TWUC address

Posted on May 28, 2011

Breakfast Talk

© 2011 Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer


I gave a short speech at The Writers’ Union’s AGM Sponsor Breakfast, and a few people asked me for a copy. I am posting the speech in its extended form here. I cut about half at the breakfast because I had early morning jitters and decided it was too long. Here it is:


If you have ever read the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde you will know that gifts are a kind of living currency, and that they need to be transferred in order to stay alive.

The future of writing is always predicated on its present and its past. Writers are thieves, sure as anything, but what we steal becomes the gift we leave on the kitchen counter for the next batch of thieves. It’s a kind of strange relationship, isn’t it, where the victim craves the robbery, since it’s flattering sort of theft-gift? In this way, story is the gift that keeps giving. It is not only meant to be shared, it is crucial that it be shared.

The internet has become the single most important medium for this exchange. The internet is itself a great gift, but it comes with its burdens, too, and that is because sharing and stealing embrace one another when the object being exchanged is, abstractly, zeros and ones, theoretically, ideas, practically, art.

If it feels to some of us as if we are walking through a fog of information and misinformation, to others it this same fog is the chaos that change brings. This transformation is a great party that won’t make sense until the hangover passes. This is because amid valid concern for the individual’s intellectual property, there is a HUGE gift transfer happening. Look at operations like Kickstarter, Red Lemonade & Broadcastr, or Joyland.ca or Check out Douglas Glover’s site Numero Cinq. These are hives of sharing, networking writers & artists. And I haven’t even mentioned FB and twitter. I believe it is a writer’s inherent inclination to share.

TWUC’s AGM this year is entirely focused on the future writing. The AGM is titled Onwards. We are probing not just what is the future? but where is the future? To this end we have panels of publishing, writing, and editing experts debating and discussing topics ranging from the changing mores in writing for children, how new publishing platforms are altering story itself, the shifting role of the writer in publicity, to who will be the tastemakers and gatekeepers in this imagined future.

This, I am certain, will be a weekend of enormous sharing, of idea stealing, of intellectual gifts being repackaged and sent forward.

But in order to do this TWUC reached out to you for donations — gifts. And you, marvelously, generously, responded. So it is because of you that we could enlist the expertise of key panelists to debate and discuss topics of urgency around new technology, new ideas, and it is because of you that TWUC was able to offer the lowest registration fee in memory so that this AGM sees a record attendance – and so that more importantly, this AGM can claim to be the most financially accessible for writers and it is also because of you that we see a record increase by 25% in new members registering. So not only have you helped the AGM, you have helped the future and ongoing health of the union.

You can see by this that your gifts already have an impact. I am sure, too, that they have a living currency, as the ideas and debate over this weekend will extend outward and be carried home by the many writers witnessing and grappling with them. So, thank you.

One Comment

  1. From one thief to another, Kathryn, thanks for your inspiring thoughts.

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