Parked ‘n’ Written

Jennifer’s thoughts on last weekend’s workshop…

Jennifer C. Wilson

On Sunday, The Next Page strayed from our usual haunts of North Shields and Whitley Bay Libraries into the wilds of Wallsend, to host “Park ‘n’ Write”, in the Community Pavilion of Richardson Dees Park. Despite having spent huge chunks of my childhood in Wallsend, it’s a place I only visited earlier this year, when Elaine and I went to explore one Sunday afternoon. We were so inspired by the place, we decided we had to do ‘something’ there, and so Park ‘n’ Write was born.


Taking inspiration from the park, our little band of writers came up with a range of semi-memoir, fantasy and history, showing that writers can always find a new and quirky slant on any prompt. I can never write when I’m leading on a workshop, with one eye on the clock and the other checking everyone seems to be ok, but I’ve come away with some…

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Park & Write this Saturday

The Next Page’s Elaine Cusack is gearing up to Park and Write this Saturday


Two and a half hours spent listening, learning, thinking, writing, walking, talking, feeling, being and drinking tea. This sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Yes, this is my kinda  afternoon and it’s the way I’ll spend this coming Saturday 29th July.

My pal and writing colleague, Jennifer C Wilson LOVES attending creative writing workshops. She also happens to be very good at running them. This Saturday she’s running a two and a half hour workshop called Park and Write in the Community Pavilion in Wallsend’s Richardson Dees Park.

The afternoon will be filled with writing prompts, a talk by one of the park wardens, an inspirational stroll around Wallsend’s Parks (did you know there are not one but three?!) plus time for writing and sharing. All this for a tenner. You joining us or what?! Please book online.

I’m listed on the workshop’s publicity…

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Fave Five: A free Royal Mile

Jennifer C Wilson will host this Saturday’s North Tyneside Writers’ Circle in North Shields library from 11am. Here’s her latest blog…

Jennifer C. Wilson

Most people will know Edinburgh’s Royal Mile’s headliner – the Castle and Holyrood Palace – and although I think they’re worth every penny of entry fee, it does come to quite a few pennies to visit both. But they are by no means the only things to do along the Mile, so here are my Top Five freebies…

Museum of Childhood: When I was little, I found this museum slightly spooky, which is why I wrote about a ghost haunting it in Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile. But going back as an adult, it’s great to go and see bits of nostalgia tucked into the glass cases. Although it is slightly disconcerting seeing things you played with being displayed as museum artefacts!

Nat Mus of Scotland Inside National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland: I love this museum, easily one of my favourites in the world, to be honest. The floors…

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Anyone for tennis?

Last Sunday Sandy Chadwin participated in a literary cricket match in Cullercoats. It was The Cullercoats Test, part of the IRON in the Soul Festival…..

Sandy in colourThis time last week, for reasons that remain complicated and mysterious to me, I found myself playing cricket in front of a small crowd. This has made me consider my relationship to sport in books.

                Now I am not a sporty person. I have only ever been to two football matches, one cricket match and at school I was always the last boy chosen to be on the team. I rarely watch sporting events, though I do have a soft spot for the ball-by-ball commentary the radio does for the Test Matches. So, it is not altogether surprising that my library has little sport related material in it.

Amongst the many sports that I do not play is golf. So it is slightly odd that after the Jeeves tales, my favourite PG Wodehouse stories are his Oldest Member ones which are all about that particular sport. Wodehouse himself was a mildly obsessive player and was known to complain that if he hadn’t had to make a living doing all that writing and so on, he might have ended up with a half-decent handicap. Even if you’ve never played or watched a game and don’t know your mashie from your driver, do give them a go. They’re the literary equivalent of exquisite dainties to be relished and lingered over. And the Jeeves & Wooster stories are even better. Then there’s the golf match between James Bond and Goldfinger in the novel of the latter’s name which is surprisingly tense and entertaining to read. That has more to do with Ian Fleming’s underestimated writing skills than any putative interest I might have in the game. And the Magic Roundabout tie-in book, Dougal’s Scottish Holiday (written by Eric Thompson, Emma’s dad, who improvised the TV show’s narration) has the immortal line: ‘”Niblick?” said Angus. “At your age? ‘Tis a mashie-niblick at least.”’*thompsons

                Now, those of a certain age may remember a humour writer called Michael Green. He wrote an endless series of comic books with the running title of The Art of Coarse [insert subject matter here]. They were everywhere, along with those silver-spined Executioner thrillers and Alastair MacLean novels. Anyway, the first of this epic series was The Art of Coarse Rugby. Now, I had to play rugby at two the educational establishments I ended up attending and have been left with a deep and profound loathing of the game and all who have any doings with it. I do, however, have a soft spot for this comic guide to it. Possibly because it’s mainly about cheating and one-upmanship and has a happy disregard for the rules that would have reduced certain masters and enthusiastic pupil-players to apoplexy.

                And that does seem to be pretty much it. Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals (football) has its moments but they never entirely gel for me. And there was that children’s book The Goal Keeper’s Revenge & Other Stories which every boy had presented to him during the ‘70s but which I never read. Actually, if anyone reading this did read it, give me a shout. Remembering it, I’m now mildly interested in what it was about/like. Anyway, Dick Francis’ horse racing thrillers are nearly always fun. They were co-written by his wife, by the way, who was never given any credit as the publishers thought acknowledging the input of a woman (!) would damage sales. Hey ho.

