Friday 24 September 2010

Kathleen Jones on Catherine Cookson on The Writing Game


Kathleen Jones on Catherine Cookson

Great Working Class Fiction &

commentary by Gillian Wales

on Bishop FM 105.

October 5 7pm on Bishop FM

On Wendy Robertson’s

Writing Game

Join me on The Writing Game at 7pm October 5th when we feature an interview with Kathleen Jones who, as well as writing of the lives of Christina Rosetti and Katherine Mansfield, is the esteemed biographer of our own Catherine Cookson.

’Kathleen Jones biography displays all the Cookson virtues. Her narrative is uncluttered and direct, her analysis complex and sometimes surprising. Most importantly she never condescends to her subject' Kathryn Hughes, Daily Telegraph

"This is such a bravura exercise in biography, I would suggest Kathleen Jones not only wins her case but should be awarded costs."Charlotte Cory, times Literary Supplement

Avril and I talked with Kathleen Jones in her mill home just over the border in Cumbria. You can hear the clatter of knives and forks as we talked over lunch. Kathleen talked about her early commitments as a writer, her vivid experience as a mature student, her views on her own and others’ poetry. These will all feature in later programmes. This month, however, we will focus on her unique views on the art and craft of storyteller Catherine Cookson a very popular and –as will emerge – a much underrated writer whose worldly success is sometimes mistakenly seen as a sign of her lack of artistic virtue.

We will also hear from our own reviewer Chartered Librarian Gillian Wales - who runs Room To Write with Avril and me - as she talks about the impact of the work of Catherine Cookson on the book borrowing public in the 1980s and 90s – and also reflects on the best of Cookson’s novels.

We also feature Avril Joy’s story of publishing her father’s account of his experiences of London during the war, and hear an extract from Sedgefield writer Norma Neil’s emerging novel rooted in her own family memoir.


Tune into 105.9 at 7pm on October 5th

Join me on The Writing Game at

and see blog and podcasts at

Wendy R

Further Contacts for you…

Thursday 16 September 2010

Holy Island and The Advent Of Writing

I was invited by a friend to visit Holy Island to have lunch with another friend in a tower a hundred yards across the dunes from the sea. Dunes at Holy Island 008

The last time I was on Holy Island was when I was sixteen, two generations and a universe ago. I have a photo somewhere of me sitting on a beach in a red anorak, the harsh wind blowing my hair into greater tangles.

I was there on a ‘pilgrimage’ from my church. Not that we walked the eighty or so miles. There was a church bus, if I remember rightly. But we did walk across the Causeway, which is only accessible if the tide is right. I think I loved it. but really I was too full of my own adolescent concerns properly to  appreciate this extraordinary place.

This time it was different. The day was bright and the wind was soft; the isolation was healing. We sat for a while in the top of the round tower which has small square windows cut into three foot thick walls at all the points of the compass – towards the Causeway in one direction, towards the sea in another.

Three of us – all writers – considered the possibilities of writing about this separDunes at Holy Island 006ate, isolated uniquely spiritual place, this  meeting place of wild nature and the spiritual universe.  The island landscape has inspired films, poetry,  historical and more meditative writing but not, we thought, fiction. Somehow the spiritual depth of the place, did not lend itself to the rough trade of  contrived narrative. I thought that perhaps it might lend itself to fable, to a fabulous weaving of inspiration and vision  -- like the ancient magical tales that thrived here before  advent of writing.

I sat for a while and drew the marram grass in the dunes that holds the island together just as the stories of saints, their writings and their journeys, hold together the myth of Lindisfarne in our imaginations.

I think I have to go again and stay. And write.


Friday 10 September 2010

The Ommms and the Ahhhs

In an effort to calm myself down and stop the world spinning. I’ve been trying out some meditation tapes. Six so far and they all work in that it has to be very good for you, to sit very still striving towards a serene mind. It’s an improvement on thinking about the first thing in the queue of things to think about, with something always waiting in the wings. (My late brother was a time and motions study engineer. I sometimes think I might be imbued with his spirit. Not a minute wasted.

