Autumn and Creative Countryside — Emma van Woerkom ~ Poet

Autumn Bears Fruit. Well, we’ve hit that perfect time of year when Autumn looks more burnished and bright than ever. Today the sun is suddenly clear and warm, the wind has slightly eased, and all those abundant turning leaves shimmer and wave from their tree-top homes. By next week the weather and wind will have changed, […]

via Autumn and Creative Countryside — Emma van Woerkom ~ Poet

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Catching the Tale – WRITING WORKSHOP

Catching the Tale – 2018 Fiction Workshop

Hay Writers’ Circle are delighted to present a fiction workshop on Saturday 27th October, with writer and workshop leader Peter Salmon.

 Catching the Tale Fiction Workshop A4 poster-page-001

Peter Salmon’s first novel, The Coffee Story (Sceptre, 2011), was a New Statesman Book of the Year, and his second, Blue Roses, will be published in September 2018. He is currently working on a book about Jacques Derrida for Verso Press, entitled An Event Perhaps, which is due out in 2019. He has written frequently for Australian TV and radio and for broadsheets including the Guardian, the New Humanist, the Tablet and the Sydney Review of Books. He has received Writer’s Awards from the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Victoria, Australia.  Formerly Centre Director of the John Osborne/The Hurst Arvon Centre (2006-2012), he also teaches creative writing, most recently at Pembroke College Cambridge, the University of Tallinn and Liverpool John Moores University.

There are few pleasures greater than writing – inventing characters, stories and scenarios and watching them grow into something that you didn’t expect. Whether it is a short story, prose poem or novel, the thrill of getting it right is unique and can be breath-taking.

In this fun and intensive course, I will help you move from the ideas in your head to getting them on the page, and from getting them on the page to making them sing.

Salmon_Peter-detailWith exercises covering plot, character development, the art of description and dialogue, I will work with the skills you already have, and let you find new ways of going on. With a strong emphasis on learning by doing, I will get you putting pen to page in a convivial and supportive environment.

Whether you have an idea burning inside you to get out, or you are waiting for the right one to come along, this course will set you on the path to achieving your goals as a writer, whatever they may be.

Oh, but do make sure you bring your pens and paper, or your laptop. You have writing to do.

The workshop is suitable for all levels of writers who want to explore their fiction ideas.

This 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. Please arrive from 9.45am as the day will begin promptly at 10am with an introduction to Peter Salmon and move swiftly into productive writing. We will break for morning refreshments and lunch. At 4pm we shall finish for afternoon coffee and cake. Included in the cost for the workshop is the chance to enter your work in our annual Fiction competition. Our competitions are judged by external, highly acclaimed writers and offer the chance for valuable feedback. This year’s competition deadline is the 20th November, with a word count of 1,250 words, and an open theme.

To best accommodate individual dietary requirements we ask that you bring your own lunch. The venue has kitchen facilities including a 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 27th October 2018

10am until 4pm

At Cusop Hall, Hay on Wye, HR3 5RW

£35 per person

Numbers are limited and booking is ESSENTIAL.

Course reference: Fiction 003

Contact : Marianne Rosen to book your place:


Phone or text: 07967 454322

Or complete the booking form attached, with the reference: Fiction 003


To find out more about our workshop leader please visit his website:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading at the Launch of Rhiannon Hooson’s “Full Moon on Fish Street”. — Emma van Woerkom ~ Poet

I’ve had a bit of a busy year dotting from Cornwall, to Orkney, then on to Shetland, back to Hay-on-Wye, now in North Somerset and I’m ashamed to say my website slipped from my mind, so I’m going to make amends. Last weekend, under a steely-grey, rain-filled sky Rhiannon Hoosen launched her incredible new pamphlet, Full […]

via Reading at the Launch of Rhiannon Hooson’s “Full Moon on Fish Street”. — Emma van Woerkom ~ Poet

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Women in Farming

billie poster

Photo Exhibition by Billie Charity

Recently, photographer Billie Charity launched a new exhibition highlighting the rarely acknowledged world of women farmers. Her hard working subjects, like Billie herself, are based around Hay-on-Wye and range in age from 18 to 93 years old.

Billie’s incredible exhibition is being held at Shepherds Parlour (Hay-on-Wye) running throughout the summer and is FREE for everyone.

For more images from this collection click here

Excitingly, one of these inspirational female farmers is our very own Hay Writer, Peggy Ann Stevenson. Here’s what she has to say.

billie charity peggy ann

Copyright Billie Charity

“Farming is in my blood, one branch of my family, the Godsalls having been farmers in Herefordshire for over 600 years.

