Adventure-ing: Meeting Margaret Atwood

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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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.

15 thoughts on “Adventure-ing: Meeting Margaret Atwood”

  1. I can FEEL your giddiness through this post. So, so awesome.

    “Of course in my mind we were going to have a lovely chat, she was going to personalize my books”

    Hahaha oh man, this is EXACTLY what was running through my head when I went to get my book signed. I was obsessing over, “WHAT AM I GOING TO SAY TO HER??” And in the end she signed and personalized my book quickly and efficiently, and I mumbled, “Thank you for the lovely evening.” Whomp, whomp.

    I cannot BELIEVE Terrible Poet Woman spoiled MaddAddam! Why would anyone do such a thing??

  2. I was so excited to have Linda Pastan sign a couple books of poetry at some big festival I went to in New Jersey several years ago. She was not warm, she did not so much as ask my name and she stared blankly at me when I stammered out whatever I managed to say to one of my favorite poets. If you ask me what poets I like best, I still list her, but you know, I don’t think I’ve actually opened one of the books, bought another one, or know if another has been published since.

  3. I saw your pictures on Instagram that night and your giddiness came through. Just seeing that one of you grinning your ears off made me excited for you, even though I don’t know you, and haven’t even read that much Atwood. It might make you happy to know that I only started reading Atwood because of this here blog, and so far I’ve read Cat’s Eye (which was mesmerizing and incredible!) and the Robber Bride (also good!). Also, way to get up and ask a question! Now you can remember the night forever with no regrets or what ifs.

  4. Your excitement is contagious. That photo says it all.

    Also, you and my best friend have convinced me that I *need* to read me some of Margaret Atwood’s works.

  5. Ahhhhhh Margaret Atwood! I am such a fangirl. I saw her on her tour for TYOTF, which was such a good performance. With vocalists! There were a bunch of college students at the events, maybe because it was in Chicago? I had the chance to meet her at a small reception the day before the event, but I had to proctor an exam for work. To this day I regret missing it. D:

    MaddAddam is next in my to-read pile. Oryx & Crake is my favorite book of all time, with Cat’s Eye and Handmaid’s Tale high on the list.

  6. She was on Charlie Rose and I accidentally watched because I had just been watching the frontline about NFL concussions and she talked about the whole prolific vs. being old thing! I BET YOU INSPIRED HER.

  7. YAY YOU! I saw Margaret in Toronto in 1999 on her Blind Assassin tour and my friend also prompted me to ask a question – complete out-of-body, fan girl experience. I’m happy you had your moment. 🙂

  8. This is so awesome! Congratulations to you for meeting your Mickey Mouse! I’m getting excited just thinking about how excited you must have been to get to see her speak and also to SPEAK TO HER! Yay!

  9. I had SUCH a similar experience! I haven’t read as many of her works as you but I find her so compelling and wise. She was nice as nice can be when I asked for a photo. Apparently I was the first person to ask that evening! She’s just the best.

  10. Amazing. I had a Margaret Atwood binge in my late teens and early twenties after sharing The Edible Woman with my stepmother and having my first experience of serious literary discussion late into the night. I think it’s still my favourite, mostly because I know Duncan, I KNOW him.

    I had a really similar experience with E Annie Proulx when she came out to Australia did a similar theatre/book tour for Bird Cloud with a similarly useless moderator who I’m sure hadn’t read a single one of her books. I asked a question, although now I can’t remember what it was but I can still feel my heart in my mouth when I think of it. And I’d bought a new copy of The Shipping News for her to sign as a gift for my stepmother. But I got her to sign the line that had made us fall about snorting and laughing: “Dog Fart Fells Family of Four”. She cracked a smile.

  11. Meeting your favourite authors is the BEST THING EVER AND EVER. I have had it a few times this year and every time it blows my mind and makes me SO THRILLED. I’m so so excited that you got to do this!! Also Cat’s Eye is one of my favourite books of all time. (Ditto Alias Grace and The Robber Bride.) She is a phenomenal, PHENOMENAL talent. Yay life goal achieved! *long distance high fives for Lauren*

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