Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Whitney Awards

Writing is such a solitary endeavor. You sit at your computer in a little bubble and peck away at your keyboard. Every so often you look up and realize that, oh yeah, there's an entire world out there aside from the one in your head.

And sometimes your family doesn't quite "get" you. They try. They really, really do. But sometimes only another writer can understand. That's where the LDStorymakers came in for me. They began as a small e-mail support group which, at the time, consisted of maybe 20 LDS writers that shared their writing celebrations and angst with one another.

Fast forward several years, and we number nearly sixty. We're no longer just a support group; we're a force to be reckoned with. We sponsor a number of events, including an annual conference, of which I'm the co-chair next year. We're practically a writers' guild.

Our latest innovation is actually the brainchild of novelist Robison Wells, who, at last spring’s writing conference told us his vision for a prestigious writing award, our very own "Oscar" of the LDS community.

Over the last several months, a committee has been put together, doing a ton of backstage work. And now, this week, the award is unveiled. The award is named after early Apostle Orson F. Whitney, who once stated:

"We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. God's ammunition is not exhausted. His highest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. 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."

Amazing thought, that. Now, I know that his vision may take a long time to be realized. We're already more than a century out from the time he said that, after all. But LDS literature has already come a long way. Just in the last two decades it's grown lightyears, and we do have some remarkable books published, even if they're no Miltons.

But in the tradition of Elder Whitney's vision, the LDStorymakers want to honor those writers who are sincerely trying to raise the bar on the quality of fiction they write.

The Whitney Award will be given out annually at the end of the two-day LDStorymaker Writing Conference, honoring the best fiction in six categories published the previous calendar year. We hope that additional categories may be added in the future.

For now, this means that books published in 2007 are eligible for the first set of Whitneys.

(Which means—wow, a certain book about the Salt Lake temple will be eligible once it's out . . . hmmm . . .)

Visit the Whitney Awards site to see all the information and to nominate a book. Anyone can nominate a book and as long as they’re at least 12 years old, and once a title receives at least five nominations, it will be in the running to be on the final ballot. An academy of industry professionals will the voters. (See the web site for how it all works.)

I for one am thrilled at the prospect of such an award. It has the potential to create those "Miltons and Shakespeares" Elder Whitney dreamed about.


Luisa Perkins said...

Very, very cool! I'm going to the website now.

PS--It would seem that you are a shoo-in.

Annette Lyon said...

Thanks for the confidence, but I wouldn't bet on that. I can think of several other writer in the historical genre are serious contenders.

One other thing I should have pointed out--no one with a monetary stake in a book can nominate it, so an editor, publisher, or author can't nominate their own book.


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