Show 041: April 2011

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I am working increasingly with Year 10 and 11 pupils on workshops to do with the creative writing parts of GCSE. It seems that schools consider using a professional writer might give the students an edge in terms of approach and creativity when they answer these questions.

I’m also looking forward to the Scarborough Literature Festival at the end of April, which has a starry cast of writers, amongst them Barbara Trapido, Margaret Drabble and Sarah Waters whom I’m interviewing for about the tenth time. It promises to be a long weekend of literary joy

There are also Writers Days to look forward to, in the summer, run by Calderdale Libraries which are offering workshop days in different genres, from poetry to fiction.

Book review

True Grit

True Grit
True Grit by Charles Portis a novel of the American West written in the sixties. Portis might have been forgotten until the new film of True Grit was made.

But this latest Coen brothers film with Jeff Bridges had a lot of critics mentioning in their film-reviews the originality of the novel from which it came. It’s a short novel dealing with fourteen year old Mattie Ross seeking revenge for the killing of her father by hired hand Tom Cheney.

She goes to Marshall Rooster Cogburn looking for justice. And there’s a question for the reader all the way through the novel about who has the ‘true grit’ amongst the characters. Is it Mattie Ross, or is it Rooster Cogburn?

It’s a terrific book, written in a compelling and witty nineteenth century English, with great characterisation.


Here follows an edited extract of an interview with poet, short-story writer and dramatist Chrissie Gittins.

I was always torn at school between being a writer and an artist. Once university was done I did a fine art degree, and then I went on an Arvon course and started writing.

I started writing poetry for adults, but my first collection to be published was children’s poetry. Poet Moniza Ali encouraged me to write for children. I wrote poetry fro children to leave something behind me in school. Two of them were short-listed for the CILIP prize for children’s poetry.

When you’re writing for children you’re writing for the child inside you. Longer ideas make short stories, longer more dramatic ideas can turn into plays. I carry around a notebook and have a pink Polish glass jar with strips of paper with ideas written on them and I just pull them off from time to time.

With radio plays it’s incredibly exciting to sit round with actors and do a read- through, and it takes off and you think, ‘Who on earth wrote that?’ Patricia Routledge was in my first play.

There’s a lot of myself in the stories in Family Connections, but there are other people’s stories in there too. The title is ironic because it’s about the lack of connection in families.

My poetry collection I’ll Dress One night at You has a sequence written after my Mum died, and its about the objects left behind. The poems are probably more deeply felt for example the line, ‘I’ll Dress One Night as You’ comes from a poem written about finding my mum’s clothes after her death.

The North-West still appears in the rhythm of what I write, although I’ve been in the south for years. There’s a sequence of poems called Cloth, about Mary Hindle, who was a machine-breaker which was selected to appear in Les Murray’s magazine Quadrant.

In terms of favourite books I have a vivid memory of Wilfred Owen at school; I was intrigued that in a small space you could say so much. Generally what I’m interested in are poets who write for adults and children like Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay.

My advice to intending writers would be read an awful lot, and write as much as you can. Don’t worry about competitions and abandon yourself to your writing’.

Poem of the Month

Read Ambitious for Love.