Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

Margaret Atwood: A Very Short Introduction

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1939. She is the daughter of a forest entomologist, and spent part of her early years in the bush of North Quebec. She moved, at the age of seven, to Toronto. She studied at the University of Toronto, then took her masters degree at Radcliffe College, Massachusetts, in 1962.

She is Canada's most eminent novelist and poet, and also writes short stories, critical studies, screenplays, radio scripts and books for children, her works having been translated into over 30 languages. Her reviews and critical articles have appeared in various eminent magazines and she has also edited many books, including The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (1983) and, with Robert Weaver, The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1986). She has been a full-time writer since 1972, first teaching English, then holding a variety of academic posts and writer residencies. She was President of the Writers Union of Canada from 1981-1982 and President of PEN, Canada from 1984-1986.

Her first publication was a book of poetry, The Circle Game (1964), which received the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry (Canada). Several more poetry collections have followed since, including Interlunar (1988), Morning in the Burned House (1995) and the latest, Eating Fire: Selected Poetry, 1965-1995 (1998). Also a short story writer, her books of short fiction include Dancing Girls and Other Stories (1982), Wilderness Tips (1991), and Good Bones (1992).

She is perhaps best known, however, for her novels, in which she creates strong, often enigmatic, women characters and excels in telling open-ended stories, while dissecting contemporary urban life and sexual politics. Her first novel was The Edible Woman (1969), about a woman who cannot eat and feels that she is being eaten. This was followed by: Surfacing (1973), which deals with a woman's investigation into her father's disappearance; Lady Oracle (1977); Life Before Man (1980); Bodily Harm (1982), the story of Rennie Wilford, a young journalist recuperating on a Caribbean island; and The Handmaid's Tale (1986), a futuristic novel describing a woman's struggle to break free from her role. Her latest novels have been: Cat's Eye (1989), dealing with the subject of bullying among young girls; The Robber Bride (1993); Alias Grace (1996), the tale of a woman who is convicted for her involvement in two murders about which she claims to have no memory; The Blind Assassin (2000), a multi-layered family memoir; and Oryx and Crake (2003), a vision of a scientific dystopia, which was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction.

These novels have received many awards. Alias Grace, The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye have all been shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. The Blind Assassin was successful in winning this prize in 2000.

Some of Margaret Atwood's books have been adapted for stage and screen. A film based on Alias Grace is currently being made, and a four-part mini-seres based on The Blind Assassin and screenplay for The Robber Bride are also underway. The theatrical version of The Edible Woman is currently also being successfully staged. The Handmaid's Tale was adapted for screen by Harold Pinter in a film directed by Volker Schlorndorf, released in 1990, and is now being staged as an opera by Poul Ruders. The British Premiere was performed by English National Opera at the Coliseum, London, in April 2003.

Margaret Atwood is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, has been presented with the Order of Ontario and the Norwegian Order of Literary Merit, and has been awarded sixteen honorary degrees. She has lived in many places including Canada, England, Scotland and France, and currently lives in Toronto.

Her most recent books are: The Door (2007), a collection of poetry; Payback (2008), a collection of lectures about debt; and The Year of the Flood (2009), her latest novel.
Photo (above) of Margaret Atwood taken byVaneramos .  See Flickr for more images by this artist.  Biography (left) taken from the British Council's Contemporary Writers page.  

Margaret Atwood on Faith & Reason

One on One with Margaret Atwood

Web Resources about Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret Eleanor

Score: 16

Summary: This website is very in depth and covers all of Atwood’s life and career, up until now. While describing Atwood’s life the website links other people, places, and awards on the page incase the reader does not know who or what they are. The article devotes a large space describing many of Atwood’s works and awards. These works of Atwood’s are placed in according to lifetime events that occurred around the same time, creating a very detailed timeline and providing a good picture of what each piece of work is about.

