Festival Season – Writers are no Exeption!

The HWS stand spent last weekend at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. The festival, if you’ve ever been, is one exhilarating time. Friday night is spent debating discussions, before thrashing out the open mike. See Damon’s blog spot of April 29 Ends – Bar the Shouting in the Terrace.

Back to back workshops run all day on the Saturday, stopping only for a short lunch. But one-to-one appointments booked with any one of up to thirty agents, editors, writers and publishers continue throughout – there is so much to think about. And it’s all nourishment for a writer’s mind, inspiration stimulating the imagination. Its bliss! The fresh faces that started the day are, by tea-time blushed with unspoken ideas, itching to get onto the page. That’s all before socialising once again at the sumptuous evening dinner.

This year a well-deserved memorial to our beloved Barbara Large, the founder of, not only the Hampshire Writers’ Society, but the Winchester Writers’ Festival too, took place in the on-campus chapel at six o’clock. It was somewhat satisfying to discover what a foodie Barbara actually was. Long live the Luscious Lasagnes!

The Winchester Writers’ festival can be credited with the creation of so many new friends and contacts. A writer’s life need not be so lonely after all. Travel, trips abroad and holidays were one mainstay of the HWS stand, intriguing stories were another and of course, vampires! Oh, and writing

All in all, twenty-five new names have been added to the HWS lists. Welcome all! We so hope to meet you again in September. In the meantime – stay right here!

December Writing Competition Report

Competition Report by Sharon Garrett
Our adjudicator for the December competition was Harper Press’ acclaimed author Daniel Clay. As well as being nominated in 2008 as one of Amazon’s best eight debut novels, his novel Broken was shortlisted for the Best First Novel Award by both The Commonwealth Writers’ and The Authors’ Club. It was made into a film by BBC Films. His second novel is SWAP.
Daniel’s comments:

Thanks to everyone who sent entries in.  There were 33 in total and, as with the last time I judged a HWS competition, I thought the standard of writing was excellent.  I also really enjoyed the diversity of the entries, with very few writers choosing to write about the same themes and those who did taking very different approaches.
I found picking a shortlist almost impossible; after reading through each entry a couple of times I began to discard any which definitely weren’t going to make my final five, and even though I discarded plenty I really rated, I was still left with thirteen to choose from, so, if your story isn’t among the ones mentioned here, please don’t think it means I didn’t enjoy reading it, especially The Walking Shadow by David Lea, Hack Gang by Sally Howard, Seal the Book by Jane Howard and Spy by Rebecca Welton, all of which really impressed me.

My two picks for highly commended are Tell No One by Linda Welch and The Road to Amber by James Lee, both of which were well written and well paced and left me with a sense there were full-blown stories to follow.  In each case, I felt the story was going a certain way, yet each ended on a totally different note, which is a great demonstration of talent over only 300 words.

In third place, Sold, by Kristin Tridimas, really stood out from first read-through.  I was really impressed by the depth of character motivation, with Kristin making sure the main character, Jenna, had good reason to be somewhere she shouldn’t be and then good reason to investigate what was going on there.  Small details – such as Jenna unthinkingly using the torch on her phone – rang true for a character of school-age, whereas I’d have stumbled around in the dark, completely forgetting to use the app on my phone.  Also, I thought, the title was brilliant in terms of telling part of the story; had it not been called Sold, I think it would have been impossible for the last two lines to carry the emotional weight that they did.

In second place, The Changeling, by Scott Goldie, opens with an arresting line, but then builds to an even better closing line which promises a great story to follow for any horror fans out there.  In-between, I really enjoyed the descriptive writing; terms such as ‘blade of moonlight’, ‘betraying creak’, ‘stroked its prize’ were perfect for the mood being set.  I especially enjoyed the use of the word ‘cooing’ in such a different context to usual.  I’ll certainly never coo over a baby again!

My winner, though, is Teaser by Sally Russell.  As with Kristin’s story, Sally has done a great job giving her main character good reason to stumble across the secret she uncovers and also gives us enough back-story to understand why Chloe feels betrayed by what she has seen.  Kamara’s gloating, when confronted, is a brilliant example of show, not tell, and Chloe’s jubilation at finding her friend’s weak-spot right at the death, struck me as superb. I especially loved the description of the dusty window of an art room door, like see-through graph paper, scored with lines, which gave the opening’s pivotal scene a real edge of realism and left me feeling as if I was standing behind Chloe, seeing everything Chloe could see.

Daniel was a pleasure to work with and wanted to add that he does try to help anyone who gets in touch. The site is danielclaywriter.co.uk where the Q&A section is great as there’s some really good advice in there from a couple of top agents and writers, plus the writers have also shared their successful slush-pile letters and synopses.
The winning entries were:

First Place – Teaser by Sally Russell

‘I saw you.’

