Hay Writer at Brisons Veor 2018

Brisons Veor – Cape of Cornwall. I arrived for my artist in residence week to hail, sleet, wind and waves! Even the distant Long Ships lighthouse (I later found out I could see Wolf Rock Lighthouse too) became completely dissolved in the drenching low cloud. My journey along dark, busy motorways, over Bodmin with its […]

via Brisons Veor – Artist Residency – February 2018 — Emma van Woerkom ~ Poet

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“Not A Stone, A Water Bottle” – by Ange Grunsell

The Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction 2017 winner – Ange Grunsell.

Ange has kindly let us publish her prize winning piece below.

Many congratulations to Ange and to all who entered. The competition continues to draw a plethora of compelling and impressive new voices.


Not a Stone, a Water Bottle, by Ange Grunsell ©2017


Gourd by Ange Grunsell

My gourd is the size of a skull cap. It fits over my head perfectly. The hard, thin shell is a clean light brown. It shines softly in the light, marked all over with tiny pin pricks like pores in a skin. If you run your hand over it you can see and feel a raised line along its centre, so like a vein, this could be a bald head with all its irregularities. When you tap it, it echoes softly: the gourd contains its story.

The thickness of the tough waterproof wall between inside and outside is perhaps less than two millimetres. The inside, where once the pulp and the seeds were, is like suede. It is a very long time since this fruit hung from a calabash tree: a hundred years at least and I can testify to that. One hundred years of use have strengthened its skin, preserved its shape. Thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean separate it from its first life in the Caribbean. The gourd’s story is a long one. Its growth, its life in St Vincent, in Trinidad and in London with my glorious aunt Winnie, and now with me, provides a surprising history of interconnections.

The gourd grown not primarily for food, but for use as water container, was one of the first cultivated plants in the world. The mystery of the calabash is that it has grown in the Americas for over 8000 years and genetic plant scientists are still unsure as to whether it was brought to the Americas by Paleoindians from Asia at the end of the ice age, or more likely, whether the seeds drifted across the Atlantic from Southern Africa to take root in the Americas, all that time ago. The history and human usage of gourds, that grow on all the planet’s continents, bar Antarctica, embodies the interconnectedness of our world: both its ecology and its people. It has served as musical instrument, decorative utensil and above all  that life saving and community necessity: a water bottle.  It is a celebration of human and plant migration, of diversity and of peaceful and artistic uses of the resources of the earth.

My widowed aunt Winnie was quite the most glamourous and interesting of my relatives when I was a child. She had been married to, ‘an oil man,’ whatever that was and lived with him in Wimbledon. She had the longest, slimmest sheerest stockinged legs rising from elegantly arched feet. I sat on the floor and admired them, looking up at her statuesque shoulders, her curly hair. She spoke in a musical way, unusual to me. She liked to tell how when she arrived in England for the first time, she had taught my eighteen year – old mother to Charleston and another cousin reported her teaching her the Black Bottom outside Selfridges,(not the front entrance you understand).

For Winnie, daughter of my Worcestershire grandmother’s brother, had grown up in Trinidad.  Dad was the bad-boy uncle sent away to where he could not damage family reputation, to become a newspaper journalist in  Trinidad. A common tale of colonial times, perhaps. But the story of Winnie’s mother’s family was a far from familiar one. This story I heard only for the first time when I was aged almost forty and we were travelling together to a family funeral.

Winnie had an Irish great grandfather on her mother’s side. How many ‘greats’ it was I don’t know. He was press – ganged off the west coast of Ireland into Napoleon’s navy around the very beginning of the nineteenth century. Napoleon’s fleet had been assisting the Irish in their rebellion against the English in 1798. Subsequently some of the same ships formed part of an invasion force of Haiti, to increase French control and attempt to re-enforce slavery, reversing their earlier policy of support for the resistance leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. A noticeboard on the quay at Killybegs confirms this history. According to Aunt Winnie, great, great etc. grandfather was taken down to Haiti by the fleet, where, somehow, he managed to stay and to marry her great grandmother, an emancipated ex-slave of African descent. Later generations included other ethnicities, other Caribbean islands and adventures of which she told me little, culminating in her own parentage that had introduced the English Midlands strain of my mother’s immediate family. But what does all this have to do with gourds or with my gourd, in particular, I hear you ask…even if the standard coin in Haiti is still called a gourde.

