Susan Cain’s 2012 TED Talk, “The Power of Introverts”, has earned millions of views in the wake of the release of her 2012 adult nonfiction title Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain told PW that following the video’s viral status, “I started to hear from thousands of students, young people, parents, and teachers, about their experiences growing up introverted in an extroverted world. And hearing from 60-, 70-, 80-year-olds about what they were carrying around with them. I started to realize how deep and profound the experience is for so many kids, and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something about it?’ [The problem could be] alleviated with a few tweaks of our culture, and with adults’ involvement.” This call to action inspired the author’s new middle grade nonfiction book, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts (Dial, May).
Quiet Power is an adapted version of Quiet, but rather than simply rewriting the text for a younger audience, the new book, with the assistance of Cain’s cowriters Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz, includes a good deal of original research, and is specifically geared toward middle graders’ school lives, where the adult version dealt significantly with introversion in the workplace. “I really wanted the book to speak to the on-the-ground experience kids have every day,” Cain said, “in the cafeteria, with their friend groups. [So we conducted] interviews with kids about their experiences.”
Inspired by the reaction from the conference attendees at her TED Talk, all “movers shakers, CEOs,” she said, “all week long I was hearing from them that they were introverts too, and it was a secret they were carrying around. It was a dramatic illustration of how widespread this is.” The author’s aim with the book is to “show a wide range of kids succeeding at things outside their comfort zone in different places, a lot of that is just about [uncovering] what your underlying passion is.”
The widespread appeal of her adult title, and the audience Cain hopes to reach, influenced the age range for which Quiet Power is geared. Cain’s editor at Dial, Lauri Hornik, suggested the 10–14 range. “Middle school in particular is the time when kids seem to be putting a lot of attention into who they are as individuals,” Hornik said, “how they fit in society, their family, their friend group, so that seemed like the audience that would need it. Kids that are in high school can read the adult book and translate it into their own sphere.”
Cain said, “I feel like the middle school years are the hardest for all kids. In middle school the only currency is how gregarious you are. In the elementary school years, if you prefer the company of one or two friends, it’s not necessarily a big deal, but in middle school you start to question everything.” In addition to adding new research and recasting it for 10- to 14-year-olds, the book includes appendices for teachers and parents, to enact the changes Cain knows is necessary for introverts to flourish.
Hornik and Cain knew early on in the process that they wanted to add illustrations to the book, and artist Grant Snider, himself an introvert who drew comics inspired by Cain’s adult title after its release that were widely shared on the Internet, was chosen. Mone and Moroz were brought in to co-write and assist Cain with research as well. Hornik said the collaboration was a strong one, given the combination of the cowriter’s backgrounds (journalism and writing for children) and personal interest (Mone, for one, is a self-professed introvert).
As for what’s next for Cain, an online component to her work on introversion, the [Quiet Revolution] http://www.quietrev.com/ has recently launched, and the author is working on a new nonfiction book for adults. “I would love to write for children again,” she said, “I have an idea for a novel, inspired by Quiet. I hope one day to get to that.”