Jean Hare – Winner of the 2021 Frances Copping Memorial Prize for Fiction

We are excited to announce the results of our 2021 Frances Copping Memorial Prize for Fiction Competition, named in fond remembrance of our Lifetime President who sadly passed away in 2020.

This popular competition again received a good number of entries from both inside and outside Hay Writers’ Circle and we very much welcome external interest in all our writing competitions.

We were honoured that our judge this year was none other than Carly Holmes, author and Publishing Manager at Parthian Books.

Prizes are awarded for first, second and third place and this year we are extremely grateful to Parthian Books who kindly agreed to sponsor the winning cash prizes. First Prize £50.00, Second Prize £15.00 and Third Prize £10.00.

Find out more about Parthian Books at

Below are Carly’s comments and her winning selection:

“It was a real pleasure to be asked to judge this year’s fiction competition for the Hay Writers and to read through the entries. The thing that struck me the most was how varied these stories are, in theme and style but also in location and narrative voice. When reading through competition entries or submissions, I often find that an unconscious thread emerges across the stories, whether it be a reaction to the current political/social climate or a response to the genre that is currently proving to be the most popular in the publishing world. With these stories, the only real thread that emerged was a general sense of poignancy, which is not surprising given the current state of the world.”

IST PLACE: End of Therapy

“I really enjoyed the sharp, incisive language the writer used in this story, and the acute way they used tiny details to focus the reader, for example noticing that the therapist’s mole had been removed and replaced by a scar. It told a complete story in less than 1500 words, and the end was uplifting in a way that wasn’t trite and left me feeling very positive.”

2ND PLACE: Death and Life

“This story set the scene well from the first paragraph and used rich, evocative imagery to pull the reader in. The tension built through the drama of the fire, and the ending had a real emotional impact.”

3RD PLACE: Apprentice Piece

“This story employed strong character development from the start, offsetting the ‘brutish’ appearance of the traveller against the distanced elegance of the landlady, and then relaxing them both as the story progressed so that they became warm and engaging. The dialogue was very good as well, adding to the character development. The ending was quite obvious but no less endearing for that.”

And The Winners are:

1st Prize – Jean Hare

2nd Prize – Kerry Hodges

3rd Prize – Shane Anderson

Many congratulations to our judge, worthy prize winners and to all our imaginative entrants who submitted a wide variety of pieces.

Thank you.


We are delighted to now showcase Kerry Hodges’ “Death and Life”, which we hope you will enjoy.

Death and Life  

When does fear start to fade and reality become accepted? 

When does the twist in the stomach and the knot of the heart begin to relax as the  

realisation dawns that what has been feared would happen for the past ten years  

has finally happened. The mind hasn’t yet taken it in but there’s no need to be afraid  

any longer. 

This I ponder as I sit on my bed in the small guest house. Autumn leaves on a  

gnarled tree sweep the roof. The gentle brushing assists my meditation. 

It’s been a long journey. Nearly 24 hours of travel. 

As I drink the last of my green tea and place the delicate china bowl on a coaster, I  

decide to walk, see a little of the city. I am tired, I am restless. I need distraction.  

Tying my laces, I grab my tattered straw hat and leave. 

Outside the heat curls around my body, coating it with expectation. The smell of  

barbequed meat inveigles its way into my nostrils, pricking my appetite awake. 

Two small children eye me with curiosity and I smile as they scurry away. 

With the city wall to my right I can’t get lost. 

The narrow road opens into a square and before me stands a mosque adorned with  

tiles of brilliant hues – lapis, verdigris and sun gold. I feel the gasp which halts my  

step. The colour, the splendour. Have I wandered into a fairy tale? Will Princess  

Aurora or Sleeping Beauty bedecked in sumptuous fabrics and tiaras appear? When  

a princess actually does appear; I am not surprised. She wears a cream silk  

meringue. Tiny pearls drip from its bodice and a veil is held in place by a glittering  

crown. But she is no princess. She is a bride, an Uzbek bride with her suited groom,  

examining the streets of Khiva, searching for the best vantage point from which to  

take the most breath-taking photos. I soon realise this is not unusual as I spy three  

more brides and their new spouses, floating along, all looking the same, like they’ve  

borrowed the same dress and the same thick dark eyebrows. 

I dawdle past stalls selling Russian fur hats, exquisitely carved Quran stands,  

brightly coloured crockery painted with the distinctive Ikat design. Bed spreads richly  

embroidered with pomegranates, oranges and lemons.  

‘Maeve would love one of those,’ I murmur, ‘the one with the blue pomegranates.’  

A small man with weather aged skin displays his wares on a rickety table. Camel hair  

scarves in an array of tempting colours and I’m buying one, grey and black. A  

mouthful of gold teeth is revealed as the vendor smiles. I am reminded of the early  

Bond films I used to tolerate with my Dad sat beside me, chewing fig rolls. 

