The Story Inside The Story

Amy J Schultz Author Interview

Mumentous is a fascinating book about the history and the culture surrounding homecoming mums. Where did the idea for this book come from?

Thank you!

Before I decided to write a book, I was first drawn to homecoming mums as a subject matter to photograph. They are, after all, visually stunning! But I really just wanted to understand why without judgement, and I think the only way to do that is to be quiet and pay attention. The camera lens helps me be present in this way. I can hone in on details I might never have otherwise noticed, zoom out and take in relevant context, and begin to discern what is tertiary or immaterial. Another way of saying this is that when I decide to take a photograph, I’m making a promise to look for the story inside the story.

As I mention in the book, it all began when I asked a good friend if I could join her at a mum-making session hosted by a local high school marching band booster club. The club was selling mums as a fundraiser for the band in which her daughter was a member. I helped cut ribbons, but mostly I took photos and listened to the group, all women, whose camaraderie and work ethic were equally palpable. It was like I had discovered a secret quilting bee, which completely surprised and enchanted me. I realized then that I not only needed my camera to fully unpack the tradition but it would take lots of conversations and research, too.

In terms of taking a creative direction, I made one decision early on that made all the difference. If you search the internet for images of people wearing homecoming mums, you will only see one kind of photo: kids in mums standing still and smiling for the camera. A homecoming mum is many things, but it is not still. From the beginning, I avoided depicting a mum as a “still life”, trying instead to capture it as the fully animated expression that it is. That decision drove me to be thorough, which led me to so many wonderful and unexpected discoveries.

How much research did you undertake for this book and how much time did it take to put it all together?

I’ve been shooting photos, collecting personal stories, and conducting research on the tradition since 2016, but only during fall football season.

Should you want more detail:

Those photo sessions with the booster club took place in Fall 2016. In Fall 2017 and 2018, I shot photos at several different locations. I conducted considerable online research on the historical evolution of mums in Fall 2018 and 2019 while also interviewing people across the state, which validated the online research and vice versa.

In the second half of 2019, I served as the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the Arlington Museum of Art in Arlington, TX, a position which allowed me to broaden my reach considerably and create an exhibition of my work to date. There’s a chapter in my book which goes into detail about the exhibit and how I turned it into an opportunity for the community to participate. It was during that time I decided Mumentous needed to become a book.

In Fall 2020 and 2021, I watched the tradition refuse to yield to Covid, then I wrote about it and shot a few more photos. By early 2022, my research wasn’t yielding any new revelations, which told me it was time to write “The End” and seek a publisher. The book is being released by Atmosphere Press on April 25, 2023, just as “mumtrepreneurs” across and beyond Texas are ramping up for the 2023 football season.

I joke with friends that if universities gave out degrees in “mumology,” I’d be ready to defend my dissertation.

Did you find anything in your research of this story that surprised you?

Yes. In the first half of the 20th century, throughout the United States, it was common practice for a boy to give his date a chrysanthemum corsage before the annual high school or college homecoming football game. I find it fascinating that this tradition has all but vanished, except in Texas (and a few adjacent states) where it not only held fast but evolved into a version of itself that would be unrecognizable to its originators.

What is one thing that you hope reader take away from Mumentous?

As readers dig deeply inside the very unique tradition of homecoming mums, I hope they will discover that like so many traditions, its driving force is utterly universal: women.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Instagram | Website

The closest you’ll ever get to seeing someone actually wear their hearts on their sleeves is in Texas, every fall, at the local high school homecoming game.

They’re called homecoming mums. They are as bodacious as football, as irresistible as a juicy rumor, and as deep as a momma’s love. Over a hundred years ago when the custom began, mum was short for chrysanthemum, a typical corsage that boys gave to girls before taking them to the big football game. But through the decades, mum went from a simple abbreviation to a complicated shorthand for an eye-popping tradition that’s as ingrained in the culture as it is confounding to outsiders.

Through her original photography and collection of stories from across and beyond the Lone Star State, Amy J. Schultz takes us deep in the heart of mum country. You’ll meet kids who wear them, parents who buy them, and critics who decry them as just another example of consumerism gone wild. But mostly, you’ll discover that just like every ritual which stands the test of time, someone is keeping the tradition alive. Someone like Mom.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on April 13, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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