Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

How Stupid

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I’m sitting here looking at a Canadian Press photo of two Saskatoon brothers leaving court after being convicted of breaking a slew of wildlife laws. The men filmed themselves “gleefully” shooting ducks and ducklings, the young birds moulting and therefore unable to fly away, and then posted the carnage on YouTube.

My first thought is how cruel. My second thought is how stupid. One of the brothers is covering his face from photographers. What’s that about? Duh. He should have thought about issues of anonymity before he posted the video.

I didn’t view the duck slaughter, and wouldn’t if I had the opportunity. I did choose to view a video that caught my attention earlier this week. It featured a seven-year-old boy at the wheel of a car, being praised by a man in the passenger seat who became outright exuberant when the speedometer hit 70 mph. That video was supposedly shot somewhere near Montreal. So hey, that’s two for two for Canada in the stupidity department.

The guy who posted the kid-in-the-driver-seat video subsequently removed it. But it was too late, the video had gone viral, and the police were looking for him.

It is a writer’s dream for a book to “catch a wave” in the way similar to what has happened to some online videos (that is, as long as she gets paid for it, but that’s another issue at the forefront of writers’ consciousness these days – copyright). Imagine how the viral popularity of the music video United Breaks Guitars has changed the career of Halifax musician, Dave Carroll.

But online content is so persistent and stays rooted for such a long time. I often struggle with what to put in print and what not to put in print, whether online or hard copy. I have to live with the words for a very long time.

I also struggle with what’s “fair game” to write about. When is it unfair to use an incident that has happened to family or friends, or is in some way connected to them, and work it into a story, even when it is greatly fictionalized? At what point are you stepping across boundaries?

~ Marianne Paul

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Marianne Paul

Marianne Paul's is the author of the novels Dead Girl Diaries (BookLand Press, 2009), Tending Memory (BookLand Press, 2007), Twice in a Blue Moon (BookLand Press, 2007) and The Shunning (Moonstone Press, 1994). Her fiction, non-fiction and poems have appeared in publications such as Vox Feminarum, Cahoots, Canadian Author, Western People and The New Quarterly.

Go to Marianne Paul’s Author Page