And I am back home. My mind skates over the past weeks of hospital, bedside and  

coffin. My Dad’s pale grey face etched with the pain he’d so readily denied in life.  

Whoever said a person looks at peace in death?

I need a cuppa.

Stepping onto the roof-top terrace of a busy teahouse, I marvel at the view below.  

How could they have built such perfection. No electric drills or laser levels just bare  

hands and rudimentary tools.

I fill my bowl with black tea and gaze around. Noisy Russian tourists, replete, have  

left and peace descends. 

A woman sits alone at one of the traditional Uzbek table beds. She is supported at  

her back by a rainbow of cushions, their colour a scream of confusion. In the middle  

a raised platform holds a teapot and bowl. The woman, dark hair covering her face,  

is writing furiously as though if she stops her thoughts will end and she’ll never  

recapture them. 

I pay my bill as the writing stops; the face emerges and we smile. 

Wandering once more I see a half-finished minaret and learn from a helpfully vocal  

tour guide it hadn’t been finished because the Khan, for whom it was being built, had  

died. His son didn’t want it to be completed as it would be named after his dead  

father and this made him jealous.

‘Rumour has it,’ whispers my teacher, a little less helpfully so I have to lean in and  

concentrate harder, ‘the son’s harem was over the wall from the minaret which  

meant were it to be finished people would be able to stare at his collection of women  

and only the Khan was supposed to see his chosen few.’ 

Collection of women? Like a collection of classic cars or single malt whisky? Hackles  

rising for a man centuries dead, I hoped those women kept the jealous Khan in his  


It is dusk as I return to the guest house. Feeling weary, I decide to eat the remains of  

the picnic bought in Tashkent, read my book and get an early night.

As I eat the final date my thoughts inevitably turn to Dad. How often in the last years  

have I studied the number as my phone rang, fearing it might be Antony with bad  

news? How many times have I seen Dad’s body, smart in his favourite suit, resting in  

a silk-lined coffin? 

And then it happened. No longer a dreaded daydream.  

From the limousine I’d watched people doing their everyday jobs as we travelled to  

the crematorium. A white rose wreath adorned his coffin but was insignificant, an  

empty gesture. Dad’s favourite flowers had been spring yellow tulips. 

 I’d observed Dad slowly disappearing behind ugly plum coloured curtains, their  

closing taking Dad from me permanently. I had wanted to yank them back, rescue  

him from the flames.

Stirring from my morbid reverie I chide myself for going there again. For wasting  

energy, emotion, in acting out my Dad’s demise for the umpteenth time. 

I shower, message Maeve, climb into bed, and turn off the light. 

And there is Dad again. Creeping unbidden into my head as he always does in my  

quiet moments. He would be waiting for me back at home. Not sat at the table, a  

smile licking his lips and some pies warming in the oven. He’d be waiting in a brown  

urn. Dad. Ashes. A tear meanders down a cheek settling in the gully of my neck. 

It can’t be more than ten minutes later when I jump up. 

What the hell is that? A low whooshing sound has roused me and now I can smell  

smoke. See smoke pouring into my room through the gap between door and  


Grabbing my bag, I slide each foot firmly into a mule and snatch a jumper from the  

chair. Cautiously I turn the door handle and am met with a wall of dense, acrid  

smoke while flames play peekaboo with me from the bathroom only feet away.

I am fortunate. The door to the courtyard is nearby. I gag and cough as I make my  

way out, bent double with head under the toxic smoke, forcing my smarting eyes to  

lead me to safety. Stumbling over a step, I find myself in the relatively fresh air of the  

yard where I shiver wildly, hugging myself for comfort. 

Two fire engines and men dressed in camouflage; work to extinguish the blaze as I  

am ushered into the lane behind the guest house. 

Akmal, the guest house owner, his wife and four little children observe silently. The  

youngest in her mother’s arms.  

In twenty minutes the fire is out, only the odd wisp of smoke escapes into the night. 

Akmal guides me into his own room where his children lie on a large bed. Their  

mother tries to sooth them to sleep but their dark eyes watch while I settle onto the  

sofa Akmal has offered me.  

As I lie down, wrapping rugs around me I see the insidious smoke creeping its  

deadly way into my room. What if I’d been asleep? I too may have been ashes,  

sitting alongside Dad in a brown urn. You were not asleep I tell myself. You are alive.  

Did I say that aloud? I don’t know but something in me feels different. Fear, for so  

long my unwanted companion, has loosened its grip, knowing it has outstayed its  


Tomorrow I will drink Russian vodka. Eat plov. Maybe bump into the dark haired  

writer and talk and walk along the walls of Khiva taking Dad with me. He never liked  

climbing but I can carry him this time. 

