I am a huge, slavering fan of Margaret Atwood’s work. I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, and it took the top of my head off. Thereafter, I read everything of hers I could get my hands on. The Double Voice, the poem she graciously permitted us to print in this issue, became a standout poem for me in those early years when I was grappling with what it meant to be a woman, and a creative woman at that.
I grew up spending a lot of time in the wilderness. Our first house in the Blue Ridge Mountains was located down a one-lane dirt road in a holler, a mile away from our nearest neighbor, with two creek crossings (no bridge–we just drove right through). In the winter, we kept our vehicles at the top of the hill and first walked up there to drive to town, then brought our groceries back down by toboggan, usually once a month. (We bought a lot of powdered milk and pinto beans.) I’m sure it was a difficult existence, especially for the adults, but it was a magical time for me. I’ve read that Margaret Atwood spent many months in the Canadian wilderness as a child, and I can’t help but wonder if some of my affinity for her work is related to the similarities of our early experiences, although back then Canada seemed like a world away from Check, Virginia.
Our first winter in that house was the winter of 1976, an especially snow-heavy winter all over the east coast. I missed school the entire month of January because of the excessive snow. I also remember watching the news after the freak snowstorm in Buffalo that year that left people climbing out of their second-story windows to get out of their houses. I distinctly remember thinking, “Who in their right mind would ever live in such a place??” And here I am now, going on 11 years in Suchaplace, NY. A southern girl at heart, I now live so far north that parts of Canada are actually south of me. Oh, irony.
Anyway, this was meant to be a post about Margaret Atwood and her amazing work. I’ve heard her speak several times, once in Buffalo, once in Toronto for her clever, theatrical, and environmentally consciencious launch of Year of the Flood. For intellectual stimulation and wry wit, she never disappoints. In 2012, at the annual AWP conference in Chicago, she will be keynote speaker–a Do Not Miss event.
Here is a video link of her brilliant talk at a tech conference in which she discusses The Publishing Pie (featuring her own hand-drawn slides). I highly recommend this discussion of the role of authors in the changing publishing landscape. In response to popular demand, she made several of the slides into t-shirts, including the Dead Author t-shirt pictured below, that you can purchase at Cafe Press. Clearly she’s an author not afraid to embrace new technology, and that alone would be enough of a reason for me to admire her.
And here is a fun video from one of my favorite shows, The Rick Mercer Report, in which she answers the question Poet first? Or novelist first? Surprise answer? Goalie!