The picture taken by our local photographer, Billie Charity, shows me, now in my late eighties, feeding some of my Hereford cattle at Windle Park near Hay-on-Wye.

I have lived here for the past twenty years, having moved from Goodrich where I had spent most of my life.  There I bred riding ponies well as keeping a few Hereford cattle.

As a young person waiting to go to Pitmans college in London, I worked on a local farm, where knowing my interest in horses they made me Under Waggoner.  I had to have help putting the collars on, before taking them out to work the chain harrows or harnessing one to the hay rake with warnings not to let the horse back up, as one might end up under the hay rake.

While living in Goodrich I was master of the Ross harriers and President of Harewood End Agricultural Society. For the past five years I have been a member of Hay Writers. Writing and Watercolour painting have been among my interests for most of my life.”

Outside of farming Peggy Ann’s writing goes from strength to strength with Hay Writers’ Circle and her non fiction writing draws heavily from her daily observations of the natural world.

THE EDGE OF NIGHT by Peggy Stevenson

AS I stepped out of the old stone porch, the soft evening air of evening was pleasant after the stuffy air of the house. I crossed the drive and turned left up a narrow path, through a rockery to the iron wicket gate and into the field. Ahead of me ran the little white terrier, stopping now and then to see that I was following. We walked up the gentle slope of the field and climbed through the iron railings at the top.  A stubble field stretched up to the crest of the hill over which the moon was just showing its yellow disk among the grey streaks of the clouds. I turned and looked westward to where the last rays of the sun still lit the sky, orange along the summit of the wooded hill, becoming paler, until overhead the clouds straggling across the sky in mares’ tails, were a pearly grey. Walking along the hedgeway a little way I climbed the stile, the terrier running hither and thither on the scent of imaginary rabbits. On down the grassy bank past the old hollow elm, pausing a moment to gaze on the floodwater at the bottom of the field where the last rays of the setting sun were still reflected, a touch of pink in the faint bluey green with the tops of the rushes sticking up like spears. We walked on down past the floodwater and jumped over the ditch that had been deepened to allow the water to run back into the brook. The ground was still very squelchy and stepping from one clump of reeds to another we reached the stream and walked along the bank, as the terrier ran on sniffing here and there among the brambles and driftwood, the occasional plop of a water rat or the flutter and splash of a startled moorhen broke the stillness of the twilight. We came to an old wooden footbridge where part of the bank had been washed away by the floods. One of the bridge supports had slipped and the bridge now sloped at a dangerous angle. I walked cautiously over and onto the ploughed ground. In the distance I could hear the pealing of the church bells up the valley and then from down by the river another peal joined in.

Beyond the ploughed field where the sunset was still reflected on the freshly turns furrows, a hazy mist was rising and a warm breeze lightly rustled the trees along the stream.

The moon had risen quickly and now shone through the trees on the rippling water where the stream rounded a bend. Hearing a gentle splash as a moorhen dived into the water, I crept quietly to the bank of the stream where she was hiding among some tree roots. Suddenly she saw me and with a startled squawk splashed and few away upstream, alarming several others on her way. Walking along the stream an owl flew silently out of the trees, sweeping low over the plough in search of an unwary field vole.

Having reached the end of the field, I climbed over the wooden stile into the lane, the terrier wiggling his way underneath. We crossed the ancient pack saddle bridge and walked on up the lane. On the hillside to the left, the lights from a farmhouse glowed warmly in the dusk. Further up the lane the old elm trees were silhouetted like black lace against the bright full moon, which was now hanging in the sky, like a ripe yellow cheese. Overhead a few stars were beginning to show in the pale blue sky. Wehh turned off the lane into an old sward meadow and could still hear the moorhens calling rck rck rck along the stream. In the mists over the plough the owls were hooting and cheeping as they awoke sleepily from their perches in the hollow of old trees and flitted like spirits of the night in search of their prey.

The moon cast long shadows as we turned and walked back up the grassy bank, over the iron hurdle into the stubble field. Here the distant whine and rumble of traffic could be heard as it crawled slowly up the hill from beside the river.

Stopping at the iron gate at the top of the field and gazing towards Symonds Yat where the mist hung over the valley and the lights on the hill looked like distant shore lights seen from a boat at sea.  I whistled for the terrier and walked down the field back to the house as the shadows veiled the edge of night.



