So Fed Up to Miss HULF 2020!

headshot of David Ebsworth

Historical novelist David Ebsworth was a popular speaker at HULF 2019

Historical novelist David Ebsworth writes…

You know the problem with “local” festivals like HULF? We’re all so busy trying to avoid clashing with the big commercial events, bank holidays and other stuff that we end up clashing with each other. And that’s a real shame since it tends to be events like HULF that do the most to promote reading, writing and great storytelling, or to support much-needed library services, across communities that perhaps can’t always access the bigger shows like Hay or the Oxford LitFest.

All the Way from Wrexham

As it happened, things worked out fine for me this year since, though I’m involved in organising our week-long Wrexham Carnival of Words up in North Wales, I had a relatively free day on Saturday 27th April and our old friend Debbie Young had invited me to do a session in the Village Hall about the background to my two Spanish Civil War novels, The Assassin’s Mark and Until The Curtain Falls.

David Ebsworth’s novels set around the Spanish Civil War provide fascinating insights into the era

It’s a fair trip from Wrexham to Hawkesbury Upton – and not made any easier by the tree fallen across the road on the last leg before we reached the village – but it was well worth the journey. Great presentations, among many others, from Dr Gerri Kimber about Katherine Mansfield, and from Brad Borkan on the inspiration of Antarctic exploration. Yet equally worthwhile for the chance to catch up and chat with other friends, colleagues and fellow-writers like David Penny, Bobbie Coelho and the inimitable Lucienne Boyce.

And, anyway, Debbie was due to return the favour by appearing on the following Thursday at Wrexham Library to talk about the joys of writing “cosy mysteries” and the role of humour in crime-writing, through her Sophie Sayers village mysteries. Superb!

Debbie Young returned the favour by speaking Wrexham Carnival of Words the following week

Diary Dilemma

So it was an honour to receive the invitation for a return appearance at HULF on 25th April 2020 but, sadly, that’s the same date on which I’m running a non-fiction History Day at home in Wrexham. I’ll be really fed up not to be in Hawkesbury Upton but I know that HULF will be even bigger and better than in each of its successful years so far.

Good luck, therefore, to Debbie and her team of volunteers and long may the local litfests flourish!

David Ebsworth’s latest novel is now available to order in print and ebook from all good stockists

For more information about David, his books and his busy schedule of events, please visit his website: www.davidebsworth.com.

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HULF Author Barry Faulkner in “The Times” Diary

Barry Faulkner’s cutting from The Times newspaper, Tuesday 6th August 2019

HULF author Barry Faulkner made the national press earlier this month – and he didn’t even know about it until another Festival regular, David Penny, pointed it out to him.

The reason? It was an anonymous entry in The Times’ diary section, sharing one of the many anecdotes that feature in Barry’s talks. Barry is a popular guest speaker for WIs and other social groups, and he presumes that, unknown to him, one of the diary’s columnists or informants must have been in the audience at one of his talks.

Barry’s popular DCIS Palmer police procedurals are inspired by his own background – not as a policeman, but as a member of a London family actively involved in petty crime. To make it easier to read than the photo, here’s a transcript of the topical anecdote shared in The Times:

LAG TAKES A DIG AT POLICE

As the ground grows ever harder, a gardening tip comes from the criminal underworld. The writer Barry Faulkner’s family were petty criminals and, after a local theft, his father knew CID were watching. For five nights he took a shoebox to his ill-kept allotment, stayed for half and hour, then departed. On the sixth night the fuzz swoopd in, dug the place up and found nothing. On the seventh day Faulkner’s father went back, finally able to plant his potatoes.

Barry, pictured on the far left below speaking on a panel at this year’s CrimeFest, the leading international crimewriting convention, will be sharing more insights and anecdotes like this at HULF 2020, when he will be giving a talk about celebrated London criminals and his family’s own involvement.

 

In case you’re wondering, Barry’s own past is blameless. Instead of following in the family tradition, he went into advertising, before breaking into writing and editing comedy scripts for major television series. No wonder his novels are so entertaining!

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about the “Diamond Geezers” featured in Barry’s talks, visit his blog here: www.geezers2016.wordpress.com/.

And if you’d like to read his novels, you’ll find them on Amazon, available in paperback and ebook. All of his books are also available via Kindle Unlimited, so if you’re a subscriber, you can download all his books as part of your monthly subscription plan.

 

A Festival for Poetry – and So Much More

photo of Shirley Wright speaking at the opening ceremony with Debbie Young

Shirley Wright praises the village school’s Poetry Anthology at the opening ceremony (Photo by Angela Fitch)

Award-winning Shirley Wright, who has been part of every HULF to date, added another win to her name when she made a welcome return this year. Inspired by her enthusiasm and support, and her skill for making poetry accessible to everyone, we have expanded the poetry element since the Festival’s inception, and this will continue next year. Now read on to share her experience of HULF 2019, including our first ever Poetry Slam.


