Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Annual Presentation Evening - 7 December 2012

Hastings Writers celebrate success

‘This has been an excellent year’ said Chair Jill Fricker as she welcomed members and friends to the White Rock Hotel and introduced the Group’s Patron, well-known author Tamara McKinley. Tamara has written psychological thrillers, a series of best-selling novels set in the Australian outback, and a further series of novels under the name Ellie Dean. Her books have been highly successful and translated into at least 15 languages.
‘I love working with this group because you all don’t just sit about talking about writing, you all have a go and actually write,’ said Tamara. ‘In addition to the published authors in the group, so many of you are so nearly at the stage where you could be published – I would like to be able to help more of you take that next step.’
Helped by the Vice-Chair, popular children’s author Kate O’Hearn, Tamara gave out certificates to all the members who had won, or been placed, in the Group’s internal competitions throughout 2012. Points for winning entries are added together, and the person with the most points receives the coveted ‘Writer of the Year’ Award.  This year, the winner was the talented Mike Walsh. Long-standing member Mike, from Bexhill, has won the award before – in 2010. His work deserves a much wider audience.
The big event of the night was the award of the Catherine Cookson Cup, awarded annually for an open-theme short story, in honour of the Group’s first Patron. Tamara McKinley, who had judged the competition, commented on the high quality of the entries. Forthright as ever, she urged less experienced writers to edit their work rigorously.
‘In a successful short story,’ she said, ‘every word must count.’ She singled out six entries where sufficient words had counted to impress her. Highly commended were Charlie Menzinger with ‘Dominic Gets a Second Chance’, and Maurice Haken, with ‘Foxed by a Phantom’. In fourth place was newcomer to Hastings, Stephanie Gaunt, with ‘How Time Flies’. Established member Amanda Giles, also from Hastings, was third with ‘Dear Aunt Lulu’.  Second was the consistently excellent Mike Walsh, with ‘Pagan Sunset’.  The winner was Marcus Towner, from Hawkhurst, with the beautifully composed and evocative ‘Perhaps an Indian Summer.’
In addition to the awards, a final cheque from sales of the group’s anthology ‘Ghost Writers’, was presented to Sara Young from local charity The Association of Carers. Sara explained how the money had benefited projects to support young carers.
In a slightly more sombre mood, those present sent their best wishes to Monica Percy, local author and former Chair of the group, who was unfortunately not well enough to attend.
Finally, on behalf of the group, Jill expressed gratitude and thanks to Rosemary Bartholomew, who is standing down from the Committee after many years invaluable service. After so long supporting others with their writing, not surprisingly Rosemary now feels she would like to spend more time concentrating on her own work. However, she has been persuaded to help with production of the group’s annual anthologies – the 2012 ‘Strandline’ has just gone on sale.

Further thanks went to member Anne Hooker, for organizing fund-raising raffles on this and other occasions, and to Richard Holdsworth for organizing the bookstall.
With over thirty contributing members, the Hastings Writers’ Group is one of the largest and most active groups of its type in the country. Newcomers continue to join, and the membership includes a diverse range of ages, backgrounds and levels of writing experience. A number of members have had work published this year, and have entered – and won - prestigious external competitions. For 2013, the Group wants to do yet more to increase the standard of its writing, to get more involved with the local community, and to take a bigger part in cultural festivals and events.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Meeting Report: Monday 26 November 2012

Our last proper meeting of 2012, on Monday 26 November, was very busy, and very well attended.  Firstly, Julie Brett, Fundraiser from Demelza, one of the charities we support, gave us a short presentation of the work of the charity, and collected the final cheque for sales of our 2007 publication ‘Diamonds’. The total raised is now a pleasing £3,150.
Next, we heard the results of our recent journalism competition, held in memory of long-standing member and award-winning Fleet Street journalist David Buchan, who sadly died last year.  We were pleased to welcome David’s widow Anne to the meeting.  To start the proceedings, a friend and former colleague of David, Richard Holdsworth, read out a short piece celebrating his life. Our judge, group member and journalist Angela Everitt, then took us through the results.  She said all entries had been of a high standard, and it had been hard to choose the winners. Highly commended was John Cole, with ‘Barack Obama versus the Flip-Flop Man’, and in fourth place, Ron (Nick) Nicola, with ‘Memories of the Second Parachute Regiment’. Third was Rosemary Bartholomew, with a lively piece with a local slant, ‘The Uniform Debate’. In second place, Steph Gaunt, with another topical piece about a local issue, ‘Hastings Recycling falls short’, and the winner was Jill Fricker with the excellent ‘Paved with Gold? The Olympic Legacy in Tower Hamlets’.  Jill received a bottle of wine from Anne Buchan as her prize. 
For the last part of our evening, Angela, our judge, delivered a brief workshop on how to write a good article.  All thanks to Angela for her efforts.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Meeting Reports 1 October to 12 November 2012

