The traditional role of a writer is pretty straight forward: write a book, get it published, go to a few signings, and move on to the next. However, in this new media, new technology savvy world, this traditional role is sure to be a-changing. Take for instance, the blog-turned-novel overnight success of Julie Powell, the self-proclaimed “government drone” who spent a year cooking and blogging about her adventures Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a la Julia Child. Not surprisingly, she’s received some backlash: some more “traditionalist” writers do not see any room in their art for a *gasp* blogger. Going a step farther - a year’s worth of blog content has now been turned into a major motion picture, Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep. Talk about culture clash.
What is a writer to do? Jump in to these new-fangled worlds of blogs and tweets and risk being ostrasized by the ‘traditionalists’? Take the plunge and hope your fans and fellow writers will maintain their respect for you as an artist (and perhaps, just maybe, have it increase a little?).
And herein comes my (very reverant) tip o’ the hat to our (my) favourite Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.
Ms. Atwood has bestowed upon the world a remarkable amount (over 25 volumes) of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She is not afraid to broach difficult or controversial subjects (just Google search ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ’Banned’ and see what comes up …), or advocate for the rights of underfunded or marginalized groups (check out Ms. Atwood’s scathing critique of Mr. Harper and his decision to cut funding for the arts). Oh, and given the timely release of her latest nonfiction Payback during the crux of the global economic meltdown, she’s also been touted as a fortune teller of sorts.
Indeed, Ms. Atwood is one cool and talented (and potentially psychic) lady. What makes her even cooler and talented (but perhaps not more psychic) is the fact that she is blogging and tweeting throughout the duration of her current promotional tour for her latest novel, The Year of The Flood. Not only is Ms. Atwood embracing these new technologies that so many others have been too afraid or too snobby to embrace, but she is also building and expanding ethical, sustainable, and relevant community in other ways. For instance, she’s making her current tour as green as possible – eating local and vegetarian food, purchasing carbon offset for travel, and staying in hotels with stellar environmental policies. She’s also challenging traditional assumptions of ‘the novel’, incorporating music and plays performed by local musicians and artists into her readings.
Margaret Atwood – a tip o’ the hat to you for challenging traditional norms, embarking unafraid into strange, new, online worlds, living by exemplary sustainable means, and staying true to your delightful, eccentric self.