Ask Atwood: The Answers

We asked our Twitter followers for questions to ask Margaret Atwood – and today, on the publication of her new collection of tales, Stone Mattress – here are her answers to some of our favourites.


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Susan MacRae @whitefox_ca Dear @MargaretAtwood how are you today? Hope you are doing well.

– Very well, thank you! Except for the rose thorns I stuck in myself while transplanting. And you?


Jon Fern @jfernwriter Would you have continued to write had you never been published?

– Probably, as when I started – Canada, mid-1950s – not much prospect of getting published anyway. Wrote buckets before publication!


Celian Chan @ss10cshc What do you do to overcome writer’s block? How do you generate ideas for stories? 

– Never been plagued by block. I switch to another form or project if stuck. I have too many ideas – no need to generate them!


Leanne MacMillan @Saskmacl Has the meaning of The Edible Woman changed for u over the years? Reading again, always learning.

– Yes, it all changes as one gets older; perspective shifts. I also see some small edits I would have done :-)


pietercrous @pietercrous When in your writing process do you decide how the chronology of the novel will unfold?

– Structure! Always a hurdle. What to tell when? I make time charts & birthday charts. I shift blocks around throughout the writing.


Georgia Vinall @Just_me_georgie How does it feel knowing students are currently studying your poetry? X

– Like having a thousand little angels and whatnot painted on the ceiling, looking down.. but then.. They come to life! Yikes!


B e t h a n y @Apieceof_B I’m writing dystopian poetry for my dissertation – what advice would you give for creating a unique world?

– Stay true to your assumptions about that world. Be plausible. Put yourself there: what would you eat? Wear? Feel?


Dom Nozahic @domnozahic Your novels explore a vast quantity of times/themes/events. Is that necessary to evolve as a writer?

– Don’t worry about it. Write what compels you. I’m a curious raven/coyote, but others are elephants/whales/polar bears: more focused on one path.


Esther Brazil @estherdaponte what’s your writing routine?

– Haha, I wish I had one!  Whatever, whenever, with whatever.  So it goes.


Robert Misner @Wordsicle What initially inspired the character of Snowman from Oryx and Crake?

– A bunch of guys I knew :-)  Robinson Crusoe. And Alex the Parrot, who was real.


Alison Saint @AlisonSaint Which character in your novels makes you most proud?

– Canadians aren’t allowed to express public pride. The best I can say is that some of them aren’t too bad eh?


Bethany Usher @bethanyusher Would you ever consider writing a novel about the collapse of the society in Handmaid’s Tale?

– We know it DID collapse, as they’re having a seminar about it @ 250 years later. Not sure I’d write about it though…


nora stark @watermemon which of your novels did you find most difficult to write?

– The two that never got finished. >:>{  Apart from that, maybe Cat’s Eye. Started it several times at widely spaced intervals.


Meg W @mgnwylie have you ever found it hard to share any of your work because its too personal?

– Those things I don’t publish. But if YOU are worried, change the names and hair colours…


Tonicha Upham @ColdBrightDay whilst writing, how do you keep track of the layers within your narratives?

– I make charts and use coloured Post-its and tags, and coloured sections onscreen…


Celadon Kate @Celadon_kate Do you have a favorite book. that you read more then 5 times?

– Many! Shakespeare often. Haha, Sherlock Holmes.  Austen. Rob’t L. Stevenson. Those I’m writing about..Right now, Alice Munro + Ursula LeGuin.


Tricialo @TrishLowt What are you most proud of in your life? (writing or otherwise)

– See “Canadians, not allowed pride.”  But I make quite good oatmeal molasses bread, if I do say so myself.


Sinead Dunphy @SineadDunphy11 Which of your works took the most time to write and why?

– I think maybe The Blind Assassin, because it is Looong. But #MaddAddam Trilogy, if I get to count it as one.


kristiana r @ksrobotheart do you have the same relationship with writing as you did when you first began?

– No. I’m older. (Craftier, more gun-shy, less naïve possibly.) But in some ways it’s the same. The blank page is still blank. You have to plunge in.


Laura Simpson @BookNomming which of your books do you think is a more likely possible future for us?

– I think we risk getting all those futures at once.  But nothing is determined. We still have choices.


@Waterstones @MargaretAtwood #AskAtwood Have all the dystopian novels & movies increased or decreased the likelihood of real-life dystopias?

– I’d say it’s a wash, except that more people are more aware of the need for survival skills. Dandelions are edible! Yay!


Jen Dalton @JenDalton2 did you know a story is playing out in Ireland now that would be at home in The Handmaid’s Tale? (ref

– Yes, I saw that. People are very, very conflicted on this issue. It won’t be resolved any time soon.


Matt Moore @mattmoore1607 does literature influence politics in 2014 as it did when you first began writing?

– Not much in 1956, did in 19th C (slavery, child labour etc.) Politicians find writers a nuisance, in general. Film+music more influential now.



Stone MattressYou can Click & Collect Stone Mattress: Nine Tales from your local Waterstones bookshop, buy it online at or download it in ePub format

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