Local Authors EventJenny 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 Nałkowskaexplores a woman’s loves and life against the background of the troubled 20th century.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.