Okay, let’s talk Atwood. Yes, her. The Canadian literary icon. The one most call Margaret. The one those closest to her call Peggy.
She’s a writer. She’s written and published over 50 books including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and books for children.
She’s highly acclaimed, which means she’s won a lot of awards. She’s pre-booked for interviews and readings. She’s stalked by advocacy groups wanting her reaffirmation for their cause. She has book clubs, academia clubs, and foundations named after her. She tweets on Twitter and has more than 270K followers. She even has her own doll.
I’ve had opportunities to meet her, greet her, and nab an autograph. Once when she published, “Moral Disorder” and attended the book publishers’ annual Book Expo in Toronto. And second, when I won tickets to attend her co-luncheon with Janice Gross Stein in promotion of their books and the new imprint of McClelland & Stewart, Signal Books. Both times, I missed attending. Both times, I lost my chance at fulfilling this frivolous goal.
But wanting to meet Margaret Atwood is much like waiting to meet Santa Claus at the mall:
You dress yourself up. You make yourself look presentable. You buy a ticket or a book and wait in line. You crane your neck to see if she appears any different than she did the last time you saw her on television. You prepare and mentally practice what you plan on saying to her once you get to the front of the line. You fidget. You make small talk with those in line with you to pass the time and to appear nonchalant and casual—not at all the prepubescent schoolgirl you actually feel like. You eavesdrop on the others and scheme to think of saying something better, if not at all entirely different or unique. You’re a tad jealous that she might have her favourites. That they might get a photo, a sincere and more significant inscription, a little more chit-chat, more time, attention—some small respect. You consider foregoing the lineup altogether and sneaking out in shame to salvage whatever little dignity you have left as an intelligent, formidable, and logical adult.
But, no. Instead, you wait in line anticipating the moment you will meet Margaret Atwood. You get to the front of the line. She asks you your name and you mumble something that comes out sounding somewhat between a half grunt and an apology. You’ve forgotten what you so proudly prepared saying in advance. She waits. You remain dumbfounded. She smirks and pities you, perhaps thinking she really should be at her cottage working on a poem, drinking a cup of tea, feeding her cat.
And then you are ushered away by her marketing “people” because she is famous enough now to have some. Marketing and people. You laugh at your silliness. You smile. And then curse yourself for not asking for a photo opportunity. Already it is too late. She is on to the next person, the next autograph.
You wished you said thank you properly, hoping it conveyed just the right amount of gratitude. You’re inept to say anything at all.
So, you cross the street to a local Starbucks, order an over-complicated sounding cappuccino to regain your sense of confidence and order. The book is under your arm. You sit at a table and want to tell someone that you just met Margaret Atwood, but fear someone will think you over-excited, over-indulgent, or just plain hallucinatory, so you keep quiet.
You open the front cover and read the inscription inside:
For Zara Alexis,
A friend in the craft…
may the poem you need to write, find you.
And it feels a little like Christmas, after all.
Except none of that has happened.
I have yet to meet Margaret Atwood and get her autograph—which is why I write this post and drop it frivolously into my bucket list.