In 1991 I visited the Caribbean, myself, for the first time. I stayed in St Vincent, as part of a work tour with Oxfam, to interview Windward Island banana farmers whose livelihoods were under threat under changing international trade rules. On my return, I paid one of my regular visits to  Aunt Winnie, now in her eighties, who had remained a good friend as I grew up and who still lived close to my mother during my adult life.  She wanted to hear all about the visit, even though it had not touched Trinidad. I happened to mention that we had been stopped in our minibus by the sight of an agricultural workers’ land occupation protest.

“So, where was this in St Vincent?” she asked.

I replied that it was a place called the Hadley Estate, close to the East Coast.

“But that is exactly where I stayed on a holiday when I was eight years old.”

The echoes of that unlikely coincidence bounced off the walls of her small front room

Winnie remembered visiting the Windward Island of St Vincent, at the age of eight, and staying in the South East of the island. It was there, at the Hadley Estate, she had been given the gourd in around 1911, taken it back home to Trinidad and then brought it to England when she moved to London, as a connection for her with her childhood and as her lifelong daily tool. This was the day she offered the precious gourd to me.

When my aunt Winnie gave it to me she had used for over 80 years. She had used it every day to pour water over herself in the bath from when she was eight years old, up to this time, when, due to infirmity, she was now having to wash in a sit- down shower and had no more need of her trusty scoop.

In 2017 it has passed its century. But it remains as watertight as ever.

It sits on my shelf as a reminder that migrations, diversities and above all peaceful and life sustaining activity can prevail, link and unite. Our inheritance is not a stone it is a water bottle. (*)



This refers to Bertolt Brecht’s play ‘The exception and the rule’

The judge…Is this the stone? Do you recognise it?

Merchant   Yes this is the stone.

 Guide       Now see what’s in the stone. (He pours water from it).

Judge        It’s a water bottle not a stone. He was offering you water.

Merchant   But how was I to suppose it was a water bottle? The man had no reason to offer me water. I wasn’t his friend.

Guide        But he gave him water

Judge        But why did he give him water? Why?

Guide        He must have thought the merchant was thirsty.



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New Year, New You, New Us by Marianne Rosen

New Year, New You, New Us.

It’s New Year again. Time to regret the few too many chocolates consumed, the too loud clang of bottles entering the recycled bin, and any goals never achieved in the year now gone. It’s a great time to consider what we might like to look back on in delight in another year’s time.

Last year for me this was when I finally decided I was going to grasp my dream of being a writer and weave it into my daily life a thread at a time until it could not be unpicked. Joining Hay Writers’ Circle was one of those terrifying and immensely uplifting steps. I have met an amazing group of diverse, intelligent, kind and empathic people who have been part of that journey. I have shared my work, received great critical feedback, been supported in my goals and, most importantly, been made to feel part of this wonderful group. Writing is no longer an elusive, pitifully private hope. It is a daily, clamouring part of the fabric of my life. I no longer ask myself if I shall write, but what am I writing next?

Much can change in a year and, following a dynamic AGM in September, Hay Writers are delighted to announce the hosting of their first open workshop. This has been in response to Members requests for more inspiration and challenge, and follows on from a powerful Mslexia workshop the group shared last July with poet Fiona Sampson. We have had many enquiries from writers wishing to join the group but who are unable to attend Tuesday twice monthly meetings and intend this as a way for new writers to engage with and get to know our group.

Poetry workshop A4 poster (2)Our first poetry workshop is on Saturday 17th February and will be led by poet Dr Rhiannon Hooson, focusing on Landscape and Memory (click here for details on our website). Another workshop on non-fiction writing is in development for July. So, if you are looking to engage with other writers, or further your own projects and ambitions, perhaps our workshops might be a great starting point for you. We include in the fee the opportunity to enter your work in our competitions which are judged by external, highly acclaimed writers. Iain Rowan recently judged our Fiction competition, giving carefully considered feedback to each entry.