I suspect the best of the tapes is the most serious – Meditation Heavy, you might call it. The dark-velvet male voice talks about universal God a lot and the voice through the earphones is dark velvet with rapier penetration, The downside is that it requires you to vocalise a lot. AAHH for the morning meditations, OOHMM for the evening trips. I could certainly feel the slowing down, the return to slow contemplative sanity. But the downside is the vocalisation. Although the door to the little room is firmly shut, embarrassment stops me vocalising freely. This, of course, demonstrate my latent inability to let go: my tendency not only to watch myself do something, but empathise with other people’s reaction to my doing it. All copy. The writer’s curse.

On the other end of the scale is what you might call Meditation Lite – a soothing chirrupy female voice backed by syrup-y film soundtrack music.She asks me to visualise a film on a screen where I a the star who wins out against all odds and ends up believing in herself. Despite being slightly gloopy this works as well as Meditation . Afterwards I am transformed - fresh and motivated. I am more effective in my day.

In between these two extremes are the more La Guinguette 041 Boat reach, balding grass, riverstorytelling, visualisation tapes where I have to imagine myself in a place. So I can put myself on the moors in Weardale or beside a river in the   Languedoc, where I can drop into a hypnotic trance and assure myself I am what I am; that I have no fear; that I am a worthwhile person; that I have the power to make myself happy; that I can make myself achieve my dreams.

While I enjoy the visualisations most,  the effect of these very different meditation experiences  is the same: I emerge transformed – fresh and motivated. I am more effective in my day.

Of course the common denominator of these experiences is just sitting still, slowing down and relaxing, for thirty  whole minutes, twice a day.  This is what does the trick. Real meditaters can do it without the crutch of tapes or resonant voices in the ear. It is rightly called a discipline and has someone who applies discipline to various other parts of my life I find this impossible. I need a voice to guide me, to pace me. Otherwise I think too much.

So I’m telling my stressed friends now, ‘Feeling stressed? Get a tape – any tape – and go meditate!’


Monday 6 September 2010

Terry Deary on The Writing Game

On Tuesday 7th at 7pm on The Writing Game 

The amazing Terry Deary 

On this programme  my  focus is history. fact and fiction.

In factual history we can learn that - no matter in what age we live – there are constant features – the human instinct to survive, even to thrive , in adverse circumstance, to make cure, to kill, to cure, to make love, to develop ideas, to nurture, to celebrate, to rule and be ruled, - all these are constant.

But some of us  turn to historical fiction to receive our historical fix,filtered and shaped through the writer’s imagination.  So we see the Tudors through Phillipa Gregory’s eyes, We see the times of Thomas Cromwell through the eyes of Hilary Mantel, We see ancient Rome through Lindsey Davies’s detective fiction. We e 17th Century Holland through Tracey Chevalier’s Girl With the Pearl Earring. e see eighteenth century war at sea through the eyes of Patrick O’Brian

But now there is a generation of readers who see history as a joke - one long laugh. Perhaps, clip_image001like much these days, this started on the screen with the hilarious excesses of Blackadder, the TV series. But the most successful writer promoting the funny side of history has to be the creator of the Horrible History genre of books - Terry Deary, who knows the Bishop Auckland very well. And who comes from Sunderland but lives  near Durham.

A former actor, theatre-director and drama teacher, Terry is the author of over 200 books for young people with a total sales of 25 million in many countries. A great bulk of these are his Horrible History series although there are other longer, equally interesting works

Terry’s books  and his stance are anti-establishment and anarchic  He does not see himself as an historian. ‘My agenda is not so much history as human behaviour,” he says. “Why do people behave the way they do? That is what I try to answer through non-fiction and fiction. When you understand that, then the world becomes a better place. Because people look at each other and try to understand one another.”

And now this month on Bishop FM Terry will talk about his new Longer Novel called PUT

OUT THE LIGHT - set in Sheffield in World War Two during the Blitz. There are typical Terry Deary jokes here but this is a serious – very readable - story about the wartime experiences of two English and three German children.

Being so much in demand and choosy about his company Terry’s a hard man to get hold of . He turned down the BBC’s Desert Island Discs but on Tuesday 7th at 7  he’s on Bishop FM’s Writing Game.

Hear also  on this programme historian Glynn Wales’ take on factual history.

If you can’t tune in,  the podcast of this programme will be available from Bishop FM from 8th September.


    • Terry's new full-length novel Put out the Light will be published by A & C Black on 9 September 2010. Terry will be taking part in a signing tour to launch the book.  (A&C Black ISBN 9781 4081 3054 4)

Bishop FM 105.9


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