Melanie Schnell Biography
I grew up on a farm in southeastern Saskatchewan and have lived in Regina, Vancouver, Toronto, Boston, Colombia, Thailand, Kenya and Sudan. Along the way I earned a Bachelor of Education degree with a major in English from the University of Regina and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.
I spent the better part of one year living in South Sudan in the midst of their civil war, where I did the core of my research for While the Sun is Above Us.
I have written for television, have had my fiction, poetry and non-fiction published, and have won awards for my poetry and fiction.
While the Sun is Above Us is my first novel. I currently reside under the wide blue skies of Saskatchewan with my young son, where I teach and am at work on my second novel.
While the Sun is Above Us
Winner of the Saskatchewan First Book Award and the City of Regina Award
Shortlisted for Saskatchewan Fiction Award and Book of the Year
In 2013, While the Sun is Above Us was listed as an additional resource to support the renewed ELA A 30 curriculum for both Public and Catholic Schools across Saskatchewan.
It is too difficult to release this war from our blood, when it long ago shaped who we are, how we live, how we move, how we breathe. Blood has filled this earth up; it has made God angry. We must be forgiven or nothing will change.
While The Sun Is Above Us takes readers deep into the extraordinary world of Sudan through the intertwined narratives of two women. In the midst of a bloody civil war, Adut is brutally captured and held as a slave for eight years. Sandra, fleeing her life in Canada, travels to South Sudan as an aid worker but soon finds herself unwittingly embroiled in a violent local conflict. When chance brings Adut and Sandra together in a brief but profound moment, their lives change forever.
In captivating prose, Melanie Schnell offers imaginative insight into the lives of innocents in a land at war, rendering horrific experiences with exquisite clarity. While The Sun Is Above Us explores the immense power of the imagination, the human desire for connection, and the endurance of hope.
I will be instructing the Sage Hill Youth Writing Program (Regina) this summer from July 27-31. It will be online this year. Please see the website to apply:
"Schnell’s prose is transparent and true, and her voice is haunting, full of emotional clout. Hers are characters made of flesh and blood— they are brave, vulnerable, strong and, ultimately, alive with hope."
- Lisa Moore
"Schnell cleverly juxtaposes and parallels the two main characters and two continents throughout the novel . . . Inexorable descriptions of this suffering would be arduous to read were it not for Schnell’s skillful ability to balance out the thrum of painful intensity that runs throughout the prose with gently asserted control."
- The Globe and Mail
(see review here)
" . . . like the executioner pulling the noose, Schnell tests our trust, fills us with fear . . . While the Sun is Above Us has one of the best endings that I have read . . . unforgettable and captivating."
- Devin Pacholik, Global Television Book Review (see review here)