The Write Stuff

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The Write Stuff
Genreliterary panel game
Running time28 mins
Country of origin United Kingdom
Home stationBBC Radio 4
Hosted byJames Walton
StarringSebastian Faulks
John Walsh
Beth Chalmers
Produced bySam Michell
No. of series13

The Write Stuff, "Radio 4's game of literary correctness", is a lighthearted quiz about literature on BBC Radio 4, taking a humorous look at famous literary figures, which ran from 1998[1] to 2014. It is chaired and written by James Walton.[2] The two teams are captained by novelist Sebastian Faulks and journalist John Walsh, with Beth Chalmers reading literary extracts.


John Walsh and Sebastian Faulks have been team captains since the programme began. They are each joined by another journalist or novelist; frequent guests in later years included John O'Farrell, Mark Billingham and Lynn Truss. Truss stepped in as captain to replace Faulks for series 13 (2010).

Each week, the programme has an "Author of the Week"; W. B. Yeats, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, Robert Burns, and J. K. Rowling all featured in the programme. The programme has, on occasion, featured a group of writers, rather than a single author, as its key study - for example, poets of the Beat Generation were the featured authors on 26 October 2010. Each programme begins with the panellists reading favourite extracts from the author's writing, and the first round is a series of questions about the author's life and works.

The programme normally ends with panellists having to write a pastiche (or parody; the programme uses the terms interchangeably) based on that week's author of the week. Walton describes these as 'the most popular bit of the programme'.[3] Walton sets a topic that would be so out of style of the author in question that a pastiche would be humorous. For example, when Robert Burns was the author of the week, contestants were asked to write a poem, in the style of Burns, celebrating something typically English; when Philip Roth was the author of the week, contestants were asked how he might have written a children's story. Faulks has published a collection of his parodies as a book, Pistache.[4]

The intervening rounds do not focus on the author of the week. Rounds commonly included are: connections; odd one out; literary mistakes; the archive round; and a music round.

The programme has normally been broadcast at 18:30 on a weekday, one of the Radio 4 comedy slots.


Series 1 (1998)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
1-1 1998-07-31 Jane Austen Victoria Glendinning, Tracey MacLeod
1-2 1998-08-07 Raymond Chandler Louise Doughty, Victoria Coren
1-3 1998-08-14 T. S. Eliot Kate Saunders, Nigel Williams
1-4 1998-08-21 Martin Amis Victoria Glendinning, Tracey MacLeod
1-5 1998-08-28 D. H. Lawrence Louise Doughty, Victoria Coren
1-6 1998-09-04 Charles Dickens Jonathan Myerson, Nigel Williams

Series 2 (1999)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
2-1 1999-07-07 William Shakespeare Nigel Williams, Lynne Truss
2-2 1999-07-14 Arthur Conan Doyle Tracey MacLeod, Philippa Gregory
2-3 1999-07-21 The Brontë Sisters Frank Delaney, Harry Ritchie
2-4 1999-07-28 James Joyce Lynne Truss, Nigel Williams
2-5 1999-08-04 Ernest Hemingway Tracey MacLeod, Philippa Gregory
2-6 1999-08-11 Oscar Wilde Frank Delaney, Harry Ritchie

Series 3 (2000)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
3-1 2000-05-10 Thomas Hardy Lynne Truss, Sue Limb
3-2 2000-05-17 Agatha Christie Jane Thynne, Harry Ritchie
3-3 2000-05-24 Geoffrey Chaucer Imogen Stubbs, Louise Doughty
3-4 2000-05-31 Kingsley Amis Lynne Truss, Sue Limb
3-5 2000-06-07 Samuel Beckett Jane Thynne, Harry Ritchie
3-6 2000-06-14 Evelyn Waugh Imogen Stubbs, Louise Doughty

Series 4 (2001)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
4-1 2001-04-11 William Wordsworth Tracey MacLeod, Gary Younge
4-2 2001-04-18 Graham Greene Jonathan Myerson, Jane Thynne
4-3 2001-04-25 Enid Blyton Sue Limb, Victoria Coren
4-4 2001-05-02 John Updike Tracey MacLeod, Gary Younge
4-5 2001-05-09 Harold Pinter Jonathan Myerson, Jane Thynne
4-6 2001-05-16 John Betjeman Sue Limb, Victoria Coren

