Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Visit from Craig Robertson

Many thanks to Morag Moffat for this excellent résumé of Craig Robertson’s visit to Erskine Writers on Tuesday, 22nd January.

We travelled from Ground Zero to Death Row, from India to Kilmarnock, from the Faroes to Robin House in Balloch as Craig Robertson, now a full-time crime writer, regaled us with stories of his twenty years as reporter with The Sunday Post.

It was moving to hear Craig talk about the “good bits” of his career: fund raising via the Post to help build a second Children’s Hospice, distributing polio drops with the Rotary in India, interviewing a family some months after 9/11 and feeling that they had been helped to talk openly to each other about their loss for the first time.

We also laughed a lot as Craig told us about some of the “bad bits” or journalistic blunders: the dictaphone which did not record an interview with John Major, the mix-up between Iraq and Iran, and the confusion as to whether it was advised to put babies to sleep on their stomachs or on their backs.

Craig was generous with his tips about what makes a good newspaper article. Among other things it must have an impact on us, it is helpful if it is timely and controversial, and it may well make us laugh, cry or cringe. Above all, journalism thrives on stories about people, such as the child with the broken leg whose appetite had appeared to improve greatly… until it was discovered he had been stuffing the uneaten food into his stookie!

At various points there was the opportunity to ask questions and Craig talked about the way in which his experience as a journalist has helped him as a crime writer. An author, just like a journalist, works to deadlines, edits carefully, does not waste words, does thorough research, finds reliable sources, and notes ideas down before they vanish forever. Craig demonstrated that he had not lost his interviewing skills when he interviewed Sandra (Alex Gray) about her forthcoming novel The Swedish Girl. A writing exercise on reducing the length of an article then tested our editing skills.

We had an entertaining and instructive meeting and at the end enjoyed the opportunity to look at, and buy if we wished, one of Craig’s gripping crime novels. A wonderful afternoon!

Morag Moffat

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