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Margaret Atwood jumps into teen writing site Wattpad

June 26, 2012 | 11:22 am

Margaret Atwood has always been one step ahead. The recent to-do over the use of the word "vagina" on the Michigan state House floor, for instance, would fit right in with the world she imagined in "The Handmaid's Tale," which was published back in 1985.

So maybe other adult novelists should take note of Atwood's latest move: She's jumped into the frenetic teen writing site Wattpad. "I look forward to exploring the ways Wattpad connects people to reading and writing, and may help give them confidence through feedback from readers," Atwood writes on her author page.

Wattpad is a Toronto-based social reading app and website that's been rapidly adopted by teens. It claims 9 million users, more than 70% of whom engage with the materials on Wattpad through a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Earlier this month, the company announced $17 million in Series B funding; currently, its platform is completely free to use. More than 500,000 new stories and poems -- in 25 languages -- are added each month.

On Monday, Atwood posted two poems on the site, "Thriller Suite" and "Update on Werewolves." The site captures and displays all kinds of metrics about the writing shared there. Atwood's poems have had more than 1,600 reads.

In a release announcing Atwood's participation, Chief Executive Allen Lau said, "Our community of readers and writers are thrilled, especially our poets.... Just imagine what it means for a young aspiring poet to interact with Margaret Atwood!"

So far, just 15 people have ventured to leave comments on Atwood's poems. They may be shy to engage  with the revered 72-year-old author, who has received the Arthur C. Clark Award, has won Canada's Governor General Award twice, and recieved the Man Booker prize in 2000 for "The Blind Assassin."

It may take a little time for the site's users to find the best way to interact with Atwood, who is accustomed to presenting finished, polished work. One of the most fertile uses of Wattpad is as a place for people working on a writing project to post it in serial form. For the popular work "The Bro Code," which has had more than 1.5 million reads, comments show that readers got started and want more. A typical one: "Plzzzzzz plzzzzz upload i luv the book so much! It is soooo hard 4 me to stop reading! Things r so intense i can hardly stand it!"

If that sounds a little, well, teenspeak for the literary Atwood, she seems game. “This is an adventure! I wonder what it will be like to share my writing with a new group of people," she said in the release. "Building new readers and writers is crucial for the writing and reading community: if there are no newer readers, soon there will be no older ones. And, in writing as with everything else, you learn by doing.”


Interview: Margaret Atwood

At Digital Book World: Copia

What the heck is 'social reading'?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Margaret Atwood in 2008. Credit: George Whiteside.