     Monday 12 November

     Time goes so quickly! When we met on Monday 12 November, it was hard to believe it was our final Manuscript Evening of the year.  Four members took the opportunity to present their work for us to discuss.  First off was new member Diana Lock, with an extract from her new work ‘White Footsteps’.  This was a spooky piece, much appreciated by the group.  Second, another new member, Peter Stachini, presented a radio play, ‘The Body’. We always enjoy plays, because it gives us a chance to read the parts aloud.  Finally, two well-established members, Richard Holdsworth and Pauline Piper, took us through their pieces, ‘The One and Only Viv the Spiv’, and ‘Driven to Kill’.
All four pieces were very different, and all four presenters received valuable feedback, constructive criticism and suggestions from the group.  Richard told us that ‘Old Soldier’, a piece he had presented at a previous Manuscript Evening, had subsequently been accepted for publication by ‘This England’ magazine.
Members were reminded to get tickets for our gala Presentation Evening, which takes place on 7 December this year, with our Patron, Tamara McKinley.  We were also issued with our programmes of activity for the first half of 2013 – a writer’s work never stops!
Monday 29 October
At our last meeting on 29th October, extracts from entries for our annual Catherine Cookson Cup short story competition were read out. An open theme and maximum 3000 word limit gave the 12 entrants the opportunity to choose what they wanted to write about and most made full use of the word allowance to develop their stories. As usual these covered a wide range of topics and made enjoyable listening. They will be judged by our patron, novelist Tamara McKinley, who will deliver the results and award the Cup at our Annual Presentation Evening in December.
      A warm welcome was extended to four  potential new members who had come along by arrangement to see what our meetings (and members!) are like.
      We held our successful yearly Charity Quiz at the comfortable CafĂ© des Arts on 26th October, which stimulated some of our brains into action and was hugely enjoyed by all. The prize money always goes to the charity of the winning team's choice and this year the nominated beneficiaries were the local Association of Carers, with CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) receiving a share of the profits.
     Monday 15 October
On Monday 15 October, it was time for us to get the results of our ‘Writing for Children’ competition. Our judge this time was our own Kate O’Hearn.  As Vice-Chair of the Group, Kate is one of our most loyal supporters.  She is the author of seven (nearly eight) published children’s novels, including the highly successful ‘Pegasus’ series.
Kate had plenty of hard-hitting advice for would-be authors, and valuable insights about what publishers look for. This included making sure our dialogue was age-appropriate, and the importance of ‘hitting the ground running’ with our stories, to engage children’s attention.
As ever, the standard of entries was high, and Kate had a hard job to choose the eventual winners. Highly commended were Charlie Menzinger with ‘Making Mischief’ and Stephen Martin with ‘Zombiana Bones’.  In third place was Mark Towner with a science fiction story, ‘Callie’. Rosemary Bartholomew was second with ‘Changes’, her story of contemporary marriage breakdown.  In first place was Mike Walsh, with an absolutely terrifying tale, ‘Dick Ears and the String Bean Creeper’.  When we all emerged from our hiding places under the table, Kate assured us that children enjoyed being scared.
On a different theme, we heard about two competition successes. Ron (Nick) Nicola had won second place in the HRVAB annual Memories writing competition for his story ‘Wayward Memories’, and Steph Gaunt had won the Daily Telegraph ‘Just Back’ travel writing competition with a piece about buffalo mozzarella, melons and ancient architecture.
 Monday 1st October 

We held our 2012 Annual General Meeting and our Programme Planning Meeting for next year on Monday 1 October. The Chairperson, Jill Fricker, reported on a lively and successful year for the group, which continues to thrive and grow. Some changes to the Committee were agreed. Our Programme Secretary, Rosemary Bartholomew, has decided to step down after many years' stalwart service. We fear she will be irreplaceable, but fortunately she will be staying on until the end of the year to pass on her vast fund of experience and knowledge. We welcomed one newcomer, Steph Gaunt, who will take on the post of Publicity Officer.

