Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The "C" Word

“I wrote a song about dental floss but did anyone’s teeth get cleaner?” - Frank Zappa

 Before I get into this Blog I must warn all sensitive readers that I am going to use the ‘C’ word...CENSORSHIP.

In August 2012 I was invited to attend and participate in a well known Literary Festival in Western Australia.  It is a Festival I have supported, attended and loved as an audience member for years.  So you can only imagine how delighted and humbled I was by an invitation to be a presenter at said Festival.

Six months after the invitation and my acceptance, just weeks before the Festival, the organizers read Creepy & Maud.  I received an email from the organizer, part of which reads:

"And having read it, I realised with great sadness that I would not be able to get you to present it at the festival because the actual life experiences of many adolescents can be so very distasteful to their parents...and completely at odss with the more wholesome vision of themselves as good parents etc that they generally prefer to have!"

I was offered two other roles at the Festival: a writing workshop or a chaired debate, the proviso being Creepy & Maud was not presented. 

What amazes me about this request to pull my head in at their Festival is that they seem to be asking me to do so out of respect for the delusion of the parents.  That is, the parents here like to think of themselves and their children in a certain way and while the Festival supports that fantasy they are concerned that I don’t or won’t. 
Wrong.  I whole-heartedly support the right of any and all individuals to live in whichever fantasy world they choose.  It’s not my business.  What concerns me here is the elevation of one fantasy over all others; the decision of the Festival organizers to only choose content consistent with the vision these parents have of themselves, rather than exploring what this denial of reality may be doing to the children raised in such an environment.  And then there is fear.  I’ve seen fear of controversy clutch at the throat of people too often – people who should be speaking loudly and fearlessly, joyously and with good humour, too often whittled down to a nub of their real selves in the misguided belief that peace is better than sharp thinking and tasty conversation.
Something very exciting could have happened between older adolescents and Creepy & Maud in this forum.  Now, through an extraordinary set of events, it cannot.  I have chosen to withdraw from participating in this event as I believe my attendance (in scold’s bridle) would be condoning their decision to censor.  This year it was me.  Next year it could be someone else.
I am left with an overwhelming sense of sadness.  I don’t care about losing the gig, but is this the thin end of the wedge?  Bruce Coville once said that the real heroes are the librarians and teachers who at no small risk to themselves refuse to lie down and play dead for the censors.  I won’t play dead either.  I will continue to be loud and honest.  I respect your right to feel confronted or offended.  I do not respect your right to choose shutting me up over talking it through.

(Note: This Blog does not refer to the Perth Writers Festival.  I will be attending the PWF in the company of some of my favourite fellow writers)


  1. I am appalled. If I had read Creepy and Maud as a teenager I would have loved it. The characters are complex, the writing is sharp, funny,yes disturbing but hey, so is the world.

  2. Fantastic post, Dianne. And fantastic book. I was a fairly conservative teenager, probably layered in many coats of self-delusion, but I too would have loved this at that age. And I love it at this age, and have given it to my 15 year old. Books like yours need to start conversations, not shut them down; I'm so glad you're speaking up about this.

  3. Thank you Simmone and thank you Meg.
    I had to speak up. The thing is I don't think these are bad people, not do I think they truly understand the gravity of what they did. It is incomprehensible in light of the way other, longer established, traditionally more conservative private organizations have embraced readings and discussions of Creepy & Maud. Oh's over now and we move on smiling.

  4. Omg! What is wrong with people! I have read Creepy and Maud and loved it. It is brilliant, funny and disturbing all at once, but that's life. I know teenagers and parents of teenagers who have read it and loved it. It is such a shame that so many will miss out at this festival because of a few narrow minded people. Good on you Di for speaking out.

  5. This is disgusting! I expect this festival has public funding attached, and I will be very interested to hear what the Literature Board of the Australia Council thinks of the treatment given to Dianne here. It's just not on!