Storymakers: Creating Your Inner Writing Team

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Creating Your Inner Writing Team
Presenter: Carroll Morris
Submitted by: Lee Ann Setzer

I attended Carroll Morris’s session, “Creating Your Inner Writing Team.” Carroll, who co-authors the “Company of Good Women” series with Lael Littke and Nancy Anderson, reviewed the special strengths of the right and left brains, reminding us that no one is all right- or left-brained—it’s not like the non-dominant side is "filled with packing peanuts!”

We’ve heard plenty about brain dominance in the last twenty years, but a couple of points impressed me. One was that the left brain—she called it the Project Manager and the Inner Editor—is naturally active, aggressive, and demanding, while the right brain—the Creative Dude—is naturally passive and accepting. So the Inner Editor demands to be heard, while the Creative Dude, when ignored or put off, shrugs and wanders away.

She also emphasized that all the voices in our heads are there to protect and help us. The Inner Editor tries to keep us from making mistakes that might hurt us, while the Creative Dude is constantly “googling the environment,” noticing pieces of important information, forming impressions, and coming up with ideas. She briefly addressed those other voices as well, mostly left-brain residents, like the frightened child who’s afraid of rejection and the spoiled brat who wants to goof off.

Carroll helped us relax and guided us to visualize our “inner writing team,” starting with our inner writing area. We invited each member of the team into the room, one at a time. We had a firm chat with the Inner Editor, expressing gratitude for all its help but asking (it? him? her?) to please take a break when Creative Dude needs to share ideas. Then we invited Creative Dude to share anytime, and we promised to listen. The project manager, the frightened child, and the spoiled brat all got some attention. Each inner voice promised to help—after all, they only want what’s best for us!

Maybe I’m a little remedial here, but it hadn’t occurred to me the those voices in my head were on my side. Focusing on them one at a time and acknowledging their contributions gave me energy and some new optimism. The last couple of days, I’ve been more successful at turning off the Inner Editor (or rather, sending her on a well-deserved vacation) and inviting Creative Chick’s ideas. Thanks, Carroll!

Lee Ann Setzer


LDS Fiction Blog Contest

Today is the first contest over on the LDS Fiction blog. It's being sponsored by Whitney Award winning Best Novel of 2007, On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell.

Take a minute to pop over there and answer the contest question.

Click here to read the details on how the contest works.

Click here to go to the contest post.

In the first quarter of 2008, we have added 27 newly released fiction titles over on the LDS Fiction blog. I think that is pretty amazing. By the end of the year, this is going to be one very long list!

In future weeks, I'll list all the newly added titles to the LDS Fiction blog in my Friday post here. For now, you can find a complete list of all 27 titles over on the sidebar under "2008 Books Eligible for Whitney Awards."


Agent Thank Yous

I had a one-on-one session with the visiting agent. She said she liked the pages I showed her and asked to see more, once they were written. This will take a month or so. In the meantime, should I write a brief thank-you note, mentioning the project and thanking her for her time? Or don't agents and editors like to use their valuable time reading thank-you notes?
Personally, I like a very expensive box of dark, chewy chocolates and a dozen roses.

Seriously, on the one hand, it's nice to make a personal connection and treat agents as if they were real people, in which case, Miss Manners would suggest that a short thank you note would be in order here. On the other hand, let's say this agent saw 50 people over the space of a conference, that's 50 thank you notes she'll have to open and read—and if she's really, really busy...

I'm assuming you gave her a gracious thank you during your session so I'd say wait and include a brief thank you as the first paragraph of your cover letter when you send your manuscript, along the lines of "Dear Ms. Whosit, Thank you so much for visiting with me in a one-on-one session at the LDStorymakers conference in March 2008. I made the changes you suggested and enclosed are the additional pages you requested I send. . ." Or something like that.


Poetry—A Devalued Art Form

What is the place of poetry in the LDS market? Is there any hope of selling a poetry collection to any publisher? If so, what kind of poetry would be of interest?

