Author Talk: Margaret Atwood

Sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, an opportunity arises that you just can’t pass up. The opportunity in this instance was a visit from Margaret Atwood, award-winning author of bestsellers such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and many others to date.

I personally have not read any of Ms. Atwood’s work, nor have I watched the Hulu production of The Handmaid’s Tale. The reason is because my blood pressure can’t handle it under the current political climate — I’ll just leave it at that. I have, however, admired her work for a long time.

So, imagine my shock when I heard that she would be coming to Tuscaloosa as part of the University of Alabama’s Distinguished Writer’s Series! Little did I know, Margaret Atwood was the writer in residence at the University of Alabama in the mid-80’s. She actually finished her manuscript for The Handmaid’s Tale while she was living in Tuscaloosa. With all honesty, I would not have believed that if I had not heard it straight from her mouth last night.


We were all treated to readings from The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and Hagseed. She gave us the background of each, how each came to be, the inspiration behind the works, and insight into the process of writing each. She kept us all laughing with a dry wit and optimistic view of the future. Many a cheer from many a Doug Jones supporter were heard from the audience last night — myself included.

She also shared precious few details about a secret manuscript she completed for Norway’s Future Library Project, which will remain unread for a century. As a participant of the project (which you can read more about right here), she was sworn to secrecy about the details of the manuscript.

Margaret Atwood, handing over her boxed manuscript for the Future Library Project in Oslo, Norway.

However, she did give us the name: Scribbler Moon. When she explained the premise of the project, she commented that she felt compelled to do it because, basically, there are two types of kids in the world: 1) the kinds who bury bottles in their back yards and hope that someone, one day, will read the message inside and 2) the kinds who don’t.

I like to believe that I’d fall into the first category. What about you?

(The best I could get from my back row seat!)

Thank you all for reading!


Writing Prompt: Creating a Great First Page

I have a thing for the book section at the Target in my parents’ town. Whenever I go in there, I find myself flipping through new releases and thumbing through the paperbacks. My most recent purchases have been “Eight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave and “China Rich Girlfriend” by Kevin Kwan.

I haven’t gotten to China Rich Girlfriend yet, but it’s in my stack. I jumped at Dave’s novel after I read the blurb, though, because the plot is similar to the novel I am working on right now.

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide… What if your beloved fiancé, he of the crinkly smile and irresistible British accent, had kept a life-changing secret from you? And what if, just a week before your dream wedding, you discovered it?

Georgia Ford, bride-to-be, hops in her car and drives through the night, from Los Angeles to Sonoma, to her safe haven: her family, and the acclaimed family winery. Georgia craves the company of those who know her best, and whom she truly knows. Better yet, it’s the eve of the last harvest—the best time of the growing season, and Georgia knows she’ll find solace—and distraction—in the familiar rituals. But when Georgia arrives home, nothing is at all familiar. Her parents, her brothers, the family business, are all unrecognizable. It seems her fiancé isn’t the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Eight Hundred Grapes is a story about the messy realities of family, the strength (and weaknesses) of romantic love, and the importance of finding a place to call home. “This winning tale will both satisfy on a literary level and encourage oenophiles to pour themselves a glass of a recent vintage to enjoy while reading; it’s a tasty treat for wine lovers and teetotalers alike” (Publishers Weekly). You won’t be able to put this “addictive” (Us Weekly) novel down.

– From Simon & Schuster’s webpage for the novel

I thought, “This would be a great opportunity to see how someone else does it and draw some new ideas.”  Continue reading “Writing Prompt: Creating a Great First Page”

Short Story Challenge: Week 3

Week three has already come and gone. The prompt for this week’s challenge was: “A retelling of a fairy tale.”

I thought about going the conventional route and doing Cinderella or Snow White. But, since those have already been done several times, I decided to look into a lesser-known fairy tale.

First, I considered re-working “The Golden Goose.” I thought this might provide some interesting opportunities to look at selfishness and kindness. However, once I started to read further into the story, I realized it would be a little difficult to fit the plot and characters into a modern context.

I kept looking. I went through a few others in my mind before I stumbled on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” I remembered hearing it before and reading it at my grandmother’s house when my sister and I were little. I liked this idea of young girls looking for a good time and thought it would be easier to fit into a more modern context.

original“The Twelve Dancing Princesses” by Ruth Sanderson

I changed the setting to a modern day women’s dormitory. In doing so, I decided to re-work all of the characters in new ways in order to best incorporate them into the story.  Continue reading “Short Story Challenge: Week 3”

Writing Prompts – Short Story Challenge 2016


Have you all set a New Year’s Resolution or Intention about your writing this year? My 2016 Intention is to judge my success by how much fun I’m having. I realized that in a lot of areas in my life, writing included, I was just trying entirely too hard and often found that I wasn’t having much fun at all. So I’m making joy a priority this year.

Having said that, I was excited to stumble upon this writing challenge from Our Writing Therapy. 52 Short stories in 52 Weeks – one short story a week for an entire year.

I love these prompts because they are so simple, and leave a lot of wiggle room for imagination and experimentation. I bet that if fifteen people in a Creative Writing class had these prompts, they would all come up with stories that were vastly different each week.

So I started last Monday with Week 1: A Story Entitled “A New Beginning”.

Here are the notes that I took while brainstorming. For all of you nerds out there (like me), I used a Moleskin Cahier Journal (pocket size, lined) and Bic Round Stic pen. My absolute favorite pen of all time, though, is the Pilot V5 Precise. The highlighter I used was a Post-It 2-in-1 Flag HighlighterContinue reading “Writing Prompts – Short Story Challenge 2016”

Dose of Inspiration: “The Gap”

Have you all seen this video before? I’ve read a couple of pieces about this “Gap” theory, but this is the first time I have actually seen it presented like this. I feel like it’s made an entirely new impact on me!

I remember talking with my writing group about this same frustration about a year ago. I was feeling rather loathsome about a short story I had written, and in my typical form, I was being entirely too hard on myself. I was dealing with that heavy disappointment when you write something that you know isn’t good enough. Do you all know that feeling? When you crank something out, maybe to just see how it turns out, and it ends up sounding like something you thought was cool in the 8th grade? Then that mean, self-defeating inner dialog starts, “Oh, God. Is that me? Is that what really came out of my brain when I have all of these incredible ideas swimming around in there? Is this all I can do?” Continue reading “Dose of Inspiration: “The Gap””