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction 2018 – Winner Announced

Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction

Article by C. Harris

richard booth image

Richard Booth MBE

We had a very good response this year with a wide variety of interesting submissions, and our judge, the award winning writer Oliver Bullough, commented that the entries were of a high standard.  We are also eternally grateful to Richard Booth, (known to many as the King of Hay) who generously sponsors this competition and Richard was recently on hand to present the prizes to our winners at the annual Hay Writers’ Summer Lunch.

oliver bullough 1

    Oliver Bullough, courtesy of Curtis Brown

Oliver was kind enough to provide a commentary on all the pieces and made encouraging comments on all of them.  He also suggested possible improvements, which was very helpful, as one of the major benefits of holding competitions is the opportunity to have constructive criticism from independent, skilled and recognized writers.

First place was awarded to Marianne Rosen for “Unspeakable”.   This is a poignant piece, originally written as a “homework” exercise.  Marianne was characteristically modest about it when she presented it to the group but was encouraged by us to enter it in a competition.  Oliver described it as “beautiful and very moving”.  He commented on the effectiveness of the “curious grammar” and the ambiguities that make the piece read “like someone who’s sleepwalking through life”.  It is a piece with many emotional layers which “slowly unfolds its secret”; “a very profound bit of writing”.

Joint second place went to Jean O’Donahue for “Seurat and Monet”. This piece was “a great story about seemingly small items with deep significance”.  Oliver commented on her gift for describing things from her own perspective and on her confidence as a writer, bringing in “massive things as if they are tiny” and “small things as if they are massive”.

The other joint second place went to Jo Hill for “Sandy – a case study”.   A “powerful piece” about an emotionally disturbed child, it impressed Oliver with the “bravery of writing”.  He commented on the effective narrative devices and the portrayal of the child.  His final comment was particularly encouraging – “I think it could even be a pitch for a book. I’d read it.”

The pieces entered for this competition demonstrate the talents of our writers, highlighting the quality and variety of the writing currently being produced.

Many congratulations to everyone who entered, especially to the prize-winners.

Our sincere thanks are due to Richard Booth, for his continued support of our group and also to Oliver Bullough, who has been a fantastic judge; generous with his time and his expertise. Thank you.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry Competition 2018 Results!

Hay Writers’ Poetry Competition 2018
by C. Harris

The judge this year was Libby Houston.  For the first time this competition was open to selected non-members, those who had attended our very successful poetry workshop in February of this year, and this undoubtedly enhanced the numbers.  The workshop was not only a useful educational exercise, but also a chance to meet other writers and to boost our membership.  We plan to organize more workshops in the future.  Check out our website Events Page for details of workshops and competitions.

libby Houston

Libby Houston (2011). Photo credit

Libby started her feedback by acknowledging that responses to poetry were highly subjective.  However, when she outlined some of the criteria by which she judged the poems, it was clear that she had been meticulous in her assessments.  The criteria included choice of form, use of language, and the sound of the poem.  She gave some very helpful pointers on line-breaks, on how the poem is laid out on the page and on “the pitfalls of rhyming”.

She then went on to discuss each poem individually.  Although her comments could occasionally be a little astringent, the criticism was always constructive, identifying not just weaknesses, but strong points and effective language.  Importantly, she gave suggestions for possible improvements in each poem, making this a highly effective learning exercise.

In first place was Corinne Harris’s “Golden Rose Synagogue, Lviv”, a pantoum about a holocaust memorial, with a “sustained and elegiac mood”.  This was followed closely by Emma Van Woerkom’s “Water Break-its-Neck”, an energetic poem about a waterfall, with a “profusion” of effective imagery “that responds to the waterfall’s violent name”.  Third place was tied.  Jean O’Donoghue’s “Sciurius,” with its flouncing lively squirrel, and with imagery “mirroring the creature’s jumpiness”.  Ange Grunsell shared third place with “Absence”, a melancholy reflection following a visit by her grandchildren that had a “flow and sound like natural speech”.  Three wildlife poems were highly commended: Emma Van Woerkom’s “The Weaver Bird’s Nest”, and “Adder” and “Hyena” by Corinne Harris.

It is clear that there is a wealth of poetic talent around.  In a sense the competition is not just about placement, as this is clearly subjective, but it is an opportunity to share work and, importantly, to get useful feedback from an experienced poet and tutor.  Our thanks go to Libby Houston for her careful analysis and her constructive suggestions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Richard Booth Prize for Non-Ficiton 2018 – Judged by Oliver Bullough.

