[Atwood told her audience in the Duke Family Performance Hall that she would speak about something she’d never spoken about before: “influences you didn’t know were influences while you were having them.”The first such influence she mentioned was her 11th grade English teacher. Although this teacher, when asked about her former pupil’s early promise, had replied, “She showed no particular talent,” Atwood remembered her fondly. She was mesmerized by this woman, who had long, thin, floating hair and would recite Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn” with her eyes shut and arms outstretched.
She included the poem in “The Blind Assassin” (2000) as a kind of tribute to her teacher, Atwood said.
Unafraid to poke fun at her younger self, Atwood shared her early life plan: to churn out money-making stories during the day and devote her evenings to crafting works of staggering genius.
She tried her hand at writing True Romance stories. She described the typical True Romance cover: a woman crying, and in the background, another woman in the arms of a man.
The plots were “not difficult to devise,” she said. One man might work in a shoestore while “the other rides a motorcycle.” The woman makes the wrong choice and then “something happens on the sofa.” ”It was done with dots,” Atwood said. “‘And then we were one, dot dot dot …’”“I could do the plots,” Atwood said, “but I could not do the dots.”
After that, she decided she wanted to be a journalist, but her parents “dredged up a real journalist,” a distant family member, who told her that she’d be relegated to writing “ladies pages” and obituaries.
She decided to get a degree and teach English. After that, her plan was to run away to France, “become an absinthe drinker,” get tuberculosis and die young like Keats, having written works of staggering genius in a garret.]