Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

>Wordstock, competiton and Margaret Atwood

This past weekend, I taught a writing workshop for teachers and gave a reading at Portland’s annual book festival, Wordstock—a big, noisy, raucous event. I was lucky to be chosen to read with Cai Emmons from Eugene.
I’ve been thinking lately about competition. I’ve been thinking that the worst thing for me, creatively, is when I set myself up next to others, when I scrutinize myself and second guess my writing, when I begin to wonder, who is better. As if that’s ever the point.
Years ago at a workshop Ken Babbs said that we should never begrudge another writer’s talent or success. Every piece of good writing, and every acknowledgment of it, is a success for each of us.
I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride. I heard her read and lecture thirty years ago and for some reason the only thing I can remember is that she talked about pornography. She described a horrific pornographic photograph and ever afterwards, sorry Margaret, I have not been able to unlink that image from your name. Babbs gets his bit of wisdom, but you get rats in the vagina. Not fair, but that’s memory for you. I have two thoughts when I read someone as good at Atwood:
1. I can never be this good
2. look what the written word can do

Categories: books, Oregon, writing

3 replies

  1. >I’m reading Atwoods’ The Handmaids Tale. It’s not riveting, but it is thought provoking.

  2. >Well, to each his own preferences. For me, it is thought provoking, in the sense it describes a world where religious directed morality has taken over, by force, every aspect of every life, especially reproduction and sex. It’s a warning, of what could come, should we not hold fast to freedoms, freedoms that allow one to practise their religion or to believe nothing religious, and to think and believe and act as one wishes.So when I read the book, I think of events transpiring today and wonder, ‘will this happen here’ or something like it. It has happened in some middle eastern countries already. Afghanistan, for one, under the Taliban.

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