The Buzz

The Walking Dead of the publishing world

Categories: Books

Atwood, AldermanMargaret Atwood, left, traded chapters for her new zombie novel with British co-writer Naomi Alderman, seen at right. (Rolex Mentor and Protege Program)

A day after traditional Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection, news has emerged about an interesting innovation in storytelling from Margaret Atwood. The inveterate Twitter user, who has also published short stories on U.S. e-publishing site Byliner, is launching a serialized novel on Wattpad, a Canadian site for sharing stories.

Atwood is mentoring a young British writer, Naomi Alderman, who is the co-writer of the new work, called The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home. The first three chapters of the novel are online at Wattpad and accessible via mobile phone, tablet or computer. Like Charles Dickens or Canada's Stephen Leacock, the duo are releasing the project as a serial and will continue rolling out chapters until Jan. 2.

Happy Zombie Sunrise HomeThe Happy Zombie Sunrise Home details a zombie crisis with dark humour. (Wattpad)

Alderman and Atwood share a dark sense of humour and a thrill for twisting a storyline. According to Wattpad, the pair admitted to "setting each other up by closing chapters with scenes requiring the other to write her way out of an emotionally heavy scene (how Atwood challenging Alderman, for instance) or an insanely action-packed sequence (Alderman retaliating by leaving frightful problems for Atwood to solve)."

With a story involving zombies -- once again back in fashion thanks to myriad horror films and TV's The Walking Dead -- the topic is unabashedly populist. Atwood is an obvious draw for readers, but Wattpad also boasts hundreds of lesser known writers.

Established in 2006, the site aims to be the YouTube of storytelling. Backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalists, it is "not currently focused on monetization," according to a spokeswoman. Writers are not paid.

With traditional publishers in trouble -- before D&M's current woes, there was Key Porter last year -- there's real concern about how Canadian writers can survive and thrive moving forward. A lot of mid-list professional writers -- authors who have acceptable sales but are not considered bestsellers -- may start finding it harder to make a living without publishers who are committed to Canadian voices, CBC's Greg Rasmussen reports.

Some new outlets for writing have emerged -- including internet initiatives and various forms of e-publishing -- but there are definite twists coming in the ongoing story of how to publish Canadian books and still make a living.

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