Monday, January 29, 2007

Addendum to Mormon Lit

So I've had some response to the Mormon Lit stuff--both from the blog and friends I've talked to.

The consistent response is: "But Deseret Book...." or "Covenant was just bought out by Deseret Book so..."

This shows a real, seriously ingrained isolationist culture among Mormons, in my mind.

I wouldn't have published with Covenant EVER. Their author contract was incredibly restrictive and manipulative for years and years--until the last few, and now they are a division of DB. They were on the "must be desperate" list in my mind--anyone who published with them must be desperate or they'd go elsewhere. DB is okay, from what I've heard. But they're a niche publisher. And that's where the isolationist tendencies show up.

The assumption among mormons is that if you write a book clean enough for mormons, or with a mormon character, you ONLY can publish for the Mormon Audiences (which aren't known for being very discriminating. They liked Sons of Provo....). So when I say, "Thriller where the lead character happens to be an LDS woman," everyone says, "Deseret Book Doesn't......"

I don't care what Deseret Book doesn't publish. I wasn't planning on working with them anyway. I think that just because I'm mormon, my book is clean, and the lead character is LDS--that doesn't mean only Mormons will like the book. Jews don't only publish with Jewish publishers. If a book has an Amish character, we don't only publish for Amish folk. A mormon is capable of writing a book with broad appeal, even if it is LDS-appropriate and has Mormon characters. Mormons don't have a corner on the "I don't like bed scenes and swearing" market, after all.

I want my "Mormon" lit to be published by Random House. I want to be able to buy it in Barnes and Noble and Borders--in Ohio or Wisconsin--not just in Utah and Idaho.

What's wrong with filling the world with good stuff that is accessible to other good people who don't happen to be Mormons? Why do we, as a culture, tend to keep all good things produced by us to ourselves and, conversely, assume that if nonmormons liked it, it must be dirty, even if it was made by mormons? This doesn't make sense. It's like the fact that my nurses at the OBGYN talk openly about "The Lord wanting me to only have 2 kids even if I intended to have more" but me being afraid to say "Jesus" in public. Nobody else is afraid of offending--why are we?

It's not just the gospel we seem afraid to share. It's everything virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy that we produce.

Likewise, this strange belief in "keeping things to ourselves" probably stifles a lot of good artists, musicians, and writers that are LDS. There is a real belief among members that somehow it is unholy to create art (in any form) that is not church-themed (meaning, of course, talks about testimonies being built). The idea seems to be that it's Bad to produce art unless it can be sold by Deseret Book. So we have LOTS of "here's how to live the gospel" and "inspirational" work--but where are the good clean fun movies that don't have to do with LDS dating and sports rituals?

I have no issues with the amount of stuff produced by mormons, marketed to mormons, and consumed exclusively by mormons. I sometimes have issues with the quality, and I frequently have questions about the lines between making heartfelt testimony available to more people (inspiring them to righteous acts) and priestcraft (selling the "inspiration").

My main question lately is not "Where are the Mormon artists?", although that is an issue. My main "Issue" is "Where are the works produced by members that are mormon-appropriate and mormon-themed but for a mass audience?" Potraying mormon ideals and themes shouldn't automatically make a book only appropriate for a niche audience. In fact, it seems like we'd want to portray outselves accurately to the world. Otherwise, people's perceptions and exposure to Mormons will continue to be from non-mormon sources.

So that's why I'm not interested in Deseret Book. It has nothing to do with them. It's just that I, for one, want Maggie, my CIA mommy, to be seen by people of all faiths who just want good, clean, non-preachy thriller. And DB is a niche publisher.

No comments: