We kick off #ScotLitFest 2017’s online events with a celebration of the life and heritage of Jessie Kesson, featuring Jenni Fagan and Black & White Publishing, and chaired by Laura Waddell. To some, Kesson is a known and beloved literary treasure; to others a hidden jewel they’re only uncovering. If you’re in the latter, we thought we’d introduce you to the wonder of Jessie Kesson with a few links.
Who is Jessie Kesson? Taken from Books From Scotland:
Born Jessie Grant Macdonald in an Inverness workhouse in 1916, Jessie Kesson was a novelist and playwright most famous for her first novel, the semi-autobiographical The White Bird Passes. She was raised in an orphanage from the age of eight, finally leaving in 1932 to go into service. However, she suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent to recuperate near Loch Ness, where she met her future husband, Johnnie Kesson.
In the 1930s and ’40s Kesson contributed to The Scots Magazine, and wrote over 30 features and plays for the BBC. In 1947 she moved to London to further her writing, supporting herself with a variety of odd jobs. Her heart, however, remained in Morayshire and Aberdeenshire. In the 1980s she was awarded honorary degrees from Dundee and Aberdeen Universities. She died in London in 1994
Writing Her Life: Jessie Kesson
If you’re into biographies, then Kesson’s is a wonderful one to dive into – interesting and inspiring. Jessie Kesson’s life is the story of a writer surviving tremendous odds, and doing it triumphantly. Born illegitimate in the workhouse at Inverness, she survived a deprived, institutionalised childhood. Kesson worked in an extraordinary variety of jobs in London, from cinema cleaner and artist’s model to full-time producer for Woman’s Hour and skilled social worker – along the way producing striking and accomplished plays and fictions. This authorised biography, the first to be written on Kesson, follows this astonishing career, incorporating a wealth of Kesson’s private and public writing | More information
Black & White Publishing
Her books are being repackaged and re-released by Black & White Publishing. The White Bird Passes, Glitter of Mica and Another Time, Another Place have made their way into the world with gorgeous new covers and introductions from Linda Cracknell, Jenni Fagan and Candia McWilliam respectively. Really exciting! Read more
The Jessie Kesson Fellowship
Moniack Mhor has been celebrating brilliant writers in Jessie’s name for around ten years now in honour of her life and work. 2017’s Fellowship was awarded to Claire Askew, who appeared in #ScotLitFest 2016. On winning, Claire said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to be taking up this opportunity in 2017: I’m especially looking forward to running workshops, meeting fellow writers and generally making myself useful in the local community. I feel honoured to be taking up a fellowship that bears Jessie Kesson’s name: she was an inspirational woman as well as a brilliant writer. I’m hoping that during my time at Moniack Mhor, some of her magic might just rub off on me!”
Jenni Fagan on Glitter of Mica
As Jenni is joining us for our Twitter event in celebration of Jessie, we’re delighted that Black & White allowed us to share her introduction to Glitter of Mica which so eloquently and perfectly captures the wonder of her work. You can read it here.