Poetry is a hard sell in any market, unless your last name happens to be Dickinson or Frost or . . . Even Carol Lynn Pearson, the LDS poet, doesn't sell much poetry.

The only way you're going to sell a book of poetry to an LDS publisher is if it's a gift book, a children's picture book, or part of an anthology (like Especially for Mormons)—but even those are tough sells.

I'd suggest sending your poems to magazines. The Ensign and New Era publish poems. There are also lots of Christian magazines looking for poetry. Check the 2008 Writer's Market.


How Long is Too Long?

This question was taken from a recent comment on a post from last year. (Thanks for reading through the archives.)

I've been working on a book for 2 years now, and am thinking I'm getting close to submitting a first draft to a publisher. After reading this, and all the comments, I'm now thinking I need another four years before I'll be to that point…

What can I do to keep my motivation?

Part 1—How long do you need to work on your novel before submitting? The answer, of course, is: as long as it takes to get the story right.

Having said that, however, I have a few more comments. First, if it takes you six years to write a novel, and you've only been working on the one story during that time, as a publisher, I'm going to think twice about accepting your book. Reason being, if I publish your book and readers like you, they're going to want more ASAP. If it takes another six years to get book two out, readers will forget about you and we'll have to start all over again to establish a fan base. If you want a career as a novelist, you should plan to produce a book every year or two.

Now, first books usually take longer to write because you're learning your craft. We understand that. And if you're going to be a "one hit wonder," you may still be published if that one hit is good enough. Just keep in mind that part of my decision making process in accepting a book is if I think I'm going to be able to create a "reproducible commodity" of sorts. (Okay, I know that phrase is going to get me lots of hateful comments. Fine. Go ahead. Give me your best shot.)

If you've been working on a book for two years, get yourself into a good critique group right away and get that thing polished up and submitted this year!

Part 2—What can I do to keep my motivation?

Readers—jump in and help our new author out. What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you're either dragging in your work-in-progress or you're waiting to hear back on submissions?


Whitney Award Winners!

The Whitney Awards Gala was held this past Saturday night. They announced the winners, which I've posted below. If you're interested in reading more about the gala, they did live blogging here.

Best Novel of the Year:
On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell
(Which, if you'll notice, is one of our blog sponsors this month.)

Best Novel by a New Author:
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Best Romance/Women's Fiction:
Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes

Best Mystery/Suspense:
Sheep's_Clothing by Josi Kilpack

Best Young Adult/Children:
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

Best Speculative Fiction:
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Best Historical:
Out of Jerusalem #4: Land of Inheritance by H.B. Moore

Lifetime Achievement Awards:
Jennie Hansen, Anita Stansfield, Dean Hughes

I was pleased with the outcome of the voting, although I voted differently on a couple of them. However, I do think that the winning books are representative of the best of LDS fiction. Congratulations to all the winners!

If you haven't already read these winning books, I suggest you do. They're great. In fact, almost all of the finalist books are very well done. I encourage you to try them.

On a couple of unrelated topics:

**If any of you readers attended the LDStorymakers Conference this past weekend and would like to do a little write-up of the classes you attended—highlight some of the main points, what you thought was best about them, etc.—I'd be happy to post them here and give you a byline. E-mail them to me, putting LDStorymakers in the subject line. Be sure to include the title of the class and the name(s) of the instructor. Please do not plagiarize, but rather summarize the best ideas from the class. If you do quote the instructors directly, give them credit and use quotation marks.