Another new development is the piloting of our Work in Progress sub group. Aiming to give a specific platform to the longer projects that some members are pursuing this group is currently exploring the dynamics of focused retreat days and shared critique. If you think this could be the impetus you need to kick start your writing project, or push it to the end, please contact us for further developments. All workshops and the Work in Progress group will meet on Saturdays, specifically to offer a new face of the group to writers who cannot attend our standard Tuesday meetings.

Our group is always open to enquiry from new writers and we aim to meet every one for a personal conversation before joining, so, go on, don’t be daunted, get in touch. Take that first step in believing in the New Year, and in all its fresh potentials, and put that writing dream first.

Marianne Rosen 

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Get your Muse on

Hay Writers’ Circle are delighted to present a poetry workshop on Saturday 17th February, with award-winning Welsh poet and highly acclaimed workshop leader, Dr Rhiannon Hooson.

THE OTHER CITYDr Hooson studied and later taught at Lancaster University, where she was awarded first an MA with distinction in Creative Writing, then a PhD in Poetry. She performs her poetry at literature festivals and venues across Europe and the UK, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, Magma, and Poetry Wales among others. Her first pamphlet, This Reckless Beauty, was published in 2004, and she has since been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Her first full length collection, The Other City, was published by Seren in November 2016, and was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The judges hailed it as “Stunning”. Her work has been described as “uncompromising and sharp-edged,” (Joanna Boulter) and “compelling and provocative” (Graham Mort). She has won an Eric Gregory award from the Society of Authors for a short collection, Un.

Rhiannon Hooson - Seren Books

Rhiannon Hooson – © Seren Books

Dr Hooson is a dynamic workshop leader, choosing to focus on the production of multiple first drafts during the day. In this workshop we will attempt to untangle the relationship between environment and memory through creative writing. How does our experience of the world around us colour our interactions with the landscape of the page? How can we use the landscape in our writing effectively and evocatively? Down country lanes and through primeval forests; across vast oceans and the cities of the past, we will look at the intrinsic link between history and sense of place, and chart our own journeys across a changing landscape.

The workshop will be presented in the modern and comfortable facility of Cusop Hall, situated just on the outskirts of Hay on Wye. Suitable for disabled users, within walking distance from Hay and with excellent on-site parking. The day will begin promptly at 10am with an introduction to Dr Hooson and move swiftly into productive writing. We will break for morning refreshments, have a late lunch and wrap up around 3.30pm in time for afternoon coffee and cake. This will be a chance to talk to Dr Hooson and the members of the Hay Writers’ Circle as well as to purchase some of Dr Hooson’s work. Included in the cost for the workshop is the chance to enter your work in our annual Poetry competition. Our competitions are judged by external, highly acclaimed writers and offer the chance for valuable feedback. This year’s competition deadline is the 13th March, and our judge is Libby Houston.

To best accommodate individual dietary requirements we ask that you bring your own lunch. The venue has kitchen facilities, including microwave but not an oven, if you need to use them. Hot and cold drinks will be available throughout the day. Biscuits and afternoon cake are provided so please inform us when booking if you have any allergies.

Saturday 17th February 2018Poetry workshop A4 poster (2)

10am until 4pm

At Cusop Hall, Hay on Wye, HR3 5RW

£35 per person

Numbers are limited and booking is ESSENTIAL.


Contact Marianne Rosen to book a place:

email: marianne@mariannerosen.com

phone or text: 07967 454322


To find out more about our workshop leader please visit her website


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Fiction Competition 2017 – Winners Announced

Congratulations to all our creative writers who entered incredible short stories for the 2017 Fiction Competition and a huge thank you to our wonderful judge, Iain Rowan

iain rowan

Iain Rowan – Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Bath Novel Award, and the Northern Writers Award, Iain is also the Creative Director for the Sunderland Festival of Creative Writing  and the adaptation screenplay of his short story  ‘Nowhere to Go’, is currently being filmed by the award-winning RGR Film Productions.

