When I was in graduate school, Margaret Atwood came to visit our department for a week. She's a major reason I became a writer so I was very excited to spend time with her and even more thrilled when the department put me in charge of her. From the second I picked her up at the airport she was full of questions. ("What are those trees? Why does your seatbelt do that? Why are there so many personalized license plates?) My roommates and I hosted a dinner party for her at our house. Half the department came over to help us cook. When she arrived that night she said she'd already eaten, and spit an onion tart out into a napkin in front of the person who made it, claiming she thought it was a cheese tart. I tried to bond over being Canadian but she didn't seem to care. When she asked what my sign was and I said Virgo her face contorted into a sour grimace, "Uch," she said. "My ex-husband is a Virgo." I defended my sign, saying perhaps female Virgos were different than male Virgos, and while she was open to the argument, it wasn't the stimulating conversation I'd fantasized about having with her. Toward the end of the week I was growing weary of her. While crossing the street on campus, a local, celebrated yet quirky poet was walking toward us. Ms. Atwood nudged me away so we wouldn't cross his path and said "Uch, there's that man again." I prayed he didn't hear, though I imagine he did. When the week was through, when I was done driving her places, escorting her to classes, and dining with her, I handed her my tattered-from-reading copy of "Dancing Girls," her short story collection which started me on my own writing path. As she signed it I imagined something like, THANKS FOR DRIVING ME EVERYWHERE or NICE TO MEET A FELLOW CANOOK or even GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR WRITING. Instead, I simply got MARGARET ATWOOD.
I still love her work. I even follow her on Twitter. And despite our nonbonding, Margaret Atwood gave me the gift of a story, and for that this Virgo is grateful!