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Margaret Atwood – Lioness at Large

Margaret Atwood

(* 1939)

Margaret AtwoodBiographical Sketch

Margaret Eleanor Atwood CC OOnt CH FRSC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, environmental activist, and inventor. Since 1961, she has published 18 books of poetry, 18 novels, 11 books of nonfiction, nine collections of short fiction, eight children’s books, and two graphic novels, as well as a number of small press editions of both poetry and fiction. Atwood has won numerous awards and honors for her writing, including the Booker Prize (twice), Arthur C. Clarke Award, Governor General’s Award, Franz Kafka Prize, Princess of Asturias Awards, and the National Book Critics and PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Awards. A number of her works have been adapted for film and television.

Atwood’s works encompass a variety of themes including gender and identity, religion and myth, the power of language, climate change, and “power politics”. Many of her poems are inspired by myths and fairy tales which interested her from a very early age. Atwood is a founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize and Writers’ Trust of Canada. She is also a Senior Fellow of Massey College, Toronto.  Atwood is also the inventor of the LongPen device and associated technologies that facilitate remote robotic writing of documents.

Read more about Margaret Atwod on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (Canada)
  • 2012
Order of Canada
  • 1981: Companion of the Order
Governor General’s Award (Canada)
  • 1966: Poetry – “The Circle Game”
  • 1985: Fiction – “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Canadian Booksellers Association
  • 1989: Author of the Year
Periodical Distributors of Canada
  • 1977: Short Fiction – “Dancing Girls”
Royal Canadian Geographical Society
  • 2015: Gold Medal
Province of Ontario
  • 1990: Order of Ontario
Government of Ontario / Ontario Creates
  • 1991: Trillium Book Award – “Wilderness Tips”
  • 1993: Trillium Book Award – “The Robber Bride”
    – Joint award with Jane Urquhart (“Away”).
  • 1995: Trillium Book Award – “Morning in the Burned House”
    – Joint award with Wayson Choy (“The Jade Peony”) and Maurice Henrie (“Le Balcon dans le ciel”)
Armenian Community Centre of Toronto
  • 1989: Outstanding Canadian Award
Order of the Companions of Honour (British Commonwealth)
  • 2019: Companion
Booker Prize (UK)
  • 2000: “The Blind Assassin”
  • 2019: “The Testaments”
    – Joint award with Bernardine Evaristo (“Girl, Woman, Other”)
Arthur C. Clarke Award (UK)
  • 1987: Best Science Fiction – “The Handmaid’s Tale”
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1988: Foreign Honorary Member
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (USA)
  • 1981: Guggenheim Fellowship
Los Angeles Times Book Prize (USA)
  • 1986: Fiction – “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • 2012: Innovator’s Award
American Humanist Association
  • 1987: Humanist of the Year
Kenyon Review (USA)
  • 2007: Award for Literary Achievement
Black Lawrence Press
  • 1977: St. Lawrence Award for Fiction – “Dancing Girls”
Dayton Literary Peace Prize (USA)
  • 2020: Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award
Tulsa Library Trust
  • 1999: Helmerich Award
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France)
  • 1994: Chevalier dans l’Ordre
Prince of Asturias Award for Literature (Spain)
  • 2008
Dan David Prize (Israel)
  • 2010: Present – Literature: Rendition of the 20th Century
    – Joint award with Amitav Ghosh.
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
  • 2017
City of Dortmund (Germany)
  • 2010: Nelly Sachs Prize
Franz Kafka Society & City of Prague (Czech Republic)
  • 2017: Franz Kafka Prize
Struga Poetry Evenings (Macedonia)
  • 2016: Golden Wreath



  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • The Testaments (2019)
  • Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • The Year of the Flood (2009)
  • MaddAddam (2013)

– Published in ebook format.