Iain’s books are available to buy via the infinity plus website – CLICK HERE


DONATION – Iain took a lot of time reading the short stories and writing thoughtful individual feedback for which we are extremely grateful. He has also very kindly asked for his judge’s fee to be donated to a local Womens Refuge and we are honoured to be passing on his payment to the Brecon branch in the New Year.  Thank you Iain.

Without further ado, here are the winners :-


1st Prize Winner – Jo Hill

2nd Prize Winner – Kerry Hodges

3rd Prize Winner – Jean o’Donoghue 



Fiction Competition 2017 Winners (l-r): Jo, Jean & Kerry 

As it’s the first day of 2018 we would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year.
We hope the coming months bring incredible inspiration, opportunity, & writing success.

i am a writer


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Frost and Fire

Notes from a ramble along the River Wye – 18/12/2017 ECvW

DSCF6934.JPGWe are currently living in a post-snow demi-thaw. Over-whelmed by last week’s heavy fall the broken trees and branches now rest upon their torn roots waiting to be collected. They’ll not be wasted,  heating our homes in Christmas fires or to be festooned along with ivy, holly and mistletoe in Yuletide celebrations.

The river Wye lurches fat on Welsh tundra melt-water; brownish green as tarnished copper and babbling full of mountain news in hurried consonants. Sometimes it splutters, throwing up onto its banks the carcass of a well-travelled salmon kelt for hungry crows to marvel at.


A low glaring sun catches the frosted leaves and slowly softens the glassy rime on blades of grass and berries, all the while playful squirrels chase each other in spiralled vortices around oaks and ash.  Sheep huddle and chew, held silent in plumes of steaming breath.

Small birds puffed up like party balloons rummage in undergrowth, while Jackdaws warm their underskirts on top of chimney flues. The castle looks as cold as ever but the town sparkles with colourful Christmas lights, and dazzling shop windows.

These long nights full of stars and wonder, firelight stories, old songs and friends are perhaps the best insulation against the cold. So my advice is don’t rush about ticking off lists and getting knotted with sellotape, just take your time and remember, “A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.” –John B. Priestley.



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Slipping Seasons & Fiction Judge Announcement

Slipping Seasons

No sooner have I remarked about where Summer has gone, then I find myself declaring the same about Autumn too; another season ‘goodbyed’ almost before I’ve had time to ‘hello’ it!


Marches Sunset 01/11/2017 By ECvW

In the Hay-on-Wye area we’ve enjoyed languidly mild weather of late, or porridge weather as I like to call it – neither too hot nor too cold, just a little blustery. Now we’re stampeding headlong towards the end of the year which also brings the faint promise of white weather. The numb harbinger of travel timetables and parents with children in school, dreading the mere mention of the ‘snow day’ imperative, but the odds-on heaven sent favourite of bobble hat sales staff and those ‘White Christmas’ dreamers and gamblers.

Weather aside, the final turn of the year brings us the dark long evenings full of frost and stars, thick socks, cosy chairs and a wealth of excellent books to curl up with. For authors perhaps a resurgence of brisk walks and the formulation of new narratives, poetic considerations or inspirational images away from Summer’s cluttered finery.

So here is the season of clarity, where light seems precious and the darkness filled with a new potential…

Fiction Competition – Judge Announced

iain rowan

Iain Rowan – Photo curtesy of http://www.iainrowan.com

It is with enormous delight I can reveal that the Judge for our 2017 Fiction Competition is Iain Rowan.

Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, the Bath Novel Award, and the Northern Writers Award, Iain is also the Creative Director for the Sunderland Festival of Creative Writing  and the adaptation screenplay of his short story  ‘Nowhere to Go’, is currently being filmed by the award-winning RGR Film Productions.

