Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates, and a prayer for peace

Check out these posts by Becca Anderson

I believe in the sun
though it is late in rising.

I believe in love
though it is absent.

I believe in God
though He is silent.

—Ruth Weiss, Poet and Holocaust Survivor

I speak to you.
Be still
Know I am God.
I spoke to you when you were born.
Be still
Know I am God.
I spoke to you at your first sight.
Be still
Know I am God.

I spoke to you at your first word.
Be still
Know I am God.
I spoke to you at your first thought.
Be still
Know I am God.
I spoke to you at your first love.
Be still
Know I am God.
I spoke to you at your first song.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the grass of the meadows.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the trees of the forests.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the valleys and the hills.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the Holy Mountains.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the rain and snow.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the waves of the sea.

Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the dew of the morning.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the peace of the evening.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the splendor of the sun.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the brilliant stars.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the storm and the clouds.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the thunder and lightning.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you through the mysterious rainbow.
Be still
Know I am God.
I will speak to you when you are alone.
Be still
Know I am God.
I will speak to you through the Wisdom of the Ancients.
Be still

Know I am God.
I will speak to you at the end of time.
Be still
Know I am God.
I will speak to you when you have seen my Angels.
Be still
Know I am God.
I will speak to you throughout Eternity.
Be still
Know I am God.
I speak to you.
Be still
Know I am God.

—Essene Gospel of Peace

On at least one occasion, prodigious writer Margaret Atwood has mentioned the comic book fantasies she read as a child in Ottawa as her primary influences, but she seems much more closely aligned with the Victorians she studied in her postgraduate work at Harvard. Born in Ottawa in 1939, she traveled with her entomologist father into remote areas of northern Canada and the bush of Québec. Educated at the University of Toronto, Radcliffe, and Harvard, she knew she wanted a career in writing by the age of sixteen and started actively working toward her dream two years later as a student at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College. By nineteen, she began to publish her poetry as well as articles in Victoria’s literary journal, Acta Victoriana.

Atwood’s writing often delves into the mythic, retelling Homer’s Ulysses, for example, from the vantage point of the women who were seduced and left behind. Her novels, including The Edible Woman, Surfacing, Lady Oracle, Life Before ManThe Handmaid’s Tale, and Alias Grace, give voice to the silenced. The natural world is another major theme for Atwood, as are her unique twists on the psychological. Her published work includes nine novels, four children’s books, twenty-three volumes of poetry, and four works of scholarship. She also is the editor of five anthologies. A film based on The Handmaid’s Tale was released in 1990, and her dystopian tale of women confined to a permanent underclass has now been adapted as a famed Hulu miniseries. The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale set fifteen years later, was published in 2019. Her novel Alias Grace has been released as a Canadian miniseries to great acclaim, earning a 99 percent approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review site. In 2016, Atwood collaborated with illustrator Johnnie Christmas to create Angel Catbird, a graphic novel about a scientist who, in a way similar to the Hulk and Spiderman before him, is accidentally fused in a mutation-meld with the powers and some of the body parts of an avian and a feline.

In addition to being prolific, she is also among the most awarded writers, having received more than a hundred prizes for her excellent poetry and fiction. Moreover, she is claimed by her country of origin, Canada, as having helped to establish an identity for Canadian literature. Her work in the 1970s for Anansi Press very directly aided this cause. Survival, which she wrote in 1972, was an attempt at “a map” for charting Canada’s writers, followed by The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in 1982. Her sense of place is often a theme in her fiction and poems.

Although she does not call herself a “feminist writer,” Atwood said in an interview with Penguin Books that the question that drove her while writing The Handmaid’s Tale was, “If you were going to shove women back into the home and deprive them of all of these gains that they thought they had made, how would you do it?” (She has also stated that sales of that 1990 work jumped following the 2016 election in the United States.) Strong women rising against all odds appear again and again in her work, underlining her heroine’s final words in Surfacing: “This above all, to refuse to be a victim.”

I’m not a very good gardener, for the same reason I wouldn’t make a very good poisoner: both activities benefit from advance planning.

Margaret Atwood, from Various Gardens

Seemingly, Joyce Carol Oates can turn her hand to any subject and inject it with her trademark layered depth. She is well on her way to becoming one of the world’s most abundant artists, having authored, as of this writing, forty- one novels and novellas, twenty-five collections of short stories, eight volumes of poetry, and nine collections of essays (including one on boxing), and has edited thirteen prestigious anthologies, most notably the Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction.

While she crosses barriers of time frequently in her novels, from postmodern urban settings to the Victorian era and back again, and works in genres ranging from Gothic to realism, she does have one overriding theme: violence. From prostitutes to primordial goddess figures (her novel Blonde, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, was published to raves in March 2000), her writing fascinates as much as it shocks. She has received a fair amount of criticism for the disturbance in her fiction, but she explains it thusly: “The more violent the murders in Macbeth, the more relief one can feel at not having to perform them. Great art is cathartic; it is always moral.”

She was born in Lockport, New York, to an Irish Catholic family of modest means. Joyce’s intelligence saw her to the head of most classes, and she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University before doing her master’s work in English literature at the University of Wisconsin. Her writing talent was noted early—she won the Mademoiselle fiction contest while still in college.

A reportedly excellent teacher, she has taught at several schools, most recently at Princeton, with her husband, academic Raymond Smith, while maintaining her grueling writing schedule. Her body of work averages a novel every two years, beginning in 1963. At certain times, she has published a book a year. As of this writing, her new work ‘Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars’ is expected in 2020.

When asked how she manages to produce such critically acclaimed works so quickly, she told the New York Times, “I have always lived a very conventional life of moderation, absolutely regular hours, nothing exotic, no need, even, to organize my time.” When labeled a workaholic by a reporter, she retorted, “I am not conscious of working especially hard, or of ‘working’ at all. Writing and teaching have always been, for me, so richly rewarding that I don’t think of them as work in the usual sense of the word.”

To read widely and to be open and curious about other people, to look and listen hard, not to be discouraged by rejections— we’ve all had them many times—and revise your work.

Joyce Carol Oates’ advice to other writers


The Book of awesome women writers

Medieval Mystics, Pioneering Poets, Fierce Feminists and First Ladies of Literature (Feminist Book, Gift for Women, Gift for Writers)

This one-of-a-kind tome takes a tour with Sylvia Beach and other booksellers as well as librarians, editors, writers, bibliophiles, and celebrated book clubs. Join women’s studies scholar Anders as she takes you on a ribald ride through the pages of history. Chapter titles include “Prolific Pens” (including Joyce Carol Oates, author of over 100 books), “Mystics, Memoirists and Madwomen”, “Salons and Neosalons”, “Ink in Their Veins” (literary dynasties), and the titillating “Banned, Blacklisted, and Arrested.”


The Woman's Book of Prayer by Becca Anderson

The Woman’s Book of Prayer

365 Blessings, Poems and Meditations

Prayer takes many forms: sitting in silence, walking mediation, using prayer beads or folding your hands every night and talking to God. If you want something different in your life, you must pray a different prayer. We are constantly communing with the Divine throughout our daily lives – even in the most ordinary activities. Comprised of both mindfulness meditations, prayer practices and selections of sacred texts, poems and blessings, Becca Anderson, author of Prayers for Hard Times and Every Day Thankful, gathers words of encouragement, comfort and sustenance for women. From Peace Pilgrim to Psalms to Dolly Parton, this collection of power thoughts and purposeful prayers will help you get inspired, and more importantly, stay inspired.