The 2018 Richard Booth Non-Fiction Competition

We are honoured to announce that our judge for this year’s competition is the award winning writer and author Oliver Bullough.


oliver bullough 1

Photo courtesy of Curtis Brown

Oliver Bullough grew up in Wales, studied Modern History at Oxford and moved to St Petersburg in 1999. He stayed in Russia for much of the next seven years, working mostly as a correspondent for Reuters specialising in Chechnya and the Caucasus region.

On returning to Britain in 2006, he wanted to write more about his experiences in Chechnya. The result was Let Our Fame Be Great, a travel and history book published by Penguin in 2010, which described his journeys to find the scattered peoples of the mountains. It was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in the UK, and won the Cornelius Ryan award in the US.

His second book, The Last Man in Russia, was published to brilliant reviews in 2013.

His highly anticipated latest book, Moneyland: Why Thieves And Crooks Now Rule The World And How To Take It Back, is due for release September 2018.

He lives in London with his wife and son.


The closing date for entries is Tuesday 10th July. Results will be announced in August.

Word count for this competition is 600 words minimum and 1250 words maximum.
The theme is entirely open.

Each applicant may submit only one entry.

Please click on the link below for the entry form and full rules.  GOOD LUCK! 🙂

Non Fiction Competition booking form

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hay Festival Heaven – Imagining the World.


Hay Festival 2018


We’ve been blessed with fabulous sunny weather, a larger, high-spec venue and best of all an absolutely fantastic, sell-out crowd!

As the temperature soared towards mid-day our event got underway. An attentive audience were delighted by a wide variety of poetry, short stories and excerpts from novels.  Well rehearsed thoughtful, humorous and descriptive pieces easily gelled alongside fictional landscapes and characters – there was literally something for everyone to enjoy.

A huge thank you to Peter Florence and the whole team at Hay Festival for their essential support enabling the Hay Writers and giving them a valuable public platform to perform. Special thanks also to Bella from Hay Festival, who managed us perfectly and was an utter god-send of positive, calm efficiency. Finally, thank you to our audience who shunned the sunshine and ice creams for an hour and applauded in all the right places. Well done everyone!


Chairperson, Angela Grunsell with Bella from Hay Festival


If you feel inspired to join us, whether as a full time member or to attend one of our inspirational all-day workshops (see our events page), why not get in touch.

Email our secretary Marianne Rosen for more details: –

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Festival Time Again!


It’s festival time again! How do I know? Well, it’s not from the throngs of people lining the roads, streets and country lanes, or the aroma of BBQ’s and a myriad of pop-up food stands serving all sorts of deliciously exotic fare; not even the colourful bunting zig-zagging over the streets or the distant throb from music carried for miles on heady evening breezes, or perhaps the increased volume of celebrities talking, reading, singing or even signing books.

No, it’s festival time again because my mother’s broom tree is blooming.

It’s little pea-type flowers explode in a riot of fountaining yellow, like a long awaited dazzling solar flare. We marvel at it, comment on it’s vibrancy and how popular it is with the bees who forage within a blinding forest of petals. There’s no mistaking this brilliant beacon and it’s annual declaration. Yes, it’s definitely festival time again!

***Hay Writers’ Circle will be performing at the Hay Festival 2018***
Sunday 3rd June, event 420, at 11.30am in the Compass venue.
It’s FREE but ticketed. 

Get your tickets HERE or direct from the festival box office.

There’s so much on at the moment, why not check out our EVENTS page too!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hay Festival 2018

2015-05-24-17-40-11.jpgHAY FESTIVAL 2018 – 24th May-3rd June.

It’s that glorious time of year again when we open our diaries, scan a scintillating programme crammed with stimulating events and slowly begin to fathom a literary-inspired jigsaw of lectures, talks and exhibitions – of course, I am describing the annual process which is the introduction to Hay Festival 2018.

How, who, where, when, what time, which venue – watches synchronised, pages pencilled, holiday booked, excitement levels start to ascend as anticipation begins fillings our dreams. Ten days of inspiration which makes the brain fizz and the heart soar.

The Hay Writers at Hay Festival 2018

microphone (1)We are extremely grateful to Peter Florence and the organisers for allowing us a slot at the Festival again this year.  We will be reading our latest short stories, poetry and prose (some prize winning pieces) on Sunday 3rd June at 11.30am in the Compass venue. In a change from previous occasions, this year our event is FREE.

It’s a ticketed event so don’t forget to book your place – everyone is most welcome.

Session number is 420 and tickets are available HERE 

To view the whole 10 day Hay Festival programme, click HERE

We hope to see you there.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment