Happy Birthday, Margaret Atwood

So, this past Wednesday night, that ^^^^ happened.

(L to R — Erin Morgenstern, Some Jerk, Margaret Atwood, Neil Fucking Gaiman, Lev Grossman.)

Holy shit. I know, right?! Ahem. Yeah. So, I was invited to speak at the Happy Birthday, Margaret Atwood event at the 92Y, and to call it “surreal” is like suggesting the ocean is “damp,” or outer space is “chilly.” Upon arriving at the 92Y, I was ushered into the green room where Neil Gaiman (an unsurprisingly lovely person) was just… you know, sitting there? Chilling out? And then Lev shows up (he’s brilliant), and Erin after that (a good friend and an amazing writer), then finally the woman of the hour (the year, the decade, the century) appeared: Margaret Atwood.

She has great presence. She’s funny and wry and happy and yet, takes utterly no shit at all.

Erin did not make cakes with cake material but rather, she made cakes with words (75* of them, which is to say, *not 75 of them). Lev gave an arresting reading of The Handmaid’s Tale. I spoke of those things You Likely Did Not Know About Margaret Atwood, and also assured the audience that she was not my girlfriend. (You pesky gossips, all of you.) And Neil and Margaret had a conversation on stage that was billed as an interview but was far humbler and more comforting than that — it had that rare feeling of sitting in an adjacent room listening to two people just talk rather than sitting in an audience watching two people put on a show. Intimate, warm, curious, writerly. I was lucky to be there to see it, much less be a part of it. I mean, seriously, how privileged to be with such giants. Not literal giants, but literary ones. I tried very hard not to single-handedly diminish the literary legacies of all those attending.

I’m still not certain it actually happened.

My life is super weird, you guys.

Bonus: I got to hang after with some great friends, including my wife, my agent Stacia, my serial killer friend Dave, and awesome humans Eliza and Emma, both of whom flew in from Australia just to see the thing. (Plus, I got to meet Rita Meade from Book Riot, and frankly, anything and anybody associated with Book Riot is badass.)

Anyway, thanks to the 92Y, Random Penguinhaus, and Margaret for having me.

More pics:



  • I’m out of my mind with feelings!!! How fantastic!! To spend time with Margaret Atwood!!!! And you are bloody deserving so I can’t even be jealous!

    I love how you described the “interview” and could almost feel the conversation and insights and warm percolating ideas flowing….

    I have a dream where I’m having coffee with Margaret Atwood. But the dream is always fuzzy, because she’s so sharp, and I’m not. And the fact that I, too, am a Canadian girl writing things isn’t enough to make me endearing to her. The dream always ends with Margaret Atwood turning into my dentist who has a sexy accent and is accessible… to him I’m interesting.

    Anyway, thank-you for sharing the evening with us, Chuck! It’s as close as I’ll ever get to seeing my dream come true, and it’s close enough for me!

    Happy birthday to Margaret Atwood!

    Random Addition: I discovered your blog, Chuck, via Margaret Atwood’s website, and I’m so glad I did!

  • December 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM // Reply

    Your experience reminds me of hearing about actors who are suddenly in awe of other great actors when everyone’s at the Oscars. Apparently it goes the same for great writers. To be invited to an event like this speaks volumes for your success!

  • Chuck, what I love most about this entry is how FULL of the experience you were as a person and a writer. Despite having success yourself, the ability to pass the baton to others and see the good in each of them as people and artists is appreciated. You do this often when you’re promoting other writers as well, even if you do take the piss out of them occasionally too. An awesome way to convey an awesome experience. I salute you, sir. ;-)

  • Wow, Chuck, you clean up nice!!!!

    And what an honor!!! I’d be dumbstruck to just be there, but you carried it off with aplomb. (Probably the first and last time I’ll ever use that word. Wendig = aplomb. Oops, I did it again. Oh well. Blame it on the rum balls.) Kudos to you, and thanks for sharing the experience with us!

  • I had an experience like that once. Peter Matthiessen was in town, and he asked me to be on a panel of presenters. I had met him a long time ago by happenstance in the wilderness of the High Sierra, and we spent a few days together. He told me I should be a writer — “You have all the tools,” he said. So I became a sportswriter to learn the craft. Won a few national awards, with his mentoring. But never got into the serious writing he deemed.

    Any writer worth his salt has an ego. Need it to face the criticism that always comes.
    Any writer worthy of his words has something of an inferiority complex. It’s a ground wire.
    Problem is I always seem to take those things to an extreme.

    I did not feel worthy of being on a panel presenting Peter Matthiessen. So I stumbled through the damn thing, feeling like I would never be invited back to anything like this … but afterwards he invited me to dinner so we could have a talk. He told me it was time to write the book, about my experiences on that 14K peak we both were climbing. He knew something happened to me up there. It is a book I consider the nexus of my life. So, of course, I always shied away from it. He told me he always felt the same thing when he was about to write a book that was important to him.

    Couple of years later, Peter passed away. And I started writing the damn book.
    Sports would just have to wait awhile. I had to show whatever talent I had in a different way.

    Thanks, Peter …

  • I’ve never actually read anything by Margaret Atwood. I had A Handmaid’s Tale but gave it to a friend who read it on our interrail trip. She left it on some hostel.
    I’ve wanted to read the Edible Woman for a long time. I may very well do it soon.

    Awesome that you’re hanging out with the giants, Chuck! :D

  • I heard John Stewart give an interview where he called the 92nd Street Y the third holiest site in Judaism. Sounds like a wonderful event.

  • So excellent!

    I’m not at all envious. Nope. Ok maybe a little, but it’s woven through with happiness for you. Woven by bluebirds whistling happy, non-envious tunes.

    Margaret! Attwood!!!! Erin !!! Morgenstern!!! Chuck !!! Neil Gaiman!!! Lev Grossman!!

    So very cool. Congratulations to Margaret on the occasion of her birthday, and to the rest of you for getting to hang out with her and each other. The 92nd St. Y rocks.

  • Holy crap, Chuck. That is an awesome experience. Congrats. That’s gotta be a high of the best kind. Way to go, dude! Well done. You earned this.

  • I started reading this and wonder who that Jerk was… and only when I went back for a second look did I realise it’s you! Wow, Chuck, you’re so much younger and more handsome than your biog photo (are you sure you’re not Ms Attwood’s BF?). I never realised when I started following your blog that I was following a superstar. Of course, I realised it a while later, but still…
    Thanks for the story – ace!

  • Congrats on all your success Chuck. Seems like every week there’s new and exciting highlights in your career. Being invited to speak at an event like this is the kind of thing beginning writers dream about.

    And you’re there.

  • Awesome human Emma is a dear friend of mine. This is a Good Thing, because if she wasn’t, I’d be shooting daggers of envy at her. With my eyes. And also some real daggers.

  • D’aww, thank you for the shout-out (and for the nice words about Book Riot)! It was so wonderful to finally meet you in person. And may I just say that your presentation did the furthest thing from “diminishing the literary legacies”. You were funny, gracious, engaging, interesting, and did I mention funny? Good job, Mr. Wendig.

  • GTFO, Wendig!
    I once handed Neil Fucking Gaiman some of my short stories. I don’t think he ever read them, but I was probably high on the experience alone of handing them over to him for a whole weekend.

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