In my last post here on Life Twice Tasted (scroll down) I outlined my adventures during Lockdown on the borderline between memoir and fiction as I worked, story by story, on this new short story collection SIBLINGS. In it I argued that – like many writers of fiction – I am exploring the gap between fiction and the uniquely true nature of a family’s history, grounded as it is in intricate and deeply observed family experience and liberated by the freedom of creative storytelling.
At last in SIBLINGS I have now completed the seven stories that are the essential truth emerging from a family spanning the first half of the 20th century. In this process Ayla, the middle sibling, is the storyteller for all the family. One by one she tells the complex stories of her four sisters and two brothers. These children are not alike. Ayla tells each story with her acute, sometimes idiosyncratic, observations of her much-loved family.
In the long term SIBLINGS has an over- arching narrative linking 1922 to 2022 –starting in 1922 when Ayla is telling us the individual stories of her sisters and brothers, living in a small house in a Durham street under the magisterial care of their ‘Mam’, widowed by the First World War. But the final curve of the arch reached me, writing these stories during the Covid confinement of 21/22. I am sitting here telling the unique stories of the seven siblings in Ayla’s voice, truly walking the line between memoir and fiction.
As an experience of writing, this process has the quality of a dream as each distinctive sibling comes to life before me, flowing through the ink of my pen onto the page of my notebook.
My original idea was to record the stories and one by one and provide links to them here on my blog, so you could hear them as well as read the text. For this purpose I turned to Anne Dover the brilliant professional actress who has narrated a number of my novel into audio. Anne has the perfect voice for my Durham prose, incorporating the musicality with quiet authority and capturing the nuances, the soft tones of our way of speaking. Although she has travelled far and wide with her profession, Anne originally comes from Wolsingham in County Durham, so she starts with an advantage here.
For the final audio edit on the first story BRAM, I turned to Gillian Campbell of Bishop FM. Having done a great job on this. Gillian suggested to me that the radio station would be interested in broadcasting the SIBLING stories.
So now it turns out – with the collaboration of Gary Burgham, the Bishop FM programme director - that the seven stories which constitute siblings will be broadcast beginning at 2pm on Christmas Eve.
I will also post them here on my blog week by week. If you would like to see the first of the sibling stories – the story of BRAM the oldest brother – you will note that the whole text of that story is posted in full on my previous blog post. (Scroll back…).
After they are broadcasts you will be able to listen to to Anne Dover's wonderful narrations. again here and on Bishop FM .
So this is my Christmas present to you - all the great people who have shown an interest in my work both recently and through the years when my novels emerged into the light.
Wendy R x
From Gary Burgham Programme Director of Bishop FM at
Bishop Auckland author Wendy Robertson has been working on a collection of short stories entitled SIBLINGS, told by the eleven year old middle Sibling, Ayla, set primarily in the year 1922. Although the seven siblings from whom the stories spring are genetically connected to each other and in the subsequent generations genetically connected to the author, these stories will essentially be pure fiction, shot through with fragments of the author's true memory. Siblings will be read by actor Anne Peacock who originates from Wolsingham and can be heard on Bishop FM on Christmas eve at 2pm and at 2pm each day thereafter.
Visit Anne Dover, the gifted narrator of SIBLINGS