Series 5 (2002)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
5-1 2002-04-03 Ian Fleming Nigel Williams, Harry Ritchie
5-2 2002-04-10 Samuel Taylor Coleridge Stephen Fry, Lynne Truss
5-3 2002-04-17 Virginia Woolf Wendy Holden, Joseph Connolly
5-4 2002-04-24 J. R. R. Tolkien Nigel Williams, Harry Ritchie
5-5 2002-05-01 Philip Larkin Stephen Fry, Lynne Truss
5-6 2002-05-08 P. G. Wodehouse Wendy Holden, Joseph Connolly

Christmas Special (2002)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
CS2002 2002-12-25 Parodies Regained Stephen Fry, Sue Limb, Lynne Truss et al.

Series 6 (2003)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
6-1 2003-04-02 George Orwell John O'Farrell, Louise Doughty
6-2 2003-04-09 (no programme due to coverage of The Budget)
6-3 2003-04-16 Samuel Johnson Sue Limb, Joanne Harris
6-4 2003-04-23 Lewis Carroll John O'Farrell, Louise Doughty
6-5 2003-04-30 Franz Kafka Tracey MacLeod, Jonathan Myerson
6-6 2003-05-07 Jane Austen Sue Limb, Joanne Harris

Series 7 (2004)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
7-1 2004-04-21 George Orwell John O'Farrell, Louise Doughty
7-2 2004-04-28 Beatrix Potter Tracey MacLeod, Jonathan Myerson
7-3 2004-05-05 Samuel Johnson Sue Limb, Joanne Harris
7-4 2004-05-12 Dylan Thomas John Sutherland, Sabrina Broadbent
7-5 2004-05-19 Richmal Crompton Miles Kington, Harry Ritchie
7-6 2004-05-26 Rudyard Kipling Nicholas Lezard, Nigel Williams
7-7 2004-06-02 Catherine Cookson John Sutherland, Sabrina Broadbent
7-8 2004-06-09 Alexander Pope Miles Kington, Harry Ritchie
7-9 2004-06-16 Samuel Pepys Nicholas Lezard, Nigel Williams

Christmas Special (2004)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
CS2004 2004-12-29 Christmas Miles Kington, Sabrina Broadbent

Series 8 (2005)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
8-1 2005-05-25 Lord Byron Simon Brett, Peter Kemp
8-2 2005-06-01 Noël Coward Wendy Holden, Louise Doughty
8-3 2005-06-08 Iris Murdoch Nigel Williams, Jonathan Myerson
8-4 2005-06-15 Roald Dahl Simon Brett, Peter Kemp
8-5 2005-06-22 John Milton Wendy Holden, Louise Doughty
8-6 2005-06-29 Charles Dickens Nigel Williams, Kate Saunders

Series 9 (2006)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
9-1 2006-06-12 Alan Bennett Michèle Roberts, Harry Ritchie
9-2 2006-06-19 Henry James Peter Kemp, Miles Kington
9-3 2006-06-26 A. A. Milne Sue Limb, John O'Farrell
9-4 2006-07-03 Sylvia Plath Michèle Roberts, Harry Ritchie
9-5 2006-07-10 W. B. Yeats Peter Kemp, Miles Kington
9-6 2006-07-17 Thomas Hardy Sue Limb, John O'Farrell

Series 10 (2007)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
10-1 2007-03-12 William Shakespeare Sabrina Broadbent, Mark Billingham
10-2 2007-03-19 John le Carré Jane Thynne, Wendy Holden
10-3 2007-03-26 Tom Stoppard Peter Kemp, Sue Limb
10-4 2007-04-02 Stephen King Sabrina Broadbent, Mark Billingham
10-5 2007-04-09 F. Scott Fitzgerald Jane Thynne, Wendy Holden
10-6 2007-04-16 John Keats Peter Kemp, Sue Limb

