Get That Gold is eminently worth your time. I loved this story, and I know my kids will love it, and I fully plan on reading it to them as a bedtime story for the next several nights. I was deeply touched by this story. I loved the depiction of Joseph, especially. I was moved to tears at times. I loved the depiction of Emma. I loved Joseph’s family. I can tell that Downing put a great deal of time and effort into her research, and as a reader I trust that. I really enjoyed being transported into the setting and time period of the restoration. Above all, I felt the excitement, the deep and spiritual profundity, of Joseph and his retrieval of the Gold Plates.–Sarah Dunster
Recently, Sarah Blackham Dunster reviewed Get that Gold over at Motley Vision. (Click here to read the review and click here to order the book.) It was, in my opinion, a great review. Great reviews are honest in pointing out strengths as well as flaws, and Sarah, a very good writer, had both to point out. It tends to suprise people how okay writers are with that. Back when one of my short stories came in second place in a contest, I was made privy to the feedback the judges had given, though I don’t think that was the norm. One judge wrote the story was “elegantly written” and another that I used “odd, stilted syntax that almost worked.” I laughed, put the two phrases together, printed it and framed it over my desk: “Elegantly written with odd stilted syntax that almost works.” The conglomerate sentence remains my touchstone. You can’t please everyone and even those you do please are able to find flaws. Its not a horrible thing. Its life.
Editing is an issue at Leicester Bay Books. In an interview, also at Motley Vision, I advised writers who submit to LBB and its imprint Zion BookWorks to come with submissions that are already edited. The truth is, GTG did not have outside editing. Meaning, it was me and only me reviewing the story, though Michael did review the copy. I’ve made arrangements to correct that on future books. I just might hit on Sarah to read a “final” draft. Wonder if she will …
As to the issue of reviewing in the realm of LDS literature, I sympathize with Sarah’s plight. We are a relatively small community and we tend to know one another. I know Sarah and I’ve reviewed her work. I pointed out a flaw just as she did in mine and–shock of shocks–we discussed it. Our community needs to be here for one another, to bounce things off of, so that we can improve. Scott Hales made a comment after the review that we need strong criticism if we want the LDS lit movement to improve. He’s correct, in a way. But I think, before that, we need strong editors. Editors who understand story so that the improvements come before publication. Unless a writer has the Orson Scott Card compulsion to rewrite and republish work, criticism doesn’t have that big an impact, doesn’t force change. I’m not saying critics have no influence. I am saying that we need editors who have strong critical capacities and I’m not sure we have that to the degree we need.
With that said, here’s more of Sarah on Get that Gold!: I felt, after reading this, excited to re-read Joseph Smith History in my scriptures, and the testimony of the witnesses. I felt excited to read the Book of Mormon. I think that this story is a jewel, to be honest. As I read it to my children, I expect it will engage them in the story of the Restoration, and help them to be interested in Joseph Smith as person. I find this to be a vital part of my own testimony and am grateful someone has taken the time to write a story that will help young people see the excitement, the danger, the fun and funny in such an important story.