Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

I've Been Kicking Butt...

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I’m one of those people who claims she doesn't believe in astrology, and then reads her horoscope each day. I’m also one of those people who claims she pays no attention to what the horoscope predicts, but sighs with relief when the planets are aligned in her favour. It all comes down to stories. Everybody loves a story – good or bad - and when you’re the main character of that story, my stars, what could be better than that? Take today’s horoscope: “After all your recent butt-kicking, it’s time for you to do something lovely and relaxing. Get outside and go for a nice walk.”

Wow! So I’ve been kicking butt, have I? That makes me feel unusually masterful and strong (although I have no idea whose butt I’ve been kicking; no matter, it’s best not to dig too deeply beneath the surface of these kinds of stories). And yeah, a walk would be nice…

Stories. Scam artists, as well as horoscope writers, know the value of a good story. Did you get that recent email that has been making the rounds this past month? The one that comes from an address you recognize, as if personally sent to you by a friend? Your friend (yep, his or her name is actually used) is at a conference in the UK, and has been the victim of thieves, resulting in your friend being stranded with no cash, no credit cards, no debit cards, passport confiscated by the hotel. Please send $1485 ASAP.

My writing group received that desperate plea from the email address of one of our members. We knew John was travelling during the summer, and he could very well have been in the UK. We’re a small band of writers who share works-in-progress, and we’ve grown rather fond of each other in the process. And so began the "pingponging" of emails amongst us. We dealt with the email just like a bunch of writers. We compared the style of the email to John’s writing style and decided the email writer verged on illiterate, surely John hadn’t written that email. But you know, it was story that led us to collectively ponder that scammer’s email in the first place, even momentarily, and not to trash it right away. We identified with poor John, and all the key elements were there – empathetic protagonist, setting, conflict, drama…

Stories. Animal shelters, as well as scam artists, as well as horoscope writers, know the value of a good story. There’s this little animal shelter in Cambridge, Ontario; you can Google it if you want. Animals get adopted there at an amazing rate, and not just the cute little fluffy ones, but those big sad-sack mongrels, too. I’m convinced that’s because of story – there’s a staff member at that shelter who could change professions if she wished, and become a best-selling novelist. Each dog featured for adoption is accompanied by a story, and when the dog is adopted, another story is posted about how it is faring in its new home. Hell, I’m not even looking for a dog (little princess cat would not be pleased to share the house), and I regularly drop by the site to read the stories…

Human beings are hooked on story, in its many forms. Books, DVD, movies, live theatre, videos, Facebook, websites, blogs, magazines, Dr. Phil, Oprah. That’s a good thing. It bodes well for storytelling - those who write stories, those who peddle stories, and those who read stories.

Substantial books, important fiction, will continue to rise to the surface amongst the sea of stories of lesser significance. I am confident that books will survive and thrive. The need for stories is bred into us, all kinds of stories.

~ Marianne Paul

PS: Speaking of substantial books, substantial fiction, there is a novel with a September release date that I had intended to write about in more detail during my tenure as WIR. Time simply ran out. The novel is Playing Naomi, by Erika Rummel, published by Guernica Editions. I’m hoping you’ll look the book up yourself and give it a read when it comes available.

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