Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. A prolific poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist and activist, she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice. Atwood is among the most-honored authors of fiction in recent history. While she is best known for her work as a novelist, her poetry is noteworthy. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths, and fairy tales, which were an interest of hers from an early age. Atwood also published short stories in Playboy magazine.
Atwood began writing at age six and realized she wanted to write professionally when she was 16. In 1957, she began studying at Victoria University in the University of Toronto. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and minors in philosophy and French.
In the fall of 1961, after winning the E.J. Pratt Medal for her privately-printed book of poems, Double Persephone, she began graduate studies at Harvard's Radcliffe College with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a master's degree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962 and pursued further graduate studies at Harvard University for 2 years, but never finished because she never completed a dissertation on “The English Metaphysical Romance” in 1967. She has taught at the University of British Columbia (1965), Sir George Williams University in Montreal (1967-68), the University of Alberta (1969-79), York University in Toronto (1971-72), and New York University, where she was Berg Professor of English.
In 1968, Atwood married Jim Polk, whom she divorced in 1973. She formed a relationship with fellow novelist Graeme Gibson soon after and moved to Alliston, Ontario, north of Toronto. In 1976 their daughter, Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson, was born. (Graeme Gibson had two sons, Matt and Grae, from a previous marriage.) Atwood returned to Toronto in 1980. She divides her time between Toronto and Pelee Island, Ontario.
In March 2008 it was announced by Atwood, via television hookup between Toronto and Vancouver, that she had accepted her first chamber opera commission. 'Pauline' will be on the subject of Pauline Johnson, a writer and Canadian artist long a subject of fascination to Atwood. It will star Judith Forst, with music by Christos Hatzis, and be produced by City Opera of Vancouver. 'Pauline' will be set at Vancouver, British Columbia, in March of 1913, in the last week in the life of Johnson.
Atwood has strong views on environmental issues, such as suggesting that gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers be banned, and has made her own home more energy efficient – including not having air-conditioning - by installing awnings and skylights that open. She and her partner also use a hybrid car when they are in the city. Atwood is also a very active feminist.
During the debate in 1997 over a free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, Atwood came out against the deal. Her opposition included an essay she wrote opposing the agreement.