Thursday, 3 February 2011

A Weight of Moral Responsibility?

It's been an interesting week in the land of YA writerdom and I've been challenged with the question about morality in more ways than a tired, overworked and undertimed writer should be.
It started with some small issues on Twitter that have led to a somewhat ridiculous moral dilemma. As a YA writer, to what extent does a moral responisbility to my readership actually exist? & What are the moral limits or confines that I should be placing myself under?

Take the example of Twitter. I am aware that as well as my wonderful writing community, many of my followers are readers and are probably under the age of eighteen.
This can pose quite a problem. For example, I happily retweeted a #WW the other day to a writer's blog, which up until this point, had been an interesting blog by a good indie writer, however, when I checked out one of their latest blogs, they had merrily posted a short story that was, by even the most liberal of standards, graphic porn. Now I'm not just talking a little bit of racy eroticism - I'm talking serious hardcore S&M.
I'm hardly some Victorian Lady, but I have been somewhat astounded at the amount of writer's that are happily posting very explicit writing on their blogsites without any form of age guidance or barrier homepage.

This must also pose a difficult issue for writing sites with forums to deal with. Nobody wants to be the censorship party pooper (and actually - I'm pretty against almost all forms of censorship - obvious exceptions included) But I do worry. For example, I posted a piece of writing on a brilliant independent writer's site this week and was merrily tweeting promos for the site until two days later, someone posted a short story that was again exceedingly graphic and violent in it's sexual imagery - indulgent one might say. As it happens, members of the forum gave it short shrift because of its clear gratuitous nature - which is reassuring - but it didn't sooth the concerns I had over my promo of the site to my readership.

So over to you? What do you think? Have you experience of the same issues?


  1. Hi Katie,
    I thought for sure I'd already followed your blog. Guess not.

    Anyway, I have had a similar experience. A couple months back I naively had a guest blogger who I thought had written a humorous book. When I received the guest blogger's content I was blown away by the language and had to edit portions of the post (with the author's permission) because I teach a creative writing class to a group of jr./sr. high students - and some of them follow my every move!

    I can think of several cliches that will tell you how important it is to watch the company you keep. They may or may not apply in your case, but if you are trying to grow a platform in a certain genre, you ought to surround yourself with folks who live and breathe that lifestyle, and maintain the integrity of what that genre embodies. I'm not saying we should sensor anyone and I'm not saying those particular writers are bad either. But you can find a ton of YA authors to support - why not hang with them?

    Here's a few quotes I found on Thought they'd help...

    "Tell me what company thou keepst, and I'll tell thee what thou art."
    - Miguel de Cervantes (1547 - 1616) Spanish novelist.

    "Have no friends not equal to yourself."
    - Confucious (551 - 497 BC) Chinese philosopher.

    "Fate chooses your relations, you choose your friends."
    - Jacques Delille (1738 - 1813) French poet.

    "True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice."
    - Samuel Johnston, (as above)

    "Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."
    - George Washington (1732 - 1799) US Statesman.

    I particularly like the last one. Hope that helps!

    Jeff Bennington
    Author of REUNION (Coming May 1, 2011), The Rumblin', Killing the Giants and creator of The Writing Bomb

  2. Thanks Jeff for your excellent comments.
    It can sometimes seem that when you dare to talk about issues of authorial moral responsibility people immediately assume that you are somehow a repressive or incredibly sanctimonious.
    I suppose I have just been surprised (distressed) by the 'normalisation' on the internet of what I would consider extreme gratuitous indulgence in violent sexual fantasies under the guise of 'writing'(And I'm a Bret Easton Ellis and Hans Bellmer scholar - LOL!)

  3. Yes! Great topic. I have readers as young as 11 and some as old as 60, but most are in their late teens, which means I can be a little more relaxed when it comes to what I tweet and post. I have had a few 'oh no can I post this?' moments, but I can't say I've had a situation where I've been horrified at a blog I've recommended.

    I believe in leading by example, and whilst I understand most readers tend to read above their age group, I wouldn’t want to be the cause of exposing a youngster to content their parents probably wouldn’t want them reading. However, as important as leading by example is I do think younger readers who may inadvertently be exposed to adult content appreciate that as authors we may personally enjoy a more mature read.

    I feel an obligation to my younger readers to warn them that something may not be appropriate for them (after all the decision is theirs to make not mine), but I would not consider myself (I'm going to steal your word here) sanctimonious by doing so. Merely aware of who my audience is, and the potential impact I might have supporting something adult in nature.

    Cool post!