Author Archives: Debbie Young

About Debbie Young

English author of warm, witty novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, set in the Cotswolds. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and for the children's reading charity, Read for Good. Public speaker for the Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF.

painting of White Cliffs of Dover with VE Day dates and Hawkesbury Upton

Happy VE75 Day – from HULF’s Authors of WWII-inspired Books

Before Covid-19 scuppered Hawkesbury Upton’s plans for a special commemorative  event of VE75 Day in and around the village hall, we had booked a stall to stage a mini-festival of books inspired by World War II. 

Six HULF authors were looking forward to sharing their books and their experience with visitors. Although they now can’t be here in person, we’d still like to share their books with you, which would all make great reading as we mark this special day.

Young RAvens by Celia Boyd

Celia Boyd’s children’s story will also be enjoyed by adults

Celia Boyd‘s Young Ravens  tells the story of a young girl and her little brother during the Second World War, When her parents divorce, Sheila and her brother are sent by her solder father (who has custody of the children) to live with her grandparents in Sheffield, Sheila must adapt fast and learn to accept and thrive in her new circumstances.

Click here to order a copy.

Uncle Walters Secret by Will Fenn

“A thrilling tale of intrigue, history, passion and covert operational planning based on real events around World War 2” – reviewer on Amazon

Hawkesbury author Wiliam Fairney, best known for his books about engineering and engineers, as diverted from the usual engineering theme of his books to pen a history book called Uncle Walter’s Secret (published under the pen-name Will Fenn), an exciting tale of intrigue, espionage, torture, loyalty, betrayal and retribution based on true events.

Click here to order the ebook or paperback.

cover of Collateral Damage by Edward James

A personal memoir in prose and verse

Edward James, who has previously brought his historical novels set in Tudor times to HULF (read his guest post for the HULF blog here.), was planning to bring Collateral Damage, his personal memoir of growing up during the Second World War. It is a short collection of five short prose pieces and two poems, which, Edward says, “are not about the horrors of war but about growing up in a world which seemed normal at the time and was quite mad by today’s standards”.

A limited private print run means that copies are only available directly from the author, so if you would like to buy a copy, please contact HULF and we will pass your order on to Edward.

image of covers of Rosalind Minett's trilogy

Like Edward’s memoir, Rosalind Minett‘s war-time trilogy, series title A Relative Invasion, is more about the characters than the events. Her compelling and powerful story of conflict and competition between two very different cousins is a psychological drama that just happens to be set during the war. However it brings vividly to life the experience of living in London suburbia and then being evacuated to the countryside during the war years. The three books in order are: Impact, Infiltration and Intrusion.

Click here to order paperbacks or ebooks.

Through the Eyes of a Teenage Girl

Bombweed cover

The Second World War through the eyes of a teenage girl

The story behind Bombweed is an interesting one. It was originally written in 1957 by Margaret Smith, the mother of Gillian Fernandez Morton and Maureen Armstrong, drawing on her own experience of being a teenager during the Second World War. However in the aftermath of war, when the nation’s focus was on building a bright new future, publishers declared they were not interested in books harking back to those dark days. In 2018, Margaret’s daughters decided it was time to share it with the public, and edited it for publication for a 21st century audience. It offers fascinating insights into the effect of the war on teenagers and on women in general.

Click here to buy it as a paperback or ebook.

In the Shadow of Hitler

Although Richard Vaughan-Davies‘s thriller In the Shadow of Hitler is mostly a story set in the immediate aftermath of the war, focusing on the affair of a British lawyer working in Germany with a local woman, but it tells a much wider story through flashbacks to the war, and also earlier, addressing the impact on one man, Adam, of the rise and fall of Hitler,  even into Adam’s old age. This compelling and thoughtful novel also provides one interpretation of the rumour that Hitler fathered a child by Unity Mitford, bringing the Cotswolds also into the story. A fascinating, evocative and intelligent read.

Order your copy in paperback or ebook here.

painting of White Cliffs of Dover with VE Day dates and Hawkesbury Upton

Whatever you are doing on this special day, HULF sends you its very best wishes. 

photo of Michael and Debbie at closing ceremony

The Now Traditional End to our Festival

In what has now become an annual tradition, each year as we all gather for the closing ceremony of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, Michael MacMahon rounds off the event with his inimitable rendition of Prospero’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

This year of course we cannot meet in person, so Michael, who is a voice artist and actor as well as an author and much more, very kindly recorded it and sent it to me to share with you,

Over to Michael…

photo of Michael and Debbie at closing ceremony

Michael MacMahon closing HULF 2019, with Debbie Young

 

 

photo of Debbie Young with the two boxes and a HULF banner

2020 HULF is a Festival in a Box!

Photo of book boxes

HULF in a Box – now in full swing on Debbie Young’s front wall at Post Cottage, France Lane, Hawkesbury Upton

HULF Founder & Director Debbie Young writes:

Although we had no choice but to cancel the 2020 Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival its usual format due to coronavirus lockdown, we’ve come up with an alternative to at least mark the day and share great books by our Festival authors with anyone passing by as they take their permitted daily exercise.

