Paulie's Web distils the tragedies, comedies and ironies of women's lives t just behind bars but out in society. In it charismatic Paulie Smith - rebel, ex-teacher and emerging writer - comes out of prison after serving six years. . In the next few days she relished her freedom but struggles to adapt to the scary realities of life 'on the out'. Paulie's reflects on her life in prison and her first few weeks inside and the four very different women whom she first met in the white prison van. There was Queenie, the old bag- lady who sees giants and angels, Maritza who disguises her pain with an ultra-conventional life, and Lilah, the spoiled apple of her mother's eye. Then there is the tragedy of the abused Christine - the one with the real scars inside. And then, of course, there is Paulie herself. The touching stories of these women, past and present, mingle as Paulie - free w after six years - goes looking her significant friends, who have w been 'on the out' for some years and are - Paulie hopes - remaking their lives. Extracts .. ..Paulie Smith, w aged twenty-nine, moves sideways in on the world; cautiously, like a crab. The gates roll and grind closed behind me, and I am here, the grey sky exploding fireworks of light over my head. I am drunk on space, incontinent with light. I open my mouth wide to gulp in fresh, clean, free air. I unzip the neck of my arak to let this air in on my body, waving my arms to let it flow to my elbows, my armpits... It's cold. My breath escapes from my mouth and sits on the air like smoke, then drifts across to thread its way through the isy chirrup of bird song and weaves on down through the dusty winter hedge. Then this breath of my mouth, this free breath in the free air, drifts from branch to branch to settle with a dying fall on the discarded crackling bags which once held crisps and condoms, cigarettes and fizzy pop, apples and sly wraps ...Queenie's hat was always cocked at a cheeky angle. She had always been very particular about her appearance. Her eyes embraced those about her with an engaging confidence. She was extravagant with her perfume: this month Rive Gauche, next month Je t 'Adore - all gifts from her niece, Janine, who was what they call a Flight Attendant. Queenie relished those words. ... It was in this house that the Maritza became easy about stealing. She would take pound coins left carelessly for her on polished surfaces; she filched sweets spilling temptingly towards her out of crackling packets; she pocketed biscuit and cakes that hung their tempting sweet scents on the air. ...Christine would look around in school and wonder who else was learning this savage lesson. Which other girl was enduring this, amongst her own teddy bears and her own Sindy dolls, her own plasticine and paints? Three or four times each week Christine would beg her mother t to go out on a Saturday night. Wendy Robertson says of Paulie's Web. 'It has taken me some years to digest the extremities of my experience in prison and to write my vel as fiction with truth at is heart in a way that pays tribute to the women I met while working there. If, by the by, Paulie's Web goes some way to cracking the absurd stereotypes of women in prison this will be an extra delight. While there are dark elements in the vel I very much delight in its ultimately optimistic tone which is a true reflection of the wit, the compassion, the humour, stoicism and kindness that I witnessed there in that women's prison.'
Through five years novelist Wendy Robertson spent what she calls 'a life-changing time' working in a women's prison as writer in Residence. This well-received novel, Paulie's Web, is one creative outcome of that experience as were several publications of the women's own writing. She has written many novels, historical and contemporary, which have at their core a consideration of the extraordinary lives of so-called ordinary people. Always a published writer, after relishing and surviving academic life, Wendy Robertson has published twenty-two novels, both historical and contemporary, two short story collections and continues to write occasional articles on issues close to her heart. Wendy sees herself as a novelist of ideas as well as story. Her academic background in Sociology, Psychology and History also finds a place in her fiction. She is a member of the collective Room To Write Publishing enterprise enjoying the creative experience of independent publishing, and encouraging encourage writers in developing their own work. She also mentors new writers and speaks at writing workshops and conferences She posts in detail about her writing process and her writing life on her popular blog at: http: //www.lifetwicetasted.blogspot.co.uk/. And her newsletter at: http: //wendysnewsletter.blogspot.co.uk/ These average 5000 views a month worldwide. Some comments on Wendy's writing 'A powerful writer' Mail on Sunday 'Not only is Wendy Robertson a great storyteller, she fills her books with characters with real depth' Northern Echo 'Skilfully marries fact and fiction into an epic tale that has you turning the pages at high speed to match the pace of this compelling story' Sunderland Echo 'A blend of accessibility and total sincerity' Pat Barker 'Wendy Robertson is a rare breed - a writer with an exquisite gift for creating vivid, relateable female characters' Scottish Daily Record 'A terrific read. A world on the cusp of change and we experience it intimately' Historical Novels Review.