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A photo of a bridge over a river at sunset, with tour boats passing under.
Photo by Nikolett Emmert on Pexels.com

Really, the title should be a love letter to Margaret Atwood, the third featured writer in the Art of the Short Story. The story that the editors chose from her plethora of work is “Happy Endings” in which Atwood takes a couple from their first meeting to a bunch of the possible endings. It’s pretty wonderful. At the end, the narrator takes the reader aside:

“So much for endings, Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with. 

That’s about all that can be said for plots, which are just one thing after another, a what, and a what, and a what.

Now try How and Why.”

Margaret Atwood, Happy Endings

I think this pretty much sums up my writing right now. I feel like I’ve got some good plots going, but that’s it. I mean, I am connecting with my characters, but of course, they are my imaginary friends and I love them. But, I don’t feel like I am helping others fall in love with them. So Atwood is a great teacher. 

I think with the popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale on whatever streaming service it’s on, that this is the only familiarity many have with Atwood. If that is the case, ah, they are missing so much. I think my favorite Atwood novel is Oryx and Crake, which seems about dystopian as the world outside out window. Or through our computer screens. The thing I love about Atwood is that her plots are so, so out in left field, and yet, the reader cares and turns the page to see what the characters must endure next and how they react. Atwood follows her own advice, she has the What(and also the Who and the Where) but also, the How and the Why. Maybe that is what I am missing. Atwood nails the How and the Why, in her novels and her stories. 

But this story has been a fun one to live with this week. Each of the endings seems more reasonable with each read and I think I have had a different favorite each read through. Reading this story, and Atwood’s accompanying essay on the Canadian North, really makes me want to read more of her short stories. Novels as well, but since this is  my short story year, I will make an effort to read the stories and poems. Luckily for me, our campus library has most of Atwood’s work in e-pub format. A win financially and creatively, right? I love libraries, but that is a post for another day. 

Just an aside about the photo above. So, that is what I got when I searched Margaret Atwood on Pexels.com. That and some people walking in the woods. But this photo has a surreal feeling. I would like to thing Atwood would like it, the bridge, the sunset and those lights. What wonderful shapes, and in a way, some of them look like they are done and ready to take flight. I wonder where they would go?