Welcome to HULF in a Box!

What exactly is a Festival in a Box?

To mark our official Festival Day, I’ve filled both the Lttle Free Library boxes on my front wall exclusively with books by HULF authors.

Photo of interior of adult book box

Something for all tastes in the Festival Box for adults

photo of interior of childrens box

The Festival box for young readers includes books for all ages – plus the anthology for adults from our first ever HULF

What’s in the boxes?

In our Festival in a Box you’ll find something to suit all tastes.

For adults there are contemporary, historical and speculative fiction, poetry, and self-help, including books by AA Abbott, Ali Bacon, Lucienne Boyce, William Fairney, Clare Flynn, Mari Howard, David Penny, Michael Macmahon, Alison Morton, Stephen Oram, Alice Rosewell, T E Shepherd, Joyce Williams and Shirley Wright – and me, Debbie Young.

For young readers, there are picture books by Hawkesbury artist Caroline Mockford,  and chapter books for children by Hawkesbury author Betty Salthouse, and some gripping reads for young adults, including exciting novels by HULF Young Readers’ Director Kate Frost, HULF regular Trevor Stubbs, with his amazing FLIP! series, and two novels by teenage Gloucestershire novelist Alexandra Killworth.

I’ve also added  the few remaining copies of the anthology from the first HULF in 2015, which includes a sample from books by every author who took part.

Special thanks to those Festival authors who have kindly sent copies of their books specifically for this use. 

As books are borrowed, I’ll be filling the gaps with my personal copies of other Festival authors’ books.

I now declare the first ever HULF in a Box – and the sixth Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival – officially open!

Photo of Debbie Young with book boxes and banner

I even dressed the part to launch HULF in a Box, donning my book-themed earrings (a gift from Heidi Perry, who has helped so much with HULF each year), my book-print skirt, and my trusty HULF Author badge!

Now Help Yourselves!

As always with the LIttle Free Library, anyone may borrow them and to return them when they’ve finished – but I always say that if someone loves a book so much that they want to keep it, or to pass it on to a friend , they’re welcome to do that.

HULF usually lasts just one (very action-packed!) day – but HULF in a Box will remain open for as as long as I have enough Festival authors’ books available to fill it.

Who said we couldn’t have a sixth HULF this year? I think my HULF in a Box still counts!

Here’s to the 7th Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival on 24th April 2021 – and let’s hope we have the same glorious weather that we’re enjoying for the sixth!

Note: As with any item you collect from people’s front walls at the moment – and there’s a lot of it going on in Hawkesbury! – you’re advised to take sensible precautions, including wiping down the book cover when you get it home and washing your hands thoroughly. You may also choose to leave the book to one side for a day or two before you start reading it. All the books  in the HULF in a Box are new or in as-new condition. 

Background Information about the Little Free Library

For years I’ve hosted on my front garden wall a Little Free Library, inspired by the movement in the US to share books and encourage reading for pleasure in the local community. My father made the first box for me, and before long I was getting so many books donated that I had to ask my husband Gordon to make a second one. Now we have one box for young readers, (clear-fronted) and one for adults (with an opaque front). Earlier this year, Gordon gave both boxes a spring makeover – just in time for our HULF in a box!

Like to launch a Little Free Library of your own to share your love of reading during lockdown? Visit www.littlefreelibrary.org for inspiration!

 

HULF 2020 Cancelled Due to Coronavirus

Debbie Young, Founder & Director of HULF, writes:

In happier times: Debbie at a previous festival with poets Dan Holloway and Shirley Wright (photo: Joanna Penn)

I am so sorry to announce that after taking extensive advice from medical and public health professionals I have made the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s HULF.

I know this will be very disappointing to our authors and audience alike, but I believe that it would be a reckless and irresponsible risk to hold a large public gathering, including authors and audience from all over the UK, with some flying in from overseas, just at the time when the virus is currently estimated to reach its peak in the UK.

I also believe that there is a strong chance that public meetings will have been banned by the government by then.

