Carolyn’s books have been published in 22 languages. She has previously received an Eric Gregory Award, a Tyrone Guthrie Award, a Major Arts Council of England Award, and she has twice received a Northern Promise Award.
She lives in north-east England with her husband and four children.
“This book is quite simply brilliant to read, full of emotion and some heart wrenching plot twists … one of the best books with a child protagonist I’ve ever read.” – The Guardian
“Impressive . . . Jess-Cooke is every bit as skillful in her vivid portrayals of unworldly beings . . . as in illustrating the dreadful toll taken by mental illness.”—Booklist(US)
Jess-Cooke is one to watch.” – Publisher’s Weekly (starred review) (US)
“An incredible debut novel… This is The Lovely Bones meets It’s a Wonderful Life. Fabulous.” – The Sun
“This is the first novel by an intelligent and skillful writer from whom we cannot help feel that there are more good things to come.” Lovereading
“The new Audrey Niffenegger.” – Company Magazine
“The book is written with a poet’s eye for language, and also emotional intensity. For the Niffenegger fans, or those who like their fiction slightly strange.” - The Sunday M (Sydney, Australia)
Hi there. Isn’t it a lovely day? I don’t know about you but a bunch of 99p daffs on my dining room table cheers me up immensely. As does seeing the tender purple heads of crocuses nipping up in the park. I LOVE spring!
OK, so the Writing Motherhood conversation is happening over at the Mslexia blog and I’m just delighted with all the responses I’m getting for this, so please do join in. I’m putting together an anthology of writing about motherhood and really want as many pieces as possible, so do send them to me at carolynjesscooke [at] gmail dot com.
Hello again! Well as usual it’s been aaaggges since I last blogged and that means tons of news. I’ll start off with what I think is the best news -
The Arts Council gave me full funding for my ‘Writing Motherhood’ project. What’s my ‘Writing Motherhood’ project? Hey, great question, and thanks for asking. It’s a project I’ve set up in relation to my new poetry collection BOOM! (out next Spring with Seren), which is about motherhood. In a nutshell, there is no other experience in my life that has impacted my creativity (or continues to impact) as much as motherhood. I mean, IN EVERY SINGLE WAY, from the logistics of finding time to write while caring for 4 children under the age of 8 to the ways in which I find myself in the same boat as so many women who find their sacred role as mother socially disparaged. Becoming a mother has made me look at everything around me differently. It forced me to confront the parameters of my existence. It completely altered my political viewpoints. All my feminist principles got a huge overhaul. A poem I wrote in support of Michelle McGrane’s ‘Against Rape’ protest speaks to this, but there was even more than that. All my theories about work/life balance and childhood psychology got shot out the window by the reality of having a child, to such extent that I found myself ditching a thriving career as a film theorist in favour of a more creative role. The physical impact of motherhood has been immense, too – I gave an interview for the Daily Mail last year and was scheduled (and refused) to have a pelvic fusion which would have involved constant wheelchair use for two years – and I am saddened to read more and more accounts of other women struggling with postnatal depression of varying degrees.
Becoming a mother changed me in every single way. My first child – born in October 2006 – just about knocked me sideways. Again, there were many reasons for this, but here’s the biggest one: I could not believe how public and political the (hugely personal) experience of motherhood was.
I could not believe that a trip to the supermarket would result in unsolicited advice from complete strangers about how to raise my child. Here’s a brief example: as an academic with hundreds of students and other staff under my responsibility, I could wander into Tesco with nary a word from anyone about my teaching methods, about my time management, about my levels of organisation. When people asked what I did for a living and I said ‘academic’, the response was intoned with interest and occasionally respect. It’s a whole other kettle of fish when you say you’re a mother.
And the thing is, this experience didn’t blow over with my first child. Three kids later and I am still changing, still learning, still dealing with how public and how political motherhood is. I was overwhelmed – and remain so - by the number of newspaper headlines about how working mothers were to blame for everything. Like, EVERYTHING. Obesity, autism, the likelihood of their children developing depression and experiencing future marital breakdown… Far from telling me anything useful (or true) about motherhood, it told me massive amounts about the type of society I inhabit.
