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.

I'm leaving this class with a full heart and a notebook filled with inspiration, guidance, and tools. This class is a wonderful opportunity, and the format made it feel like a conversation with her. I was sad to reach the end.

It was wonderful! As an older writer — a journalist professionally— now retired and working on a memoir about my young son who died at 10, and having been a long term fan of MA’s, I found this master class filled with reminders of things I knew and had forgotten! Thank her and master class for this lovely experience.

I adored the thoroughness of this class and just plain love Margaret Atwood. This workshop changed my writing.

Margaret is just a really interesting individual. She certainly gave me a lot of things to.consider.


Susanne B.

I loved it. It's a privilege to listen to Margaret Atwood. She is such a gifted writer.


Great - I'm already considering something she has challenged me with. One of the bits of 'received wisdom' about writing is 'Write what you know'. If you are writing from your own experience your ego has to be in there somewhere. So setting your ego aside could really open things up!

Yvette K.

She’s got me!!! Very compelling. Also love the sumptuous image presented!

A fellow student

This will be a compelling workshop. I can already tell. I'm excited to embark on this journey. I will try to "put my ego aside" and work on telling stories.

Amber C.

Already I absolutely adore her candor and casual comfort in talking about her craft. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy her technical style, it's clear that she deeply loves storytelling (and her sales numbers speak for themselves). I'm so excited to continue forward with this class and learn from her.

A fellow student

Margret Atwood is one my most favourite writers of all times, it’s a great feeling to hear her as a teacher as well. Dr. Gaurav Sharma, Bangalore, India

M H.

It took me a while to figure out - Lesson Discussion 1984 comments - had nothing to do with George Orwell's novel... This is so intimidating - so I guess that applies to chapter 2. Since childhood, people have liked me to tell stories, or they would rather I shut up. My understanding of this goes to my relationships - I am a brother to eight siblings, and I think my approach to the outside world is one of becoming a brother. And as anyone having a brother know, you either love them or hate them, or a little of both, or a lot of both, or more of one than the other. I like the way Margaret speaks. I have a sister with the same name. I spent part of last year reading most of Ursula K. Le Guinn. I don't know why she popped into my head, but I've found that when things pop into one's head, you should often share them. This year I want to dive into Atwood, and what better way. I have to admit I'm slow to take to things. I've never read any Atwood novels, short stories, essays, but then when I do turn my attention, I can't get enough. I recently finished my Russian winter - Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Doctor Zhivago, and The Brothers Karamazov. Then, since we have a London trip planned for end of summer, I started on Dickens - Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and wrapping up David Copperfield. I had thought to read a few more - Tale of Two Cities & Great Expectations, without fail. However, I find myself diverted - this Masterclass is too enticing, Going down the rabbit hole...

Rhonda W.

I had the memorable pleasure of listening to Atwood live at an L3 Writer's conference at a local high school, and I have been enamoured ever since. I love the image she creates of writer's as conjurers. I just wish that the process, for me at least, was more like magic rather than hard work :)


This is my first class of the Master Class offerings and I am impressed. It felt as if I were in a semester long class. I will add more as I move further along the work, but I am truly excited to finish all of the exercises and the last few of Atwood's lessons. I was initially skeptical of the Master Class concept, but this class alone has won me over. Atwood's class alone was worth the investment. About the third or fourth lesson, I quickly realized that Atwood came to deliver. The class was logical, answered each question I had and touched substantively on those questions that I had but had yet to articulate. In addition, the production of this class was a pleasure to experience. The production of this class is top notch. Sound was great as it seems Atwood has a rather soft speaking voice, but I feel as if I missed nothing because of the expertise of the production team. The background and general feel of the class' presentation was inviting. I actually liked the musical interludes as they fit well. Great work!

Kelly D.

You know she's a story teller just by the way she speaks. I was able to visualize her words which really helped to solidify the ideas behind them. I loved how she likened the words of a story to the musical notes in a score.