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Youngest Hay Writer Ever

A huge welcome Lennon Eira Watkins who attended his first Hay Writers’ Circle meeting on Tuesday this week. We have scanned our 40 years worth of membership records and it seems Lennon is officially our youngest attendee.

Under the editorial guidance of his mother, Lily Rose, Lennon listened intently to the pieces read aloud by fellow HWC members and although his literary criticism skills are yet to display themselves, he obviously enjoyed time spent within such a creative atmosphere.

Lennon Eira Watkins 2021

Here is his bio : Lennon Eira Watkins is currently the youngest member of Hay Writers’ circle, with a very curious and pondering attitude towards life. He loves listening to stories and is the inspiration of many pieces of writing (mainly his mother’s). Lennon has a cheeky, chilled out and affectionate nature, not to mention an incredibly stylish wardrobe. As long as he has plenty of milk he’s happy! 


Prizes this year sponsored by Parthian Books!

Go to our competition page for more details. Good Luck!

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Enter your email address in the box below.

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The Frances Copping Memorial Prize for Fiction 2021 – Judge and Sponsor Announced

We are kicking off our new writing year with some exciting news!

Submissions are now invited for our annual Fiction Competition, The Frances Copping Memorial Prize 2021, named in fond remembrance of our Lifetime President who sadly passed away in 2020.

The competition is open to everyone, members of Hay Writers’ Circle and non-members too. Pieces of 600-1500 words on any fiction theme are accepted. Closing date for entries is Tuesday 16th November 2021.

Prizes are awarded for first, second and third place and this year we are delighted to announce that Parthian Books have kindly agreed to sponsor the winning cash prizes. First Prize £50.00, Second Prize £15.00 and Third Prize £10.00.

Parthian Books – Set up in 1993 and based in Cardigan, Wales, Parthian…”have always published first time fiction and aim to give new writers as much development support as we can. Our recent success includes writers such Richard Owain Roberts (Not the Booker Award Winner 2020), Alys Conran (Wales Book of the Year Winner 2017).Tristan Hughes (Stanford’s Fiction Winner 2018), and Lloyd Markham (Betty Trask Award Winner 2018) Glen James Brown (shortlisted for the Orwell Fiction Award 2019).”

Find out more about Parthian Books at

We are doubly honoured that Carly Holmes, Publishing Manager at Parthian Books has agreed to judge our Fiction competition.

Carly is an editor and has been the publishing manager with Parthian since 2019, though her involvement with us goes back to 2013 when she started taking on freelance editing projects. She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing.
Her debut novel, The Scrapbook, was shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Award and her award-winning short stories have been published in numerous journals and anthologies such as AmbitThe Ghastlingand The Lonely Crowd.
Her debut ‘Literary Strange’ short story collection, Figurehead, was published by Tartarus Press in 2018.
Before taking this role with Parthian Carly worked as a freelance editor and proof-reader for a variety of publishing houses and literary agencies, and a mentor for CW students at TSD Lampeter University. She also event-managed the Penfro literary festival for three years, and managed and hosted ‘The Cellar Bards’ spoken word events for four years.

If you wish to submit a piece, the fee is £5, payable by cheque or BACS. All details are on the entry form which you can download from this site, just click on the link below. 

Remember, word count for this competition is 600 words minimum and 1500 words maximum, and the theme is entirely open, so why not put pen to paper and have a go!

The closing date for entries is Tuesday 16th November 2021.

Good Luck!

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Gillian Haigh’s – A Year In Wales – Winner of the Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction, 2021.

Gill has kindly granted us permission to publish her winning non-fiction piece, A Year in Wales.

Our judge, Roland White commented that, (it was) “A fine, powerful piece of writing. A slightly unsettling cross between Laurie Lee and The Omen, what with its ghosts and buried razor blades, this is a vivid account of a year from the point of view of a young and apparently rather knowing little girl. The short, straightforward sentences not only enhance the drama but make the text more childlike.  

There were scenes that every parent will recognise, and humour in the very literal world of young children (“It’s a wireless”… “It’s not. I can see wires coming out of it”). 

The format did make me wonder whether this was really non-fiction, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt.

Gill, who now resides in London, has been delighted that her writing attained 1st place in our competition.

Without further delay, here it is.

A YEAR IN WALES by Gillian Haigh

It’s wintertime. 

There are no other houses, only this one. 

Before we lived here a lady pushed her little girl down the stairs then died of suicide in the pantry. The mummy says the little girl has probably gone to Heaven by now but the nasty lady who killed her has turned into a ghost and is still here. 