     The second half of the meeting was devoted to a lively discussion about what we wanted to see in our programme of meetings for next year.  The views of members were noted by the Committee, and we hope all the ideas and wishes will be reflected in the programme we produce - acknowledging we cannot please everyone all of the time!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Meeting Report: 17th September 2012

It was time for us to wrestle with yet another competition, the second in memory of long-standing member of the Group, Fleet Street journalist and St Leonard’s resident David Buchan, who sadly died last year. On Monday 17 September, we gathered to present our entries. Thirteen people had taken up the challenge of producing short pieces of journalism, mostly commentaries on current social or political issues, but also more general articles on wider themes of interest.Unusually for us, there will be a prize for the winner – a bottle of red wine – David’s favourite tipple!
As ever, we had an interesting evening listening to the entries, ranging from thoughts on the American Presidential elections through to reflections on the life of a Liverpudlian Christmas grotto designer, via the school uniform debate, recycling in Hastings, ‘think bike’, and a review of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Stables Theatre'.  Not surprisingly, we also had two entries about the legacy of the Olympics/Paralympics.
We were also delighted to learn that Hastings Writers’ Group had performed very well in the annual competitions run by the National Association of Writers’ Groups (NAWG).  Jill Fricker  won second place in the Literary Consultancy Trophy for Open Poetry with 'Ghost' and third place in the Aine Chadwick Trophy for a Poem for Children with 'The Mangy Cat'. Roz Balp had been commended in the Jilly Cooper Trophy for a Crime Short Story with 'Synchronicity', and the Group as a whole had also been commended for our ‘Ghostwriters’ anthology, published in 2011.
      The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at
Report by Steph Gaunt

Meeting Report: 3rd September 2012

On Monday 3 September we gathered to present our entries for the last of our five Writer of the Year competitive exercises for 2012.  The points awarded to the best entries for each of the competitions are added together, and the person with the highest score wins the accolade of ‘Writer of the Year’.  We gathered that the scores this year are close, and the ultimate result hinges on this last competition.  Our challenge was to write the opening chapter of a novel for children, and thirteen members submitted entries. 
 As ever with our group, it was fascinating to listen to the wide variety of creative ideas and approaches to the task. We had things that go bump in the string bean patch, a search for smugglers in Hastings, family life with the zombies, gritty realism with missing children, parents splitting up and scary school bullies, tales of magic and mystery, and science fiction.  We heard how Pedro the tortoise got a shell suit for his birthday, and about the seagull that wouldn’t fly.
 We will have to wait a few weeks for our results – until after our Annual General Meeting, which happens on 1 October. Members were reminded that this is our chance to elect new Committee members, and to put forward our suggestions for next year’s programme of meetings.
 The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at
Report compiled by Steph Gaunt

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Meeting Report: 20th August 2012

On Monday 20 August it was competition results time once again. This time, our challenge had been to write a story all in dialogue.  Our guest judge was Dr Elizabeth Allen, a former lecturer in literature and cultural studies, who has judged competitions and run workshops for us previously.
     Elizabeth started by identifying some of the difficulties of writing dialogue for fiction.  For example, in a dialogue-only piece, there is the problem of differentiating between the characters – giving each a recognisable ‘voice’. Real-life dialogue is full of pauses, hesitations, and random digressions which are hard to portray convincingly.  Finally, effective dialogue has to make every word count, and keep the story moving without getting bogged down in too much detail and information.
     She felt the entries were of a very high standard, and singled out four for special mention:
     In fourth place was ‘The Voice of Reason’ by Stephen Martin.  This was a dark, intense piece about a young man with mental health difficulties.  In complete contrast, the third place entry, ‘Single to St. Leonard’s’ by Richard Holdsworth was a comic dialogue between two women on a bus – but making some telling cultural and political points. In second place was ‘The Second Tyranny’, by Mike Walsh. Set in the 1940s, this was another intense piece about a psychiatrist interviewing a multiple murderer.  The winner was the very unusual ‘Soldier’s Story’ by Jill Fricker.  Set in the Greek Antiquities Room of the British Museum, it described a conversation between a British soldier who had just returned from fighting in Iraq and a torso of the god Apollo.  The piece was both moving and chilling, and a worthy winner.
     We all expressed our thanks to Elizabeth for her hard work, and for her wise words of guidance and encouragement.
The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report compiled by Steph Gaunt

