Aspiring authors, filmmakers, editors, and artists gathered to hone their skills and receive inspiration at the annual Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association Conference.
The 2021 Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association (LDSPMA) Conference was held October 7–9 at the BYU Conference Center. Attendees at the conference were able to learn from other talented Latter-day Saint professionals, including the four keynote speakers: Alex Boyé, Lisa Mangum, Derral Eves, and Laurel Christensen Day. Each speaker focused on the conference theme, “Voices of Light.”
“Getting Real with Alex Boyé: My Life as an Artist, Entertainer, Father, and Latter-day Saint”
“You know what the gospel did for me? It taught me that I was a child of God. It taught me that there was nothing I couldn’t do,” said Latter-day Saint singer Alex Boyé. His energetic keynote speech opened the three-day LDSPMA conference.
Boyé started his career by singing pop music in a boy band, but when he turned his career over to God, he became one of the most successful Latter-day Saint singers across the globe. His turning point was realizing that God could lead him down a better path than Boyé could on his own. Boyé said “I realized quickly that God tells you what He wants you to do, but He doesn’t tell you how to do it.” He learned to keep going, and he “got to the point where [he] felt the Lord’s hand” in his career.
Whether we are authors, singers, directors, or publishers, Boyé said that we are creators and that our ability to create is based on our “Godfidence,” or our confidence in knowing “who [we] are and whose [we] are.” When we know whose we are, “that’s where our strength comes from.”
Regardless of how clear our path ahead is, our confidence as creators and children of God will help us fulfill our divine potential. Boyé concluded, “We are all voices of light. We have that within us. It is a continual thing that we need to fight for on a daily basis.”
Lisa Mangum, “Voices of Light: Using Your Voice to Encourage, Uplift, and Change the World”
“One of the hardest things I do as an editor is edit for voice. It's not my name on the book. It's yours. And my job is to make sure that it's your voice that comes through clearly, not mine,” said Lisa Mangum, managing editor for Shadow Mountain Publishing. How do authors strengthen their voices? Mangum shared practical tips “so [writers] can be a source of light and truth.”
First, “be deliberate in the choices you make.” Writers must be purposeful and thoughtful in the decisions they make, from dialogues to plot pacing to wording. “There is, after all, a vast difference between sunflower yellow and jaundice.”
Second, “be brave in sharing your emotions.” Sometimes, authors are afraid to express their true feelings in their writing. Mangum encouraged writers to overcome their fears, saying, “Writing is an emotional roller
coaster. . . . Dive deep into your emotions so that we can follow you there and feel what you were feeling.”
Third, “be gentle with your invitations.” Authors may be passionate about their story, but they must not be forceful with their readers. Mangum said, “You don't have to hit me over the head with a 2X4 emblazoned with the point of the story written on its side. Invite me through your language . . . to see the world through your perspective; be my guardian toward the lights—not my drill sergeant.”
Through strong narrative voices, authors can express themselves and share light and truth with their readers. Mangum said, “We have been placed where we are specifically so that we can give light upon the earth. . . . I promise that when you add your voice and your light to constellations written in the sky, your efforts will brighten the world.”
Derral Eves, “The Chosen: Producing Media that is Popular and Praiseworthy”
“How do you hold up your light that it may shine unto the world?” For Derral Eves, it’s using “social media and thinking differently. I can identify light, people that have talents that need to be shared, and I can hold that light in a way that can accentuate a brighter beam.”
After working on numerous Church-related or “light”-producing projects, including enhancing the Piano Guys’ early YouTube career, breaking world records with the largest nativity scene in the 2014 Light the World campaign, and producing The Chosen (a TV series focused on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ), Eves learned the power of “gathering and getting people to light.” He said, “It is our responsibility to gather people to bring them to Jesus. . . . The people that will see [a light-centered project], they will come and want it.”
Attracting and retaining an audience is key to producing any content that “gathers” people. Eves said simply, “Light attracts people.” Uplifting content brings light that attracts committed viewers. In his experience with The Chosen, Eves witnessed people coming together to create uplifting content with their God-given talents, and he saw their light turn their work into success. “The Piano Guys were trying to sell pianos online with YouTube videos, and now they’re filling stadiums with people. . . . With The Chosen, we started with zero followers, . . . now we have a social following of 1.3 million people on YouTube, and 2.1 million on Facebook.”
Eves encouraged his audience to make their projects more about the who, focusing (as Christ did) on the “one”: one viewer, one customer, one person at a time. He said, “If your project is more than just your project, it can inspire people and take them to another level . . . . this is truth. . . . it keeps on going. . . . It's human nature to share it.”
Laurel Christensen Day, “The Pen of a Ready Writer: Preparing Yourself to Share What Only You Can”
Laurel Christensen Day concluded the conference with her though-provoking keynote speech. Day became the president of Deseret Book in 2021 after working for over twenty years in various roles within the company. She shared in her speech that becoming a voice of light involves preparation and the mindset described in Psalm 45:1: “My heart is [stirred over] a good matter . . . my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (emphasis added).
Day explained that becoming a ready writer requires that we are ready to (1) be a writer (or creator), (2) give a message only we can give, and (3) share with an audience who is ready to receive our message. This preparation enables us to successfully use our voices and talents to share our light.
Day shared several examples of Latter-day Saints who are ready writers; here is just one: She had the opportunity to help Charlie Bird, a former Cosmo the Cougar, publish his book, Without the Mask: Coming Out and Coming Into God’s Light. Bird’s book describes how he has navigated being an active gay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bird was ready to share his unique story with a ready audience, and that made him a ready writer.
“The world needs more light,” Day concluded. “The world needs more goodness. I can’t think of a better group of people for the Lord to count on to do that than the people here right now. The Lord is counting on us to bring His message to the world, through our unique voices. We are pens in His hand, and through Him, we can become voices of light.