(l to r) Andrew Pyper, Joseph Boyden, Becky Toyne

Listen to a short clip of this on-stage conversation >> audio

On Tuesday night, at a fundraiser in support of PEN Canada, I moderated a conversation with Joseph Boyden and Andrew Pyper about how writers deal with a violent world and hateful subjects, writerly ethics when dealing with taboo subjects, and the unique power of words to offend.

Must violence serve the story?

Must authors defend their work if it offends others?

Does familiarity breed indifference when it comes to interpreting the violence scenes we read?

Does a public declaration of taking offence shut down a conversation or enrich it?

Can we envision a future in which publishers require authors to write “B scenes” for readers who don’t want to read (or teach) scenes with violence?

The event, which was held at the Art Gallery of Ontario, is part of PEN Canada‘s Ideas in Dialogue series, a twice-yearly event to raise awareness of and funds for the organization’s work to defend free expression.

The evening also included the awarding of the PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize to Franke James.