When I first heard of this anthology, I did not know it was intended to be a yearly series. So when I noticed the 2009 on the cover I was thrilled.
The anthology includes work from Irreantum to The Iowa Review and points inbetween. A goodly percentage of it is from LDSy publications, but not at all all --- the ratio's about 2:1.
(I've put the full contents and original sources up at The Mormon Arts Wiki.)
I just got my copy Wednesday and I haven't gotten that far into it (although I agree that it's too short), but so far, so meh. I'm disappointed.*
The favorite of the fellow I just linked to was merely effective in my judgement, so I skipped it this time through. And I just wish there was more fiction period. I've read all this fiction. (Although I should note there are a couple pieces which I'm not sure are fiction or essay yet.)*
You should buy it. (Click the cover above for more information.)
The concept is sound, the content ain't bad (and of the published reviews so far, I'm the only one who hasn't loved it --- and I'm prick enough to write while I'm only about 25% through), and I think we can all agree that we want them to do it again.
My recommendations for next year (in case anyone at Curelom is listening):
1. Have guest editors. That's what Houghton Mifflin does and it makes their series much stronger. You run a much smaller risk of publishing the same book every year when a new person's taste and whims reign.
2. Make it at least 200 pages.
3. I like the mix of play, poetry, fiction, essay. With 200 pages the selection can feel more varied than it did this year. Also consider including comics or even a General Conference sermon. These may help broaden your potential audience.
4. Also, although excellence should be your first concern, try to get content from Mormon outlets down to about (or under) 50%. It's the stuff from places like South Bend Review that we've never read before that makes this collection more intriguing. Let's face it: Most of your audience will have read at least some of the stuff that started within Mormondom.
5. This year, perhaps because it was the first year, the included works' publication dates had about a two-year range. Although next year this might seem unnecessary, I think permanently overlapping ranges would be good for this project. Say, a two-year period with six months overlapping the previous issue and six months overlapping the subsequent issue. This way, if something truly excellent is overlooked, the rules will not need to be broken to give it the BofM spotlight.
6. They need a clear way to allow submissions of published work. This is something else Houghton Mifflin does. Instead of merely collecting things themselves, they have an address, a dropbox. But BofM should allow for electronic submissions of published works as well. Writers can't necessarily afford (or bother) with sending in a copy of Paris Review (and Paris Review probably won't see BofM as worth the bother -- not for a decade, at least).
But overall, good job. I'll write a better review when I finish reading it. Right now I'm too excited about the potential of a series like this. I hope someday to have a full shelf of these babies in all different colors.
*UPDATE: since writing this post I read Lisa Downing's short story and although the pacing is painfully slow it's a beautiful story and wetted my eyes more than once; and not only is it unapologetically Mormon, it cannot exist outside the world of Mormon women.