Margaret Atwood and the totally "green book tour"

In recent years many authors have worried that book tours might not be effective. But Margaret Atwood has an entirely different reason to question the book tour: its large carbon footprint. That's why she's created her own "green book tour."

As she travels to promote "The Year of the Flood," her latest novel, Atwood has vowed to "zero-footprint" the whole thing by working with a carbon offset and carbon-reduction design company. She travels by train whenever possible (she traveled to Europe by boat), uses local talent for the performance pieces that highlight her book launch, serves local food, and is donating any profits from ticket sales to local green charities.

She's also busy proving that there's no reason an (almost) septuagenarian cannot embrace social media. She is blogging, tweeting, peddling ringtones through the website, and will run a YouTube competition.

When a reporter for Reuters questions her use of Twitter – after all, isn't odd that a woman who makes her living with her words voluntarily submits to a 140-character limit? – she replies, "I talk on the phone. Why would I not give [Twitter] a try?"

After all, she points out, Twitter isn't writing, "[I]t's signaling. Put it in the same category as the telegraph, the semaphore flags, the smoke signals." And as for the potential dangers of technology, the dystopic writer refuses to assign any particular blame: "Technology is a morally neutral thing. It's a tool."

But she does admit that all this embracing of the new can occasionally be trying. As for the local aspect of her green book tour – working with different actors for each performance piece in each city – when asked if she would recommend that kind of adventure to others, she answers:  "How much do you want to live on the edge? How anxious do you wish to be every day?.... Did you ever go to summer camp?"

Atwood is now on the second US leg of her tour and will be offering her performance piece in Washington, D.C., on Friday night.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at

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