On Thursday Margaret Atwood came to do the first of four two-hour masterclasses with us. ‘So I’m going to take a few minutes now,’ she said, ‘and explain to you all how come I know everything I know’. She reminded me so much of certain other formidable older women in my life that I was very surprised she hadn’t brought a bottle of damson gin.
It was excellent – she’s lots of fun – but as a group we had absolutely nothing to say for ourselves. We were tongue-tied. Poor old Prof Atwood had to work quite hard, eg: ‘so who is the narrator of Gulliver’s Travels?’ while we all stared at her like sheep. It reminded me of that episode of Father Ted where Father Stone is the most numbingly boring houseguest ever but it turns out that inside he’s thrilled by everything.
We are going to focus particularly on first chapters: I really like it when our visiting writers talk to us about the technical stuff. Kazuo Ishiguro was extremely rewarding in that respect. I think she is also going to talk to us a bit about social media, which she is much better at using than I am, probably because she enjoys it more: she is an afficionado of cakewrecks and coverflip. Which I can get on board with.
In the meantime I have printed out five thousand words of my own writing and handed them over to her. YES she is reading our stuff and YES she is giving us feedback. It is going to be really good – I mean, even if it isn’t, it’s going to be a really good story.
In other news, on Wednesday Rose Tremain – another author I have a particular fondness for – is coming to our Novel History seminar to discuss Music and Silence with us, and probably other things too. It’s a bloody nice life I have.