Rocking Day in the Life of… Caroline Sanderson

Caroline Sanderson – Writer, Editor, Journalist, Broadcaster and also Artistic Director of Stroud Book Festival (7th – 11th Nov 2018), the five day literary feast with speakers including Prue Leith, Mary Portas, Tony Ross and Ade Adepitan.

So Caroline, you clearly have a lot of strings to your bow….what are mainly working on at the moment and how is that going?

Around my various ‘day’ jobs in books journalism, I’m mainly working on the third Stroud Book Festival! Now the programme has been finalised, and our fabulous brochure is out there in the wild, I’m collaborating with the rest of the Stroud Book Festival team on making sure that the Festival experience is a wonderful one for all those who join us. And preparing for the events which I’m chairing, including Mary Portas, and Prue Leith.


Who are you excited about coming to speak at the Stroud Book Festival this year?

Having programmed most of the events, alongside our brilliant children’s artistic director, Jane Churchill, I am of course excited about all of them! But I’m particularly pleased that Will McCallum, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace and the author of “How to Give Up Plastic” has found time in his globe-trotting schedule to come and speak to us on Thursday 8th November about ways in which we, as individuals can do our bit to reduce our plastic consumption. As a Festival, we’ve pledged to minimalize single use plastic too.


Will McCallum

Because I’m a passionate believer in the power of books both to inform us about the world, and help us make sense of it, I’m also very proud that we’re staging a “Refugee Tales” event with Bernadine Evaristo and Patrick Gale (Saturday 10th November) which will feature true refugee stories, retold by some of our finest contemporary writers in the tradition of the Canterbury Tales. It’s going to be pin drop extraordinary.

Do you have any particular local authors you think we should be reading?

The Cotswolds is home to so many remarkable writers that I could recommend a different one for every day of the week. For Stroud Book Festival we’ve assembled a cracking line-up of authors who live right on our doorstep – Kate Riordan, Jane Bailey, Sam Guglani, Maria Stadnicka, Elisa Lodato, Amanda Reynolds, Cynthia Jefferies… to name but a few.


Amanda Reynolds


Sam Guglani

But I think everyone should read Stroud author Alice Jolly’s new novel, “Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile”. Beautifully imagined, it’s told in the voice of an illiterate young female mill worker in the Stroud Valleys of the 1830s, whose patient application to learning to read transforms her view of the world.

You can hear more about this wonderful novel from Alice herself, alongside fellow writer and Oxford creative writing tutor, Sally Bayley in our event on Reading and Healing on Saturday 10th November.


Tell us about the Festival, who’s behind the scenes with you making it happen?

Our Festival Director is Paul McLaughlin, musical director extraordinaire who is also familiar to many in Stroud as the former manager of the Subscription Rooms, one of our Festival venues. Programming the Festival alongside me is Jane Churchill, our Children’s Artistic Director, who knows everybody who is anybody in the children’s book world, and who has put together the most fantastic line-up of children’s events including John Dougherty, Kes Gray, Michael Foreman, Caroline Lawrence and Tony Ross. Louise Brice is our wonderful PR and Marketing supremo, whilst Shannon Newton is our creative and persuasive sponsorship and fundraising guru. And renowned Stroud poet Adam Horovitz was my go-to man for ideas when programming our Stroud Book Festival poetry night (Friday 9th November).


What’s a fairly typical morning and afternoon for you?

Impossible to answer that! As a freelancing wearer of many hats, I count myself very lucky to have a job where no two weeks are the same. I could be anywhere in the country interviewing an author:  for example in the last few months alone I’ve been to Pembrokeshire, West Yorkshire (twice), Stratford-Upon-Avon, Folkestone and Oxford.  But when I’m working from home, I’m most likely to spend the morning with my head down on my latest writing assignment, as that is time of day when words come to me most fluently. Afternoons are for editing and – when I’m in the right frame of mind – social media. You’ll rarely find me in front of the TV as most evenings I spend around 2-3 hours reading. Mostly for work, but I can hardly complain about being paid to read, can I?

What would you say about the work/life balance of being in the Cotswolds?

I constantly thank my lucky stars that I’ve somehow managed to make the Cotswolds my home. I have to travel to London quite a lot for work as that’s where most publishers are based, but whilst the city buzz is invigorating, it’s always a joy to be on the train home as it winds through the Golden Valley.

Mind you, I have to keep reminding myself to get up from my desk occasionally, and get out into the wide green yonder. The fact that I can be up and enjoying the glorious views from Rodborough or Selsley Common within a few minutes is something I’m determined not to take for granted.


Where would you recommend to grab a bite to eat during lunch in and around Stroud?  

I love the Socialight Café in the High Street. The friendliest staff, and – in my opinion – the best coffee too.


What’s been the most challenging and rewarding part of your jobs so far?

When I really love a book, it’s always a challenge to try and encapsulate exactly what I love about it in a few choice words. That’s the skill of reviewing: it’s always harder to write fewer words than to write more. Otherwise, making time for my own writing is always a challenge too. I’m working on a new non-fiction book at the moment, and it’s been a slow process partly because I’m so busy, but also because reading so much amazing stuff by other writers makes me a very critical editor of my own work. But there’s little as rewarding as reading back a chapter you’ve written and thinking, actually, that’s not too bad.

You’ve written a fantastic range of non-fiction books from a look back at childhood games to Adele’s biography – what’s been your favourite to research?

I love research, so I could duck the question and say all of them! But “A Rambling Fancy”, my travel book about Jane Austen’s England was a particular pleasure as I got to spend days wandering around glorious locations like Bath and Lyme Regis.


What three authors would you recommend reading that may be unsung as yet?

Well, I’m a particular champion of non-fiction in my role as Associate Editor of The Bookseller magazine. My three favourite debut non-fiction books this year have been “The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story” by Christie Watson (catch her at the Festival on Sunday 11th November); “Educated” by Tara Westover and “From the Corner of the Oval Office” by Beck Dorey-Stein.

I’d also urge everyone to look out for “Little Darlings”, a brilliant new debut novel in the psychological suspense genre by local Stroud author, Melanie Golding. It’s publishing in May 2019, and I reckon it’s going to be huge!


Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (image: Melanie Golding Twitter)

How do you unwind after a busy day?

By reading, obviously. But I’m also a member of Rodborough Community Choir, and after a manically busy day, I find an hour of singing my heart out helps me unwind as very little else can.

Stroud Book Festival celebrates all things books. It is headed up by a team of local authors, literary and cultural professionals and has Ian McEwan as its patron.  

There are events for all themes and ages – to find out more click here