Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blog Tour: The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell

Today I am happy to take part in the blog tour for The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell courtesy of Dundurn Press.

Here is a synopsis of The Merit Birds:
Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purchasing caged "merit birds." Tragedy strikes and Cam finds himself falsely accused of a crime. His freedom depends on a person he's never met. A person who knows that the only way to restore his merit is to confess. "The Merit Birds" blends action and suspense and humour in a far-off land where things seem so different, yet deep down are so much the same.

I would like to welcome Kelley to talk about how she flunked a creative writing class, and yet look at her now.

How I Flunked Creative Writing Class

This past year my debut novel, The Merit Birds, hit number 3 on the Amazon.ca bestseller list and one of my short stories was longlisted for the competitive CBC short story prize. You might be surprised to know that I received my lowest mark ever in my undergraduate creative writing class.

The class was set up as a giant workshop. Around thirty arts students sat in a huge circle, clutching coffees and staring at each other expectantly. Two or three students would be on the hook for the week, which meant they had to read out their work and then sit back while the rest of the class critiqued it. I was fine with my work being evaluated publicly, but having to review someone else’s heart and soul while twenty nine others looked on gave me the shivers. Couldn’t I give my critique in writing, or share it with the author one-on-one, or even in a small group? I stayed quiet most classes, learning a lot from other students’ writing and suggestions, but silently beating myself up for not participating fully. Since the course grade was mostly based on participation I barely passed.

It wasn’t until several years later, when I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, that I began to realize that being quiet isn’t necessarily bad. Cain shows how introverted people are physiologically made to be quiet, and demonstrates how our North American society desperately needs to balance its “extrovert ideal” with the qualities of introverts. She even shows how the 2008 stock market crash was caused by an over reliance on extroverted qualities.  After reading Cain’s book I began to realize the irony of my low creative writing mark. On one hand I flunked because I was too quiet, but on the other hand being quiet allowed me to observe people and environments in a way I couldn’t have if I was talking frequently. People often ask me how I made the descriptions of Laos so evocative and real in The Merit Birds - it’s because of my quiet, consistent observation of people and sensory detail.

Of course extroverts can be excellent writers too, but judging by the writers I know, many of us are introverted souls who would rather be quietly creating. I’m grateful to know that my alma mater has since changed the grading scheme for its creative writing class.

To all of the aspiring authors out there I say let yourself be quiet, but let your inner defiance of a low mark - or of the idea that getting published is unattainable - be strident.

I am also happy to offer a giveaway (CANADIAN ONLY) of a copy of The Merit Birds from Dundurn Press. Just leave a comment below for Kelley. 

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow quiet person I understand the struggle. One of my challenges in improving my French is that it involves talking...I'd rather listen (or read).



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