I was also anxious to avoid contaminating the village’s hubs of social contact: the village hall, the church, the chapels and the village school, which is right next door to our care home for the elderly, by definition a high risk group.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this has been a very difficult decision which I’ve taken much time to consider, but I feel strongly that it is my only option.

Here’s to HULF 2021!

save the date logo for HULF 2021My plan is to resurrect HULF in 2021 (Saturday 24th April – save the date!), and to use the programme that we had lined up for 2020, so that those who had already committed to this year’s event will have first refusal next year.

So far I have had nothing but messages of support and commiseration, for which I thank you all.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to keep the momentum going with some guest posts on this blog from our Festival speakers, so watch this space – and let’s start looking forward to HULF 2021!

Debbie

Ali Bacon Reminisces about the First HULF

Ali Bacon with two authors

Ali Bacon, calmly controlling the packed programme of readings atht every first HULF in 2015 . To her far left is John Holland, organiser of Stroud Short Stories and also of HULF’s short stories programme.

As we gear up for HULF 2020 this April, Ali Bacon, prize-winning Scottish author of novels and short-stories and a regular fixture in the HULF speakers’ list, shares her delight in watching the event develop since its inception back in 2015.

Times past and times to come, or, Ask not what HULF can do for you…!

I’m one of those lucky people who through a variety of circumstances (bumping into Debbie Young at the right time and not having much in my diary!) became involved in HULF at the very beginning.

What an impact that first evening made and what a joy it has been to see it grow and develop from year to year.

Remembering the First Ever HULF

On that very first day I remember sitting outside the back door of the pub issuing directions.

It’s great to think how many of the acquaintances I made on that day have been have been renewed from year to year and how some have become real friends in the real or virtual world.

What was my role that night?

I remember moving a few seats (which Debbie moved back because she knows best!) and being part of a reading in a tent. The most challenging part was helping chair a short story session where there was very stiff competition from the non-literary revellers in the bar!

From One Night in the Pub to a Whole-Day Event

From there we quickly progressed to a whole day event, with panel discussions as well as readings, still based in the pub, but with a slightly calmer ambience during daylight hours!

A children’s book tent was added and the ‘young people’ strand has grown alongside poetry workshops and advice on publishing.

Subsequently HULF expanded into extra spaces – Methodist Chapel, Bethesda Chapel, the primary school and the village hall.  Last year we had a ‘proper’ book shop as well as the luxury of the village hall for auditorium-style presentations.

Wow. And all of this is free!

Yes, it’s free in terms of ticketing, but it’s not exactly something for nothing. There is simply no charge for the vast amount of work undertaken by Debbie. And of course we writers (some of whom come considerable distances) understand our services are provided on the same basis –we bring something to the show in exchange for the chance to meet people, network and sell a few books.

Since 2018 this has also been put on a more formal footing (and quite right too). It’s not enough to wait for an email from Debbie, we must apply to be there and ‘set out our stall’.

What can I bring? It’s a very good question – I’ve read short stories and from novels, I’ve discussed being a writer with many different hats – contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and as a writer inspired by art. So ‘what next’ for HULF is also what next for me…

We’re pleased to announce that Ali Bacon will be taking part in the HULF2020 event “Around the World in 8ish Books”, chaired by Caroline Sanderson at 4pm, in which she’ll be putting Scotland on the map with a reading from her masterful novel, In the Blink of an Eye, about early photography pioneers in Edinburgh.

image of Ali Bacon headshot with the cover of In the Blink of an EyeAli Bacon writes novels and short stories and is lucky enough to live in South Gloucestershire just down the road from Hawkesbury Upton. She has been at every festival so far and manned the Festival tent at Hawkesbury Show a few times too. Find out more at alibacon.com or on Twitter @AliBacon

Literary Scarecrow Trail in Festival Village

picture of scarecrow trail flyer - front side

Thanks to the organisers for kindly adding a “save the date” note about HULF 2020!

Thanks to Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail, you don’t need to wait until the next Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival 2020  for a bit of bookish fun in the village!

When to Walk the Trail

Just come along any time between now and Sunday 3rd November to enjoy a lovely walk spotting 31 scarecrow displays throughout the village, all with “Literature” as their inspiration.

Tea and Cake!

On the final day of the trail, there’ll also be tea and cake in the Village Hall from 10.30am-12noon. (Not much happens in Hawkesbury Upton that doesn’t include tea and cake!)