‘What? Where?’ Kamara glanced at me from under her blackened eyelashes.

‘You know where. Last night. After school.’ I was gratified to see the flush creeping up from her neck. ‘You can’t do that.’


‘ ‘Cos he’s mine.’

For three years, since I was (even I admit it) a pimply red-haired thirteen-year-old, I had harboured lustful thoughts about Mr Dyer. Most cool art teacher ever. Now, my new bezzie, Kamara, had got there first.

The previous evening I had left my iPod in my art room locker. I had gone back to rescue it from the thieving fingers that haunted Western High in the evening shadows. I had gripped the door handle, then paused. Mr Dyer and Kamara were standing by the store cupboard. He touched her. He stroked her hair. I could only just see them as I peered through the dusty window of the art room door. The glass was like see-through graph paper, scored with lines. It was smudged with the mucky fingerprints of the budding art students who pushed it open every day.

Except last night it was locked.

I felt sick.

‘Jealous, Chloe?’ Kamara smirked.

‘Just don’t go there.’

She laughed. It grated on my nerves.

‘Kev and I are in love.’

‘Kev? Kev!’ I seethed. I looked at her raven hair, her olive skin. No amount of conditioner or hair-straighteners ever tamed my auburn mane. I felt my nails dig hard into my palms.

‘Didn’t you know that’s his name?’

‘You’ve only been here since Christmas.’ It sounded lame, even to me. ‘And you’re younger than me.’

‘I’m sixteen in August.’

‘Aren’t you supposed to have an arranged marriage?’

‘Not gonna happen.’

‘No, it won’t. Not when your brothers find out.’

Kamara blinked.

Got her, I thought.


Second Place – The Changeling, by Scott Goldie

When my sister Lucy was six months old, she was stolen. Only I know she is gone because only I saw the awful creature that took her.

When I woke that night, I knew something was wrong. I have always trusted my instincts. My grandmother would say I was touched.

I knew it was the creature I had glimpsed a few nights before. I also knew why it had come.


My room was black, except for a thin blade of moonlight cutting across my desk.

I lay there for a moment, shivering slightly. I had no wish to see the creature up close.

However, I tugged at the duvet, sent it whispering across the bed, and levered myself up. The frame creaked as my weight left it. I prayed the noise would go unnoticed.

My bare feet glided across the floorboards. I pulled at my bedroom door. My teeth clenched, anticipating a betraying creak.

It never came.

I moved towards the open doorway of Lucy’s room, saw that the window was thrown open, letting in a cool breeze, making the curtains billow. I crossed to her cot. A shadowy bundle lay there.

It was Lucy, sound asleep. I let out the breath I’d been holding and leaned against the cot.

A strange cooing snatched my attention. A figure was perched on the windowsill, silhouetted in the moonlight. Hunched over, knees folded up to its chest, its long arms clutched something wrapped in a blanket.


It stroked its prize with a long finger, cooed again, wide mouth filled with pointed teeth. I blinked and it had gone.

A terrible, icy feeling gripped me. I had no doubt that it had taken my sister.

But then, if it had Lucy, what now slept in her cot?


Third Place – Sold by Kristin Tridimas

Jenna had time on her hands.  College was over for the day.

She couldn’t go home and risk walking in on Mum and Beer Belly Dave bonking on the sofa.  The sight had scarred her for life.  Not to mention it now meant the sofa was definitely a no-go area.

Her friends Rachel and Ted were stuck in the science labs for another hour.

Their fault for choosing chemistry.  When they were eventually free, the three of them would go down to town to Mike’s Cafe, drink hot chocolate and attempt to hear each other over the chatter.  So there was no point going townwards.

She did what she always did and headed up the hill to stare at the big stone building which had once been the object of her dreams.  As soon as she knew she wanted to be a newspaper reporter, she also knew that one day she would work in those offices.  Except she was wrong.  Penchester Gazette had closed down a year ago.  Before she’d even had time to do work experience.

She stared at the boarded up windows.

Suddenly, she saw movement.

A corner twitched.

A flash of pink.

She crossed over to look more closely.

Something was drawing her in.  A journalistic instinct.

Her heart thumped as she lifted the loose board.  Peered into the gloom.

Ghostlike empty desks.  They taunted her with what might have been.

Her eyes adjusted.

Something moved behind one of the desks.

“Hello,” she whispered.

And then she did something that she would never normally do.  Lifting the board, she climbed in.  Switched on the torch on her phone.  Crept towards the back.

Crouching behind a desk, looking at her with terrified eyes, was an Asian girl.

The girl shrank back.  “Please,” she begged.


Don’t forget the January competition: Write the opening of a short story, based on a song.

300 words. Deadline: noon 1st January.

