University of Calgary

Margaret Atwood appearance a sensation

UToday HomeFebruary 20, 2013

By Heath McCoy

Margaret Atwood signed about 1,000 books after her Valentine’s Day reading at MacEwan Hall. Photo by Monique St. CroixMargaret Atwood signed about 1,000 books after her Valentine’s Day reading at MacEwan Hall. Photo by Monique St. CroixDean of the Faculty of Arts Richard Sigurdson is not exaggerating when he describes Margaret Atwood as a “literary rock star.”

That much was clear on Valentine’s Day evening when the Queen of Can-Lit came to MacEwan Hall as the 2013 Distinguished Visiting Writer for the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program (CDWP). Atwood’s appearance easily jam-packed the house, with about 1,000 fans in the concert venue, all seats filled and devotees standing at the sidelines.

The free, unticketed event attracted so many fans, that about 300 had to be turned away, says Amanda Priddy Bowron, event co-ordinator for MacEwan Hall.

“Unfortunately, we had already moved the reading to the largest venue available,” says Sigurdson. “But even that was not enough capacity to meet the demand. On behalf of the CDWP, I apologize to those who could not get into the venue.”

Bart Beaty, head of the Department of English as well as the CDWP steering committee, echoed that sentiment, noting that until only two weeks prior to the event, Atwood was booked into the smaller MacEwan Ballroom.

“We’re incredibly glad we realized there was way more demand for this than we initially thought,” says Beaty. “That shows the success of the event.”

After delighting the crowd with readings from Oryx and Crake and The Penelopiad, as well as a few unpublished works, Atwood proceeded to a marathon book-signing session.

“She stayed much longer than expected, until at least 10:30, and I have to think she signed more than 1,000 books,” says Beaty.

Brent Beatty, manager of the University of Calgary Book Store, estimated the signing lineup was about 450 fans deep and he marveled at Atwood’s graciousness.

“It was fantastic that she was able to stay and that she signed everyone’s books,” he says. “It was an amazing night.”


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