“The ReActivator” was previously published as the fifth and final story of my short short story suite “Gentle Persuasions” in Dialogue’s Fall 2009 issue. When the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories Contest was announced and the rules said that previously published work was allowed, I knew that I wanted to submit it. I did rewrite it for the contest. And yes, I like this new version better. I streamlined the beginning and went through and tried to pare out every single word that I could and crisp up voice of the story so it was more consistent; however, in the end it is probably only 10-15% different from the Dialogue version. I will admit that I cracked a smile when the title came to me. I also toned down one sentence. I’m not ashamed of what I wrote in the original. And I think the Mormon audience can handle both it and the new one (there’s likely quite a bit of overlap between Dialogue and Everyday Mormon Writer in terms of readership — or at least I hope there is). It was more that I found when re-reading it that I was hitting a false note — that I was trying too hard. So I changed it. Here are my original liner notes to the story (which was published at AMV):
V. This story takes place in 2007 or 2008. Let’s see. There’s mention of LinkedIn and Facebook, but not Twitter, so I’m going to have to go with summer 2007. This story has semi-autobiographical roots. I went out one summer evening (it wasn’t that hot, though) in Oakland with another member of the Oakland First Ward Elder’s Quorum (but neither of us was in the presidency) to try and track down some of the more than 200 inactive elders and prospective elders living within our ward boundaries. And the guy I went out with was pretty gung ho. However, we didn’t get in any doors, and I don’t think I annoyed him. We actually had a lot of fun. But what I wanted to do with this story (other than play around with voice — the NorCal version, perhaps, of Alan Rex Mitchell’s SoCal dude Barry Monroe) was capture that whole thing of where you can feel the Holy Spirit, but also be somewhat removed from it. I’m not sure how to explain it — you’ll have to read the story. Also: the inactive that finally answers the door happened to me twice on my mission (it was actually the inactive who finally comes back to church) with two of the most interesting, dynamic people I ever taught. in fact, it was the first two people I taught who were baptized (both single individuals in their late twenties). Their faces haunt me still. All right. That’s all I got for now. I have made a conscious decision since then to not work on stuff that’s quite so autobiographical. That’s not a decision that’s going to stick — I have too much good material. And that’s not to say that bits of pieces and me and those I know and love (or sorta know and kinda dislike) don’t find their way in to things I’m working on. But I’m done for awhile with the happened-to-me-told-with-a-slant stories. That last sentence held true. There may be a biographical detail here or there that has gone into a story, but not a major conceit. Edit to add: a discussion of the story is being hosted by Modern Mormon Men.