February 7, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) Quint, Chimes, Slow and Barb—they are friends from small town Minnesota, experiencing life’s ebbs and flows through the pen of their creator, author Kevin Fenton in his award-winning book “Merit Badges.”
Fenton’s portrayal of these four Mississippi River town friends in the fictional Minnisapa and his nostalgic detail of their lives from the 1970s to the 1990s, secured him the 2009 AWP Award Series in the Novel from The Association of Writers & Writing Programs at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.
On Feb. 15, Fenton will lead an evening of literature at La Sierra’s Matheson Hall, 7 – 8 p.m. He will discuss his award-winning novel and answer questions from the audience. The event will include three La Sierra students reading scripted passages from the book, with their teenage characters speaking from scenes in the 1970s. A book signing will follow the reading theater.
The event is sponsored by the Department of English and Communication and is open to the public. Admission is free. La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside. A campus map is at www.lasierra.edu/index.php. For further information call 951-785-2241.
The main characters of “Merit Badges” range from the rebellious Quint who tends toward self-destruction, to Slow, a teenager who aims to emulate father-figure Ward Cleaver in “Leave it to Beaver,” and Barb who tries in vain to escape the small town life of Minnisapa.
Sari Fordham, an English and Communication Department faculty member at La Sierra, invited Fenton to lead a reading of “Merit Badges” at the university. “What I'm particularly excited about is that Kevin will talk to students about the tenacity necessary to being a writer. He has a special story. He worked on this book for over 10 years. When he was ready to publish it, the book industry crashed, and they weren't accepting new manuscripts. He didn't give up and on a whim sent it to a highly regarded and storied contest. He won,” said Fordham.
Fenton’s fictional debut reaped words of praise from literary leaders.
Author Jim Shepard, an AWP awards judge, described Fenton’s Minnisapa world in “Merit Badges” as “…rendered with a heartening intelligence and tenderness and wit – “The weather was like me, only more so. The weather needed some counseling,” said Shepard, quoting from “Merit Badges.”
A review in the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune describes the story as postcards from Time in which the characters are “decorated with the detailed experiences of a group of ordinary, unforgettable Midwesterners of European descent. ...Fenton has an eye for the familiar that makes the overlooked exotic.”
Other reviewers also sang the book’s praises. “Impressive vitality, droll wit, and affecting nostalgia. Eminently readable,” stated Publisher's Weekly. “A beautifully crafted, perceptive and often funny evocation of some extraordinary, ordinary people,” according to Shelf Awareness, Robert Gray’s Top 10 for 2010 (Bookseller Recommendations).
The association of writers, or AWP, is a prominent and influential literary organization established in 1967 to support literary writers in higher education. AWP currently has a membership of 500 colleges and universities and offers 100 writers’ conferences and centers.
Fenton lives in Saint Paul, Minn. and works as an advertising writer and creative director. He has published stories in the Laurel Review, the Northwest Review, and Emprise Review; poetry in the Beloit Poetry Journal, and reviews and essays in Rain Taxi, the design quarterlies Émigré and Eye (London), and the Minneapolis StarTribune. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University