Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Utah Writer to Watch

[Literary Life] I just returned from last week's Writers at Work conference--five days of reading, writing and listening to public readings by some of America's finest writers. The talent included memoir writer Abigail Thomas; journalist and novelist Steve Almond and novelist Dean Bakopoulos and a bevy of literary agents and publishers.

The biggest buzz of the conference (at least to my ears) swirled around fiction fellowship winner Ben Roberts, an Ogden writer. For his story "The Three Nephites," Roberts won a cash prize, publication of his piece in a future issue of the University of Utah literary journal Quarterly West and a consultation with a prominent editor or agent. Roberts, 30, is a 2006 graduate of Weber State University in radiological science. He read his story one evening during the conference. It is stunning. Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around a group of friends at various levels of their faith in Mormonism and a tragic choice and its consequences.

Almond, who judged the fiction category, wrote in a conference brochure of Roberts' work:

My God. I was absolutely blown away by this story, which does what every great short story must: it creates its own world and sucks the reader into that world and horrifies us and at the same time (and this is the miracle, I think) makes us never want to leave. The voice is absolutely fearless, ecstatic, and dangerously wise. I could feel my heart thumping as I read the last line, and for a long time after.”

Other visiting writers were equally effusive. Watch for Roberts soon, I'll bet, at a bookstore signing near you. (Holly Mullen)

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