18th Jul 2012
Margaret Atwood Champions Wattpad
Not content with creating dystopian realities and scientific innovations within her fiction, Margaret Atwood’s genius is once again seeping off the page and into our lives.
First she pioneered the ‘Longpen’, a pen hooked up to a robotic arm which allows authors to sign or even draw sketches in copies of their books, remotely. This year she’s dipping her toe into two more innovations; Fanado and Wattpad.
Fanado, whose tagline is ‘totally into, wildly knowledgeable about’ allows artists to develop a fanbase and fans to have easier access to artists. It’s the next incarnation of the Longpen, but in addition to the virtual pen, video interactions are created between the artist and fan.
And, while waiting for the artist to address you, you can interact with other fans. It’s still in the inception phase but looks set to enter and alter the world pretty soon.
Wattpad is a web forum for absolutely anyone to post their writing. You can see it as a way to publish or a stepping stone along the way. It allows your work to be part of a collective, you can receive feedback, and it’s entirely free.
It began in 2006, so pre-dates e-books, and if it sounds like a good idea that might take off –it already has. They have 1.7 billion views per month, wielding a power (particularly within a certain age bracket) which traditional publishers only dream of.
Of course mainstream publishers are tapping in, as are music companies. Both started using Wattpad as an alternative forum to publicise their existing work but also, more excitingly, to scout for fresh talent.
Atwood is judging ‘The Attys’, Wattpad’s first Poetry Award, where you can either submit a collection of 10 pieces or individual poems (winners are promised fame, glory and a $1000 prize).
She is also going one step further, publishing Thriller Suite, a collection of brand new poems. There are comments afterwards which for the most part are not from Atwood aficionados but regular users of the site who are sincere, enthused and almost unanimously bowled over by the power of the work.
All of which reinforces Atwood’s original argument that new forms and forums for publishing are not replacing the printed press but instead disseminating a love of words even wider.
It might seem reckless for someone like Atwood at the peak of her world-class career to be championing a site which appears to be a huge collective webzine, but this is one of the reasons she is so perpetually cool; its democratic nature is exactly what appeals to her.
“People are natural storytellers,” she recently told a Canadian newspaper. “Most people will put up with almost anything to engage in an act of communication. We must narrate or die.”
Wattpad, it seems, is just another way to tell our stories, and make sure that everyone gets a chance to do some telling.
Are you a Wattpad user -for writing, reading or both? What has your experience been like?