Coupled with this was the love I had for my children. It completely and utterly blew me away, how much I could love another human being. It far surpassed all the negativity I had felt swamping around me. I urgently needed to find an art to express all of this, a language, a literary form. I thought first about writing a non-fiction book about motherhood, then a novel. Neither of them felt right (although motherhood is a prominent theme in ALL my novels) so I started writing poetry. Some of my motherhood poems made their way into my debut collection. Earlier this year an early manuscript of Boom! won a Northern Promise Award. Then Seren gave me a contract for my new poetry collection. Poetry Review published the title poem, Boom!. The new issue of Magma features my poem ‘Motherhood Diptych’ and ‘The Only Dad at Play Group’ is in New Walk Magazine. New Statesman is publishing one of my poems about giving birth later this year. I found more and more female writers articulating the impact of motherhood on their writing. I felt a kinship with these writers, far greater than any other work I’d read.
I suddenly wanted more than just to articulate this experience: I wanted to empower other mothers, to reclaim the power that has been bled from motherhood in whatever small way I could. And so I devised a project called ‘Writing Motherhood’, and was amazed that the Arts Council awarded it full funding. A key element of the project is a touring event involving a number of other amazing writers - Hollie McNish, Liz Fraser, Sinead Morrissey,Lily Dunn, Rowan Coleman, Kathryn Simmonds, Rebecca Goss, Kate Long and Debi Gliori – which will tour 12 literary festivals in 2014. I’ll also be running a blog for the event to establish a dialogue amongst writers and readers about their experiences of motherhood, and later will publish an anthology of creative work. BOOM! will be launched at the Hexham Book Festival in Spring 2014, and you’ll be most welcome to come along.
I’M GOING ON TOUR NEXT YEAR!!!!!!!!
I’ll keep you posted about the dates and venues. IF YOU HAVE ANY EXPERIENCES OF MOTHERHOOD YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE please do so in the comments box here, or contact me on Facebook, Twitter, or via email. I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
PS. I have other news, too, particularly about the new book I’m working on (feel free to follow my Pinterest board for it!), and some lovely reviews, but will post about these in the next blog (hopefully I’ll have a cover for BOOM! to show off, too!)
First of, thank you to all of you who have taken pictures of BOY on US shelves. Here’s one by Sheila Beardsmore at the Barnes & Noble in downtown Seattle:
I wish I was in Seattle!
Anyway, keep the pics coming, they make me so happy.
So this blog post is loooong overdue. Well, maybe not so much: I did promise you video diaries during the recording of the audiobook for THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS but I was so focused on, you know, Anya’s narration (and the many accents I hadn’t realised I’d need to perform – as you’ll see…) that I just didn’t have time to edit.
But here we are! Wait, let me go back a bit in case you missed a blog post or two. So. A while back I heard that Random House Audio had bought audio rights for the novel, at which I squeed I lot. THEN, after some contact with the producer, I was asked if I would like to narrate Anya’s part. I squeed some more. And said yes. I was secretly hoping I’d get to fly to Los Angeles for the recording sessions (and secretly hoping that I wouldn’t have to, given how impractical my being on the other side of the world would be to my children) but as it turned out, Skype is awesome. Bruce Mann, a lovely man from the UK and based in LA, was able to direct me during the sessions.
The recording took 3 evenings at the beginning of July at a recording studio right here in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, and was super fun. They had an old upright piano for me to perform the piece I composed, ‘A Long Song for Anya’ (the score is printed at the beginning of the book).
So without further ado, here’s the little movie I put together:
I was stoked to hear Alex’s part – narrated by Bruce. Have a listen to the first part of the audiobook and tell me what you think. Does this sound like Alex to you?
At the weekend I was excited to see cool reviews for the book in both THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE BOSTON GLOBE – both on the SAME DAY. I couldn’t believe it. It was like US review weekend for the book.
Last but not least, don’t forget my competition for a UK-based reader to win a copy of the (scrumptious, delectably hardback) US version of BOY. All you have to do is LIKE and SHARE my Facebook Author page. I’ll select a winner at random on 1st October 2013.