All posts by Shelah

About Shelah

(Co-Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

On (not) writing

caitlin c 180 crop looking for lightUSED
“Looking for Light” by Caitlin Connolly

If you spend time on social media, you probably know all about the November memes. First, there’s the gratitude challenge, which I don’t participate in but find lovely, because I think it’s really meaningful for people who chose to name the things they’re thankful for during the month. Then there’s Movember, which I also don’t participate in, because I’m unable to grow facial hair. While the sentiment behind it (promoting men’s health) is also lovely, I’m always a little glad when December comes along and all the men I know shave their squirrelly little beards and wispy mustaches. And then there’s the one that turns my veins to ice: NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing month, aka the month in which I feel intense guilt.

In theory, I should love NaNoWriMo. Back when I was in grad school, I wrote two novels (which are both stored on a flash drive in a drawer in my desk and have never seen the light of day since). I’m even working on a novel right now (who isn’t?). And if I do say so myself, it’s a pretty great idea– just the kind of book I want to read– a complicated family drama with a central event that’s close to my heart.

But actually sitting down and writing it? I’m not so good at that part. Continue reading On (not) writing

Practicing Religion

Picture by Ryan McGuire
One thing Sandra and I have in common is that both of our lives have been touched by foster care and adoption. I think it’s hard to be involved with adoption and the foster program without it changing how you feel about how families are created and what it means to be a family. Here are some of our thoughts in response to the news today:


I got frustrated by counsel given to the girls at camp this year: well-intended guidance for the future, that made them passive in their own futures (waiting for someone to take them to the temple and other things that have now exited my memory). I was already limping; my knee was sprained, but I went to camp anyway (I said I would so did) on crutches. We camp in the mountains nestled among granite boulders and elevation change, getting around was not easy. I couldn’t lead my girls or join them for all their activities. Unable to hike down rock cliff over -looking the lake for to the stargaze, I sat outside the lodge to see what I could from where I was. And sobbed.

How could the heavens be so big and at the same time someone could make it seem like they were any smaller, our possibilities less? God and Heaven are greater than anyone can see. How do I reconcile my faith and the words from leaders that I struggle with? I didn’t get answer, but a confirmation, that yes, they were much bigger, wrapping beyond the mountain skyline and deeper than surface of stars I saw. I wiped my tears on my sweater sleeve and then greeted my fourth level girls as they came up the hillside. Together we headed back to the cabins, they walked easily along as I hobbled. Continue reading Practicing Religion

kid gloves

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 10.06.15 AMI was fourteen when I joined the Church.

Yes, fourteen, which has to be the most self-conscious age for teenage girls.

The first time I went to church, I was too afraid to even raise my head high enough to see if there were other kids my age. I was so convinced that everyone was staring at me that I spent sacrament meeting staring at the floor, my cheeks burning with embarrassment.

It could have been a disaster, but it turned out to be the time in my life when I was shown the most grace.

Maybe it’s because our Connecticut ward was tiny, and desperate for new members, and maybe it’s because I was just really cool, but the youth in the ward went out of their way to make me feel special, and to make sure I knew that they wanted me. Within a few weeks, I was singing in the roadshow, and when I was baptized, almost all of the teenagers in the ward showed up to support me.

This all happened years before President Hinckley famously said that new members needed “a friend, a responsibility, and ‘nurturing with the good word of God,’” but the youth and youth leaders in my ward seemed to understand that instinctively. When I told the other girls at Young Women’s how excited I was that our new church was just down the street from the mall because it was really convenient to go there right after church, they didn’t jump all over me and tell me I was a sinner because I was going to the mall on Sunday. One of them pulled me aside later and said, “You probably don’t know this yet, Shelah, but most Mormons don’t shop on Sunday.” When the Bishop got wind that I had mooned the boys’ car on the way to Youth Conference, he did call me into his office to tell me to knock it off, but he did it with so much love and humor that I didn’t even realize I was being chastened. My Young Women’s leaders were quick to put an arm around my shoulder and ask me how I was doing, or tell me I looked pretty, or to encourage my comments and my growing testimony. Continue reading kid gloves

An Announcement

We are pleased to announce that Sandra Clark Jergensen has agreed to join me as a co-editor-in-chief of Segullah. Sandra has been our intrepid blog editor for the last several years, in addition to being an Associate Prose editor for our journal, and carrying the load behind the scenes on many projects. We appreciate Sandra’s voice, her wisdom, her musings on running barefoot, and her homemade jam. I’m happy to have her at my side as we work together balance the blessing of having lives full of work, family, and writing. We’re excited that she will have a more visible role at Segullah and an opportunity to help nourish the many writers who come through our (virtual) doors.

In defense of swearing

When my kids were younger, book club night was a bright shining beacon in my life. It was the only night each month when I could count on getting a night away. I’d actually hire a babysitter if my husband was working late. I loved to talk with adults (yay! adults!) and, better yet, to talk about my favorite subject (yay! books!). One of the things I did not love about book club was the inevitable discussion that cycled through every (Mormon) group that I was in, which was where we’d talk about where to draw the line when it came to language and sex in the books we read. Should we read The Kite Runner or not? Should we prep the group by telling them which pages they should skip if they want to avoid the pivotal rape scene? Is a book verboten if it has even one f-bomb? If not, how many are okay?

I remember one particularly painful night where we met to discuss The Book Thief and a newbie to the group proceeded to ream out all of the group regulars for reading smut (just as an aside, there are plenty of uncomfortable aspects in this fantastic YA novel, but its use of German profanity barely registered with me). The poor person who recommended the novel and had to lead the discussion was practically in tears, and the rest of us felt profoundly rankled and uncomfortable.  Continue reading In defense of swearing