8 things we learned from Margaret Atwood

Eight delicious nuggets from the literary legend Margaret Atwood's Mumsnet webchat - from her advice for aspiring writers to fashion tips, and her friendship with Angela Carter

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On her childhood

"Being Canadian, having a tomboy mother who was an ace canoeist and a good shot with a bow, as well as a casual but effective fish-catcher, a speed skater, and later in her life an ice-dancer, and having grown up in the woods with a dad who encouraged small motor repair skills and the use of edged tools, etc., I did not feel very gender-oppressed, within the family, as a female person."


On favourite childhood books

"Grimms' Fairy Tales. In the 1940s before they got Princessed and Disneyfied - that meant red-hot shoes, gouged out eyeballs, and the whole nine yards. Did that put me off? Evidently not, since the good folks were generally rewarded."


On how to start writing fiction

"Read, read, read, write, write, write. Especially the latter. It doesn't matter what at first, just keep the words flowing; because if you aren't actually writing, you aren't a writer. In the self-confidence department: no one will see what you write unless you show it to them."


On being a feminist

"I didn't really think about it much until the end of the sixties, when the women's movement broke out. But since that time I've thought quite a bit about what can happen to girls and women as a result of their gender. From silly to horrible. As for "feminist", I always want people to define what they mean. Let's start with "women are human beings." I'll vote for that. It's a good beginning. From there we can delve into the details."


On Angela Carter

"She was a pal. Such a smart person with a wild sense of the bizarre. She would have got a big cackle out of this book...she was into a few kinky automata herself." 


On love

"There's more than one kind of love. I am still in love with my cat, Blackie, who's been dead for 20 years. I've been with Mr. Perfect now for 40 years. Graeme Gibson. Romantic love morphs into a different kind, if you're lucky and put in the work."

On writing sci-fi

"I did get yelled at a bit by sci-fi purists, who think you have to be a specialist or something, but that's their problem. I like to read good books and I don't pay much attention to genre barriers. Read what you like. Write what you like. It will all sort itself out eventually." 

On fashion

"The best thing one can do is to find out what suits you - you, not somebody else - and stick with it. The young experiment, of course. I did some fairly hideous things in my youth that did not suit me at all. But now I've discovered Black With A Scarf, and I'm sticking to it."

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Last updated: about 2 years ago