Iain’s books are available to buy via the infinity plus website – CLICK HERE


To find out more about our judge, Iain Rown –  CLICK HERE

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Mslexia Workshop by Fiona Sampson


The Hay Writers were extremely fortunate to have a session provided by Mslexia this week and our guest facilitator was the acclaimed British writer and poet, Fiona Sampson MBE.

We had a very interesting session on writing poetry and Fiona provided some thought-provoking and challenging exercises. All of us, even those who don’t usually write poetry, had a productive afternoon and we all benefited from her enthusiastic guidance.

IMG_20170717_112521Fiona’s latest poetry collection is ‘The Catch‘ (pub. Random House) and she has also recently published a prose essay ‘Limestone Country‘ (pub. Little Toller).

It was a privilege to have the occasion to work with such a distinguished  poet.

Fiona is this year’s Herefordshire Poet in Residence and will be doing several similar sessions throughout the year. These may be arranged through your local library services.

Thank you once again to Fiona and also to Mslexia for their continued support of women writers and for giving our group this fantastic opportunity.

Article – Corinne Harris
Images – Emma van Woerkom

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Sell Out Success at the Hay Festival 2017

Hay Festival 2017 – #Hay30


Happy Anniversary Hay Festival. After thirty extraordinary years we are still feeling the positive literary vibe. This year, during those precious ten days spanning the change from May to June the sun shone, the clouds for the most part, stayed away and crowds of enquiring minds came, enjoyed, joined-in and departed; all promising to return again soon. Folks lapped the locality in shuttle buses, spoke to their favourite authors, discovered new voices and stuffed far too many excellent books into cases for the long journey home.

Our Hay Writers event on the second Saturday of the festival was no less welcoming or enthralling. Thirteen writers, fuelled entirely on coffee took to the stage at 9am in front of a sell-out crowd (we even had to ask for a few more chairs!). Prose, fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry flowed.


After a brief introduction by our Chair, Ange Grunsell, Jan Newton kicked off the readings with the atmospheric prologue from her recently published detective crime drama, Remember No More. The performance concluding with a very apt, non-fiction piece on the habits of a bibliophile by Juliet Foster. In between poetry, short stories (both humorous and startling) found willing ears. There was definitely something for everyone and this sentiment was echoed by the numerous applauses from the crowd.

This year, more than any other, the Hay Festival seemed more colourful, more vibrant and more joyful than ever. Keeping so many people happy and interested year after year is no mean accomplishment.

A huge and special thank you to Peter Florence and the whole Hay Festival team for another brilliant festival. Your continued efforts in supporting and promoting writers, artists and ideas is greatly appreciated.

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2017 Hay Writers’ Poetry Competition Winners

Poetry Competition 2017

DSCF0417 (2)

Pens and pencils at attention – quick to crack a deft dimension.

We had a record number of entries from Hay Writers members for this year’s poetry competition, which was judged by the well- known prize winning poet and novelist, Chris Meredith.  Chris gave encouraging attention and mention to many of the poems which were very varied in form and content:

‘ I’ve read and reread the poems with interest and growing enjoyment. Every piece has something going for it and the best are well – achieved and impressive.’

Chris highlighted the benefits of trying out demanding forms such as pantoum …as a couple of entries did….as well as shapes on the page.

The winners :

1st   Jean O’Donoghue       Remembrance

2nd   Jan Newton               The Horse Whisperer

3rd   Corinne Harris           1940

Congratulations to our worthy winners and many thanks to Chris Meredith for judging.
For more information about Chris and his many publications –  CLICK HERE


hay festival 2017Don’t forget you can see many of our members performing at Hay Festival –  event number 513 – 9am on Saturday 3rd June in the aptly named Scribbler’s Hut.

Our performance includes a variety of styles and genres. So if you fancy a cocktail of fiction, non-fiction, poetry or prose, serious, humorous or a bit of everything, we’ll have something to delight at the bargain price of just £5.30 per ticket.


Several of our members are published or prize-winning writers in their own right and for the last couple of years our tickets have sold-out!

So don’t delay CLICK HERE  and order yours today.

Hope to see you there.

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