  • I’m Starved For You: Episode One (2012)
  • Choke Collar: Episode Two (2012)
  • Erase Me: Episode Three (2013)
  • The Heart Goes Last: Episode Four (2013)
Other Novels
  • The Edible Woman (1969)
  • Surfacing (1972)
  • Lady Oracle (1976)
  • Life Before Man (1979)
  • Bodily Harm (1981)
  • Cat’s Eye (1988)
  • The Robber Bride (1993)
  • Alias Grace (1996)
  • The Blind Assassin (2000)
  • The Penelopiad (2005)
  • Scribbler Moon (2014)
  • The Heart Goes Last (2015)
  • Hag-Seed (2016)
  • Angel Catbird (2016)
    – Graphic novel; coauthored with Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain.
  • War Bears (2018)
    – Graphic novel (originally short story); coauthored with Ken Steacy.
Short Story Collections
  • Dancing Girls (1977)
  • Murder in the Dark (1983)
  • Bluebeard’s Egg (1983)
  • Wilderness Tips (1991)
  • Good Bones (1992)
  • Good Bones and Simple Murders (1994)
  • The Labrador Fiasco (1996)
  • The Tent (2006)
  • Moral Disorder (2006)
  • Stone Mattress (2014)
  • The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home (2013)
    – Short story published in ebook format; coauthored with Naomi Alderman.
  • Double Persephone (1961)
  • The Circle Game (1964)
  • Expeditions (1965)
  • Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein (1966)
  • The Animals in That Country (1968)
  • The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970)
  • Procedures for Underground (1970)
  • Power Politics (1971)
  • You Are Happy (1974)
  • Selected Poems (1976)
  • Two-Headed Poems (1978)
  • True Stories (1981)
  • Love Songs of a Terminator (1983)
  • Snake Poems (1983)
  • Interlunar (1984)
  • Selected Poems 1966 – 1984 (Canada) (1985)
  • Selected Poems II: 1976 – 1986 (US) (1987)
  • Morning in the Burned House (1995)
  • Eating Fire: Selected Poems, 1965 – 1995 (1998)
  • Dearly (2020)
Children’s Books
  • Up in the Tree (1978)
  • Anna’s Pet (1980)
    – Coauthored with Joyce C. Barkhouse.
  • For the Birds (1990)
    – Coauthored with Shelly Tanaka)
  • Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)
  • Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003)
  • Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2006)
  • Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery (2011)
    – Inspired a cartoon series called Wandering Wenda in 2016; subsequently adapted for the screen in 26 episodes, with Atwood playing herself in all episodes.
Dramatic Writing
  • The Trumpets of Summer (1964)
    – With composer John Beckwith.
  • Frankenstein Monster Song (2004)
    – With rock band One Ring Zero.
  • Pauline (2014)
    – A chamber opera in two acts for City Opera Vancouver, with composer Tobin Stokes.
TV Screnplays
  • The Servant Girl (1974)
  • Snowbird (1981)
  • Heaven on Earth (1987)
  • Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972)
  • Days of the Rebels 1815 – 1840 (1977)
  • Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982)
  • Through the One-Way Mirror (1986)
  • Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995)
  • Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002)
  • Moving Targets: Writing with Intent, 1982–2004 (2004)
  • Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983 – 2005 (2005)
  • Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008)
  • In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (2011)
  • On Writers and Writing (2015)
Anthologies edited by Margaret Atwood
  • The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1982)
  • The Canlit Foodbook (1987)
  • The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1988)
  • The Best American Short Stories 1989 (1989)
    – With Shannon Ravenel.
  • The New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1995)
  • Kanadian Kultchur Komix featuring “Survivalwoman”
    – Published in This Magazine under the pseudonym Bart Gerrard, 1975 – 1980.


A Selection of Quotes

From the poem Spelling

“A word after a word after a word is power.”

In Narrative Magazine / 6 Word Stories

“Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”

The Handmaid’s Tale

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

“You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.”

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

“But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”

“The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you’ve been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil.”

“We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?”

“Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.”

The Blind Assassin

“The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”

“There were a lot of gods. Gods always come in handy, they justify almost anything.”

“Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?
At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down.”

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you. A dubious maxim: sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you very much.”

“Sympathy from strangers can be ruinous.”

Negotiating with the Dead

“There’s an epigram tacked to my office bulletin board, pinched from a magazine – ‘Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.'”

Cat’s Eye

“Potential has a shelf life.”

Alias Grace

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”

Unsourced / Attributed:

“I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.”

Find more quotes by Margaret Atwood on Wikiquote and Goodreads.