It’s cold when the coal’s all been burnt and there’s no light when the paraffin runs out and no water when the well freezes and no tea when the money’s gone. I don’t know what money is but when it’s gone the mummy gets sad and cries. 

The daddy and the mummy are drinking tea so the well must not be frozen and the fire must be burning and there must be money. 

The mummy rubs her belly. ‘I wonder if this one will be born in a caul.’

‘What’s a caul?’ I ask.

‘A bag that some babies come wrapped in,’ she says.

‘Why?’ I say.

But her eyes have gone away. 

‘Did I come wrapped in one?’ 

Her eyes come back. ‘Yes.’

‘How did I get out?’

‘I suppose the midwife got you out.’

‘What’s a midwife?’

‘You didn’t cry for twenty-four hours.’


‘You were too clever. I should’ve kept the caul. You can sell them to sailors.’

‘Why do sailors want them?’

‘To protect them from drowning.’ Her eyes have gone away again.  

It’s springtime.

There are crocuses and I’m digging in the flower-bed. 

The big brother’s feeding the chickens from a bucket.  

The mummy’s in the kitchen, eating a cigarette.  

The soil feels soft and wet on my hands. 

Now something sharp has made a hole in my skin and the end of my finger’s hanging off.  

The big brother throws the bucket on the ground and calls for the daddy to come down off the roof.  

The chickens go ‘Qwup, qwup, qwup,’ and flutter over to get the chicken-food that’s spilled out of the bucket. 

Red blood is dripping onto the purple crocuses.

In the car, the mummy says: ‘How many times did I tell you not to bury your razor-blades in the flower-bed?’ The daddy doesn’t answer. He looks sad.

The doctor puts the end of my finger back on and says I am a brave girl. 

Now we’re back home again and the daddy lights all the paraffin lamps. 

It’s night-time and I’m in bed. The suicide-lady has come. She’s wearing a grey and orange shawl and shaking her finger at me. 

The nasty lady’s gone away to the pantry now but she’ll be back. She always comes back. 

It’s summertime

There are gooseberries and skylarks and dragon-flies by the river.

I hear the train coming so I run upstairs to wave. Our train runs on steam. Some trains run on electricity. Light comes from different things too. Our lamps need paraffin.  Our gramophone needs winding. So does the daddy’s car.

Yesterday I tried to wind up the gramophone but I scratched Bill Haley and the big brother said I was a clumsy oaf.

Now when I lean on the window to wave at the train, the window isn’t there. 

I’m flying. There’s the sky. And there are the trees. And there’s the ground. When I land I hear a slap and all the birds go quiet.  

The daddy’s driving me to the doctor. 

‘How many times have I told you not to leave the upstairs windows open?’ says the mummy. 

The daddy shouts. ‘I didn’t leave it open. It must have been you.’ 

The doctor has a magic camera that can see through skin.

‘Nothing’s broken,’ he says. ‘Amazing after falling twenty feet onto flag-stones. You must’ve bounced.’ He looks at my finger which is better now. ‘I think you’re accident prone.’ He moves his head round to look at the daddy and the mummy who are both eating cigarettes and looking sad.

There’s a box in the corner and voices are coming out of it. 

‘Are there people inside that box?’ I ask the doctor. 

The mummy chews on her cigarette. ‘Oh do stop asking stupid questions,’ she says. ‘It’s a wireless.’

It’s not though. I can see wires coming out of it.

When we get home the sky lights up and there’s a bang. ‘What’s that?’ I say.

‘A storm,’ says the daddy. ‘It’s caused by electricity in the air.’

‘Can we get some for the gramophone?’

The daddy’s laughing.  Now he’s crying. Grownups cry a lot. I think it’s the law.

It’s autumn-time. 

There are nuts on the trees and blackberries in the hedge. 

Yesterday we had a bonfire outside in the dark and daddy burnt a dolly called Guyfox.  I don’t know why.

Now its night-time again but the mummy’s not asleep. She’s standing in the garden with no shoes on, shouting at the daddy. ‘I can’t bear it,’ she says. ‘There’s nobody to talk to all day.’

‘You can talk to me,’ I say.

‘Go back to bed,’ she says.  

She looks at the daddy: ‘There’s no point in living. I’m going to throw myself under the train.’ 

Now she’s walking away, across the field.

‘You can’t,’ I shout. ‘The train only comes in the morning-time.’ 

The daddy picks me up and points to the stars, which all have names and are further away than Aberystwyth. 

‘Are there houses on those stars?’ I ask. ‘Do little girls live there?’

‘Quite possibly,’ says the daddy. ‘Nobody knows.’

The mummy’s reading a book and eating a cigarette.  The daddy’s at work. The big brother’s at school. 

‘How did the baby get inside your belly?’ I ask.

‘It’s too complicated for you to understand.’

