Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sheldon Lawrence Q&A

Sheldon Lawrence's essay "The Last Swing" is today's Mormon Lit Blitz finalist. After you read it, join us for the Q&A:

This piece felt very reflective of Mormon values to us, even though there are no overtly Mormon references. Is it just the concern with family? Or do you think there's something about this piece thematically that might make it feel so resonant to us?

There is something about the passage of time and the limitation of memory that has always haunted me. It’s unsettling to think that any given moment will die and never repeat. Every passing moment is a death of something. Are these moments lost to eternity? Is our only comfort the prospect of eternal novelty, eternal rebirth of time? I think on some level Mormonism takes memory seriously, or the idea that the whole of our life, every detail, will be resurrected and make up the tapestry of our souls. I believe our memories will be redeemed, not only in that we will have perfect recollection, but that even painful moments will be seen as sacred and important.  I think this piece reflects that sense of loss, of death, but perhaps hints at the hope of a resurrection of such moments.

How has parenting helped you as a writer--and writing helped you as a parent?

I didn’t set out to be a “dad” writer, but it turns out  that an awful lot of my work, especially the stuff that has gotten published or recognized, is heavily influenced by my experience as a parent. I never knew that parenting would involve so much guilt and fear and joy all at the same time. Writing is a way of working through those issues. It makes me more reflective as a parent. When my kids appear in a piece, they feel honored, which is kind of fun.

We have a two-year-old daughter who just learned to climb out of her crib and now systemically destroys her room before falling asleep around midnight. Will we miss the last nighttime rampage with equal unspoken nostalgia?

Yes, you will! “The Last Rampage” has a nice ring to it.

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

It seems there is an unnecessary dichotomy out there that art is either angsty and raw (and therefore “real”) on the one hand, or trite and syrupy sweet (and therefore “fake”) on the other. I would like to see more work, especially in memoir and personal essay, that is uncompromisingly authentic but also celebratory of life and its richness. I suppose that is what I strive for, in any case.

Where can we read more of your work?

I usually put stuff on my blog:  I also post links to my published work there.


  1. I never know how to comment on personal essays as such. Commenting on the essay feels too close like commenting on the person. That said, this one was evocative and touching. I spend much of yesterday contemplating the nature of "lastness" in the framework of eternity.

    1. Sheldon J LawrenceJune 9, 2018 at 9:22 PM

      Thanks for the comment. (Incidentally, grading personal essays is hard for the same reason.)

  2. .

    I've been thinking about this a lot lately. There's a serial story I've been telling my kids now for maybe ten years. I kept expecting them to grow out of it, but they never did. But now that our surprise baby's been moved into their room, her sleep is preventing uproarious bedtime stories.

    I keep wondering if Jeefwee Litte Monkey and MwoMwoMwo Little Monkey are no more....

    1. Sheldon J LawrenceJune 9, 2018 at 9:26 PM

      I suppose the mature way to think about it is to realize that new joys will replace the old, and that the old become stale if we cling too long. But that doesn't help a sentimental dad much.



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