**Also, this e-mail came in after I began my wonderful flu-inspired hiatus. (I'm feeling better now, btw.)
Hi there! I just thought I’d let you know that tomorrow I’m doing a post on Segullah about the “Awards Season” in LDS lit right now: The AML awards and the Whitneys. I’ve invited any nominated or award winning author this year to pop over and promote his or her book in the comments section. I’ve emailed the Whitney people and Zarahemla and some other folks to let them know, but I know that a lot of authors visit your blog, too. So if you’re interested in linking to it, you can find it tomorrow at www.segullah.org/blog. —Angela Hallstrom


Don't Take This the Wrong Way . . . by Tristi Pinkston

It seems that everyone I know has had the flu this year. Apparently it is my turn to entertain these little germies. I'm going to bed. I'll be back on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy this guest blog by Tristi Pinkston.

I was thinking just now about the importance of honest criticism. Not the kind offered with an upturned nose and a jealous sniff (given by said upturned nose) but instead the kind that is given when someone genuinely wants to help you succeed. So often, we take offense when someone criticizes our work. It's understandable -- for a writer, to truly write is to open up a portion of our guts and expose them to the world, making us all that more vulnerable to criticism when we get it.

But it's so important to listen to feedback from others. I know I've said this before, and chances are I'll keep saying it because it's so very important. I have been saved from silly mistakes countless times by friends who had the courage to point them out to me. It doesn't matter how good you are -- there's no such thing as writing a book without flaw. You must ask others to help you hone and perfect it. After spending so many hours/days/months and even years staring at the same words, you get blind to them.

I was thinking tonight about the poor critic, how they are essentially taking their lives in their hands by virtue of the fact that they have chosen to share their honest opinion. Often they are the recipient of harsh words. They're told that "they just don't understand." And yet, how often is their advice exactly what the writer needs to hear?

Three examples from the movies come to mind immediately, and while they are all fictionalized, they are familiar enough to all of us that I feel they make my point easily.

1. Little Women (1994) -- Jo has gone to New York to put some space between herself and Laurie after turning down his proposal. She has been writing sensational stories to sell to the newspapers, and has brought in enough money to supplement her family's dwindling income. She's proud of her work, but when she shows it to Fredric Baher, the German professor who lives in her apartment building, he expresses his sorrow that she's not writing about herself and from the heart. She lambasts him, telling him that her family needs her income and that the newspapers want the kinds of things she writes. His words cut her deeply, because he touched on a truth she already knew -- she needed to write something serious. Not too long after that, she begins the manuscript for "Little Women."

2. Anne of Avonlea (1987) -- Anne Shirley has always wanted to be a famous novelist, and she has been working for a long time on a romantic novel. Her good friend Gilbert Blythe teases her, telling her that she should stop writing all this high-falutin' mumbo jumbo, stories where the men pitch and moon and never really say what they're trying to say. Anne is furious and refuses to speak to him, but by the end of the movie, she has written a book about Avonlea, realizing how right Gilbert was.

3. Becoming Jane (2007) -- Jane Austen writes long-winded poetry that, while beautifully crafted, puts Tom Lefroy to sleep. He tells her that she needs to experience more of life before she can truly write, and tries to corrupt her (in a very charming way). He gives her a copy of Tom Jones to read, and while it shocks her (as it should) she realizes that she can't pretend knowledge of things she knows nothing about. Later in life, as she becomes famous for her work, there's a moment of recognition that Tom had indeed helped her learn those lessons she was sadly missing, even if it was to add poignancy to her stories through loss.

Never discount the importance of someone's honest opinion. You may choose to reject it, and it's your right to do so. But weigh it. Decide why you're rejecting it. Is it out of pride, or do you truly not think it will work for your book? Good criticism, given with the intent to help and not hurt, is a writer's best tool to smooth out the rough patches and create a fabulous work of art.

Tristi Pinkston
LDS Historical Fiction Author
Media Reviewer


Plugging LDS Fiction Blog

It was suggested by a reader that I do a regular post here about the LDS Fiction blog. So far for 2008, we have 24 new releases by LDS authors. I think that's pretty impressive. Please go take a look. Let me know if I've missed any.

Starting this Friday, I'll post an update listing the new titles that have been added during the week.

