Total Offence


Surveying the audience, I thought – Uh-oh.

It consisted not only of the adults and older teens I’d expected, but also a good number of younger teens, as well as several preteens, and I’d prepared to read an episode in which a man reveals to a friend that he’s dying, and another about the shooting of a dog, and between them the passages included the words frigging, fucked, fart, bastard, crapping, pissing, and shit.

Three shits, actually.

I’m not usually given to self-censorship, but thought – maybe the language is a tad inappropriate for young ears, the content a little on the heavy side for the youngsters.

First thought that followed: Maybe I could kind of wheel around the potentially offending words, maybe fudge the f word (‘Come out feeling like I’m f-f-f-ed’), replace ‘Crapping and pissing’ with ‘Doing its business’, change ‘You bastards’ to – er – ‘You cads’, or, ‘You rascals’, or, ‘You very unpleasant people’. None of them seemed to work, didn’t quite have the intended effect.

And of course all I’d brought with me were Footprints and Second Wind, the books I’d planned to read from. The occasion was the Saint John Fog Lit Festival’s Emerging Writers Awards, the presentations interspersed with readings by Lisa Moore (Caught, February, Alligator), and me, and music by Dwayne Doucette, of Earthbound Trio.


Lisa Moore reads from February

Fortunately we were at the Saint John Free Public Library (“Canada’s first free public library”), so I scurried across to the children’s section where – whew – I found all the Brunswick Valley books about Toby and his soccer mad friends. I grabbed Total Offence and explained to the audience that it was a late substitution for the passages I’d planned to read from Footprints and Second Wind, because I didn’t want to risk giving offence to the younger members of the audience, choosing instead probably to give offence to the older element by reading the passage in which Toby and his stepfather make chocolate chip cookies, and Toby sneezes into the cookie mixture, and it’s too late to start all over again, so … You get the picture.

(In hindsight, I’m not sure the snot and goobers that appear in the Total Offence passage are that much worse than shit, etc.)

The readings and the music, and – especially – the readings by the winners, made for an enjoyable and engrossing afternoon, and congratulations go to those winners, who are:

Youth Poetry English: 1st – McKinley Leonard-Scott, You left on the twelfth day. 2nd – Diyasha Sen, Dusk and Dawn. 3rd – Gwyneth Moir, ‘Little Poems’.

Youth Poetry French: 1st – Ania Hache-Wilczak, La voix que tu entends pas. 2nd – Nicholas Connors – Une vacance de stéréotypes.

Youth Fiction English: 1st – Meaghan Boyle, Lacuna of Thought. 2nd – Melinda Worboys, Fear. 3rd – Kathryn Reilly, The Four Doors.

Comic Book: 1st – Stephen Hurley, Stephen’s Comics Annual of 2015!

Adult Poetry English: 1st Annette Robichaud, Castoffs. 2nd – Helena Hook, The Man in the Shed.

Adult Fiction English: 1st Sloane Ryan, Speak Now. 2nd – Jake Swan, Wood Lake. 3rd – Kyle Peters, The People Around You.

Adult Literacy: 1st – Stephanie Adams, Free.


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