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Writing difficult life stories – Karen McLeod and Tom Lee @ The Bookseller Crow
Jul 4 @ 7:30 pm – 9:15 pm

Join Karen McLeod and Tom Lee when we celebrate their memoirs, Lifting Off and The Bullet. Novelists Karen and Tom will be in conversation about their writing process and how they built narratives from the most difficult periods of their lives.


Told with the wit and verve that characterised her debut novel, Lifting Off is Karen’s portrait of flying as cabin crew and offers a fascinating insight into the profound impact of long-haul life.

Having come out as a lesbian she is forced to go back in as colleagues advise her that it is not ok to be gay. Brimming with vertiginous loops and extreme globe-trotting, against a backdrop of exotic locations, hotel bars and nightclubs, Karen slowly unravels as the inability to truly be herself reverberates. This is the story of how Karen finally came into land. How she learned to look after herself and discovered her real self.

‘Witty, irreverent, deeply felt, and exquisitely written, Lifting Off lifts the lid on one of the strongest performers and authors in queer UK, and in doing so lifts us all. I can’t recommend this extraordinary memoir enough. Stunning.’ – Joelle Taylor

Karen McLeod is a writer, performance artist and creative writing teacher. You might well know her as writer in residence at Bookseller Crow on the Hill, or when she performs comedy as Barbara Brownskirt, a Judi Dench mega-fan and poet-in-residence at the 197 bus stop on the Croydon Road in south-east London. Or you might just know her as Karen.


The Bullet is a powerful and deeply personal exploration of mental health, and an indelible account of the legacy of familial illness and living with a fracturing mind.

Like many people, Tom Lee remembers the presence – somewhere out of sight, on the outskirts of town – of the local psychiatric hospital. It was a place that inspired jokes, rumours and dread, a place where the strange and deranged were kept away. But among those people were, at different times, Tom’s own parents.

Afterwards, those times were not much spoken about and before long the hospital closed, as part of the nationwide shutting down of psychiatric institutions. For many years, Tom believed that he had dodged the bullet of the mental illness that had marked the lives of his parents. But then, quite out of the blue, he has a crisis of his own and finds himself returning to the past for clues. The Bullet is an attempt to piece together and understand what happened to his parents and what happened to him. It is also a story about how we have tried and spectacularly failed to care for people suffering with mental illness, and about the terrifying fragility and unknowability of the human mind.

Tom Lee is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University. He is the author of a novel, The Alarming Palsy of James Orr (Granta, 2017), and a collection of short stories, Greenfly (Harvill Secker, 2008).


Celebrating Climbing Days by Dorothy Pilley – with Kassia St Clare and Dan Richards @ The Bookseller Crow
Jul 11 @ 7:30 pm – 9:15 pm
Being at the top of a great hill we are very apt to host an event celebrating Canongate’s republication of Dan Richards’ great grand aunt Dorothy Pilley’s much-loved, trailblazing memoir Climbing Days.
As part of Dan’s series of in-conversation events with brilliant women around the UK – some adventurers, some artists, some writers – who embody something of Dorothy’s buccaneering, transcendent spirit, join us when the very brilliant Kassia St Clare talks about Dorothy Pilley’s legacy with Dan.

Kassia St. Clair is based in London and is Britain’s bestselling historian under 40. Her first book, The Secret Lives of Colour, is a top-ten bestseller, was selected as Radio 4′s Book of the Week and has been translated into twenty languages. The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History was a Radio 4 Book of the Week, a Sunday Times Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award. Her third book, The Race to the Future, is out now. Features, interviews, essays and reviews have appeared in the Economist, the Telegraph, Architectural Digest, the TLS and Wired; she had a colour column in Elle Decoration for seven years. You can see a selection of her published work on the journalism page.


Dan Richards is an acclaimed non-fiction writer specialising in art, travel and adventure. His first book, Holloway – co-authored with Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Stanley Donwood – was published by Faber and became a Sunday Times bestseller. Dan’s second book, The Beechwood Airship Interviews took a journey into the creative process, headspaces and workplaces of some of Britain’s celebrated artists and craftsman including Bill Drummond, Dame Judi Dench, Jenny Saville, Manic Street Preachers and Stewart Lee.

Climbing Days is an exploration of the writing and climbing lives of Dan’s great-great-aunt and uncle, Dorothy Pilley and I. A. Richards. Using Dorothy’s 1935 mountaineering memoir as a guide, Dan climbed across Europe, ending with an ascent of the mighty Dent Blanche in the high Alps of Valais.

His latest title is Outpost, a book about far-flung shelters and eyries, isolation and wilderness. Asking what draws people to the ends of the world, Outpost features visits to Cairngorm bothies, French lighthouses, Japanese shrines, Icelandic sæluhús, and hot air balloon odysseys in Svalbard.

Tickets £5 (includes a drink)

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