Winchester Writers’ Festival 2014

The Hampshire Writers’ stand attracted lots of interest from delegates at the Winchester Writers’ Festival again this year. Several people even signed up as email members when they found that they unfortunately lived too far away to come to the meetings.

Many of our longstanding members also renewed their subscriptions, taking advantage of the special £25 offer which is open until the end of August. Jim Livesey and Cat Randall also signed up six new members. So hurry up and join before the new season kicks off with a super programme of celebrities and industry specialists.

Winchester Writers’ Conference Reports

Report by Celia Livesey

HWS joint secretary with Jim Livesey

Back at Winchester 4th year running and the magic hasn’t worn off.

I love the buzz of excitement as delegates queue for One-to-Ones – the hustle and bustle in the Bookfair, and the wonderful friendly atmosphere.

It was great to see many old friends, Beverley Birch, Madeleine Milburn and Julian Unthank, past speakers at HWS events, as well as new addition Jasper Fforde with his very popular Master Course.

Jim and I manned the HWS stand over Friday and Saturday and were delighted so many members stopped by to chat. We did a brisk trade in renewals, with many new joiners for the ‘early bird’ offer of £25 for next season. Much interest was also expressed by a number of delegates who lived too far away to be able to join.

One sad note, however – Barbara Large, the Conference Director and founder, is stepping down this year. Although I am sure this will not mean she is slowing down, with talks and travel already planned for the future. Barbara’s warm personality and unique style will be greatly missed at the Conference.

A Report from Lisa Nightingale 

Julian FellowesJust like the bees that are losing their buzz thanks to the bad British weather. I need a break from my badly behaved family. The Winchester Writers’ Conference gives me the time I need to be me again. Julian Fellowes, Plenary Speaker, said never mind all the advice that you are given, it is the ‘me’ inside that counts. Like a spot the character competition, this point shone through in all the workshops and one to one appointments throughout the day. It is a day spent with like minded people talking about beautiful things whether that be setting, characters, the lunch or perhaps even publishers.

From a day filled with both high and low lights, it is hard to focus on memorable moments. A low spot for us all was the news that 2013 is to be the last year that Barbara Large MBE will be the Conference Director. We were reminded that the conference was Barbara’s baby. Well, it is a baby to be proud of. Thank you Barbara for an inspirational event that has given me back my buzz.

A high spot for me (I think my family are sick of hearing about it and rest assured they are going to hear more) was the one to one appointment I had with Anna Baggaley, Commissioning Editor at Harlequin UK Ltd. After chatting about my various writing dilemmas, she actually asked me to send her more of my work. A Commissioning Editor of Harlequin UK asked me to send her more of my writing and gave me her email address. So submissions sent, watch this space. Confidence boosted by conference.
Thanks again, Barbara!

HWS member, Celia Livesey received Highly Commended in the WWC competition – Retirement.

Retirement Competition Adjudication:

Crocodile Skin by Celia Livesey (Miranda Writes, pseudonym)


This poem made me laugh out loud, a delight to read. I found I could hear Pam Ayres’ voice reading this in my head! With excellent rhythm, it playfully but not unkindly twists around recognisable stereotypes of old age; of appearance and ability, confidence and social expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Crocodile Skin

I’m sitting by the fire, and warming aged skin

all crinkled like a crocodile, with lips that are too thin,

with legs apart – pink bloomers, tight knotted at the knees,

and garters holding back the veins, while scoffing Cheddar cheese.

I dread it when the bell rings, and someone comes to call,

and hurry past the mirror that’s hanging in the hall.

When did I morph into my gran? How did I get so old?

On leaving work ten years ago, my beauty all extolled.

Forever gone the high heels, glam make-up slapped on thick,

If children see me now they shout. ‘You need a new broomstick!’

My nylons swapped for leggings – more cosy don’t you know,

with mitts, and boots in sheepskin, for walking in the snow.

I take the dog out twice a day, and follow all the ‘soaps’.

How did I find the time for work? However did I cope?

I used to do three things at once, and had an active brain

but when I take the car out now – I drive in the slow lane.

My daughter takes me shopping, and tries to make me rush,

I’m trying hard to help but no, my brain has turned to mush.

I programme in the telly when grandson comes to tea,

he shows me how to do it – bless, although he’s only three.

It’s sad when you hit sixty, and start to fall to bits,

your teeth go, then your bottom sags, and pounds go on your hips.

Life’s cruel to older women; we’re ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.

Just join the WI, you say, start making strawb’ry jam.

 But do I really miss it, the boring daily grind?

A little if I’m truthful; but, for now I’ve peace of mind.

I’ve time to watch the sunrise and, go walking in the rain,

I’m grateful for each day I get – they’ll never come again.

© Celia Livesey 2013