I'd also like to do something to encourage you to go over to that blog and look around, leave comments, and rate the books you've read. Since most of the comments over there are anonymous, we can't do a monthly comment contest like we do here. I was thinking about a weekly post offering a free book if you left a comment on that post within a specified time period. Like the contests on this blog, the book prizes would need to be supplied and shipped by authors and publishers.

If you're interested, send me an e-mail with LDS Fiction Prize in the subject line and the title(s) of the books you're willing to offer as prizes.


Best Seller Numbers

How many copies could a first time author expect to sell?
There are so many variables that effect sales...you can "expect" whatever you want but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. If you are with DB or Covenant, with good access to the LDS market, your expected sales numbers are going to be higher than if you're with a smaller publisher who may or may not be able to get you into the DB or Seagull stores/websites. It also depends on whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction.

When we take on a new fiction author, we aim for their first book to sell around 2,000 copies. That's our break-even mark.

What is the "magic number" of copies that makes a book a best seller in the LDS market?
Best seller is open to interpretation. There really isn't an industry-defined standard. Some companies figure they have a best seller if they go into a second printing. In my opinion (and I've been told by colleagues that my numbers are both too high and too low), for fiction in the LDS market only (not titles that are intended for a national market), I wouldn't award that label until sales went over 10,000; at 40,000+ I'd be dancing in the streets.


Is LDS Fiction a Genre?

Dear LDS Publisher,

I recently put a question on my blog about the LDS market. It has been in my mind for some time, and I am really trying to find the answer. I had a few readers and authors give me their opinion, but I'd really like yours, too, if you don't mind.

My question: What kind (in general) of books are the average LDS fiction readers and/or fiction publishers looking for?

My answer: In the past, I've turned to the LDS market because there is sleaze and untruth in my preferred genres, and I want books that fit my general interest but are "clean." So, to me, I consider the competition for LDS books to be the National Market, not necessarily other LDS writers.

But lately, I've begun to wonder if this simplified understanding is incorrect. Do readers, and especially publishers, see LDS books as their own genre with specific rules and formats?

What you think?

You're going to get opposing opinions on this question, but this is mine:

I do not see LDS fiction as its own genre. What sets it apart from clean national fiction is the setting—most LDS fiction is set within an LDS community and/or has LDS characters. LDS romance novels follow basic romance genre traditions and rules; LDS suspense uses general suspense techniques; LDS fantasy follows fantasy formats. Yes, LDS fiction is cleaner than most national fiction and often involves LDS characters and settings but to me, that is not enough of a difference to make it its own genre.

Therefore, when I read LDS fiction, I judge it against the same criteria and conventions that I judge national titles in the same genres. However, my expectation is that LDS novels will be cleaner, with less "on screen" violence and gore.


Communication Schedule

What type of information/milestones do you tend to convey to the author? What's the minimum (or happy medium) that authors should expect?
This varies between publishers, but here is our usual communication schedule:
  • Receipt of mss—if an author has included an e-mail address.

  • Rejection/Readers—4 to 6 weeks later, we send a rejection; We usually do not contact them to let them know it's moved on to other readers.

  • Acceptance—up to several months later, phone call; we give them an estimated publish date, but also make it clear that the date is subject to change. There's also some back and forth about the contract.

  • Rewrites—an ongoing process until the mss is ready for typesetting. There may be weeks between contact.

  • Proofs/Cover Art—sent when ready for final approval. We have a firm release date at this time.

  • Books arrive—shipped to author when they arrive in the warehouse; books usually arrive in stores around the same time.

  • Promo/Marketing—Between the time the books go to press and when they arrive in the bookstores, we contact the author several times to plan promotional activities.

  • Life of Book—We contact the author at various intervals to let them know about ads or other promo things we're doing; if their book is getting special notice or press; if ther's something we want the author to do. We also send sales reports and royalties (depending on publisher, royalties are yearly, twice a year, quarterly, monthly).

