Saturday 27 November 2010

Romancer One, Snow Nil

Me holding forth


My heart sank when it snowed in the night and some roads became un-driveable, but still, out of eighty expected,  thirty five great, adventurous people joined me in the theatre to celebrate the launch of The Romancer.30920_Romancer, page 1 @ Preflight ( 30920_Romancer Cover_30920_Romancer Cover )


IMG_6045Bishop Auckland Town Hall still put on a good show for me. We still had our silver stars and our air of celebration; I  still had my whole collection of books on show including photos of the very first launch, with the cake iced with the illustration from the cover of Riches Of The Earth.

The books

Books in a timeline




I still had my timeline of books stretching from 1972 to 20010’

G with portrait on Tom's easel


My friend Gillian Wales still managed the proceedings with her usual elan, standing beside the writer’s portrait painted by Fiona Naughton which rested  on the massive, black ,paint-splashed easel of the late Tom McGuinness, the wonderful artist whose biographies Gillian  has co-written.

Avril reading



My friend, writer Avril Joy, still read passages from The Romancer in her usual restrained, nuanced  fashion which lets the drama speak for itself.

The Romancer

There were still lots of copies of The Romancer to share and sign.

And still people talking, always talking. And people listening with focus and asking really good questions.

And Bishop FM’s Terry Ferdinand,  invisible behind his camera, was still taking these pictures.

Bryan etcCrowd

Lots of writers to talk to…  some of them not quite on camera

Anne and me best

IMG_6038Writers talking




And we still drafted in the boy who loves chocolate to flaunt the balloons and hand around Anton’s wonderful canapes.  And we still got to relish Anton’s Romancer Cocktails.           


Heather with book and cocktail


So we drank a toast to absent friends who had not managed to get there  but were with us in spirit. And after all dratted the snow didn’t win.

And on Friday The brilliant Northern Echo published  my article about the personal significance of  writing The Romancer on its Leader page.

I called the piece ROMANCING THE NORTH   which seemed appropriate.


If you fancy  seeing what all the fuss was about you can buy The Romancer direct from me - signed if you wish ( email :

Or order it from good bookshops

Or from Amazon online

Or order it from your local library…




Monday 22 November 2010

The hand-made book – a game of Consequences?

by Wendy on November 22nd, 2010

The launch of The Romancer,  it has been decided,  will be in the theatre. Images of all twenty three- or is it twenty four? – novels will be hanging from purple ribbon. Anton, who caters in the cafe at the Town Hall,  is creating our signature Romancer cocktail and inventing intricate canapes.  I am looking for silver balloons.

In these pessimistic times in publishing I am determined to demonstrate optimism to the degree that I have designed and developed this book myself. I have commandeered Fiona Naughton’s portrait for the cover and have worked alongside Steve Tolson on the design of the outside and the inside of the book.

Gulp! With the launch of The Romancer ever nearer, I am now contemplating the consequences of my actions. For many years I have wanted to write a book about writing – well, my particular approach to being a writer. But I have not until now found the form that  would best express my peculiar approach.

But for now here, in an extract  from the book itself, is how it happened…

(Extract from The Romancer)

Setting the Scene

I am a lifelong admirer of the art of the biographer, who lives in the halfway house between history and personality. Returning from lunch with biographer Kathleen Jones one day, my head full of her new work on Katherine Mansfield and its connections with her biography of Catherine Cookson, I was suddenly inspired to make a ‘valid connection’ between my own life and my writing: a kind of creative memoir.   So I embarked on The Romancer – not a conventional memoir, but a kaleidoscope with all the elements of my life and experience as glittering fragments in the drum. Every time I shake this kaleidoscope a complex pattern emerges: each new pattern is a novel or story unique in itself.

             The Romancer is made up of three parts. First comes Inspirations, an account of elements – people, experiences, places, insights and feelings – from my own life that have, whether or not I was conscious of it, inspired my wide range of novels and stories. Inevitably this is the largest part of this book. Without such inspirations would there be anything to write? These elements are the glittering fragments in the drum of the kaleidoscope.

            Then Onto The Page celebrates many things – the poetic charm of getting the right words in the right place, the development of character, the evocation of place, the organisation of ideas, the architectural skills of  building a novel and the joys of editing and shaping one’s own prose. It involves seeing one’s work into print and the surreal, occasionally comical, vagaries of the world of publication….

