Margaret Atwood has always been one step ahead. The recent to-do over the use of the word “vagina” on the Michigan state House floor, for example, fit right in with the world she imagined in The Handmaid’s Tale, published back in 1985.
So maybe other novelists should take note of Atwood’s latest move: She’s jumped into the frenetic teen writing site Wattpad ( wattpad.com).
“I look forward to exploring the ways Wattpad connects people to reading and writing, and may help give them confidence through feedback from readers,” she writes on her author page.
Wattpad is a free, Toronto-based social reading app and website that has been rapidly adopted by teens. It claims 9 million users, more than 70 percent of whom engage with its materials via smartphone or tablet. More than 500,000 new stories and poems — in 25 languages — are added each month.
Atwood recently posted two poems, Thriller Suite and Update on Werewolves, which quickly attracted more than 1,600 reads.
So far, just 15 people have ventured to leave comments on Atwood’s poems. They may be shy to engage with the revered 72-year-old Canadian author, who has received the Arthur C. Clark Award, won Canada’s Governor General Award twice and won the Man Booker prize in 2000 for The Blind Assassin.
One of the most fertile uses of Wattpad is as a place for people working on a writing project to post it in serial form. For The Bro Code, which has had more than 1.5 million reads, comments show that readers wanted more. A typical one: “Plzzzzzz plzzzzz upload i luv the book so much! It is soooo hard 4 me to stop reading! Things r so intense i can hardly stand it!”
If that sounds a little, well, teenspeak for the literary Atwood, she seems game.
“This is an adventure! I wonder what it will be like to share my writing with a new group of people,” she said in a statement.
“Building new readers and writers is crucial for the writing and reading community. If there are no newer readers, soon there will be no older ones. And, in writing as with everything else, you learn by doing.”