It all started with a short story I wrote at the end of last year. I wrote it for fun. I had no plan in mind when I began, only a first line–one of ten I came up with for a writing exercise. A voice came next. One that had something to say, but she wasn’t sure what. I didn’t focus too much on plot or theme. I wrote what came out of me and it turns out I had something to say, or rather, Bug did. Within a couple of days, I had a rough draft of Bug Out. I submitted it to my writing group (under a placeholder title called After the Experiment) and for the most part, they loved it. One member said it reminded him of Oryx & Crake from Margaret Atwood. I hadn’t read that book, so I have no idea why it reminded him of Atwood’s novel. Was it the voice? The characters? The setting? Unfortunately, I still don’t know. When we workshop each other’s work, the author (in this case me) usually sits in a virtual ‘Green Room’ and can’t respond to the comments until the critique is over. By the time I stepped out of said Green Room, I had forgotten to ask about it.
The only book I’d read from Atwood, at that point in time, was The Blind Assassin, a book I’d borrowed from a friend because I had already been in Sweden for two years, didn’t own any e-reader devices, and, most importantly, I was dying to read a book in English. I’ve since raided my local library and surprisingly found a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale in English (not many English books at my local library). When I cracked open the book, I paid special attention to her voice, wondering if that was the similarity. Did this book remind me of my own style? Not really. I found the book interesting, wonderfully written, and a little creepy, but the language was too precise for Bug, the character in my story. Whatever similarities my fellow writer saw must have centered around something special in Oryx & Crake.
A couple of days after that submission, or maybe at the next meeting, I discovered Atwood was coming to Stockholm. I promptly went home and booked my ticket. I’m glad I did, too. By the end of the week she was sold out! Now all I had to do was wait six months or so.
Thankfully, I had things to keep me busy. In addition to working on my novel, I spent some time revising Bug’s story until I could do no more with it. It was finished. Bug said what she had to say and moved on. While Margaret Atwood’s visit crept nearer, I wrote a query letter and submitted my story to a magazine. Bug is now waiting in an editor’s slush pile and according to the link he sent me, I’m number 154 in the queue.
I kept feeling like this story and Atwood’s visit were linked somehow. I’d go see her and get news about the submission on the same day, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Finally, the big day did arrive, at least for one of those events. Last week hundreds of us crammed together into an auditorium to listen to Margaret Atwood share her wit and wisdom. At the last minute, I swung by the local bookshop and snatched the only two Atwood books they had in English, one of which happened to be Oryx & Crake (I finally get to read this! Though, I have to admit I haven’t started yet. I’m still pushing my way through Ptolemy’s Gate, the third book in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy. Less than forty pages to go!).
The lecture began with a recording of a musical homage local musicians had created specifically for the Oryx & Crake books. It was hauntingly beautiful and I’m an idiot and didn’t record any of it to share with you. Not even a snippet. I’m sorry. I really don’t think about these things. After the music, we were treated to a wonderful interview. I’m not a professional reviewer, so I won’t even try to sum up the event. All I can say is Margaret was full of life. She was witty, intelligent, pleasant, funny and everything I envisioned she’d be–and more. There were moments I listened to her and thought, ‘What am I doing? To think I call myself an author and have the nerve to place myself in a category with this woman (not that I imagine I’m as talented as she is, but to say we’re both authors).‘ The rest of the time, when I wasn’t busy feeling sorry for myself, I sat there inspired.
Afterwards, I stood in line to get both books signed and while she graciously signed them, my friend and fellow writer snapped a photo of us. Best Wednesday night I’ve had in a long time =).