  • Next Book—The better the book is selling, the more often we contact the author. After a few months, we start asking about their next book.


Talk to Me, Please!

Do you have suggestions for ways authors can improve communications with their publishers?

Hmmm, do you mean how can you communicate with them? Or how do you get them to communicate with you?

Some publishers/editors are lousy communicators—they rarely return phone calls or e-mails, and when they do, they don't give satisfactory answers. This stinks. It shouldn't happen. Communicating with the author is part of their job and they should do so in a professional and timely manner. If your publisher/editor is a bad communicator, there is probably nothing you can do about it. Sorry.

Some authors have unrealistic expectations of the time a publisher/editor can spend with them. I have authors who call once or twice a week and want to spend an hour talking about the problems they're having with their current work in progress. This is very inappropriate and, I confess, I often duck their calls. I have others who call regularly to see if the edit is done, how many pages have been typeset, if the files are at the press yet... This is inappropriate too.

But assuming you are a professional and realistic author and you're working with a professional and responsible publisher/editor, just ask them what their expectations are. Do they prefer phone calls or e-mails? What is their average response time? What types of communications do they want from you? (Example, I want to know when my authors are doing marketing/promo activities so I can help support those.) If both parties are reasonable, it shouldn't be too hard to work something out.


Font Choice

I've been looking at publishers' websites and noticed that some publishers like their submissions in Times New Roman and some of them like Courier. Is there a reason why they prefer these different fonts, or is it just a personal thing from publisher to publisher?
One reason is that all computers (PC and Mac) have these two fonts, making it easy to convert files. Sometimes when a document is opened on a computer that doesn't have the font it was written in, it can go all skeewampus.

The other reason has to do with estimating final page count.

Courier is a fixed-width font, meaning all letters take the same amount of space. It gives you a uniform number of spaces per page making it easier (according to some) to estimate a final page count.

I prefer Times, however, because it is easier to read. I haven't found that it's any more difficult to estimate page count from Times.


Branded for Life?

So if you take notes on submissions received and say I sent something to you when I first started writing and you put in your notes, "Writing needs work (or it sucks) or whatever" Does that mean I'm branded for life with that publisher? I think they would still look at the work but would a first negative impression make it harder later on?
No. We realize that writers change and (hopefully) improve over time. Those notes only effect where in the reading pile your manuscript lands. Let's say I get 5 mss one day—two are in my log, one with a "good" note and one with a "needs work" note; the other three are new authors. My assistant reads the queries and weeds out topics we're not interested in or those with so many grammar/technical errors that we know we'll reject. The rest go in the pile with the "good" note on top. The "needs work" note and the new authors get sorted by our topic interest level.

The only time a bad note brands you for life is if you were extremely rude and obnoxious* about a previous submission and my note says, "I don't care if it's the next Harry Potter, I will not work with this person!" (Out of the hundreds in my log, there are only two with this note.)

*Extremely rude and obnoxious means the author blasted me with e-mails/letters/phone calls after rejection, calling me names and telling me I'm the spawn of Satan for rejecting their book.


Rejection Etiquette

I have a burning question that I would be most grateful if you would help me with. I recently received a polite rejection letter, in which I was told in sum: “We are very selective, your submission came close but not close enough, feel free to keep us in mind with future projects.” I originally filed it away with a sigh, thinking it was a typical form letter. But then I started thinking (or over analyzing) that maybe his mention of future projects is at least the start of a bridge.

I am now chewing on the possibility of sending a reply thanking him for reviewing the manuscript, and briefly describing my next project. I’m thinking it would be better now, while he remembers who I am, then when the new manuscript is done and I’m back in the slush pile. But is that too presumptuous? If not, would it be appropriate to send it via email, if the rejection came via snail mail? (And no, he didn’t include his email address in the letter, but it is on the website.)

Thanks so much for the service you provide! It is a confusing world out there.
The mention of future projects might be part of their standard rejection letter, or it might actually be a positive indicator. In our company, we don't open that door unless we mean it.