‘When will it come out?’

‘I don’t know.’


‘Oh do stop asking stupid questions.’  

The mummy gives me a biscuit and tells me to go outside and leave her in peace. 

It’s raining and my biscuit is getting wet. The friends are getting wet too but they don’t mind because they have warm furry coats. I pick one up and cuddle her. All the friends have red and yellow stuff leaking out of their eyes. It looks like jam and custard but it doesn’t taste sweet. 

The mummy comes out and shouts: ‘Leave those bloody rabbits alone. They’re all filthy with myxomatosis.’

It’s wintertime.

There’s snow everywhere. 

We’ve come to live in a different place.  I used to think our other house was the only one but there are hundreds here and other children too. 

A big boy called Gareth lives next door. He’s a friend I think. I’m not sure how you tell. The friends in the other house didn’t talk or have bicycles but Gareth does. Yesterday he taught me a song:

I lost my arm in the army

I lost my leg in the navy

I lost my cock in the butcher’s shop

And found it in the gravy.

‘What’s a cock?’ I ask the mummy.

‘A male chicken,’ she says.

Here in Aberaeron nearly everything’s different. Eggs come from shops, not chickens. Water comes from taps, not wells.  In the other place the paraffin lamps made nice bright holes in the darkness. Here there are switches that only the grownups can reach. The switches click and the light comes on.  But it’s not nice light. It’s big and bossy. It pushes itself into all the corners and hurts my eyes. It smells funny too. It smells of nothing.  

One thing’s the same though. The mummy still cries when there’s no money.

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Winners Announced for the 2021 Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction

We are delighted to announce the results of our annual non-fiction competition.

This popular competition again received a good number of entries from both inside and outside Hay Writers’ Circle and we very much welcome external interest in all our writing competitions.

Our memorial prize, named in tribute to Richard Booth, the self-proclaimed “King of Hay”, who among many literary interests, was a keen supporter of the Hay Writers’ Circle. He sadly passed away in 2019, still in love with books, writers and his beautiful kingdom of Hay-on-Wye.

The judge this year was the wonderful Roland White, who not only wrote encouraging and thoughtful feedback for entrants, but also graciously waived his fee. We are extremely grateful for his expertise and generosity. Thank you Roland.

Without further delay, here are the results :

 First – Gill Haigh – A Year in Wales

Second – Michael Eisele – Fritz

Third – Kerry Hodges – The Curse of Helios

Roland also added a further commendation:

Highly commended – Barry Pilton – Mayday on Mayday

The Judges comments :


A fine, powerful piece of writing. A slightly unsettling cross between Laurie Lee and The Omen, what with its ghosts and buried razor blades, this is a vivid account of a year from the point of view of a young and apparently rather knowing little girl. The short, straightforward sentences not only enhance the drama but make the text more childlike.  

There were scenes that every parent will recognise, and humour in the very literal world of young children (“It’s a wireless”… “It’s not. I can see wires coming out of it”). 

The format did make me wonder whether this was really non-fiction, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt. 


In this vivid and confessional snapshot of life as a railway worker in the United States of the early 1960s, the author confronts elements of the past that we would probably prefer to forget. Should he have really regarded his German colleague Fritz, who made light of the Holocaust, with such admiration? Includes a good line about what the writer regards as the political complacency of the time: “White America was in the throes of a passionate love affair with itself”. Finishes dramatically with a vivid quotation from Shaw’s St Joan. 

The author considers issues that have been much debated in recent years, but in an original way. 


One of the skills of the writer is to take a rather ordinary subject, and turn it into something out of the ordinary.  This takes a certain amount of technical skill and a light touch that was very much on display here. 

Curse Of Helios is essentially about sun rash, but the writing style somehow lifts it into a personal struggle between one woman and her sworn enemy – sunshine.  

I particularly enjoyed the description of her small children as they “raced around like puppies with too many legs”


A gripping account of a cottage threatened by flooding, told in a wonderfully laconic style. Apart from any other consideration, who could resist a piece of writing which contains the phrase: “It was Morris dancing that saved us”? 

Makes you want to read to the end to find out what happened. Witty turns of phrase too: “The water was about an inch short of an insurance claim”

Thank you to everyone who entered our competition this year, congratulations to our winners and highly commended, with sincerest thanks to our esteemed Judge.

In other news…
Our 2020 fiction judge, Kandace Siobhan Walker has given a thought provoking interview to AZMagazine about her writing, creativity, inspiration, artistic practice and winning awards, plus being the recent recipient of AZ Mag’s Creative Fund. Check it out – CLICK HERE

And finally, August hails a break in the Hay Writer’s year. So enjoy a quenching drink while sitting somewhere cool over the next few weeks (I know I will), and join us again with pens ever poised in September!