                But to end on a happier note, I cannot speak for the rest of the mixed gender team that I played with, but it was fun and you never know, I might have a go at playing again.  Or at least writing about it.

*Dougal’s Scottish Holiday is worth reading for many reasons, not least being that it’s the funniest portrayal of ‘professional’ Scotsmen that I’ve read, and I’m an enthusiastic ‘amateur’.

The Power of Genre

 Over to Sandy Chadwin for our latest blog…

1 TYEUFV4SoXzBcevMtS0uzgSO congratulations to Naomi Alderman whose novel The Power has won the Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Award for this year. This is interesting as, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a book that is openly identified as being within a genre has won a literary prize. For most of my reading life genre fiction has been looked down upon with weary or angered dismissal by the great and the good and when something genre-like is lauded it of course ceases to be considered as part of that genre. This is why novels such as 1984 and Brave New World are usually to be found in the general fiction section of shops and libraries. Some authors were in the habit of denying that what they wrote was in fact within a genre. Margaret Atwood describes her work as speculative fiction and, it is said, has angrily dismissed suggestions that The Handmaid’s Tale might in fact be SF. The boundaries can be fluid. Does John le Carré write novels or thrillers? He’s treated with a respect that the authors of the latter rarely receive. But then Len Deighton’s cold war spy book Funeral in Berlin is now published as a Penguin Classic. Salmon Rushdie’s first novel, Grimus, was originally sold as a SF novel and according to Brian Aldiss, Midnight’s Children was going to be as well until at the last minute the publishers decided to market it as a literary book.

                And this is the thing. Genre is as much to do with marketing as it is with identifying the style of book. So, when Penguin originally published John Wyndham’s novels which involve walking carnivorous plants, aliens taking over the world’s oceans and other such things, it carefully avoided packaging them as science fiction at all. Indeed the only reference to the genre comes in the little bit near the beginning where they tell us about the author which contains the gorgeously dismissive line ‘[he] decided to try a modified form of what is unhappily known as “science fiction”.’ It’s like that business of calling ‘comics’ ‘graphic novels’ that took off in the ‘80s when comics became briefly trendy.

                But not everything has changed. Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2015 novel, The Buried Giant was greeted with derision and dismay by the critics with Private Eye’s book man being particularly scathing, his premise being that the novel could not be of any artistic value because of its fantastical elements. Ironically the following issue bemoaned the failure to recognise the late Terry Pratchett’s literary skills. Pratchett himself complained about this in his speech when he accepted the Carnegie Award:

                                ‘Recent Discworld books have spun on such concerns as the nature of belief,

 politics and even of journalistic freedom, but put in one lousy dragon…’

So what has changed? The success of the Lord of the Rings films and the Game of Thrones TV series with non-genre readers obviously have had something to do with it. But I think it is more down to writers like Naomi Aldermen who refuse to accept the rigid demarcations and, in Ms Alderman’s case, leapt at the chance of writing a Doctor Who novel. PD James and Ruth Rendell’s detective novels paved the way by being steadily accepted by the better class of critic and the following generation who are building on it. Harry Potter may have something to do with it. Certainly Professor Harold Bloom statement that he would rather children did not read at all than read JK Rowling’s books did a lot to reveal the degree to which certain people see reading not as a pleasure but as a stand to look down on people from.

                Well, here’s hoping anyway.

Sandy Chadwin is co-running the next  North Tyneside Writer’s Circle this Saturday 11am to 1pm in North Shields Library.

Creative competition

Have you ever entered a creative writing competition? If so what happened next?

Competition is the theme of the next North Tyneside Writers’ Circle which takes place this coming Saturday 17th June in North Shields library.

NTWCClare Pepper from North Tyneside Libraries will be popping in to tell us about this year’s Story Tyne Competition and we’ll all share our experiences of this and other competitions.

Do you avoid competitions because you can’t bear the thought of not winning? Come and join us from 11am on Saturday and we’ll try to convince you that entering competitions is GOOD for you!

North Tyneside Writers’ Circle is free to attend and all are welcome. There’s no need to book.

Pure Fiction on Thursday!

Pure Fiction logoPure Fiction is The Next Page’s regular literary event, dedicated to writers of fiction and their work.

We held two Pure Fiction events in Whitley Bay last year featuring writers Kitty Fitzgerald, Carol Clewlow, L.A. Craig plus The Next Page’s Jennifer C. Wilson and Sandy Chadwin,

Our third Pure Fiction event takes place this Thursday 11th May  in Newcastle’s oldest pub, The Old George Inn, just off the Bigg Market. The evening features Rod Glenn and Victoria Watson.

Rod is the author of best-selling Sinema series, the first of which introduces us to the film-obsessed serial killer, Han Whitman. Victoria is a writer, copy-editor and Creative Writing tutor. She has won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction.Rod Glenn

Victoria-WatsonDoors open 6.45pm and event kicks off at 7pm.  Sandy Chadwin will kick off the evening with one of his Tall Tales and the event is hosted by his Next Page colleague, Elaine Cusack.

old georgeTickets cost £3 and we advise booking in advance from Ticketsource.