If you like this publisher, then yes, send them your next project—when it's done. Sending an e-mail now for a project that isn't ready to submit won't do you much good because they'll forget anyway. (We don't log our thank you e-mails, only our submissions.)

If this publisher is like us, when a new mss comes in the first thing we do is check our log to see if you've submitted to us before and read our notes. If the notes say, "liked her writing but project wasn't what we were looking for" then you'll move up to the top of the slush.

As to whether to communicate via e-mail or snail mail, if they indicate a preference, respect that. If they don't, then it probably doesn't matter. If their e-mail is listed on their website, then they're open to receiving communications that way.


Attention Published Authors!

Hello LDS Publisher Readers,

I'm writing from a new group blog called Mormon Renaissance (www.mormonrenaissance.org) that focuses on improving the craft, critical discernment, and the quality of Mormon artistic efforts. In a recent post, I discussed the idea of Mormon literature as an aesthetic that spreads across multiple genres, rather than limited to a single genre. In continuing our discussion of this issue, we're thinking about a follow-up series of guest posts by Mormon authors on how they can write something uniquely Mormon without betraying the expectations of their genre. If you are a published Mormon author from any of the following genres and are interested in writing a few paragraphs on how your genre fiction can also be "Mormon" fiction, please send me an e-mail:
Science fiction/fantasy
Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction

Liz Busby
lizbusby [at] byu [dot] edu


Fictionalizing Nonfiction

Several of us have been debating how much "fictionalizing" is acceptable in nonfiction. If the basic facts are true and correct, is it acceptable to enhance dialogue and setting? Or to change names and gender? Moreover, if that's allowed, at what stage in the process should the author inform the editor—in the query letter, the cover letter, or when working with the editor on revisions?

The only time it is acceptable to change the facts in nonfiction is when you're using case studies to illustrate a concept and you change the name of the person and their identifying details. This should be stated right up front in the book's introduction and as a footnote on the first case study.

If you enhance the dialogue and setting, change name, gender or any other fact, then it is no longer nonfiction—it is fiction, based on a true story and should be labeled as such in your initial query.

Update: You have a little more leeway with memoirs and autobiographies. As Annette commented, you can't go all hogwild with the facts, as did James Frey in his "memoir" but you can alter some details to protect the innocent (or guilty) and you can adjust conversations somewhat. Tell you editor exactly what was changed and they will help you stay within acceptable limits.


March 2008 Sponsors

Please take a moment to learn more about our wonderfully generous sponsors.

Scotlyn, Knightess of the Dragon
Dierdra Eden Coppel

This is a historical fantasy about the adventures of a young girl in the final years of the 12th Century England and the challenges that fight her dreams. With unforgettable characters, the story delivers a rare combination of romance and mystery, humor and inspiration.

Scotlyn’s story weaves through the crusades and takes her into womanhood. It tells of young men who dreamed of becoming knights, the many who returned heroes and those left on the battlefield. Certain knighthoods, like the Order of the Dragon of the Count of Foix, inducted women to the call of knights. Scotlyn was numbered among those who answered the call and defied impossible odds to become a revered lady knight.

Her powerful tale teaches the importance of dreaming, courage in the face of death, the strength of character and the rewards of persistence.

Deirdra Eden Coppel has been writing stories, poems and lyrics from the age of four. As a child, she was also fascinated with mythology and historical customs and sports. She has studied weaponry and frequently attends and competes in sword fighting tournaments. Combining her love of literature, theology, mythology and history, her historical fantasy stories have captivated audiences of all ages. Readers have applauded the books' high values, morals and admirable characters. Deirdra loves sharing her talents and will continue to create products that will inspire others.

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys
by Janet Kay Jensen

When Andy McBride met Louisa Martin, he knew he had found the girl for him. There was only one problem: polygamy - a lifestyle that Louisa could not escape and Andy would not embrace.

