Saturday 13 October to 30 November 2019
Saturday 16th November 2pm
Local Authors Event
Jenny Robertson, Susan Stewart and Reta MacLennan
Jenny Robertson : Crafting Dignity From Crime
Susan Stewart : Make-up Matters: The History of Cosmetics
Reta MacLennan : Travelling Scotland with One Yellow Welly
Eighty years after the outbreak of the Second World War, Jenny Robertson’s short stories,
From the Volga to the Clyde, are created from memories from Poland, while her biography
of a major Polish writer, From Corsets to Communism, the life and times of Zofia Nałkowska
explores a woman’s loves and life against the background of the troubled 20
The horror of war is so huge that facts and figures become too overwhelming to take in.
However, small mementoes, an apple, the sound of departing footsteps, a grandmother’s
kindness speak volumes and have been woven into short stories by Jenny.
Zofia Nałkowska (1884-1954), a leading Polish writer whose life encapsulates key moments
of Polish history, is now internationally known for Medallions, penned in 1947: the first eye-
witness accounts of Nazi war crimes.
Jenny’s readings from these books (and perhaps a little Wojtek) will provide a background
to a bigger picture and offer stimulating reflections on the power of well-chosen words to
work for good.
Jenny Robertson has written over 38 books for adults and children (including Wojtek War
Hero Bear) as well as four poetry collections. She gives presentations in schools and at
community events and has appeared three times in the Edinburgh International Book
Festival, most recently this year.
Cosmetics tell a story. Research into the buying, owning and wearing of make-up sheds
light on the social, economic and political lives of people in the past.
Throughout history, cosmetics and their use have reflected the nature of the society of the
time, its values and its ideas. These products have been important indicators of wealth,
health and hygiene, gender and ideas surrounding personal appearance.
There is plenty of evidence to examine as cosmetics are frequently mentioned in written
texts and depicted in works of art. Also, especially in antiquity, the remains of cosmetic
containers, mixing palettes and mirrors are among the detritus of past history. Women (and
very often men too) wore them.
However, it is men rather than women who are more often doing the writing about make-up
(and indeed the crafting of these products). Therefore it is a challenge to interpret that
evidence with its male bias fairly and with due perspective.
Susan Stewart is a librarian working in West Lothian. Her first published work was based on
her PhD thesis awarded in 2003. Since then she has explored her interest in cosmetics
further, contributing to various publications and taking part in conferences and events
including The Edinburgh Book Festival and The Edinburgh International Science Festival.
In her latest book ‘Painted faces’ she guides the reader through the bewildering, fascinating
and complex story of make-up from the ancient world to the present day.
Susan lives in the Pentland Hills with her husband and two dogs.
In Reta’s talk she will tell you briefly about her training to be a Quality Advisor, with a few
examples of the excitement, joy, challenges and solitude and about how she came to write
this book. Her friends said,
“Write those stories down. Just do it”. There is a difference between entertaining friends after
a few glasses of wine - but writing it down?! They’d made it sound simple. Hmm.
Not one to back off from a challenge, she got started. It was a rich experience learning the
craft in order to write this first book.
Her first published work was in the C&B News; her memories of a year in the life of a child
growing up in Balerno in the 1950s. The feedback from people in the street, in shops and at
the bus stop was encouraging. Maybe she could write after all.
Now she has her first book, this work of creative non-fiction.
She will finish by reading an extract from the story of one self-catering owner she met.
He lived on the Isle of Harris, his nickname was ‘Scrook’ and he gave me jaw-dropping
reasons for cheating his guests.
Reta lives in Currie with husband John. She has been an academic secretary; had her own
catering company; trained in Marriage Counselling, then did a Postgraduate Diploma at
Napier University and became a Supervisor and Trainer in Counselling.
She enjoys gardening, walking, yoga, dancing and learning new things. She is currently co-
writing a travel book called An Insiders’ Guide to Edinburgh, and has another murmuring in
her head: a collection of short stories, yet to be given a name.