A Wet and Windy Start

After the trail was officially launched yesterday at the community library in the Village Hall, the scarecrows faced a wet and windy night, but have survived more or less intact. Although Gangsta Granny‘s wig blew away, she has now been reunited with it!

photo of Alice in Wonderland scarecrow

No surprises about HULF Director Debbie Young’s contribution to the trail – a larger-than-life Alice in Wonderland!

The Trail Map

And here’s the flip side of the flyer, showing you the trail to follow. You can pick up a less crumpled version when you visit – or just stroll round the village and let the scarecrows take you by surprise!

map of trail

The map of the trail appears on the flipside of the flyer

For More Information

For more information – and a growing collection of photos – check out the Trail’s Facebook Event page here.

With thanks to Hawkesbury Preschool for organising the event and for promoting HULF 2020 on the map),  to Louise Roberts for founding the tradition a few years ago, and to all the villagers who have worked so hard to put on a good show – just what we need to brighten up the dark autumn days! 

HULF’s Children’s Events Director Founds Storytale – a New Festival for Young Readers in Bristol

We’re thrilled to share the news of a new litfest being launched this autumn in Bristol by Kate Frost, Director of HULF’s Children’s & Teen Events. Here’s Kate to tell you all about it…

banner ad for Storytale Festival

When Debbie Young appointed me the Director of Children’s and Teen Events for the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival at the start of 2019, little did I know that by the end of the year I’d also be the Co-founder of the Storytale Festival, a new city-wide children’s book festival for Bristol.

As well as writing fiction for adults, I have a time travel adventure trilogy for 9-12 year olds published called Time Shifters.

arragy of book covers

Kate Frost writes for both adults and young adults

I’m passionate about giving children the opportunity to read, write and be creative, and being involved in the Storytale Festival, I hope, is the perfect way to achieve that.

Off to a Flying Start

I had intended to do one creative writing workshop for children as part of the 2019 Bristol Festival of Literature, but when they put me in touch with Ellie Freeman, a Bristol community activist, mum and passionate book lover who’d been thinking about starting a book festival for children, things began to go in a different direction.

We had talked about starting small, with twelve events over the October half-term week, but the festival took on a life of its own with authors and illustrators coming to us and asking to be a part of the inaugural festival. In the end we had turn people down with the suggestion they contact us about next year’s festival – and that’s before we even knew if the first festival would be a success! (Ask me on the 4th November!)

Vital Statistics

Storytale Festival will run from Saturday 26th October to Sunday 3rd November 2019 in venues throughout Bristol. Rather than having twelve events scheduled, we now have more than 40, including prequel events running up to the main festival.

Generous Support

We have no funding, our Arts Council England application was turned down, and so we’ve relied on the huge amount of generous support from people, venues and companies to make the festival a reality.

Events List

Storytale’s flagship event, Wild Writing with Anna Wilson, Chris Vick and Mimi Thebo will open the main festival on Saturday 26th October with a wildly fun session featuring huge cardboard animals!

More wild and wonderful creatures can be discovered during BBC producer Justin Anderson’s Secrets of Snow Leopards event at Stanfords, while children will love being immersed in stories and creating their own characters with illustrators Paula Bowles and Nicola Colton during their events, Superkitty at the Elephant House, and Smart Kitties and Mucky Pups at Storysmith.

Festival highlights will include a Writing for Children panel at The Watershed, co-hosted by the Bristol Festival of Literature, along with a spookily good alternative to trick or treating on Halloween, a battle between Thriller vs. Horror at Foyles with YA authors Tracy Darnton and Gabriel Dylan.

Children can get creative and write their own stories in three very different creative writing workshops based on climate change, fantastic ideas, and time travel, led by authors Damaris Young, Emma Read, and of course myself!

Arnos Vale will be the wonderfully atmospheric woodland setting for storytelling for youngsters in the events, Winter Sleep and “Uh-Oh” Said Flo.

Immersing children in the joy of storytelling will continue with popular YouTuber Jenny the Story Lady at The Southville Centre, and with Pridie Tiernan from The Wild of the Words at Windmill Hill City Farm.

We have storytellers, illustrators and authors giving their time for free to engage with and inspire children of all ages, and we hope that October half-term in Bristol will be filled with exciting, affordable (lots are free) and memorable events that will capture children’s and adult’s imagination.

And once it’s over, we’ll turn our attention to next year and how we can build on the huge learning curve we’ve had this year, starting a city-wide festival from scratch. Oh, and I’d better start thinking about HULF 2020 as well!

For full details of Storytale Festival 2019, visit its website: www.storytalefestival.com.

You can also follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @StorytaleFest.

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