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Hay Writers in Offa’s Dyke Path 50th Anniversary Celebrations

It’s been an exciting week of writing and now we slip seamlessly into July.

On the 10th of this month Offa’s Dyke Path will be celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and we are delighted to announce that 2 of the Hay Writers’ Circle have been involved with marking this historic 177 mile National Trail.

© Dan Llwelyn Hall 2021

An exhibition at Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton, “Walking With Offa”, comprising of new paintings by acclaimed Welsh artist, Dan Llwelyn Hall will be accompanied by a poetry publication of the same title. The book contains commissioned poems by 12 leading poets of Wales; Gillian Clarke, Owen Sheers, Twm Morris, Robert Minhinnick, Menna Elfyn, Oliver Lomax, Sian Dafydd, Laura Wainwright, Eric Ngalle Charles, Geriant Jon and Clare Potter.

Six individual poetry films have also been created for this exposition. The first released to the public being the dynamic poem, “Water-Break-it’s-Neck” by Hay Writers’ Circle’s very own, Emma van Woerkom. Filmed earlier in the year during Covid restrictions, Emma was unable to travel from England to Hay-on-Wye on the day of filming, but fortunately fellow HWC member, Katy Stones stepped in, reading to camera while striding up the slopes of Hay Bluff.

The film has been viewed over 1.2k times on Facebook already – Congratulations to everyone involved!

You can keep up to date with all the celebrations, exhibitions, competitions and other poetry films via the Offa’s Dyke Path facebook page – CLICK HERE

Finally, just a reminder that the closing date for the Richard Booth Prize For Non Fiction is Tuesday 6th July. Head over to our Competition Page for details. Prizes for First, Second and Third places. Good Luck!

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New Books! And A Non-Fiction Competition Reminder.

With our minds still fizzing from another wonderful Hay Festival it seems extremely timely to announce not one, but two exciting new publications from members of the Hay Writers.

Building on the success of her first book, The Doors of Riverdell, Marianne Rosen has announced that the next thrilling instalment, “The Halls of Riverdell” is now available!

No more waiting for those of us desperate to know what happens next in a series which has been described as, “a sexy modern family saga reminiscent of Mary Wesley’s The Chamomile Lawn”.

The Halls Of Riverdell Isabelle Threlfall is discovering that responsibility is only the start of her problems. Riverdell is in chaos, Asha and James need her help and Moth has slipped away in the midst. Sorting out the house and estate seem her only option but the empty rooms remind her that Moth is still missing.

Kit’s life has become a micro-managing extreme sport with Isabelle at the end of every list, but every tick closer takes him nearer to choices he’s not ready to face.

As Isabelle and Moth try to prove themselves capable, Beth is denying the painful reality of her married life in her letters home from India. But when the past catches up, will Moth and Isabelle run from reality or face up to it?

Walk the echoing halls of Riverdell as the family navigate the rapids of change.”

Both books are available in paperback or as an ebook via all good booksellers, or follow these links to the publisher, Oriel Books’, website to buy direct.

The Doors of Riverdell The Halls of Riverdell

Well done Marianne!

The second announcement comes via the publishers, Weatherglass Books. It’s the exciting news that Hay Writers’ Circle alumni and award winning writer, Jonathan Page will have his latest novel, Blue Woman, published by Weatherglass in Spring 2022.

Jonathan Page

Blue Woman is the fictional life of Rose Hartwood, an eminent 20th century artist. This beautiful novel charts the ebbs and flows of her personal and professional lives with great subtlety and sensitivity.

We follow Rose the artist, her rise from a bombed out house in wartime London to something close to fame in the late sixties. Then as her fame fades, she retreats to her rural hometown in Wales, where she continues to work and has an affair with a young artist twenty years her junior. Finally there is a third act, when others, her son, her lover, the trust founded in her name, gradually take on her legacy.

Blue Woman gradually reveals both artist and woman in their intertwined complexity: joy, struggle, determination, achievement, regret, the inheritances of love and the consolations of beauty.”

You can keep up to date with this book via the publisher’s website –

Congratulations Jonathan!

Don’t forget there’s still time to enter our 2021 Non-Fiction Competition!

Prizes for first, second and third places – our judge this year is the multi-talented Roland White.

All details on how to enter can be found on our Competitions page.

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The Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction – Judge Announced and Hay Festival is here!

The Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction is an annual competition name after one of Hay-on-Wye’s most notable residents, Richard Booth, ‘King of Hay’. Richard was always a great supporter of books, Hay-on-Wye and local writers.

Sadly, Richard passed away in 2019, but his name lives on everywhere in Hay, including this writing prize which he so graciously sponsored during his lifetime.

