Q&A with Dave Cameron

Q: What is one bad habit you'd encourage aspiring writers to ditch early in their career?

A: The other day I received a letter from the Sheriff’s Office. My name had been selected at random to be considered for inclusion in the Jury Roll. My heart stirred! I might get to preside with strangers over the retelling of a calamity. Even if the crime was minor, some details were sure to be sordid. If this seems callous of me, then I am callous by trade. Writers sometimes fail to get outside themselves; for that matter, they sometimes fail to leave the house. And here was a letter fallen from the cold blue sky offering possible escape.

I completed the included questionnaire to confirm my eligibility. As it turns out, several Criminal Code offences do not exclude a person from jury duty: Pretending to practice witchcraft. Failing to keep watch while towing a person on water skis. Buying a ticket in an unlawful game of chance. Being found in a bawdy house.

The list was long and enlightening, and fortunately I remain eligible. I sealed my response in the return envelope and zipped down the street to the post office. On the way home, I paused near the stoop of the local bawdy house... before continuing on with a sigh of relief.

Bad habits are never defeated absolutely. They are moving shadows to remain aware of and ahead of. Perhaps the writer’s most persistent darkness is a lack of faith. Is the work any good? Will it find an audience?

My letter from the Sheriff’s Office was a kind of pep talk. In the fullness of time, everyone’s name gets selected at random.

More about Dave...

Dave Cameron won a gold National Magazine Award for his 2012 Walrus feature, "Fade to Light," about a man with dementia.