Meeting Report: 6th August 2012

It was good to see so many members dragging themselves away from watching the Olympics to attend our meeting on Monday 6 August – or maybe people had just given up trying to understand the rules of the Women’s Omnium cycle event!  
The meeting was one of our regular Manuscript Evenings, where a small number of members read out extracts from their work in progress to gain helpful feedback from their colleagues. 
First up was Alex Willis, with the first part of a detective thriller novel, ‘Poetic Justice’, starring the gritty Inspector Jack Buchanan.  Alex hopes to produce a series of Jack Buchanan books, all set in Eastbourne. The Group felt that Alex had made a positive start with a gripping story line, and looked forward to hearing more in the future.
Next, to give our minds a rest, Janet Kates read us a short story, ‘Greek Music’.  In 2011, this story won third prize in the Group’s annual flagship competition, the Catherine Cookson Cup. We all agreed that this tightly written, atmospheric piece would set a high standard for our 2012 entries to measure up to.
Eileen Masters read us the closing pages of her autobiographical memoir, ‘Prayers for an Infidel’.  The work combines fascinating stories about Eileen’s work in war-ravaged Afghanistan with memories of her own childhood.  The Group made a number of suggestions to Eileen about how such a powerful piece of writing could best be finished off, and we look forward to reading the final version.
Lastly, Amanda Giles presented a further extract from her radio play, ‘Moondance’.  At our last Manuscript evening, Amanda had asked us to take different parts for a reading of the play, and on this occasion, we obliged again.  As the characters are mostly Welsh, with a London rock-star thrown in, our efforts were predictably hilarious.  Even so, Amanda felt that having real people read the play was a very helpful exercise for her.
The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report compiled by Steph Gaunt

Friday, 27 July 2012

Book Reviews

All these reviews are by member John Cornelius
Au Revoir Liverpool
Maureen Lee
Despite its tacky cover illustration which suggests a menopausal pulp romance, I found this a surprisingly good read. It concerns a woman with a rather convoluted family situation who finds herself in occupied Paris in the early days of WWII and addresses the plight of a woman who searches for happiness after a disastrous first marriage only to gain a reputation for fecklessness and promiscuity.
A Fairytale of New York
J P Donleavy
Ludicrously funny, razor-sharp wordplay combines with mad sexual antics and situations. one of Donleavy's best novels ever, describing the trials and tribulations of New York's most incompetent funeral director's assistant. (The hero happens to be named Cornelius Christian - no relation!)
A Question of Upbringing
Anthony Powell
This is the first volume of Powell's monumental Proustian epic novel. Enjoyable, accessible and readable in a very narrowly focused, almost microscopic way. Allow yourself plenty of time with no distractions.
What Zoos Can Do
Anthony Sheridan
Very much a personal taste issue: as a lifelong lover of zoos I found this survey of Europe's finest zoological gardens fascinating and it made me want to visit them all, to see such rarities as manatees and walruses which you are not likely to encounter in the UK.

Meeting Report: 23rd July 2012

It was time to submit Competition entries again on Monday 23 July, and on this occasion our task had been to write a story all in dialogue, with no narrative or description. Sixteen brave Group members had risen to the difficult challenge, and brought their stories to a packed meeting.
Time constraints meant that entries could only be read out in part, meaning we only got tantalising glimpses of each other’s stories. We were left with many cliff-hangers – literally, in one case, as the action took place on the very edge of Beachy Head.  But what happened on the bus to St Leonard’s?  What about the gorgeous red-head from the pub and Big Dave’s new convertible?  We didn’t like the sound of that murderous bogus doctor. Whatever were those children doing carrying a ping-pong table through a field in the middle of the night? 
It was agreed that we would make all the stories available so we could read the endings. The entries now go to a guest judge, and we will hear the results later in August.
We were pleased to learn that the latest ‘Strandline’, our biennial anthology of members’ work, is on target for the publication deadline.  It will be available early in the autumn, and promises to be an excellent read.
The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail

Write-up by Steph Gaunt

Friday, 13 July 2012

Report of meeting: 9 July 2012

We were treated to an inspiring evening on Monday 11 June – a Lifewriting workshop with Andrea Samuelson. A former Secretary of  Hastings Writers’ Group, Andrea now teaches Creative Writing at Bexhill College.
    Andrea started by defining Lifewriting for us. It covers autobiography, biography, memoirs, travel writing, journals and diaries – true stories of people’s lives. We explored why people engage in Lifewriting – it may be a desire for confession, the wish to inspire others, or commonly, a form of self-help or therapy – to explore and analyse life situations we may have found troubling. We also discussed a number of complex and interesting issues including the fallibility of memory, and how this can give rise to very different accounts of a situation, the nature of ‘truth’, and the ethics around revealing personal details of our own and others’ lives.
    We then tackled a practical task – a ‘free-writing’ exercise about our sense of smell, then each produced a short written piece about one particular smell that seemed particularly significant to us. Given the range of highly individual personalities in the Group, our efforts ranged widely from a poem about cow dung to a dramatic story about expensive after-shave!
    We all very much enjoyed our session with Andrea, and were grateful to her for sharing her time and expertise with us.
 The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report by Steph Gaunt

