Late September I went to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester to watch Margaret Atwood in conversation with Erica Wagner. Flashback to six months previously when I had seen the tickets go on sale and hovered in excitement over the ‘buy’ button until exactly 10am and then feverishly filled in the space in my diary, and I never dreamed I would actually meet her.
Margaret Atwood is my literary hero. Ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale I have been in awe of her. I’ve read most of her books and she, along with Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchet, Alan Garner and Tolkien, made me a lifelong reader of speculative fiction. Her writing also inspired me to write my current novel, SmartYellowTM.
As a reader and writer of speculative fiction, I understand that it is often considered as the poor relative of of genre of fiction. A useful article in the New Statesman with Neil Gaiman and Kazou Ishiguro in conversation says this better than I ever could. But writers such as these and Margaret Atwood have championed speculative fiction, bringing it into the bestsellers book charts and pushing the boundaries of the imagination a few steps outside reality.
So off I went with my daughter to see Margaret. There theatre was packed and silent in anticipation, and she came out to rapturous applause.
She talked for almost an hour about how she came to write, what she did before that, telling us that she spent time in academia, but fell into writing novels after she heard about an unexpected film proposal. She talked about how she got her ideas from things that have happened around her and that she garners the speculative nature of the ideas in her books from almost anything that has a grain of reality or is, at least, possible. The more I heard her talk, the more I realized that she was like most of us – amazed that we can do what we love to create.
Even at this stage in her career, she sounded humbled by the attention her work received and by the questions asked by the audience. That afternoon we were treated to Margaret Atwood’s world viewpoint, which is very down to earth and funny.
There was a book signing afterwards and we waited. We were last in the queue and, as we approached, I started to feel quite emotional that I was actually going to meet her. She’d been signing books for over an hour and was a little tired and I was completely overwhelmed by fandom, but we managed a small chat and I don’t remember a word!
What I do remember was the return of the burning ambition and passion to write, write, write, so thank you Margaret for your perseverance and your shining example to readers and writers everywhere. When doubt strikes in the future, as it inevitably will, my motto, from now on, is ‘What would Margaret do?’
SmartYellowTM available electronically and in paperback from http://www.amazon.co.uk/SmartYellowTM-J-Christy-ebook/dp/B011F3SE6M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448748137&sr=8-1&keywords=smartyellow