From Margaret Atwood's MasterClass


Meet your new instructor: Man Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood. In your first lesson, Margaret shares her perspective on the art of writing and who ultimately gives your book its meaning.

Topics include: Introduction


Meet your new instructor: Man Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood. In your first lesson, Margaret shares her perspective on the art of writing and who ultimately gives your book its meaning.

Topics include: Introduction

Margaret Atwood

Teaches Creative Writing

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Creativity is one of the essential things about being human. You don't have to apologize for it. It's something human beings do. Sometimes people say, express yourself. I don't really think that that's necessarily the key thing. Expressing yourself can be shouting in a field. So rather than expressing yourself, why don't you think in terms of evoking, conjuring up for the reader some curiosity, some suspense, some interest rather than this is my ego? [CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING] If you're a writer, you have a very limited repertoire of tools. Your repertoire is a blank page and some words that you put on it. So you're not making a film. You don't have sound effects. You don't have actors. You only have those words that the reader is reading. And that's what you use to build everything in your story as words. Words on a page are inert. They're like black musical notes on a score. They're inert until the music is played, or in the case of a book, the reader is reading. And when the reader is reading, the words transform back into representations, sounds, smells, colors, people. Reading is the most participative of the arts. There's more brain activity when you're reading that kind of intense text than there is, for instance, when you're watching television, when you're watching film, because the brain has to supply everything with the words used just as cues, clues. So what you're providing the reader with is a score, a score that the reader will then interpret. And all you can do as a writer is make your book as good as it can be. You throw it out into the world, hope for the best. And that's all you can do. You can not dictate to the reader how they should read your book or receive your book. Because the meaning of a book, once it's is out in the world, is not decided by the writer anymore. Even if the writer has thought the writer was putting x meaning into the book, the reader may have quite a different idea, and usually does over time. So Thomas Hardy thought that "Tess of the D'urbervilles" was about the irony of fate, and we think it's a pretty kinky story about what happened to women in the Victorian period. I mean, that's what I think. What do you think? When I wrote "The Handmaid's Tale," I didn't give the central character a name. The readers decided that her name was June. There's nothing in the book that contradicts that. In fact, it all fits. But it wasn't something I thought up. The readers figured it out. It has to be June once you come to think of it, because each of the names that are mentioned in chapter 1, they all occur again in the book except for June. I thought that was pretty smart of them. I'm Margaret Atwood, and this is my MasterClass.

The art of powerful storytelling

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online writing class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories, from historical to speculative fiction, that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This is the kind of class I hope for, each time I begin one. These are things that help in subtle ways as I continue my writing. We get better via many avenues, some more important than others. Margaret's teachings are important ones.

This was one of the clearest, most concise explanations of story I've experienced.

This was my favorite class. l loved it. Thank you for sharing your gift.

Margaret Atwood is extremely intelligent - just love to listen to her - no wonder everyone loves to read her! Teaches you to think outside of the box!


Atwood is enticing. It is no coincidence that the word Grammar derives from old French gramaire. This word then evolved into grimoire - a book of spells. The writer's job is to evoke and to conjur up. I'm excited to be mentored by Atwood to help me cast my stories into the world.


I think her creativity infects you through her smile. What she says is important but it is the empowering way in which she says it that makes you want to go on.

A fellow student

An evocative opening. Looking forward to entering a writing journey with Margaret.

A fellow student

Funny, interesting, but not really a lesson/ class, just a nice little film of something that's not really new. But I'm curious about this course and will continue.

Meg H.

I found myself checking out the objects in the room and wondering if this is her writing space, reading space, or both.

Suzanne F.

Loved how Margaret identifies writers as creating an inner canvas in the readers mind to paint their own interpretations and individually resonant interaction. If reading is the most participative of all the arts - in her description evoking the most brain activity - then books will always live on because humans crave mind stimulating activity. I wonder what her thoughts are on the difference between reading hard copy versus electronic books in reference to brain activity and reader satisfaction?

Joe R.

So true Margaret. I learned the value of books in my elementary school library where people came to life in the biographies I read. It was a complete contrast to the Basal Readers we used in class. Books inspired me to become a reading teacher for 35 years and an author for the last five years of my life.

Shawn M.

I love her! She’s the quintessential writer, her words are carefully selected,💥


What Margaret said here that words on a page are inert until the reader reads them reminded me of a thought I had when I was a child, about nine years old. I was reading a comic book and I started thinking about how the person or people who wrote it and drew the pictures at this very minute may have even have forgotten about having written what I was reading. I thought about how the characters that I was reading about have been closed up in that comic book until I came along and began reading and at that point they became alive, at least for me.

A fellow student

I appreciate the simplicity of the blank page and beginning. I have a desire to write, to tell a story and find myself hesitating to take the step. Margaret reminds me that to fail is just part of continuing to "fail up". She reminds me that my story has been told thousands of times but not by me. And how the reader interprets my story gives it a different voice.