Evaluation: This website earned the score of 16 because there are many more strengths than weaknesses. The weaknesses are that while the author is listed, her credentials or why she is qualified are not. Another weakness is that there is not direct citing of resources, outside of the cited photography. There is a list of websites at the end of the page but there is no indication that they are the used sources. The strengths are that the information is factual, is funded and posted by a well know organization, The Canadian Encyclopedia. The encyclopedia has also printed copies and distributed them, adding to the cited credibility.

Luminarium Margaret Atwood Page

Score: 15

Summary: This website focuses more on Atwood’s career, rather than her life. A complete list of all of her writings is provided, described, and linked for visitors to read if they wish to. Other websites of linked as well as interview transcripts, videos, audio files of Atwood. There is a bit of Atwood’s background, like education and her life, but her works and awards take the forefront for a majority of this site.

Evaluation: This website earned the score of 15 because the author does not list her credentials, and has not been updated since 2007, making it potentially outdated. The strengths that this website has are that all of the resources are listed, but not cited, and that the site is a .org, funded by an unknown organization. This site has been reviewed by an internet subject directory and has won many awards. This cite also says that it exists to spread knowledge about contemporary women writers, like Margaret Atwood.

Contemporary Writers: Margaret Atwood

Score:  14

Summary: This website is run by a charity that focuses on contemporary writers. The purpose of the site is to provide “up-to-date profiles of some of the UK, Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland's most important living writers, as well as writers from these regions whom we have worked with”. This website consists of author profiles and awards they have received. The website adds six new authors each month and they are reviewed by the author in question.

Evaluation: The author of the Atwood piece is listed, but he does not provide credentials. The site is sponsored by a well known charity. Most of the sources used are in the bibliography is provided. The site is recent, as in it has been updated within the last three years. There are not a lot of pop-ups or ads and the domain is a .com. The purpose as stated above is to provide scholarly information.  This website is a valid resource because the information is reviewed by the author in question, Atwood, and the sponsor is a known charity.

Margaret Atwood: Biography

Score: 13

Summary: This is a website that Margaret Atwood herself edits and looks over. This website offers many things to people including a bio, tips on writing, and favorite links. This provides a calendar of past and upcoming events that Atwood has or will be attending. This website is run by Atwood’s assistant, and is then looked over by Atwood. There is a contact option that provides an address and an email address. This is also an audio/ visual option all on Atwood, and a page all about creations by Atwood. She has even put up her favorite websites and pages, showing what she believes in and feels strongly about.

Evaluation: This website scored a 13 because the author is stated to be Atwood’s assistant, and edited by Atwood, or at least the biographical information on Atwood. No sources are provided however. There is also no indication of when this website was created or last updated. However, the site is aimed at providing information on Atwood, her life, and times. The website is a .ca, which indicates that it is funded by Canada, or is a top level domain. The fact that this is Atwood’s own website adds to the credibility of the website itself. The page is also sponsored by a known organization. No sources provided is not that big of a deal with this site because Atwood looks over the site and what is put up on it.

Poetry Foundation: Margaret Atwood

Score: 13

Summary: This website does not focus entirely on Atwood, but on poets. There are many tools to help new poets and there are bios on famous poets from over the years. The website provides interactive poetry tours and hosts events around the nation. The website also has its own magazine, Poetry Magazine. Poems are featured daily, and bios are updated quite frequently. The Atwood page also provides a list of Atwood’s works and links of interest in addition to the bio on her.

Evaluation: This website earned the score of 13 because the author is unnamed, at least on the piece on Margaret Atwood.  There are more strengths than weaknesses. The website is sponsored by a well know organization, the Poetry Foundation. All of the sources in the piece on Atwood are cited and referenced. The site has been created within the last year and the references are current. The domain is a .com and has been reviewed by Finally, this website’s intent is to spread knowledge of poetry and the poets who write poetry.  The lack of authors’ names is common, but the information is valid and supported by other websites who do have reliable authors.

Margaret Atwood @ Wikipedia

Score: 13

Summary: This page is entirely about Atwood and her life, in a very detailed way. Atwood’s life is broken down in to different sections, and has a quick overview option of her life. The page also has external links, video/audio files for download, and further reading suggestions. All of the people, awards, or organizations that are mentioned are also linked, for further reading if wanted or needed.

