I've Never Told Anyone This Before


01Tod Wodicka - The Reluctant Shaman20141222

The first in a series of essays from writers who explore the hidden stories of their lives that they've not yet set to paper.

Some parents and grandparents may be anticipating struggles with getting small children to sleep in the heady days approaching Christmas. In 'The Reluctant Shaman' the acclaimed novelist shares his history of terrifying night-time experiences and how for years he suffered in fear and isolation. In Siberia there is a tradition, albeit a fading one, of young boys who suffer from night terrors being taken aside from the community and trained as shamans. They are believed to have a more fluid relationship with the spirit world and our so-called 'real world'. In a spirit of sceptical inquiry Tod Wodicka tells the story of how he discovered he was not alone in experiencing episodes of being trapped inside his own body, awake, and convinced that the presence in the room is an evil one intent on doing harm. Fuseli's famous engraving of The Nightmare recalls for him some of the strange feelings of powerlessness and horror as a weight presses down on his chest. Where do these episodes come from and what are their implications for a 21st-century agnostic ?

Tod Wodicka was born in Glens Falls, NY in 1976. He graduated from the University of Manchester, UK. He is currently living in Berlin and working on his second novel, The Household Spirit. All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well is his first novel, both published by Jonathan Cape.

02Kei Miller - Because Some Things Just Can't Be Said (By Me to You)20141223

A series of essays from writers who explore the untold aspects of their lives that they've not yet set to paper.

Reflecting on the complex dynamics of race and power in the world he moves in Kei Miller offers some challenging thoughts about being a black writer in a white literary world.

Kei Miller was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1978. He now lives and teaches in London, he was formerly based in Glasgow and spends a great deal of his time in Jamaica.

'The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion' won the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2014.

In the same year his collection of essays Writing Down the Vision: Essays & Prophecies won the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (Non-fiction). His novel The Last Warner Woman was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 2010.

03Erica Wagner - A History of My Family in One Object20141224

Continuing our series in which five writers were invited to reveal something which they'd never told anyone before. From difficult and awkward truths to personal and challenging experiences, this series of essays offers an intriguing and provocative glimpse into the inner lives of others.

At a time of the year when it's traditional for families to gather together, the journalist and author Erica Wagner looks back on the stories her mother told about her father through the medium of the wedding present she gave him in 1965: a Norden bombsight taken from a Second World War B29 bomber.

The narratives we build around ourselves and those we love are just that - constructed stories - and sometimes the boundary between fact and fiction is a fine one. Erica Wagner's father died in 2007; her mother a couple of years later. During the period when she was packing up their belongings and also spending time with her parents' surviving friends, she began to discover that her mother's proud story about her father's years as a pilot didn't entirely make sense. Her father had never spoken about his wartime experiences, and records from the USAF were either missing or destroyed. With no one left to ask, what does it mean when the stories you cherish may not even be true?

04Jane Stevenson - An Uneasy Feeling20141225

Continuing our series of Essays in which five writers were commissioned to tell us something they have never told anyone before. Ranging from deeply personal experiences such as an account of sleep paralysis to the awkward truths and unspoken rules of power and race.

Today's true story from the biographer, historian and novelist Jane Stevenson steps beyond the safety of academic research to put her own life in the spotlight and recount an incident which prompted a very uneasy feeling and a startling conclusion.

05 LAST5. Suzanne Joinson - 'somebody Else's Story'20141226

Concluding the series of specially commissioned essays under the title theme I've Never Told Anyone This Before, the novelist and street market enthusiast Suzanne Joinson shares a story of plunder and ethical dilemmas, in which she found a box of letters on a stall in Deptford Market and began to read them. When someone else's life is up for sale is it an act of rescue to revive their story or an act of trespass and looting? What are the borders between prurience and respect? On a day Boxing Day when cardboard packaging begins to pile up outside people's houses this is a story about what gets thrown out and who it belongs to.