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.

Listening to Margaret Atwood discuss her process is life changing!

I think what Margaret did was give me permission - to learn from others, and from her brilliant, fun and funny mind, while at the same time to find my own path, process and story and pursue that. - It was great! Thank you Margaret.

Margaret Atwood is brilliant, witty, down-to-earth: truly one of the world's great writers of the past half-century. I especially appreciated her tips on historical research, and speculative fiction research. Her book recommendations are also very helpful.

This is one of my favourite masterclasses on writing. Margaret is inspirational, motivating and fun which made her lessons so interesting and compelling to listen to. She shared her wisdom so generously and I learned a lot of new tips about the writing process. I particularly enjoyed the case study on The Handmaid's Tale.


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.


I love the intro to this. It had me smiling from the beginning and even more eager to learn than I already was. Looking forward to more!


Yay! This looks like another winner. I've had mixed results with these classes and I won't stick with one past the first one or two lessons if I'm not intrigued or entertained. Some of the presenters do a much better job of keeping people interested than others. Great opener here. I want to hang out with this lady. If you're looking for other writing MasterClasses, I recommend James Patterson's and Dan Brown's classes - they also know how to engage an audience. Really looking forward to this one now!

Anne S.

Smart, unexpected, a little sly - of course - it's Margaret Atwood. Very much looking forward to the rest of this class.

Gareth S.

I have enjoyed Margaret Atwood's perception about that reading makes more demands of a person than any other of the other arts. In the end she talks about throwing the book into the world and ultimately, it is the reader who gives the book meaning.

Lois C.

I enjoyed Margaret Atwood's perception that reading makes more demands of a person than any other of the arts. And of course she is right that readers may look differently at a work from the author, but I would like to write so clearly that the reader shares my meaning.

A fellow student

In Atwood's description of the writer evoking and conjuring stories for the reader, this is what I am wanting to do with my writing. In the end she talks about throwing the book into the world and ultimately, it is the reader that gives the book meaning. In my writing, I have my meaning and also each reader attaches their own meaning.

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.