Friday, December 2, 2011

Margaret Atwood's creative process

I'm still psyched from seeing Margaret Atwood at her reading Tuesday night, and booksigning yesterday. Ack! I never thought I'd get to meet my literary idol. She's amazing.

I was especially inspired by her answer when someone asked why she writes in so many different forms - poetry, speculative, literary, you name it. She said: "Because nobody ever told me not to." A great reminder to one of my writing rules - go with your gut.

One of the highlights of her reading came at the end, when she actually sang the theme song for the fictional Mole Day, and ended with audience participation.

Some have criticized her for rejecting labels of her work. Her book In Other Worlds (of which I now have a signed copy - woo hoo!) delves into this, but basically, she said most of her work which others want to label as SciFi take after the Jules Verne model, which "has its feet in plausibility, and such a thing is theoretically possible."

When an audience member questioned the world for A Handmaid's Tale, she cautioned that "any set of human laws can be reversed. They're made up by people. After 9/11, The Patriot Act passed with barely a blink."

Here's another treat - she shares her creative process:

And a little more advice. :)


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She sings as well? Pretty amazing. Awesome you got to meet your idol. I met Terry Brooks years ago and it was really cool.

Cate Masters said...

It was pretty cool, Alex. I'm embarrassed to say I was starstruck, a rarity for me.

J.A. Beard said...

I like Atwood and her work, but based on her past statements it's not really about rejecting labels (as she has no problems with certain labels for her work), but her personal derision and dismissal of the label science fiction. I vaguely remember one interview where she even said something to the effect she writes about "important things" not "spaceships".

The Verne comparison is just odd. At his time, he was a "hard sci-fi" guy equivalent, but a lot of his stuff was arguably beyond their understanding of the day, and the science fiction community has long considered him one of the fathers of science fiction. His work used to be called "scientific romance" not "speculative romance". ;)

Again, I like Atwood, but I can't help but feel there's a certain amount of misdirection about what her issue with being called "sci-fi" is.

She's gone out of her way over the years to make up all sorts of arbitrary genre distinctions that have her still in a genre, just whatever it is, NOT sci-fi.

All that said, she's a brilliant writer who has produced a lot of great work. I actually tend to like her non-"speculative fiction" work a bit better.

Cate Masters said...

Sorry I didn't respond earlier - it's been a crazy week, JA.
Ms. Atwood didn't appear emotionally involved in an argument, per se, but rather presented it as something that she didn't agree with for logical reasons. As far as her reference to Jules Verne, she mentioned the technologies hadn't yet been invented, but did exist on some designer's drawing board, so were in theory possible, at least.