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By: Ros Holland

The Black Pencil Woman: A Portrait of My Mother

Pages: 336 Ratings: 4.0
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Told with beautiful honesty and adept written skill, The Black Pencil Woman: A Portrait of my Mother details Ros Holland's life dealing with multiple episodes of grief and struggle in light of her infallible mother's recent death.
A striking account, these memoirs present a child's understanding of sickness, class struggles, northern community culture and coming-of-age within a family that is wrought with difficulties - whilst striving to remain intact despite it all. Strung together with reflections from the now-adult author, this story reveals how fragile the human psyche is in the face of despair and loss; yet how determination and a strong sense of self can overcome and find comfort.
A truly inspiring tale, The Back Pencil Woman leaves no stone unturned and presents a stark reflection on the highs and lows of family life.

Ros Holland had a career in education, including working as a special needs teacher before becoming a lecturer and researcher in Education and Health Education at Southampton University. She was the UK Co-ordinator for the Europe Against Cancer Programme while at Southampton University. Ros is retired, though now runs her own counselling and psychotherapy practice in Salisbury: writing is her life (see Ros encourages clients to write to access their hidden agendas.

Poetry has long been a hobby for her, which Ros refers to as "playing with words" or "wordplay". Ros uses narrative therapy with children and adults in her work with clients.

Narrative Therapy (Michael White and colleagues Martin Payne et al, 2006) developed and trained the first narrative therapy facilitators in Australia and then world-wide. Narrative therapy encourages people, those who seek help, to explore through language, writing, drama and the arts in general, their inner narratives and inner world; and for therapists to use this material to help them heal, grow and achieve, as well as to integrate the past with the present: encouraging personal growth and success (a technique also used in personal-professional coaching; as well as sports coaching). It matters not, in narrative therapy, whether you can write, draw, act; what matters is that you heal through addressing your own narrative.

Ros uses and explores this writing technique in her personal memoir; The Black Pencil Woman: A Portrait of my Mother, Ros Holland: The Book Guild 2012.

In her work in narrative therapy Ros uses word play, poetry, drama, drawing, story-telling and play writing as techniques to help unravel inner worlds. People feel less threatened by using these techniques rather than questions and ‘digging in the psyche'.

Peoples' stories provide rich material, of which they are often unaware; this then becomes the therapy agenda. It renders evidence-based therapy techniques such as cognitive behaviour therapy more effective; and is less threatening than direct questioning and drawing out - although these too have their place in all therapy.

They may or may not be aware of the problems their inner story has caused them, is causing them, as their story/ies remain buried deep. "Playing with Words" or "Wordplay" helps their story to emerge and live.

Ros facilitated this as her first poetry workshop on National Poetry Day. This will be held at Newcastle City Library and entitled: "Playing with Words."
This collection of poetry will be the main resource for this workshop and then for others afterward.

As Philip Larkin said: "Prose is about other people; poetry about the self."


Customer Reviews
1 reviews
1 reviews
  • Miriam Smith

    "The Black Pencil Woman - Portrait of My Mother" by Ros Holland is an emotionally charged autobiographical memoir. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this but what I got was a brilliant recount of the author's emotional life journey, sharing many emotions from happiness and sadness to grief and shame, presenting the highs and lows of family life. This is a no holes barred memoir in which the author has bared her deeply personal soul to all and sundry inspired after the death of her mother. I haven't personally lost a parent or experienced any of the grief related to in the story but I could still fully comprehend how the author must of felt during these times in her life - due to the frank and openness of the adept writing.
    Born and bred in NE England myself, I totally relate to and enjoyed the lovely geographical descriptions of Northumberland/North East and the small towns and villages and I particularly liked reading the back in time account of life here. There's a lot of social history of NE England described too which was also interesting, very well written and portrayed - the attitudes, work and class struggles so different from today.
    This book is a very moving, emotional and endearing story full of inspiration where at times I warn you, you will feel sad but I did thoroughly enjoy it, finding myself taking my time reading it so to absorb every word. I would have no hesitation in recommending "The Black Pencil Woman".

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