I attended the award ceremony for the Association for Mormon Letters because I wanted a taste of everything, and the ceremony included readings of novels, drama, poetry, comics, and picture books. However, the thing that stood out to me before I heard the specific writing of the Mormon participants, was the diversity of the individuals themselves.
It's easy to stereotype Mormons.
It's easier to stereotype Mormons living Utah.
But as I sat and watched people filter in at the beginning of the conference, I was amazed at how many of the people in dress and grooming or manners or both, did not fit these stereotypes. I saw three BYU professors there (including our own Dr. Burton), but it was clear these authors came from different walks of life. While sharing the same faith and a love for writing, everyone there was there own person.
This individuality was reflected in the writing as well. I recognized the award for Chris Crowe's was given to his novel Death Coming Up the Hill which is not an overtly "Mormon book," and yet it won an award next to a comic book based on Alma.
I felt the diversity of the presented works summarizes the discussion we've come back to over and over.
What is Mormon literature?
What do we call a works of literature by Mormons that aren't just for Mormons?
Who is a Mormon author trying to reach and what are they're trying to say?
Every reading I heard was written by a Mormon. The novel written about a returned missionary was a Mormon work, but so was the Pride and Prejudice play adaptation. The answers to our questions are not simple because Mormons are not simple.
We have a lot of things to say. And a lot of ways to say them.