As medical students at the University of Utah, Andy and Louisa fall in love - but can a mainstream Mormon and a Fundamental polygamist overcome the cultural barriers between them? Both realize that their choices will not only affect their own lives, but will also have an impact on their family, friends, and even their communities. Fearing that the sacrifices required of them would be too great, they go their separate ways.

Yet for Andy in Kentucky and Louisa in Utah, life does not go as they'd planned. While Andy is serving as a country doctor and trying to bury his pain, Louisa is coming to terms with the fact that all is not as perfect in her tight-knit community as she'd believed. As doctors, each will have to choose between keeping the peace in their communities or doing what they know is right. And someday, both will have to face their past and decide if they can make the sacrifice to be together.

Set in the red hills of southern Utah, the cosmopolitan center of Salt Lake City, the Smoky Mountains of Kentucky, and the lake-studded country of Finland, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys is the heartfelt and engaging story about the power of love and acceptance in an ever-changing and often surprising world.

Janet Kay Jensen is author of Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys (Cedar Fort, 2007), named a finalist by USA Best Books 2007. She is co-author of The Book Lover's Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature, and the Passages That Feature Them (Wenger & Jensen, Ballantine Books, 2003). Her work also appears in Writing Secrets, Everton's Family History Magazine, ByLine, Meridian, and The Magic of Stories. She holds degrees in Speech-Language Pathology from Utah State University and Northwestern University and is an adult literacy tutor. She is a member of Author's Guild and has won numerous awards from the League of Utah Writers. She and her husband are the parents of three college student sons and have recently become grandparents. Visit her web page and her blog and watch a video preview of Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys

On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell

An autobiographical novel by Coke Newell

From the author of Latter Days: A Guided Tour Through Six Billion Years of Mormonism comes this exuberant and groundbreaking autobiographical novel about the modern Mormon convert experience. Revealing the author's hard-won path to meaning, faith, and forgiveness, On the Road to Heaven is a love story about a girl and a guy and their search for heaven—a lotta love, a little heaven, and one heck of a ride in between.

In a style reminiscent of and offering homage to Jack Kerouac, On the Road to Heaven traces an LSD-to-LDS pilgrimage across the geographic and cultural landscape of two continents in the late twentieth century. From the 1970s hippie heyday of the Colorado mountains to the coca fields of Colombia, it's a journey through Thoreau ascetics, Ram Dass Taoism, and Edward Abbey monkey-wrenching to the mission fields of one of the world's fastest-growing—and most trenchantly conservative—religions.

Of twelve million Mormons worldwide, more than seventy percent are first-generation converts, including Coke Newell. A former tree-hugging, Zen-spouting, vegetarian Colorado mountain hippie, the author later worked for more than a decade as an LDS Church media relations officer at world headquarters in Salt Lake City. His byline or citation on the topic of Mormonism has appeared in mmore than a thousand North American periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. Newell's award-winning journalism and fiction have appeared in such publications as Columbia Journalism Review, Grit, Ensign, True West, Irreantum, and the Rocky Mountain News. He lives with his wife and children in rural northern Utah.

February 2008 Comment Contest Winners

Here are the winners of the February Comment Contest, randomly selected from the comments made during the month of February.

Thanks again to our sponsors. Please take a moment to read their bio info here.

Ghost of a Chance

by Kerry Blair

Winner: Paul West

Commenting on Basic Submission Package

Hunting Gideon

by Jessica Draper

Winner: Rachelle

Commenting on The Quality of LDS Fiction by Jeff Savage


by Douglas Thayer

Winner: Christine Thackery

Commenting on What's Lacking in the LDS Market

To claim your prize, you must e-mail your mailing address to me by Friday, March 7, 2008.

(Unclaimed prizes will be up for grabs on Monday, March 10th.)

Click here to learn how you can win a copy of one of our sponsoring books.