Thursday, May 31, 2018

Tanya Hanamaikai Q&A

Day four of this year's Mormon Lit Blitz is Tanya Hanamaikai's "New Rhythm." Here's a short Q&A about the story and her work:

This story does a great job of letting us feel like we're in a complete world and culture in a very short word count. How did you come up with Morah's culture for this piece? 

For my mom, our proud Mexican heritage runs deeper than Aztec sun stones and temples. She'd shout with gust a song from her time as a performer with BYU'S Lamanite Generation: "Yes, I'm a Lamanite, a true blue-blooded Lamanite! My fathers came from far across the sea!" When I set out to write a Lamanite story, I wanted those of us who have been taught that we are their descendants to recognize a bit of ourselves in their life style.

How did you choose what details to include in this story? 

Every detail in this story was an opportunity to not only build a culture, but to also explore our relationship with it. My favorite line is, "Something in the ancient fathers' original Hebrew no one understood anymore."

What would you like to see more of in Mormon Literature? 

More writers who trust the value of what their diversity brings to our connection as Mormons, whether it comes from their rich culture, sole upbringing, or peculiar point of view.

Where can we read more of your work? 

My last Lit Blitz piece was Worthy World ( And I blog now and then at

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Katherine Cowley Q&A

Day three of this year's Lit Blitz is Katherine Cowley's "A Perfect Voice." Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the story:
Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with Clara as a character and what interested you in her point of view? 
For a long time I've wanted to write a story about a musical number that went terribly wrong, because sometimes I have been Clara, judging the merit of the musical numbers, and sometimes I have been on the other side, performing not-so-perfect music. A few years ago I was in a ward that had special musical numbers almost every week, and for a while I was asked to accompany many of them on the piano. Then one week I was absolutely terrible, so terrible that no one in that ward ever asked me to play piano for anything again. 
When I began writing "A Perfect Voice" at first I considered a character who is a regularly-attending ward member, but there weren't any stakes--there was nothing at risk for the character--and so I ended up choosing an outsider, a visitor who comes expecting something completely different. As I started writing, I realized that for Clara to have her visceral reaction to the musical number, she needed a musical backstory, and suddenly I realized her past "failures" and I felt a connection to her, for all the things I have failed at and given up on. 
This piece deals the relationship between music and worship, and specifically about the role of ability vs. sincerity in making music. As a writer, I'm curious about whether you think the same ideas apply to any creative endeavor, or if there's something distinct about music specifically? 
This is a question I'm currently wrestling with, something I'm trying to find the answer to. On the one hand, I think it's okay to set aside dreams--we can't all be bestselling authors, Broadway stars, Hollywood filmmakers, professional dancers, or in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And yet in the parable of the talents, the Lord expects even the servant with only one talent to use it and not bury it. Some of the best talks I've heard were not given by polished speakers; some of the best desserts didn't look that attractive; some of the most welcoming homes are messy and would never be featured in an interior design magazine. Ability is important, and we can develop our abilities, but even if our abilities in whatever creative endeavors do not compare to those of others, I'd like to think there's a place for them and that they can greatly bless both ourselves and those around us.
What would you like to see more of in Mormon Literature? 
I would love to read more literature set outside of the United States, and I would love to read Mormon stories not originally written in English that have been translated.
Where can we read more of your work?

Most recently, I had a fairy tale novella published about a magical, ugly princess who rides a goat and fights with a wooden spoon; her new husband goes missing and it's a story about love and loyalty and struggle. The story is titled "Tatterhood and the Prince's Hand" and can be found in Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales. In term of Mormon literature, I've been published in Segullah, in the Mormon Lit Blitz's Meetings of the Myths contest, and several times in the Mormon Lit Blitz (here, here, and here).  You can find links to my other published works on

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lehua Parker Q&A

On the second day of this year's Mormon Lit Blitz, we move from the spirit world back to earth for Lehua Parker's  essay "Scrubbing Jesus's Toilets." After you've read it, come back for the Q&A and to share your thoughts:

Both "Scrubbing Jesus' Toilets" and your previous Mormon Lit Blitz finalist piece, "Decorating Someone Else's Service" are meditations on how we organize service in the Church. What's drawn you to that subject? 