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Meeting Report: 25th June 2012

On Monday 25 June we enjoyed an evening with our patron, well-respected novelist Tamara McKinley. Born in Tasmania, Tamara has lived and worked on the south coast of England for most of her adult life. She is the author of two psychological thrillers, nine world-wide best selling family saga novels set in Australia, and, writing under the name Ellie Dean, a series of novels set in an English seaside boarding house in the Second World War.
   If any of us ever thought that writing was a romantic, gentle way to pass the time, the hard-working Tamara quickly disabused us. ‘Writing is one part inspiration, one part perspiration and one part simple b***** mindedness’, she said, while taking us through a typical day in her life. We also learned about the importance of thorough research, and that successful writers have to be flexible enough to adapt their output to the changing needs of their market.
   Tamara’s easy, approachable style made it easy for us to ask questions, and we greatly appreciated her advice and encouragement.
   Currently, the Group is working on ‘Strandline 9’, our latest anthology of members' work. In addition to our session with Tamara, we collectively viewed, and voted on, a range of artwork for the book’s front cover, all produced by members. The eventual winner was John Vallender with a very attractive watercolour sea scene; Ron Nicola and Maurice Haken were runners-up. The range of entries was impressive – many of our members are accomplished artists as well as writers.
   The Group meets fortnightly on Monday evenings at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report by Steph Gaunt

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Meeting Report: 11th June 2012

A few weeks ago 16 of us submitted entries for our latest group competitive exercise: travel writing.  On Monday 11 June we gathered to hear the results from our guest judge, Jeff Jewson Fleming from Eastbourne New Writers. Earlier this year two of our members judged a competition in Eastbourne, and Jeff was returning the favour. He was ideally qualified for the task, being both an experienced writer and enthusiastic traveller.
emphasised that to be successful, a good travel piece must grab the reader’s attention and imagination from the start, must be readable and interesting, and must make us want to visit the place in question. 
   A small number of pieces were singled out for special mention. Yvonne Zackim’s piece about a sea voyage on a cargo ship, ‘Ecuador on the CCNI Anakena’, was highly commended. In fourth place was Eileen Masters, with ‘Where there is no Plumber’, about a visit to Pakistan. Jeff particularly liked Eileen’s glimpses of family life in Pakistan – as well as the plumbing! For the third place piece, we came right back home, with Steph Gaunt’s light-hearted ‘Good Scone Guide to Hastings’. This reminded us that good travel writing does not necessarily involve visits to far-flung places – part of the point is to give new perspectives on places we already know.
   Jill Fricker’s thought-provoking piece, ‘New York – First Bite’, came second.  Jeff felt that Jill had brought out yet another aspect of successful travel writing – exploring the inner journey of the traveller, as well as the physical journey.  In first place was Mike Walsh, with his riveting ‘Lost Highway’, describing a classic road trip along Route 66 in 1968.  Mike’s skill in bringing the location to life as well as capturing the incidents – and individuals – encountered on the way, made him a worthy winner.
   We were grateful to Jeff for the hard work he had put in to read all our efforts and to comment on them so thoughtfully and constructively.
    The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail

Report by Steph Gaunt

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Meeting Report: 28 April 2012

