Let's all take a moment to celebrate Alice Munro! At 82 years old, she became the first Canadian to win a Nobel Prize in literature. When she learned of the news earlier this week, it's reported that she was completely surprised she had won and really didn't see it coming. What an amazing way to cap off a life-long career of writing great Canadian stories.
A few weeks ago, I also blogged about writer Margaret Atwood after seeing her speak at the Ottawa Writers Festival. At 72, she's just as witty as ever--even better!--and she exuded her trademark confidence and exceptional talent, making us all remember just how much she has contributed to the Canadian writing scene.
Combined, these two writers have published hundreds of poems, short stories, and novels, but the question I keep asking myself is: How come I've only read a handful of their work? How can two writers be so prolific and celebrated around the world, yet I only know a fraction of what they do? And how can I call myself a writer if I don't know my history!
Now I have a new agenda: I'm going to start at the beginning and read the first published works by both Atwood and Munro, as a way to follow their journeys on how they became such world-renowned writers. Then I'm going to keep reading and learning the techniques behind their craft. I want to learn how to tell a good story.
I remember watching the Juno Music Awards a few years ago and seeing Sylvia Tyson give an impassioned speech about how new recording artists need to listen to the recordings of their predecessors, especially from the 50s and 60s, to learn about the roots of popular music and to understand where it came from and how it can be mastered. I never forgot her speech and now I think about it in terms of writing. If I want to be a better writer, I don't need to pave a new road ahead of me. I can look back to the masters, like Atwood and Munro, and learn from the best.
Photograph copyright Kim Stallknecht
Stacey D. Atkinson is the author of the newly released novel Stuck, which she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing.