I don’t know why I never really thought this would happen, but I didn’t. I thought that meeting Margaret Atwood was something only lucky people got to do. It didn’t occur to me that she would go on a massive book tour and sell out whole theatres. I didn’t think about how she probably has website, listing tour dates with links to where tickets are sold. Like a rockstar. Even though, clearly, she is a rockstar. Duh.
It wasn’t until my friend Sarah was live-texting Margaret Atwood in DC to me one Saturday morning that I figured out: THIS IS HAPPENING. Tickets were purchased, babysitter procured, and a Margaret Atwood Kamel and Lauren Date Night was on the books!
I have not been that giddily excited in a really REALLY long time. I spent the entire afternoon at work nerding out on Atwood. And then at dinner with Kamel I was nerding out, and then on the drive over I felt kind of like I was going to puke I was so excited.
We were definitely some of the youngest people in the theatre, which was interesting. And Kamel was definitely one of the only men in attendance. I hadn’t really thought about the Atwood demographic before this point, it never occurred to me that every single person in the whole world wouldn’t be knocking down the theatre’s doors to greet her.
The set up was a “conversation with Marget Atwood” led by some random poet I had never heard of. Everything about the discussion was amazing…. except this terrible poet lady. TERRIBLE. She was awkward, had absolutely no clue how to handle the wise and funny and direct Atwood, and then… she fucking SPOILED MaddAddam! To which the crowd hissed at her, “spoiler!” and Atwood said, “You really shouldn’t do that. Never discuss an ending. Maybe in a grad lecture 10 plus years after the fact, but we are actually selling the book out in the lobby…” I felt embarrassed for the poet lady, who was asking horrible questions and wasting everyone’s time. Basically, anyone in the audience could have done a better job. Thankfully Atwood took the reigns and ran the show without the “moderator.”
And then it was time for the theatre of people to ask questions. When the women with microphones appeared near our seats Kamel elbowed me and said, “Ask a question!” I replied, “Nooooo.” Speaking in front of large groups is not my favorite thing. But after a few questions were asked and I had chewed on something good I wanted to know, I waved over the woman with the microphone and was up next to speak to freaking Margaret Atwood. WHAT!
When it was my turn I told her that I recommended her books to everyone I know (Seen it here first!) and I always suggest Cat’s Eye because it is my favorite. But! She is rather prolific, so what book does she recommend starting with?
She laughed and told me she was not at all prolific, that Joyce Carol Oates is prolific, that she was just old. And then she said that suggesting a book to someone is as intimate as buying a birthday present and she couldn’t possibly give a blanket response. And then she told a story about how a news anchor on a morning show called her prosaic instead of prolific and everyone laughed.
And then I died. Because I was one of those people who asked a question with a microphone in a big theatre full of people to a person who is pretty much a mythical figure in my life. All because Kamel suggested it. Without his little push it would have never happened. I am lucky that he is such a great partner. Truly.
And then we stood in line for her book signing. Kamel took two of my books (as there was a two-book limit) and I took my other two and this was my face while in line:
Because, yes, my grin was about to burst off my face and run away without me. Even looking at that photo I get the same “eeeeeeeeeeeeee” feeling.
When it was my turn Kamel stood off to the side so that he could take photos. Of course in my mind we were going to have a lovely chat, she was going to personalize my books, and then she would always remember that young writer, working to read everything she had ever written, and then one day she would write me a special note of encouragement in the thank-you section of one of her next novel. Maybe she would invite me up to Canada on a writing retreat… the possibilities were ENDLESS.
What actually happened was: I gave her my books to sign and her handler leaned across the table between us and said, “Are you really going to personalize every book? You should just sign them and move on, we’re never going to get out of here and you’re going to be tired.”
To which Margaret Atwood said, tersely, “Yes. No. I always do this. It’s fine.” And kind of… waved her off.
I got to say, “It was lovely meeting you, thank you.” She smiled kindly at me and gave me a little nod before it was my turn to scoot off.
Even though that lady was obnoxious, the whole experience was amazing. It is so rare to have those moments where you feel like a kid meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time all over again. And Atwood blew Mickey straight out of the water.