Summary:

Plenty of authors take to Twitter to promote their new books, but few of them have the stature of Margaret Atwood — and even fewer of them take to it the way the Canadian fiction writing legend has. She says it’s like “having 33,000 precocious grandchildren.”

Plenty of authors take to Twitter as part of a marketing strategy for their books, and some even stick around, among them Chuck “Fight Club” Pahlaniuk and Brazilian magic realism author Paulo Coelho, and science fiction author and Boing Boing founder Cory Doctorow. But few of the published authors who have adopted Twitter have the stature of Margaret Atwood, and even fewer stick with it the way the grand dame of Canadian fiction has. Not only has she continued to tweet enthusiastically since her book “Year of the Flood” came out, but she seems to really enjoy the interaction, as she describes in a piece written for the New York Review of Books.

One follower led to another, quite literally. The numbers snowballed in an alarming way, as I scrambled to keep up with the growing horde. Soon there were 32,000—no, wait, 33,000—no, 33,500…And before you could say LMAO (“Laughing My Ass Off,” as one Twitterpal informed me), I was sucked into the Twittersphere like Alice down the rabbit hole. And here I am.

Atwood says there were already two other Margaret Atwoods on Twitter when she joined, including one that used her photo, but she managed to wrestle the account away from them with the help of “the Twitterpolice.” And she says that in order to gain followers she “hummed a few bars from ‘Mockingbird Hill’—Tra-la-la, twittly-deedee—and sacrificed some of my hair at the crossroads, invoking Hermes the Communicator” (she also got some help from McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves, a veteran Canadian web guru).

Atwood calls the Twittersphere “an odd and uncanny place. It’s something like having fairies at the bottom of your garden.” But she seems to particularly like the back-and-forth with her followers: “Despite their sometimes strange appearances, I’m well pleased with my followers,” she says, adding that they include “a number of techno-geeks and bio-geeks, as well as many book fans. They’re a playful but also a helpful group. If you ask them for advice, it’s immediately forthcoming.”

The author notes that her followers and fans have caught typos and love to respond to verbal challenges, including one that she started during the Olympics to suggest a more Canadian version of the official government slogan “Own The Podium” (her suggestion was a polite “a podium might be nice”). Atwood says it was “like having 33,000 precocious grandchildren!” And in the end, she says:

So what’s it all about, this Twitter? Is it signaling, like telegraphs? Is it Zen poetry? Is it jokes scribbled on the washroom wall? Is it John Hearts Mary carved on a tree? Let’s just say it’s communication, and communication is something human beings like to do.

Well said, Margaret. But then, we probably don’t have to tell you that.

Post and thumbnails courtesy of Flickr user Peter A Wolf

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