Series 11 (2008)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
11-1 2008-03-24 E. M. Forster Wendy Holden, John O'Farrell
11-2 2008-03-31 John Grisham Mark Billingham, Jane Thynne
11-3 2008-04-07 Jonathan Swift Peter Kemp, Andrew Davies
11-4 2008-04-14 Hans Christian Andersen Wendy Holden, John O'Farrell
11-5 2008-04-21 Ted Hughes Jane Thynne, Mark Billingham
11-6 2008-04-28 George Eliot Peter Kemp, Andrew Davies

Series 12 (2008)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
12-1 2008-10-06 Raymond Chandler Lynne Truss, Mark Billingham
12-2 2008-10-13 Seamus Heaney Sue Limb, Andrew Motion
12-3 2008-10-20 Philip Roth Harry Ritchie, Simon Brett
12-4 2008-10-27 J. K. Rowling Mark Billingham, Lynne Truss
12-5 2008-11-03 D. H. Lawrence Sue Limb, Andrew Motion
12-6 2008-11-10 Robert Burns Harry Ritchie, Simon Brett

Series 13 (2010)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
13-1 2010-01-27 Arthur Conan Doyle Mark Billingham, John O'Farrell
13-2 2010-02-03 Irvine Welsh Jane Thynne, Christopher Brookmyre
13-3 2010-02-10 Anton Chekhov Peter Kemp, Tibor Fischer
13-4 2010-02-17 Nancy Mitford Mark Billingham, John O'Farrell
13-5 2010-02-24 John Donne Jane Thynne, Christopher Brookmyre
13-6 2010-03-03 J. D. Salinger Peter Kemp, Tibor Fischer

Series 14 (2010)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
14-1 2010-10-05 P. G. Wodehouse Francis Wheen, Ian McMillan
14-2 2010-10-12 Tennessee Williams Francesca Simon, Mark Billingham
14-3 2010-10-19 Marcel Proust Philip Kerr, Sue Limb
14-4 2010-10-26 The Beats Francis Wheen, Ian McMillan
14-5 2010-11-02 Stephenie Meyer Francesca Simon, Mark Billingham
14-6 2010-11-09 Edgar Allan Poe Philip Kerr, Sue Limb

Cheltenham Literature Festival Special

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
Sp. 2011-10-12 Enid Blyton Sue Limb, Rachel Johnson

Series 15 (2012)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
15-1 2012-01-20 John Betjeman Sue Limb, Andrew Motion
15-2 2012-01-27 Daniel Defoe Jane Thynne, Mark Billingham
15-3 2012-02-03 Gustave Flaubert John O'Farrell, Alex Clark
15-4 2012-02-10 Terence Rattigan Andrew Motion, Sue Limb
15-5 2012-02-17 Jackie Collins Jane Thynne, Mark Billingham
15-6 2012-02-24 H. G. Wells Alex Clark, John O'Farrell

Series 16 (2013)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
16-1 2013-05-12 The Brontës Sue Limb, Mark Watson
16-2 2013-05-19 Mark Twain John O'Farrell, Jane Thynne
16-3 2013-05-26 Greek tragedy Mark Billingham, Natalie Haynes
16-4 2013-06-02 Dorothy Parker Sue Limb, Mark Watson
16-5 2013-06-09 William Blake John O'Farrell, Jane Thynne
16-6 2013-06-16 Ian Fleming Mark Billingham, Natalie Haynes

Series 17 (2014)

Episode Original airdate Author of the week Guests
17-1 2014-10-05 John Osborne Mark Billingham, Lynne Truss
17-2 2014-10-12 Jilly Cooper John O'Farrell, Jane Thynne
17-3 2014-10-19 Gerard Manley Hopkins Russell Davies, Sue Limb
17-4 2014-10-26 Jerome K Jerome Mark Billingham, Lynne Truss
17-5 2014-11-02 Henry Fielding Jane Thynne, John O'Farrell
17-6 2014-11-09 Virginia Woolf Russell Davies, Sue Limb


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