Caroline-native Morgan Murray’s first publish book has garnered praise and nominations for multiple awards. (Photo Submitted)

Caroline-native Morgan Murray’s first publish book has garnered praise and nominations for multiple awards. (Photo Submitted)

Central Alberta author finds success with his first book

Morgan Murray’s debut novel Dirty Birds is nominated for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

By Sarah Baker

For Sylvan Lake News

Morgan Murray thought it was anticlimactic when his book Dirty Birds finally came out in August 2020 after a number of delays.

There was no fancy launch party, just a box of books that showed up on his doorstep.

It wasn’t until he started doing author events and meetings over Zoom that it started to sink in.

Then in January, Murray’s book was long listed for Canada Reads and interest in the book beyond friends and family started to pick up.

Strangers started reading it, and the book started to sell.

“It’s been kind of surreal since then,” said Murray.

The Caroline-native author’s book has been nominated and is a finalist for many awards including the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Relit Awards, and three Atlantic Book Awards.

“I can’t believe it. All of them were announced within a couple days of one another and my head is still spinning,” said Murray.

The book has taken on a life of its own, he said.

“I’m just sitting here minding my own business, living my usual life, and there’s a book out there doing all of these wild and crazy things that just happens to have my name on the cover.”

The name Dirty Birds comes from the name of a short film about dump seagulls in Calcutta that the love interest of Milton Ontario (the books protagonist) falls in love with early on in the book, but there is still more meaning to the name.

“The name really emphasizes how a lot of these twenty something teenagers living this Bohemian, carefree lifestyle in Montreal are like dump seagulls.”

Before writing the book, Murray struggled with finding the courage to do so due to some of the ideas behind the book.

“It took about a decade to figure out that someone with the kind of privilege and power I have, whether it might not always feel that way, has a responsibility to call out , criticize, poke fun at, and poke holes in the white male privilege I enjoy and benefit from for no good reason.”

Growing up in Caroline inspired some of the events in the book, as well as some of the bigger themes, said Murray.

“The horsing around with friends, the importance of hockey, and the large looming presence of oil and gas —much of the book is based on my own life.”

Central Alberta is also a place where white male privilege continues to dominate much of the culture, said Murray.

“The heroic figures in Central Alta. growing up were, and in many ways still are, the cowboy, the roughneck, and the hockey tough guy which are all by definition straight, cis-gendered, macho white guys. Growing up in that gives you a distorted idea of masculinity and how to become a good person.”

Many of the locations and characters used in the book are based on people and locations from Murray’s life.

“I spent a pretty carefree year in Montreal after graduating from university, like Milton, and then went to grad school in Newfoundland, and along the way met a bunch of characters that I combined or embellished and put in the book.”

Now Murray lives near Cape Breton, N.S., where he “works, plays, writes, and builds all sorts of crooked furniture on a farm.”

Many individuals have been giving feedback about how the book made them laugh, think, and less gloomy in the face of what is going on in the world right now, said Murray.

“The award nominations are nice and will hopefully find their way to the book, but to hear from readers that the book is meaningful to them is such a tremendous honour and a huge thrill.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe at Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Health inspectors and RCMP locked doors early Wednesday

Premier Jason Kenney (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. An Alberta woman in her 50s has died from a rare blood clot disorder after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta confirms blood clot disorder death linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been linked to VITT in a very small number of cases

Premier Jason Kenney says with COVID-19 numbers still rising, the province’s health-care system will be tested in the coming weeks. (photography by Winston Pon/Office of the Premier)
‘Please stay home’: Kenney imposes new COVID-19 restrictions

New measures will be in place for at least three weeks

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is prepared at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for kids 12 to 15 years old in Canada

The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone at least 16 years of age or older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to speakers appearing by video during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada will align policy on ‘vaccine passports’ with international allies: Trudeau

Trudeau says Canadians could begin travelling outside the country again by summer

Ranging from 11 to 20 in age and representing seven provinces and one territory, the plaintiffs are appealing a Supreme Court judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit last fall. (David Suzuki Foundation)
15 youths not backing down in their fight to sue Ottawa over climate change inaction

The group has filed an appeal after their lawsuit was struck down by a Federal Court judge last fall

A 2021 census questionnaire. (Black Press Media file photo)
2021 census responses due May 11

By law, every household must complete a census questionnaire

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi attends a senior’s home in Calgary on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Nenshi says he’s frustrated to hear that tickets given to people for breaching COVID-19 public health orders are being thrown out in the courts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘Incredibly frustrating:’ Calgary mayor wants courts to uphold COVID-19 measures

Large groups without masks have been gathering in Calgary public spaces in protest of health measures

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
NACI advice on ‘preferred vaccines’ for COVID-19 sparks confusion, anger

Panel said that people who can wait for an mRNA vaccine should do so

Michael Bonin, 20, from Alberta, was discovered deceased on Peers Creek Forest Service Road north of Hope on April 20, 2017. (Black Press Media)
1 of 3 accused in 2017 murder of Alberta man pleads guilty, sentenced to life in prison

Joshua Fleurant pleaded guilty in a Kelowna courtroom to the second-degree murder of Michael Bonin

Most Read