Margaret Atwood tells nextMEDIA attendees to 'make it real'

by Andrea Wahbe | Culture

Atwood nextMEDIA hand-drawn slidesIn an afternoon keynote presentation at the nextMEDIA conference in Toronto yesterday, Margaret Atwood took the stage to teach writers how to engage with their readers in a digital era.

Atwood began by telling the audience to “make it real.” Her slides included hand-drawn illustrations which she created on paper, and then took photos of them to insert into to the presentation. Clearly, this played into the sense of authenticity that she was trying to convey.

In addition, she told the audience to “make it personal. Your writing is you. We can do way more on the web than hit buttons.” She also said that it’s important to “make it intuitive. Web 2.0 demanded that you act like it. Web 3.0 will enable you to act like you.”

She then suggested the following ways that social media and digital technologies can help writers and content creators to reach a broader audience:

  • Touch those you can’t touch: Many more of them!
  • Go where you can’t go: across the ocean, around the world, to smaller towns: wherever your reader/audience is.
  • Do what you can’t do. Sign and personalize anything anywhere (E or paper or flat physical object.)
  • Create original graphics elsewhere, quickly and intuitively.

Atwood told the audience that although the Internet has broken down our “traditional” publishing models, these models have actually only existed since the 19th century. Before then, many writers also published their own works. In addition, she argued that “although we’re seeing shrinking revenue models in some areas of the publishing industry, we’re seeing growth in many others.”

Publishers like and Open Road Integrated Media are two examples that Atwood told the audience to check out if they want to see how the industry can thrive. She also suggested that “the Internet is actually influencing the return of short fiction.” Atwood says that “Kindle singles are a great example. Also, check out the Daily Lit in England, which e-mails you one short story per day.”

In reference to Twitter, Atwood revealed that it was McLean Greaves, VP of Interactive Content at ZoomerMedia Ltd. who first introduced her to the new medium. “Twitter is actually just like all of its preceding short-form communication mediums – like the telegram or writing on a washroom wall,” says Atwood.

She went on to argue that children’s reading and writing skills will actually increase as a result of all of the texting and Tweeting that has replaced the phone conversation. “The Internet can actually be a great literacy driver if we’re open to it,” says Atwood.

McLean Greaves, who fielded a Q&A session between Atwood and the audience after her presentation bragged that “as the person who introduced Margaret Atwood to Twitter, I feel like the guy who first sold golf clubs to Tiger Woods.”

Overall, Atwood was entertaining and hilarious as always. She certainly had the crowd cackling at her references to her “mudslinging” experience with Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford this past summer in regards to suggested cuts to the city libraries.

At the end of her nextMEDIA Q&A session, Atwood said “in Alexandria, books were burned by Christian fanatics...too bad about that. Although, the Toronto libraries could also soon be destroyed by Christian fanatics.” Laughter ensued.

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Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who has contributed to the growth of online media businesses in Canada, such as AOL and Google. By day, Andrea writes about digital media and marketing trends and tips for Canadian startups and SMEs. By night, she’s an analog book reader, master swimmer and experimental chef.  more

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