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the Queen of Canadian Lit

I’m completely underwater these days working on the anthology Apocalypse Now (website! Facebook!), but took time this morning to go to the Nashville Public Library and see Margaret Atwood reading a bit from The Handmaid’s Tale and talking about her work (and singing a made-up hymn about moles! and a bit of an old Grand Old Opry-era country song!) and about writing and about totalitarianism. I did some livetweeting of her lecture at @upperrubberboot.

So, anyway, I talked to her very briefly afterward—while having her sign my old Selected Poems II which I think I bought when I was 14, maybe 15, and which I have reread almost to pieces (it has such greats as “Marrying the Hangman” and “Variation on the Word Sleep“)—about Apocalypse Now (which she has a story in, but since her staff signed the contract, I didn’t know if she knew about it or not) and she told me that her story, “The Silver Astroturfer” was written to be speculative, but that she’s since found out it’s actually happening in China (she told me to google “the 50 cent kids“). Subscribers to the Sunday Times, by the way, can read it here (and the rest of you can read it when the book comes out).

I met Atwood once before, when I worked for the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and she was in town for (if I recall correctly) a The Writers’ Union of Canada AGM. That occasion featured me as the slackjawed simpleton. I was completely struck dumb by her charisma and fame, and in response to whatever she said to me (I don’t remember now, and I probably didn’t hear her properly at the time) managed to choke out only, “The squares are good” (in reference to the dessert platters). She was very gracious about it—I am sure people are total idiots around her all the time—but my husband still references it when I am particularly awkward communicating with him. It was a real charge to have a chance to talk to her, and to actually interact like a normal human being, to boot.

So! As a separate entry I’ll be putting up a guest blog/interview (probably tomorrow since we need to leave for a Hallowe’en party in like an hour), and then putting my head down again to continue working on getting this book out.

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