By Nichole Giles
Last weekend, I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend the fifth annual LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference. For the first time ever, this year’s conference sold out completely—they even had a waiting list. As if the conference wasn’t enough, I was equally blessed with the opportunity to attend the first ever Whitney Awards Gala.
But what, you ask, is a Whitney Award?
Let me start at the beginning. In 1888, Orson F. Whitney gave a speech about the future of LDS literature. The speech was very long, and though I’d love to quote it word for word here (it is incredibly beautiful) I’ll paraphrase the meaning by quoting only the most pertinent paragraph. Whitney said:
“We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. God's ammunition is not exhausted. His brightest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. In God's name and by his help we will build up a literature whose top shall touch heaven, though its foundations may now be low in earth. Let the smile of derision wreathe the face of scorn; let the frown of hatred darken the brow of bigotry. Small things are the seeds of great things, and, like the acorn that brings forth the oak, or the snowflake that forms the avalanche, God's kingdom will grow, and on wings of light and power soar to the summit of its destiny. Let us onward, then, and upward, keeping the goal in view; living not in the dead past, nor for the dying present. The future is our field. Eternity is before us.”
Whitney’s words were the inspiration for Robison Wells when he embarked on the creation of the first ever LDS literary awards. Of course, Rob was not alone in this creation. There were a great many people who helped pull everything together to turn it into the amazing experience that it was.
And while I admit to feeling a little bit like a groupie as I dressed in my formal attire and snapped shots of all my favorite authors—or at least the ones who were able to attend—spending time with those brilliant people was not the most amazing part. Okay, that part was really cool, but even more amazing was the whole idea that I was able to witness something that will surely become a historical event.
Think about it. This is only the beginning. Whitney awards will likely be given out every year from now until the end of forever. And to me—besides recognition for all the best works of literature by LDS authors—that becomes an opportunity. It is one more goal toward which I can aim. It means a chance to be more than just an author—but an award-winning author known for clean content and excellent descriptive skills. A Milton or Shakespeare of the twenty-first century.
So thank you, Whitney committee, for all your efforts and inspiration. You’ve reminded us that someday we will all have the chance to be winners, even if we never receive a trophy.