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Romancer : Don Quixote, anecdotist, daydreamer, dreamer of dreams, enthusiast, escapist, fabulist, fictionist


So busy this month. Last Saturday was  the fab Room To Write Conference, which went very well. Super, dedicated writers full of hard work and good humour – a great deal achieved in a day. Three novels completed and published and several more on the way. The day was fine and the Whitworth Hall setting was superb. Blowing off the cobwebs ar lunchtime with a walk in the grounds was just the ticket. Hard but rewarding work for the participants and the leaders. Everyone learns something.

fresh air[1] Geri

breaktime[1]Gerisweet baby[1]Deer  Ger 


Wonderful day – wonderful writers….


Now -   Down to planning the launch of my new baby – The Romancer - which is a kind of hybrid memoir. Readers of Lifetwicetasted have read some extracts from this book – which is really about the process of writing counterpointed with aspects of a life in relation to the novels it inspired. I have copied below for you the press release details of the launch and an invitation to you, should you be around. Otherwise,  events on this blog on the next few days will act as a virtual launch – complete with extracts!


Bishop Auckland Town Hall Book Launch Thursday 25th November 7.30pm

Celebrating The Romancer

Romancer : Don Quixote, anecdotist, daydreamer,30920_Romancer, page 1 @ Preflight ( 30920_Romancer Cover_30920_Romancer Cover )
dreamer of dreams, enthusiast, escapist, fabulist, fictionist,…

Bishop Auckland writer Wendy Robertson is celebrating her twenty five years in the writing game by publishing The Romancer, a unique mixture of memoir, original writing and novel extracts mapping her life in writing from early
beginnings in a family struggling to survive, to the challenges and delights of
making her living as a writer.

After an early career in education Wendy Robertson became a full time writer and
has written twenty four novels, a book of short stories, an occasional article and
was a Northern Echo columnist. She has been Writer in Residence in a woman’s
prison. She mentors new writers and gives writing workshops across the North.
Based in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, she now has her own Community
Radio Show The Writing Game where she is building an archive of writers talking.

Writing The Romancer,’ she says, ‘has truly been a labour of love.’

On reading The Romancer ;
‘…truth and fiction like two hands clasping…’ – a rare glimpse of what it’s like to be
inside the process of writing.’ Kathleen Jones Biographer
‘A moving and compelling exploration of the links between a writer’s life and her work.’
Pat Barker Booker Prizewinning Author
‘More than just a memoir… a master class in the writing process.’ Sharon Griffiths
Northern Echo Columnist & Novelist


The Town Hall invites all readers and writers to
join  Wendy in her Romancer celebration of
books and a writer’s life here on 25th November

To make sure of your  Romancer Cocktail -

RSVP to 01388 602 610 or Wendy at


NB If you cannot make the launch  The Romancer ;

will be available from 25th November

from good book shops, libraries, Amazon, or

Wendy at or Gillian at

Visit Wendy’s website at


30920_Romancer, page 1 @ Preflight ( 30920_Romancer Cover_30920_Romancer Cover )

Thursday 4 November 2010

Not being a poet…

Not being a poet I can’t call this a poem. It’s really more

A writer’s list…

Rain slicks the blue van to a shine

Water lies in pools on the market square

The market stalls have left their spoor -

Vague shadow of a bad day’s takings

Raindrops weigh down cyclamen

On the last flower stall.

A woman crouches like a dealer

In her hoodie: pillar box red.

Another woman, her bleached hair

Hanging like snakes, hauls

Her boy from school,

Both unwilling.

I have to say there’s something rakish

About a raised blue umbrella.


(PS This hosta is called a Blue Umbrella)

Wednesday 3 November 2010

November Writing Game: a Sense of Place

Original air date: Tuesday, 2nd November.

No player? Right click, Save Target As - The Writing Game - Episode 7

On The Programme:
  • Prolific and well loved author Elizabeth Gill (who hails from Crook)
  • We also hear from David Williams whose territory is the streets of Newcastle and areas North of the Tyne
  • Avril Joy reads from her new crime novel Blood Tide which begins with detective Danny beck watching a woman throw herself off the Tyne Bridge on a dark and threatening night
  • And we hear again from Norma Neal who read her touching story Washing Lettuce on the October programme. This time she talks about beginning to write. Very inspirational.