This year we are delighted to confirm that the judge for our Non-Fiction Competition is Roland White.

Roland White
© The Times and The Sunday Times

Roland White spent 25 years at the Sunday Times as variously a feature writer, columnist, reviewer, editor, and leader writer. He was briefly Jeremy Clarkson’s commissioning editor, and most recently the editor of the Atticus diary column. 

He has also been deputy editor of Punch, editor of Ski and Board magazine, royal correspondent of Germany’s Stern magazine for reasons he still doesn’t quite understand, and was Poet-in-Residence at Chat magazine before being replaced by a psychic dog. Which he didn’t see coming at all. 

Without further delay, here are the competition details :

Our Non-Fiction competition is sponsored by The Hay Writers’ Circle.

Prizes for first, second and third places.

This is an open competition meaning

The closing date for entries is Tuesday 6th July.

Results will be announced in late July.

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

Please use Arial Font 12, double spaced.

Your name must NOT appear on your entry. Please put your name, title and contact details on the booking form only.

Please put your title at the beginning of the entry. Please number your pages and secure them together if you are submitting a hard copy.

Each applicant may submit a maximum of two entries.

The results are final and correspondence will not be entered into over the results. All applicants shall be informed of the results.

The winning pieces shall be published on our website with the author’s permission. Publication may prevent eligibility for future competitions. All rights remain with the author.

If paying by BACS payment please make sure your payment is received, with your name on the reference, before the 6th July. Cheques will be accepted on the 6th July but must clear to validate the entry.

The entry form can be downloaded here –

In other exciting news, it’s HAY FESTIVAL time! A glorious 12 days of discussion, books and more awaits anyone willing to log into this extraordinary literary festival.

Of course, this year it is once again the digital version, but that doesn’t stop everyone immersing themselves in sparkling discussion and fascinating conversation.

CLICK HERE to browse the program and enjoy!

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Poems by our 2021 Prize Winners – Ojo Taiye, Stewart Roberts and Ange Grunsell

We are delighted to showcase some of the work by our 2021 Poetry Competition winners.

Ange Grunsell secured Third Prize with a poem inspired by time spent olive picking in Palestine with the Zaytoun, a Community Interest Company and social enterprise founded to support Palestinian farmers through fair trade.
She has been kind enough to share some of her photos of the experience for inclusion here.

Olive Harvest 2016

In January 2021 the Israeli Occupation Force uprooted over 3,400 trees from land belonging to Deir Ballout, a village on the West Bank.

Old trees like old poems, speak new meaning to every age 
collecting time and histories in our branches. 
Destroy us at your peril: we are your lifeblood.  

Under the dense curtains of the family olive tree, heavy with fruit, 
older than grandma’s grandmother,  
one of just four shaggy giants in the field 
the dusty black sheeting is spread. 
Young Mohamed is helping:  
it is his first harvest in his third year.   

As fast as we 
stroke the branches 
dropping handfuls of smooth pellets  
of fruit into the bucket, 
Mohamed upturns the bucket 
with a grin. 
The olives roll down, snuggling  
into the folds of the ground sheets.
gleaming shoals to be gathered later: 
nobody minds. 

The older children 
swinging on the other side of the tree, tug at the branches  
strip off the olives in pelting cascades 
pattering on the ground. 
Mothers gather up the fruit into sacks 
checking the while the dinner trays stay covered 
away from fly or nimble fingers. 

The bright new ladder with two sides  
raises two fathers together to new laughing heights, 
the long sharp pruning knife
lies on the ground below. 
Khadiga observant, swift, 
outflanks a tottering Mohamed.   

Old trees like old poems and new people 
collect new meaning as we grow 
cradle time and memory in our branches.

By Ange Grunsell

Second Prize was taken by Stewart Robert’s wonderful poem “A Bigger Splash“. When the winners were announced at the zoom meeting, Stewart remarked that this was the first poetry competition he’d ever entered. Congratulations Stewart – what a way to start!
The inspiration for his poem came about during the first UK lockdown in March 2020.


The pool attendant is resplendent in his black uniform,
trimmed with gold.

His post is voluntary though he and his family,
receive board and lodging in return.
The customers acknowledge his position.
The rules are not written down, but clearly understood.
Only one individual must bathe at a time.
All sizes, all ages, all genders are catered for.

No water fights, no jumping or diving.
Everyone waits their turn patiently
and leaves promptly.
Some are hesitant to enter the water at first;
probing the temperature before immersing themselves
The larger bathers often spend longer in the pool
and prefer the deep end.
They can make quite a splash.

Occasionally there is a new visitor,
who doesn’t know the procedure.
So the pool attendant lets them know
In no uncertain terms.
He tut-tuts loudly at those who leave debris in the pool
And shoos away those who stay too long.
All are welcome; large and small, young and old,
black and white, coloured or grey.