Volunteer service is a cornerstone of the Church. It’s through acts of service that we learn how to become more Christlike. I find both humor and grace in situations where what we think is the goal—being extra efficient, for example—is not really the point at all. Service is often more about refining our own imperfections than it is about helping others.

Both pieces also involve your children as prominent characters. How has parenting helped you as a writer--and writing helped you as a parent? 

My kids are much better humans than I am. When confronted with something that doesn’t make sense at Church, they do the kind thing, the gracious thing, and simply do what’s asked of them without complaint. My first instinct is to whine or dig in my heels. But sometimes after a service project or lesson, they’ll come to me to talk about the whys. We break down what happened from multiple perspectives until they understand why a service project was organized a certain way or what a leader was trying to teach in a lesson that didn’t resonate with them. Through this process, they also figure out how they’ll do it when they’re in charge. It amazes me that there’s no question in their minds that they will be able to do things differently. I find that very powerful. I think about these conversations a lot, and what I think about, I write. And what I write about tends to circle back into the next why conversation.

What would you like to see more of in Mormon Literature? 

I’d like to see more fiction stories where characters just happen to be Mormon, rather than stereotypes of either perfection or perdition.  A lot of Mormon fiction for kids tends to be thinly veiled morality plays. I’d like to see fictional LDS kids who struggle and succeed and who come from a wide variety of families, nationalities, and experiences. There’s a need for good LDS kids’ literature that tackles tough questions squarely, but with an underlying message of compassion and hope.

Where can we read more of your work? 

I have a blog and website: Most of my published works are available through Amazon and other retailers.  My most popular books are in a series for middle grade and young adult readers called The Niuhi Shark Saga. These magical realism stories are set in contemporary Hawaii and are full of Hawaiian culture, myths, and legends. Book 1, One Boy, No Water, was a 2017 Nene Award Nominee, a Hawaii Children’s Choice Award. For LDS audiences, I’m currently working on a collection of faith-based essays under the working title, Wayfinding Mortality.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Luisa Perkins Q&A

It's Mormon Lit Blitz season again! This year's first story is Luisa Perkins' "Three Dogs in the Afterlife," which you should go read now. After you finish, come back for this short Q&A with the author and let us know what you thought of the story:

One thing we really loved about your story was how much we felt immersed in the main character's very canine point of view. What did you do to help you think like a dog for this story? 

I'm glad you felt immersed in my character's point of view. I have a dog--a corgi named Moneypenny--whom I love to an absurd degree. She follows me around the house and sits at my feet when I'm reading or writing or doing the dishes. She's taught me the nature of submissiveness in the Mosiah 3:19 sense (I think the verse works well if you substitute "dog" for "child"). When I come home, she runs to me with her ears down and her whole back end wagging; she's full of joy and humility and utter conviction of my love for her. It's the attitude I want to have when I approach the Lord. Writing the story, I just tried to imagine life--and the afterlife--through her senses. 

We really loved the way the point of view was not just a gimmick, but something that gave us real spiritual insights. How do you know when you've found good ground for a religious or spiritual story? 

I think good religious or spiritual stories come from the same well as other good stories. They have to feel real and deep and true from the first flash of inspiration (which this time came when I was out on a long walk with my dog) throughout the drafting and revision process. Writing the ending of this story made me cry--and whenever I can get that far under the skin of a story, I feel like I've been successful. 

Any thoughts on what we might learn from a cat's perspective on heaven? 

I love cats. We buried a lovely, maddening, hilarious one a few years ago. That was a tough day. I think what we sometimes interpret as reserve on the part of a cat could actually be something else entirely. Cats, to me, seem both smarter and more alien than dogs. They're a mystery perhaps unknowable in this fallen world. 

What would you like to see more of in Mormon Literature? 

I would like to see more immersive Mormon Literature that isn't afraid to wrestle with hard questions, that engages heart and thought and imagination. I want stories that aren't just cool or entertaining, but that nag at me and haunt me and challenge me. I want there to be Mormon versions of Allegra Goodman and Mark Helprin and Margaret Atwood and Umberto Eco. That will require tremendous courage and dedication and work and vision--as well as a demanding yet nurturing audience. I also want to read more Mormon Literature that comes from experiences outside the Intermountain West. I want high-quality Mormon stories from Peoria and Porto Alegre and Lappeenranta and Luanda. Is that too much to ask?

Where can we read more of your work?
Here's a list of my published works:


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