At my last writing group meeting, we talked about the authors who had significantly influenced us as writers. One woman talked about a poet who helped her make the connections between art and politics. Another woman brought in poetry texts from her early university days, blushing as she read passages most meaningful to her. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I found myself recalling and talking about the summer when I was eighteen. That year, I was learning about feminism and was continuously drawn to the musty McMaster Mills Library (infamous for the Mills Masturbator who I happened to be surprised by twice during my time at Mac–but that is another story) where I took out one Margaret Atwood book after another. Every few days I returned the one I had savoured and then had my fill of the next. It was terribly satisfying that there were so many to choose from, and that the books lasted through the summer and into the fall, when I got busy with course readings once again. I loved her feminist voice, a novelty for me, and one that influenced my own burgeoning sense of what it meant to be a woman. Later, I binged on women of colour and dyke writers to help me with this process. But that summer, it was all Atwood.
I was having lunch with a friend a couple of months ago at the By The Way Cafe in Toronto and saw Atwood there. I saw her go into the bathroom, and since I needed to go, I followed her in there, excited to catch a close-up glimpse of the famous author. While she washed her hands, I shyly said, “I love your writing,” and then ducked out of there before she even had time to look over her shoulder at me, her fawning fan. Later, I felt that I should have said, “and I am a writer too…”. I have since had fantasies of us having a full-blown conversation right there and her taking an interest in me a la Vincent Lam (and you know the rest of the story). But that’s OK, I finally met the woman, and in the intimacy of the women’s bathroom of the cafe, I had a chance to tell her what she meant to me.