Executive director Anne Stanton hadn’t intended on billing October’s National Writers Series lineup as a chance to score some serious facetime with a few of today’s heavy-hitting women authors. But when Margaret Atwood, Ann Patchett and Jodi Picoult all accepted invitations in a four-day stretch, she recognized a remarkable opportunity.

Here’s the skinny on each of these literary all-stars and what to expect when they hit Traverse City for author forums and book signings October 20–23. Take our advice and make it an unforgettable four-day literary retreat in TC. And congrats to the National Writers Series: Atwood’s appearance marks the 100th National Writers Series event!

Margaret Atwood
October 20, 7 p.m., City Opera House

Atwood is a living legend in the world of politically edgy dystopian fiction. But though her work often takes us into the future, don’t confuse what she’s doing with science fiction. Atwood herself insists on drawing that distinction because, as she sees it, her books aren’t about adventures with Martians or space robots; they’re about things that could actually happen.

Of course, the social and political apocalypses playing out in her novels dating back to her 1985 breakout book The Handmaid’s Tale are almost always intended as a mirror on our own times. And Anne Stanton says with the volatility in the world today and one of the strangest election cycles in history now upon us, you can certainly expect some cutting, original commentary from one of today’s keenest literary prophets.

Though she’s best known as a writer, Atwood possesses a brand of creativity that’s spun off in a half-dozen other directions over the years. So if you get a chance, we recommend asking her about her cameo in a new Netflix series, the time she wrote the lyrics to a rock song about Frankenstein and her supposedly mad skills as a cake decorator.

Ann Patchett
October 22, 7 p.m., Lars Hockstad Auditorium

Since the launch of the National Writers Series back in 2009, Anne Stanton says fans have been begging organizers to get Ann Patchett on a Traverse City stage. In the time between her tumultuous stint writing for Seventeen magazine and her contemporary reign as a New York Times bestseller list regular, Patchett has penned 10 books that range from fiction to memoir and often defy categorization. Stanton says her works exploring timeless themes like love, intimacy, family and friendship are some of her most poignant—including her new book, Commonwealth, which spans 50 years in the life of a family.

Fans will no doubt also push Patchett to talk about one of her favorite causes: her championing of independent bookstores. Given her status as owner of a niche shop in Nashville, it’s a story of small-business survival on which there are few better authorities.

Jodi Picoult
October 23, 7 p.m., City Opera House

Stanton says the real magic of Jodi Picoult’s writing is her ability to take some of the edgiest issues of our time and make them feel completely personal. Her new novel is no exception. Small Great Things, which explores the place of race in American life through the eyes of an African-American nurse, proves that racism is one of the deepest and most complex challenges of our time. Expect nothing less than a provocative discussion of that and other issues when Picoult hits the Opera House stage.



This National Writers Series article was originally featured in the October 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
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Photo(s) by Jean Malek