by someone you know. It’s a feeling I’ve come to know very well since I have become an author and have met a bunch of people in the writing world.

For me it’s impossible to get my friend’s voice out of my head and even more so with this book since it’s written in first person—that means the narrator says, I did instead of he did. First person is effective if you really want to get into the character’s head and know their inner thoughts. Julie really gets into her character, Suzanna Quincy’s head, but I’ll get to that later, now back to Julie.
I met Julie in July of 2003 in a Seagull bookstore in Orem, Utah, about a week or two after my first book, “A Question of Trust” came out. Up until this time, I didn’t personally know any LDS authors, (accept my Aunt Emma Lou Thayne) and had read very, very few LDS novels. My expectations of an LDS novelist was that they would be older than me—I was in my mid-forties, have perfectly coifed hair—I have no idea what coifed hair is, but it sounds conservative, pink nail polish, immaculate make-up, and that they would be prudish, and blush at the sound of a cuss word. I was scheduled to do a book signing at this Seagull, as was Julie. I was scared and she seemed to be a pro, despite that fact that she was barely thirty at the time, but with two books already under her belt, she was a pro compared to me. Her blonde hair was perfect—pulled back in tiny braids—very stylish and certainly not coifed. Immediately, Julie, bubbly and friendly made me feel comfortable and took over telling people about my book, along with her own, when she could see that I was too shy to talk to people about it.

When the store was slow, Julie and I would talk. I found out she worked two jobs, one at eBay, and one where she and her husband ran and owned the only grocery store in a small town. She was the mother of several (I’m not sure how many) small children, and even with all that she somehow managed to squeeze in time to write novels. The town she lives in is hours away from anywhere, so anytime she promotes her books extensive travel is required. I couldn’t believe how much energy all that would take. When I pressed her for how she had the energy to do so much she replied with a simple answer, “caffeine.”

At the time, I had recently found out that I was so severely anemic that the doctors were baffled that I could even pull myself out of bed—so energy was something I was severely lacking. Add the anemia on to years of Fibromyalgia, which also causes fatigue, and you’ll see why I was intrigued by someone with energy. In short, I found Julie to be a breath of fresh air—she broke my stereotype. Another thing I thought was cute about Julie was that she was packing around a book she was reading by an author friend of hers called, “Surrounded by Strangers” by Josi S. Kilpack. Julie said that the book was excellent and that Josi could write ten times better than she would ever be able to. I found that kind of humility admirable. Later, I got to know Josi and would have to agree that she is a very good writer, but Julie is an excellent writer as well.

Speaking of humility, when people in Paradise started to get word about my first book coming out, one of my friend’s, Pam, told me that another woman said about me, “Isn’t it nice when someone as humble as Carole has something wonderful happen to her?” I laughed when Pam told me this, because, well I’m really not all that humble. I told my very good friend, Kathy Herbert what Pam said someone said, and she burst out laughing! Taken back, I said, “It’s not that funny!” She agreed, but then continued to laugh every few minutes during our entire two-mile walk. Kathy is also a potter and knows me about as well as anyone possibly could.

But I’ve digressed again. Back to Julie. In 2005, Deseret Book published her groundbreaking fictional book about unwed pregnancy called, “My Not So Fairy-Tale Life.” I’ve been meaning to read the book, but was a little hesitant. I like Julie, what if I didn’t like the book? And I was a little skeptical about a book about that subject published by a company owned by the LDS church. I mean, really how in depth could they go? In short, I was surprised that Desert Book allowed so much frank discussion and I was blown away by Julie’s compelling story. This book is not for those who don’t want a touch of reality. At times I hated the heroine. I hated some of the people who helped mold her into the cynic that she was. At first, I wasn’t sure the heroine deserved a happy ending in her life.

Suzanna Quincy, the heroine, is not someone I would ever have had for a best friend growing up. She wasn’t nice to say the least. Her mother was abusive and her father was well meaning, but ineffective. Suzie “Cue” as she is usually called in the book, takes the path of least resistance and becomes pretty much the awful kind of person her mother expects her to be and is herself. Cue drinks constantly, does drugs, sleeps around, and treats her friends and family like dirt. She’s rude, crude, slutty, and bratty.

Her brother, Sam, who has always been decent to her, in spite of his own bad upbringing, has previously joined the Mormon church, and when Cue finds herself pregnant, doesn’t know who the father is, and is basically thrown out of the house because she refuses to abort the baby, heads to Utah to get help from the only person she can rely on, her brother Sam. Sam is the kind of guy that everyone would want for a big brother. He’s tolerant, in spite of Cue’s bad behavior. He’s compassionate and never gives up on his damaged sister.

In spite of my skepticism, my own prejudices against stories written to uplift or bring me closer to God, Julie paints a very believable, yet inspirational tale. Suzie “Cue” is an in-depth and vulnerable character, and Julie effectively gets into her head. You live the story with Cue. You live her anger, her betrayal, her pain, her heartache, and her ultimate joy. I don’t want to give the story away and I’m actually a little upset with Deseret Book for including in the blurb on the back that it is an “adoption” story, because part of the suspense of the book is whether or not Cue will keep the baby or not. If you don’t think a story about an unwed mother can be suspenseful and compelling, and yet sweet—and romantic—then you need to read this book. Julie didn’t disappoint me.
One of the complaints that people I talk to about LDS fiction is that it is fluff. Well, this book is not fluff. There are parts of this book that I will always remember and they will touch my life. Thanks Julie for tackling a tough subject and doing it so well. And thanks for taking care of me at Seagull book four years ago. Wow has it only been that long? And just so you know, not one LDS novelist I've met fits the image that I'd been carrying around it my head.