Evaluation: This entry received a score of mainly because there is no author listed at all and there is a possibility of opinion and incorrect information given how easy it is to change or edit entries on this website. On the other hand, all of the sources are cited and current, the page has been updated with in the last year (3-10-2011), and is sponsored and funded by a well know organization. The domain is a .com with little to no pop-ups or ads selling materials. This is a reliable source because the sources used are current enough to assume that the website was updated or put up recently.

Canadian Poetry Online: Margaret Atwood Biography

Score: 13

Summary: This website is published by the University of Toronto’s English department with a focus on poets and poetry. This website includes bios of famous poets and offers links to these writer’s works. This website mainly focuses Canadian poets, like Atwood. One can browse featured poems, author bios, and tips on writing. There are not many photos, but this site, and particularly Atwood’s bio, is often used to describe the famous author. This means that the bio of Atwood presented on this page is copied to other websites to use to give background on Atwood, as I found. Atwood’s bio provides previous job experiences, a little personal information, places of residence, and associations. All of the parts say when they happened as well.

Evaluation: The score of 13 is because this website does not tell the author or their credentials, only has a general indication of the source of the information (such as photographs), and has not been updated recently. The strengths of this website are that the sponsor of the page is a well known university (University of Toronto) and the domain is a .ca, or a Canadian provider. The website’s purpose is to provide scholarly information on poets and their lives. The lack of author is outweighed by the fact that a university put up the information. The lack of citing inside the article is acceptable because there is a general indication of the sources used.

Margaret Atwood Biography

Score: 12

Summary: This website is focused on contemporary writers and their works. The website provides related searches and suggested readings. The website is broken down into parts: books to read, the authors, and writing about books. The bios of writers on this website are broken into 3 different parts: their birth/deaths, their background, and their writings.  Each page offers an opportunity to read samples of that author’s works and provides other websites for further reading, if wanted.

Evaluation: This website earned a score of 12 because there is a general indication of what sources are used but they are not cited or explicitly stated within the bio, but the pictures used are cited. The author is identified but no credentials are provided. There is, on the other hand, an organization sponsoring the website ( and the page has been updated within the last three years. The site has no pop-ups and not many ads. The purpose is to spread knowledge, too. The information of this website is consistent with other, more reliable sources.

Notable Biographies: Margaret Atwood

Score: 12

Summary: This site is dedicated to the biographies of famous people from around the world, hence the name of World Biographies for the website. One can go to the home page and search through the people to find a person that they are interested in learning about. The website breaks down the search of people by last name. Atwood’s bio has the birth/death dates, background, honors, awards, and the way in which she writes. Other bios break down the person’s life by notable events in their lives.

Evaluation: This website earned the score of 12 because there is no author listed, no credentials, and has plenty of ads and pop-ups. There are strengths, though. The website is sponsored by an unknown organization, not a business. The website cites, links, and lists all of the sources used in the page on Atwood. The website has also been updated within the last three years.  The page also strides to spread knowledge and understanding of the material presented in the bios. The pop-ups are frustrating and annoying the information is thorough and supported by other websites.

Authortrek: Margaret Atwood Page

Score: 11

Summary: This website is focused on writers, their lives, and their accomplishments. The website offers profiles on the writers, videos, interviews, and samples of their works. The website is pretty easy to get around. The authors are listed by name, instead of genre or publisher.  Since some of the profiles can be long, the website offers bookmarks that will direct a visitor to the area of interest. Atwood’s profile offers the bibliography, interviews, and a couple of her works and reviews for them.

Evaluation: This website lacks an author’s name, and gives no indication to when it was last updated. The sources that are listed in the biography are older than three years, but not directly cited in the profile. The website is sponsored by an unknown organization and the domain is a .com. Their profiles are reviewed before they are put up on the website. The purpose is to provide knowledge and a resource for research.

Content created by Jessica Sharp.