Next month Books for Christmas. What you would like to receive and what you would like to give?

Have you any thoughts about this? I'll mention them on the December Programme.


Tuesday 2 November 2010

The Artist

I was re-editing some short stories for my new website and I thought you might  this short-short story.

The Artist

The artist showed a great deal of promise. He was known as the Valasquez of his generation. His treatment of light and his handling of symbolism was unmatched in his century. Even as a young man he astounded his mentors and his teachers. After his training, (which he passed with flying colours and without the humiliation of an examination), he hid himself in a peeling house at the end of a long beach and set up his easels. Using his phenomenal  eidetic memory he painted pictures of the teaming city which were somehow drenched with the light and the movement of the ocean. Tao’ Kombo Travel Lodge, Gili Meno

All he would accept for his paintings was a small pension for food and paint from the national museum. He thought to sell the paintings would chip off parts his own soul so he would no longer be able to paint.

For ten years he painted in the beach house, his work becoming more distilled, more distinctively abstract. But there was this curious thing. No matter how abstract his painting became, even the most humble and unlettered person could understand his meaning and feel connected with the cosmos. Such people returned to their homes from the national museum and were kind to their spouses and children, knowing now that this was the only way to live. Some of them planted trees and flowers in their streets and alleyways to make their own personal contribution to the beauty of the world.

So, the painter was considered by all to be a national treasure.

One day he fell in love with a plumber who came to install a bath in the house on the beach. The plumber, a fine man with slender shoulders and a seeing gaze, had three children whom he brought to live at the beach house, The presence of the children inspired the painter to return to a more realistic style, He painted pictures of the children - in glowing shades of green and purple, aquamarine and ochre - jumping the waves and scaling the rocks. People who looked at these pictures became full of hope and knew things would be better in the new millennium.

But then there was a great storm of water and the beach house was demolished. The plumber, having rescued the painter and his own children, died of a waterborne disease. In his will he left his tools and his children to his friend the painter. Now for the first time in his life the painter had to be responsible for more than the quality of his painting and the purity of his message. In these new days the well-being of his foster children became his highest priority.

Just at that time a very rich man from Russia offered to build the painter a new house on the beach and as well he promised lifelong protection and security for the children. This was offered on the single condition: that the artist should paint a picture of Russian’s daughter, to be exhibited on the day of her wedding. Of course up to this point the painter had only painted out of his own soul, and had never taken commissions, But because he was looking to the security of the children he took on this special task.

While the beach house was being rebuilt the children lived with a fisherman whose wife played bowls with them every day and let them win. During this time the painter lived in the house of the rich man, so he could concentrate on the painting of the future bride,. The bride lent him her wedding dress, which he hung from a rafter in his painting room, a sky-lit attic with a vast roof window. He placed the dress in a corner, where it could glow like a moth in the shadowy eaves.

The bride herself posed for him seven times, lolling back in an exquisite Louis Quinze chair the painter had spotted in the music room. The girl had a dark, limpid beauty. The painter’s skin prickled in reaction to her sexuality and his senses melted as she made her availability clear. She told him she would do anything … anything … to make sure the painting was perfect, She had to please her father after all. That was paramount. In some desperation the painter told her that what she must - must! - do, was to sit in the chair and stay there. Otherwise the painting would disintegrate and her father would be annoyed.

All the time the painter worked he would allow no one to see the painting. When the beach house was finished he had the painting taken there to add the final, finishing touches.

So the nature of the painting was an unknown quantity as, on the afternoon of the event, the wedding guests - led by the father, his daughter and her groom, all arm in arm - came tripping merrily down the great staircase towards the portrait draped in black venvet, Standing to one side of the easel, dressed in their best, were the artist and his three foster children. The children were glowing with health, nut brown from the sea breezes,

The shouting and the laughter stilled as the bride and her guests gathered round. Then, at last, the rich man pulled a tassel and the velvet shroud fell from the picture. The groom gasped. The bride fainted.

People crowded in to see a canvas covered with a dense black- so dark that its depths took on a green mould. In the foreground the artist had rendered a perfect vision of an empty Louis Quinze chair.

© Wendy Robertson,


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