On Monday 28 April we gathered for one of our regular Manuscript Evenings, where people have the opportunity to present their work in progress to the group. There was a slightly anxious feeling in the room as the chosen four got their material ready, but although the discussion of each piece can be searching, comments and suggestions are delivered positively and constructively.
    First, we listened to Steph Gaunt present the opening section of a new piece about Muriel, a high-class shop mannequin. Although this had been intended to be a short story, the group felt that the snobbish, fashion-obsessed Muriel was developing a very strong ‘personality’, and her varied adventures would be better expanded into a novel.
    Next, new member Maurice Haken read us an excerpt from ‘Barging round Belgium’, about a part of his life spent travelling round the waterways of Europe. We listened, on the edge of our seats, while the barge hurtled, out of control, towards a low bridge....
    After that drama, we needed comic relief. We found it with an extract from ‘Moondance’, a radio play written by Amanda Giles. She (somewhat rashly) asked the assembled company to take on the various parts for the reading. As the play was set in Wales, this was challenging – our accents wobbled wildly from Wales to Ireland, Australia to Pakistan via Yorkshire. The play was very good too!
    Exhausted, we were glad to listen to our last presentation, ‘Old Soldier’ a short story from Richard Holdsworth. This was a poignant account of an elderly man who fought at Monte Cassino and regained his lost memories at a contemporary re-enactment event.
    The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report by Steph Gaunt

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Meeting Report: 14th May 2012

It was a dark and rainy evening in Hastings on Monday 14 May but not for Group members who listened to their colleagues read out their entries for our current competition – travel writing. 
   We spent a romantic April in Paris, then journeyed across the Atlantic to Ecuador on a banana-boat.  We travelled Route 66 in a beat-up bug with an engine like an egg-whisk, hung out in dodgy bars in Sacramento, saw black bears in the Rockies and geysers in Iceland.  We went swimming on Christmas Day in New Zealand, and joined in a colourful family party in Karachi before going for a jog in New York’s Central Park. We travelled on buses in Bermuda while exploring museums in Barcelona and visiting the homes of the great composers in Germany.  Back in England, we walked the ancient walls of York in the footsteps of the Vikings, and then, coming right back home, settled down for a refreshing cuppa with ‘The Good Scone Guide to Hastings’.
   As well as enjoying the writing, it was also very interesting to discover the range and variety of others’ experiences, and to learn a bit about people’s personal histories.
   The competition will be judged by Jeff Jewson Fleming of Eastbourne New Writers, and we will learn the results next month.
    The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report by Steph Gaunt

Friday, 4 May 2012

Meeting Report: 30th April 2012

Strewth!  Fair Dinkum, Cobbers!  On Monday 30 April the Group enjoyed a light-hearted writing workshop based on Strine (Australian English to you Poms.)  Ably organised and led by old Australia hand Richard Holdsworth, and aided by his cobber Nick Nicola, the activities were designed to help us foster our creativity and free up our thinking.  As one might expect, both Richard and Nick led proceedings wearing very stylish hats complete with dangling corks – and don’t ask what they did with the blow-up kangaroo.

We started with an enjoyable quiz to increase our Strine vocabulary.  (How many people know that a ‘Herbert Adams’ is a meat pie, a ‘red-back’ is a particularly nasty poisonous Australian spider, and an Egg Nisher?  An air-conditioner...).  We were then set an exercise to use as many of the words as possible in a story or a poem.   When we shared our efforts, the results were hilarious.   It was felt that some members’ work was particularly praiseworthy:  Jill Fricker, for using all the words to make a poem, John Cornelius, for using all the words in a story, and Steph Gaunt, who had not quite managed to include all the words but produced a story that made sense.  As Steph had also guessed the most words in the quiz, she was declared overall winner.  She was delighted to receive a copy of Richard’s book about his adventures in Australia, ‘In the Hot Seat’, as her prize.

We ended with a rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’.  Yes, we can sing as well as write!

The Group meets fortnightly at the White Rock Hotel. If you are interested in joining, (there is currently a waiting list), or in finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Report by Steph Gaunt

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Meeting Report: 16th April 2012

On Monday 16 April over twenty Group members crowded eagerly into the meeting room at the White Rock Hotel to hear the results of our historical short story competition. Our judge this time was local editor, small press publisher and writer Kay Green of Earlyworks Press. Kay gave us some valuable hints on writing good historical fiction, and her individual feedback on all our efforts was both tremendously useful and very positive. 
   The regular Group competitions attract a fascinatingly wide range of entries from all levels of writers, from published authors to anxious newcomers. We all know that our efforts will be received supportively and assessed fairly.  The competition was close, but the eventual and deserved winner was Mike Walsh with ‘An Early Morning Exercise’.  In Mike’s enthralling – and spine-chilling – story, a senior Japanese officer faced the defeat of Japan in 1945, and the fate ordained for him as a Samurai warrior.  In second place was Michael Smith with ‘The Mission’, and in third and fourth, two relatively new members of the group, John Cornelius with ‘The Dream Was Over’, and Eileen Masters with ‘I Done It Your Honour’. Other members reaching the top eight were: Roz Balp with 'Pierced', Stephen Martin with 'Trust', Charlie Menzinger with 'Goodbye Austria' and Mark Towner with 'Hoe-Boy'.
    As writers, the Group also felt that it was important that we should highlight and share examples of good books and stories we have read, as well as discussing our own work. Members were reminded it had been suggested that they could post book reviews on our blog, and we look forward to reading these.  
   We currently have a waiting list for membership but if you are interested in joining or finding out more about our activities, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Meeting Reports: 19th March & 2nd April 2012

Our last two meetings have once again given members the opportunity to demonstrate their versatile writing skills. On 19th March we had the second of our five Writer of the Year competitions – this time for a historical short story of 2000 words maximum, set in an own choice period. Seventeen entries were received from members and the judge, Kay Green, will attend in mid-April with the results.

At our Manuscript Evening on 2nd April we were firstly entertained by member Amanda Giles, who read her cleverly crafted Catherine Cookson Cup entry entitled ‘Breath Control’, which had been awarded 2nd place in last year’s competition.

This was followed by Stephen Martin, Anne Spiring and John Cornelius each reading from their current works in progress for constructive feedback. The first two are working on children’s novels: Stephen read from the beginning of his gripping supernatural thriller, as yet untitled, whilst Anne read from the chapter ‘A Bad Day at School’ from her book ‘Alfie Jones and the Black Knight’ featuring time-travel adventures. In complete contrast, John read from his semi-autobiographical work ‘The Grottologist’ which is set in the early 70s. Lively discussion followed with some suggestions being put forward for consideration by the authors.

We still have some places available for our ‘Poetry Today’ half-day seminar on Saturday 28th April at the Southwater Community Centre. This will be led by poet and author Leslie Tate, who will look at the work of eight contemporary poets: Michael Donaghy, Sean O’Brien, Anne Stevenson, Derek Walcott, Don Paterson, Seamus Heaney, Les Murray and Geoffrey Hill. Cost is £7; students £5. Enquiries please to or phone 01424 442471.

For more information about our group please visit

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Meeting Report: 5th March 2012

The workshop at our meeting on 5th March entitled ‘Dialogue is only talking, isn’t it?’, devised by member Janet Kates, proved more challenging than expected. The group worked in pairs; first we were given varied brief opening sentences eg ‘How are we going to stop him?’ and ‘I wanted you to save me’ from which we had to create a conversation between two characters. Working with a partner was a novelty for most of us, although it proved easier once a scenario was decided upon. After a break and a change of partners, the second exercise gave both an opening line and a situation eg ‘playing snooker’ ‘cleaning a gun’ and ‘feeding animals’. The inventive results, varying from humorous to serious, were then read out and proved valuable in encouraging us to think more carefully about how we use dialogue in our writing to make sure every word counts.

The group has welcomed six new members recently, which means that we may now have to instigate a waiting list. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, on 01424 442707 or e-mail You can also visit our website at

We are organising a ‘Poetry Today’ seminar on Saturday 28th April to be held at the Southwater Community Centre, St Leonards–on-Sea: Places £7 or £5 students. Author and poet Leslie Tate will read from eight contemporary poets, introducing their ideas, exploring their methods and celebrating their power to move us with beautiful and surprising language. Please e-mail or tel 01424 442471 to book your place.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Meeting Report: 20th February 2012

At our 20th February meeting we were pleased to welcome award-winning poet Kim Lasky as judge for our open theme poetry competition. Kim also teaches creative writing at Sussex University and elsewhere. Her poems have appeared in the UK and the US. She won the 2011 Agenda Poetry Competition, and is currently writing a collection of poems inspired by things as varied as Glenn Miller’s In The Mood and the Theory of Relativity!

Before announcing the results, Kim outlined the two main components in a poem – subject matter and form – and how they can be used with different elements, such as language/vocabulary etc to create a sense of atmosphere and voice which reaches out to the reader. What she particularly looks for in poetry are poems to either make you think differently or want to find out more. She gave detailed and invaluable feedback on each entry before announcing the results.

The winner was Chairperson Jill Fricker for ‘Twin Towers’. She was congratulated on achieving an incredibly moving and powerful poem without being sentimental that got the reader thinking; she was also praised for effective use of a direct voice. In 2nd place was new member Eileen Masters for ‘The Call to Prayer’, described as deceptively simple and concise, yet being mature and subtle, conjuring the atmosphere of a specific culture and way of life. Ezzie Gleeson-Ward was awarded 3rd place for ‘Drive Time’ a very self-contained poem written in sonnet form but used in a contemporary way, with interesting imagery. 4th was Mark Towner for ‘Igbo’ – an ambitious and moving poem with really striking images, about suffering of the Igbo people, from whom the writer comes.