Some are a little shy,
Hiding their bodies or sneaking in
When no-one is looking.
The attendant only works daylight hours
But the pool is open 24/7.
At night there is a different clientele,
that come and go under the cover of darkness
But we won’t mention what they get up to.

The blackbird Pool Attendant works for handouts
and sings his praises from on high.
Thrush and robin busk alongside him.
Magpies and jackdaws flash their coloured notes.
The collared doves and pigeons coo their thanks
While blue tits and wagtails pay in kind.
Collecting greenflies and other insects.
A garden pond is a community asset.

By Stewart Roberts

Ojo Taiya won First Prize with his evocative poetry sequence “Conspiracy of Silence / Moira Camp: The New Colossus / Let Me Tell You a Different Story / Listen“. With this success, Ojo has entered his poems into another competition, so they cannot be printed here, but to satisfy our craving for his words here are some links to his published work online as well as details of his books.



Congratulations to all our winners and everyone who entered our 2021 Poetry Competition.

Look out for details of our up and coming Non Fiction Competition to be announced shortly.

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Enter your email address in the box below.

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Nigerian Poet, Ojo Taiye, Wins 2021 Hay Writers Circle Poetry Competition.

We are delighted to announce the winners of our 2021 Annual Poetry Competition as judged by the wonderful Melanie Prince (ably assisted by Chris Prince), of The Poetry Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye.

Chris and Melanie Prince, The Poetry Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye.

This year we had a deluge of entries and we must thank our diligent judge for all the time spent reading these poems, writing the report and finally, selecting our winners.
Thank you Melanie and Chris.

Without further delay, here are the results.

1st Prize – Conspiracy of Silence / Moira Camp: The New Colossus / Let Me Tell You a
Different Story / Listen (sequence poems) by Ojo Taiye

2nd Prize – A bigger Splash by Stewart Roberts

3rd Prize – Olive Harvest by Ange Grunsell


Ojo Taiye photo c/o

Along with the accolade of coming first, Ojo Taiye receives the £100.00 prize for his winning poem, which this year has been kindly sponsored by Emma van Woerkom.

Emma writes, “There’s been a fantastic response to the Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition this year. Once again, Hay-on-Wye has crossed international boundaries, bringing together a diverse array of exciting new voices. It’s always my absolute pleasure to promote poetry. Many congratulations to Ojo and all our Poets, whose words are worth their weight in gold.”

Judge’s comments:

“How wonderful there were so many entries; so many different ways of looking through
language at the world. Although this obviously made our choice so much more

If we haven’t picked your poem, please remember we are booksellers & readers
only, & not professional critics. We have chosen as we have, not because we believe
there is a right or wrong, but, simply in the subjective terms of personal taste.

3) Olive Harvest 2016
We enjoyed this powerful present tense narrative poem but felt it is, for us, ironically
weakened by the anthropomorphic opening & closing sections. Basil Bunting famously
advised “Never explain – your reader is as smart as you”. Certainly if you read it
without them, the title strapline hangs like a black cloud over the poem’s idyll.

2) A Bigger Splash
With an excellent title & rug-pull denouement, this light, witty poem sustains its humour
& allegorical tone as well as an economic descriptive clarity throughout. Although in
the end we decided otherwise, & I hope the poet will forgive us for this; we were both
agreed it would have been a worthy winner.

1) Conspiracy of Silence / Moira Camp: The New Colossus / Let Me Tell You a
Different Story / Listen

Insisting upon our attention, struggling to make some fractured sense of exile & loss;
with their unexpected word choices & nascent scrum of images that clash or seem to
loom as if disembodied from the text, these concerned, questing poems, display a
potent combination of material & linguistic qualities.
Half-meanings, dislocation even posturing are part of the substance of such ambitious
& striving poetry. Readers must opt whether to engage with it &, make their own sense
of much, if they do.
Active reading of this kind can frustrate & reward in equal measure so will not be for
everybody. However, perhaps being caught up in the mesh of words that is a poem
actually is, for some, the whole idea & happens because what we want most is to be

Maybe, this strange, stalled life we have been enduring at one remove from a hollow
world without significance for any of us beyond our enforced absence from it, is
almost inevitably, more responsible for our choices than anything else? Be that as it may, in addition to their wordplay, we hope you find all three poets’ work
of real interest.

If you will forgive the plug! Reading as widely as possible is by far the most important
writing skill; allowing you to discover common ground with potential readers &, with it,
the possibility of creating resonant work.

Finally, we’d like to congratulate not only its winners, but all of you who entered.
Best of luck with your writing,

Melanie & Chris.

Some of the winning poems will be published in the coming weeks, but for now let’s all revel in the results!

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