Me and Mormon Letters


In the space of just a few days I went from being a full-time student & paycheck-earner to a full-time Mom. It was not an easy transition. But what helped me most during this time of change was the AML-List: the online discussion group of the Association for Mormon Letters.

Ok, that sounds weird. But it’s true. The Internet was new back then. There was no “web” yet and I had to use an archaic program called PINE to manage my email. I did this all on a old PC with a monochrome screen. I had studied English Lit in school and loved to read. I wanted to talk about books with other Mormons. But I didn’t have any local friends with the time or motivation to read as voraciously as I did. So I joined the AML-List and found an instant community of a few hundred Saints who loved books. Bingo, I was hooked! Every night after my son went to sleep I sat at the desk in our small apartment and “talked” books. I read anything and everything that was recommended to me. Soon I was a regular columnist on the List and then started serving as the in-house Book Review Editor.

My connection with the AML helped me believe that when my “brain jello” years of being a SAHM were over, that I could go back to school and get the graduate degree that I coveted. In the meantime, I wrote book reviews and hobnobbed w/Mormon profs & writers. I had a very vibrant–although virtual–academic life. I learned so much!

Some days I wonder what would’ve happened had I never joined the AML. I suspect I wouldn’t be in the midst of my PhD right now. In the past ten years I’ve given conference papers on LDS topics, organized lectures on Mormon Studies, and have been published in numerous Church-related venues. I credit much of my success to my years with the AML-List. For my cyber-friends who talked books with me. For the List moderators who encouraged me. For the passion that I developed for Mormon literature.

I don’t suppose that many X2blog readers will care much about my relationship with the AML. In fact, I doubt that most readers have even made it this far in reading my post. However, for those of you who are still with me, I’d like for you to tell me about the organizations, people, and activities that played a catalytic role in your life. Perhaps it was an important teacher, or a great job, or a friendly neighbor that made all the difference. Whoever and whatever it was, please share!

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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  1. William Morris says:

    Jana:

    I too remember reading the AML List on Pine. Although the Web was around when I first joined the list.

    Strange to think that it’s been 9 years.

  2. Christopher Bigelow says:

    AML had a huge impact for me too. I learned a lot about what/how I think by trying to express it for this little e-mail audience. Contacts on AML-List led directly to two of my most fun, meaningful creative projects: Irreantum and The Sugar Beet. I consider AML probably more significant for my personal growth and development than working at the Ensign for over six years. I still read and participate, but I think its critical mass had passed for me. I hope it’s still making a big impact on others, though.

  3. Brooke says:

    Jana,

    AML definitely played a role in the first awakenings I had en route to where I am now as far as my beliefs and relationship with the church. Partly because of the ideas that were so new to my sheltered, somewhat conservative Utah up-bringing. And partly because it’s how my husband and I met you and your family a few years ago. I have to say here that as a young mother, your influence played a major part in how I have decided to play out my roles as a Mormon, a woman, and a mother. I remember something you said to me when we became neighbors here at UC Irvine—something about how taking a class here and there or doing something for personal development or enjoyment helped you to be a better mom. I don’t even remember why you said it, and it didn’t mean that much to me when you said it, but came back to me in moments of “crisis”—when I felt disillusioned, that motherhood was too hard or life was unfair, (and especially after having baby #2). The echoes of your words helped steered me in productive, more fulfilling directions.

    Furthermore, there have been many instances where my perception of religion and the world, of other people and diversity have been directly or indirectly influenced by you. So, I guess this is a kind of thank you. And a report of gratitude to the AML list for opening up my world view a little at a time, and for introducing me to you.

    Brooke

  4. jana says:

    Brooke, Bill, and Chris:

    It’s heartening to know that AML-List has impacted others besides me! But, like Chris, I really wonder whether it continues to have such impact. Maybe it was just a certain ‘camelot’ era of AML-List that had such an influence??

    I am very concerned about the future of the List and of the AML as a whole. Unfortuntely I’m not concerned enough to be stepping up to the plate and doing anything about it. In the meanwhile I’ve also switched my interests from MoLit to MoHistory, so investing a lot of time in the AML isn’t really a good professional investment, either.

    Brooke: I really appreciate the personal note. Sometimes I wonder how and why I’ve been so lucky to meet the great group of ‘outhouse’ friends here in Irvine! If anything, it might be evidence that God cares about me and my spiritual struggles. Or it might be indicative of a growing upswell of intellectual fervor among young Mormons. Or it might be a bit of both? Perhaps time will tell…