For more poetry we are hosting a Saturday half-day seminar ‘Poetry Today’ on 28th April with poet Leslie Tate, who will be looking at the work of eight contemporary poets. This is open to anyone: places £7 or £5 students. Enquiries to

Friday, 17 February 2012

Meeting Report: 6th February 2012

Despite the Siberian weather conditions, seven hardy souls gathered for the first of the year’s manuscript evenings. The group decided that Mike Walsh’s reading of his winning Catherine Cookson Cup short story should be put back until there was a larger audience to hear it. Two of the planned manuscript readers were marooned by snow and ice, so Eileen Masters and Jill Fricker brought extracts from current writing instead.

First to read was Ezzie Gleeson-Ward, from the last chapter of her novel, ‘Cormorante’, a Sci-fi fantasy. In the excerpt, the heroine faces up to an evil being who embodies a whole race of ‘fire elementals’. Some great descriptive writing took us into this strange and enchanted world that Ezzie has created.

Eileen has started to write a fascinating memoir of her eventful time as an aid worker in Afghanistan. Any thoughts of moaning about a little discomfort from the weather in wintry Hastings were blown clean away after we heard about Eileen’s first-hand encounters with the Taliban, as she unwittingly travelled into Kabul during one of the worst periods of civil war and bombardment in 1992. We were gripped!

Jill finished the evening with an excerpt from a short story, ‘Blue Genes Day’, which has been through a few revisions since she entered it in the Catherine Cookson competition last year. Set in parts of Hackney and Islington, the story deals with the longing of a young man to discover who his father was – in the extract, an overheard conversation sends him jumping to the wrong conclusion…

Possibly no happy endings in sight, but a very useful and enjoyable evening, which gave opportunities for in-depth feedback and reflection on the work presented.

For more information about our group please visit or email Amanda Giles, our Membership Secretary, at

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Meeting Report: 23rd January 2012

At our last meeting members read out their entries for the first of five competitions towards our Writer of the Year 2012 award. This was for an open-theme poem of up to 40 lines and the competition attracted a good response with 22 entries being submitted. These included some strong and varied work: thoughtful, sad, poignant and humorous poems covered a wide range of topics with even a couple of murders for good measure. Our judge, award-winning poet and creative writing teacher Kim Lasky, will attend on 20 February with her feedback and the results.
Kate O'Hearn, our Deputy Chair, was able to report the third book in her very successful Pegasus series 'Pegasus and the New Olympians' is just out, and the publisher is planning book tours for her. We are delighted that Kate's writing career has taken off in a big way.
Other news is that at the recent local Bowskill Trophy presentations, Hastings Writers' Group was awarded a framed Certificate of Merit for 'support to writers at all levels' which was displayed at the meeting for everyone to admire.
Our latest publication 'Ghost Writers' containing 20 spooky tales for dark evenings is on sale from some local shops or obtainable by post at £6.50, cheques to Hastings Writers' Group at 39 Emmanuel Road, Hastings, TN34 3LB. Profits will be shared with the Association of Carers Young Carers.
For further information about our group please visit or contact our Membership Secretary, Amanda Giles, at or tel. 01424 442707

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Meeting Report: 9th January 2012

The first meeting of the New Year poked and prodded the little grey cells out of their Christmas fog with a ‘Weaving the Words’ Workshop.

After welcoming three new members to the group the new Chair, Jill Fricker, announced that she had been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the Milton Keynes Open Creative Writing competition with a poem. Congratulations Jill!

Jill then went on to explain the way the workshop would run. Members had each brought in two sentences taken from favourite books. These went into a bag, then mixed up, passed around and two taken at random by each person, which they had to ‘weave’ into a piece of original writing. There then followed half an hour of intense silence broken only by the scribbling of pen on paper. After the break members read out their work; it was of an interesting, varied and high standard. The evening was declared a success and great fun. The new members are made of strong stuff and have vowed to come along to future meetings.

The Hastings Writers’ Group meets on alternate Monday evenings at the White Rock Hotel, Hastings from 7.30 to 9.30pm, the next meeting being 23rd January. If you are interested in joining the group please contact the Membership Secretary Amanda Giles on 01424 442707 or e-mail