Margaret Atwood: Q & A with a Canadian icon

Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Author Margaret Atwood talked to students and community members about films she's seen in airplanes, her hair and answered audience questions Friday, Feb. 15, but mostly she stuck to zombies. - Photo by Julia Marks

Author Margaret Atwood talked to students and community members about films she’s seen in airplanes, her hair and answered audience questions Friday, Feb. 15, but mostly she stuck to zombies. – Photo by Julia Marks

After her TRUSU Common Voices Lecture at the CAC’s Grand Hall on Feb. 15, Margaret Atwood spoke one-on-one with The Omega. We asked her about what inspires her to write and what she thought Canadian youth could do to improve the world around them. What follows are a few excerpts of that conversation.

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Ω – What inspires you today? Are there writers that inspire you? Pop culture or mainstream things?

Atwood – I think it’s really always the same — a blank page. Blank pages are inspirational.

Ω – Do you still write freehand?

Atwood – I start things freehand, yeah and take it to a computer. Do you know what a rolling barrage is? (She explains the history of the World War I military tactic known as a rolling barrage). So start writing at the beginning, start transcribing, keep on writing while transcribing what you’ve just written. So you’re writing constantly at the front while transcribing at the same time.

Ω – So you’re chasing yourself.

Atwood – Yes, exactly.

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Ω – As young Canadians partake in the digital shift do you see Canada’s culture becoming disconnected from our natural heritage?

Atwood – I think everyone is becoming somewhat disconnected from it, which is having quite bad effects on children. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with the movement called No Child Left Inside; they’ve been linking mental health problems to nature deficit. There is now a recognized term for nature deficit disorder. I think part of that has come from parents being scared to let their kids play outside, not because they think snakes will bite them or something, but because they think crazy people will steal them. In fact, no more crazy people are stealing them than stole them when all kids played outside. This culture of fear has gotten hold and they’re afraid to let them walk to school. It’s probably less so in smaller places like this, but it’s quite noteworthy in some urban places. These kids, they have three blocks to school and their parents are driving them because they’re afraid to let them walk.

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Ω – What are some of the flaws in today’s society that you think young people are well equipped to fix?

Atwood – One of the big skill sets is voting, which they don’t employ as much as they should. If they all voted then they would get a lot more attention, wouldn’t they? Because people would see them as a voting block. If they said things like, “Student debt is a big problem and we all vote,” that would carry some weight. So number one, they should start voting. Otherwise, people with the power to do those things are going to overlook them.

Ω – Is that a problem that has commonly been a problem in Canadian culture, do you think? That young people haven’t voted?

Atwood – I think it’s become more of one. I voted as soon as I could and so did people my age. Now I think there’s more a shruggy kind of attitude.

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