April 2019 saw me heading back to Hawkesbury Upton to take part in my fifth HULF. I’ve been so privileged to be involved since the very beginning, watching as it’s grown and flourished under the indefatigable leadership of Debbie Young.

Launch of School Poetry Anthology

One of this year’s innovations was the village school’s Poetry Anthology, containing a poem from every single child at the school. I was lucky enough to be asked by Debbie to write a Foreword to the book and to say a few words at the launch, first thing on Saturday morning. So … note to self, don’t be late. So … I arrive ridiculously early! But this gave me the chance for a proper annual catch up with people I only see at HULF, to down a coffee or two, sort out what to do with my own books, get a programme for the day and get my head sorted before the proceedings began!

photo of small boy proudly reading his poem

A young pupil at Hawkesbury Primary School proudly reads his poem to the Festival crowd (photo by Angela Fitch)

After a quick few words from me on why I was deeply impressed with the poetry collection, it was lovely to hear some of the children read their poems out loud to the gathered crowd. You could spot the mums and dads from the width of the grins on their faces! What an inspirational, inclusive project, proving that everyone can write poetry and that it’s an uplifting thing.

Then to the events of the day. Inspired by the above, I started by going to the children’s writing session and listening to authors talk about and read extracts from their fiction for children. Then more coffee and cake. There’s always plenty of good food and home cooking at HULF – something not to be taken lightly!

Poetry Workshop

My poetry workshop later in the morning was full of eager writers. We started by chatting  about climate change and how this urgent topic could best be conveyed through poetry. Then everyone settled down to writing acrostics on the theme. As always, some fabulous poems emerged from the session and everyone had something to take away with them to think about or to work on at home.

Poetry Slam

After lunch (good soup!) I took part in another HULF innovation for 2019 – the first ever Poetry Slam. We had a good, appreciative audience, and lots of participants. As Slams ought to be, it was fun, competitive and well organised. (Read judge Barry Faulkner’s entertaining take on the Poetry Slam in his post here – an experience that has now got him hooked on reading poetry!)

Beyond Poetry

But HULF is about more than poetry. There’s all the things I haven’t mentioned – art exhibitions, talks, readings and discussion groups in venues all around the village on topics such as non-fiction, historical fiction, favourite authors …

And the focus every time is on the festival-goers rather than the invited guests, about inclusiveness and genuine interest from everybody.

Can’t wait for next year!


Shirley Wright’s Books

cover of Sticks and Stones by Shirley Wright

Shirley Wright’s latest poetry collection

Shirley Wright has published two poetry collections and a novel:

  • The Last Green Field and Sticks and Stones – poetry collections published by Indigo Dreams
  • Time Out of Mind – a ghost story published by Thornberry

You can buy them all from Amazon here.

 

Mari Howard Shares Fond Memories of the First Ever HULF

This week’s guest blogger is novelist and poet Mari Howard, author of the excellent Mullins Family Saga series, Mari took part in the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival and has  been a staunch supporter ever since.

 

My piece for the ongoing HULF Festival blog is vintage Hawkesbury LitFest – Shakespeare’s birthday (when else?) 2015.

We arrived in Hawkesbury mid afternoon, left our luggage at The Fox Inn, and went to find HULF founder Debbie Young. Soon we were in her garden, behind her delightful cottage (which must have inspired her Sophie Sayers cosy mystery series!), drinking tea, along with fellow festival Indie writer John Lynch. The sun shone and it was very cosy (for outdoors in late spring) and not too mysterious.

An Evening Event

Mari Howard shares her work with the enthusiastic audience.
Picture by Clint Randall http://www.pixelprphotography.co.uk

The evening (HULF 2015 was just an evening event) then began in the marquee, set up in the garden of The Fox. Various of us writers read from our work, to an audience of other writers, members of the Hawkesbury writers’ group, and other local residents. I think this was my first “Reading from my work” in front of an entirely unknown audience, and I wasn’t nervous – the whole thing was fun. Trying to remember who was there, I think I recall Ali Bacon, and I definitely recall Ellie Stevenson, (who was also staying over at The Fox), and of course John Lynch who we’d met earlier. Also Caroline Sanderson from BBC Radio Gloucester, and Lynn Pardoe whom I sat next to.

As the evening cooled and twilight took over, the event moved into a long room at the rear of The Fox itself, used for receptions. A larger audience had gathered by this time, I’d have been able to view some of our books in the small ante-room area, and also some delightful drawings of dragons and other fantasy characters by Sophie Tallis.

Special Guests Katie Fforde & Orna Ross

We had an encouraging address from Katie Fforde (President of the Romantic Novelists Association ). And since we were all independent authors, we also heard from Orna Ross, founder of ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors*). Orna read some of her poetry and talked about the background to ALLi. Our revels ended, the evening was brought to a close by Michael  MacMahon performing Prospero’s closing speech from The Tempest, which has now become a tradition. (*affiliate link)

(From left to right) Orna Ross, Debbie Young and Katie Fforde (Photo by Clint Randall http://www.pixelprphotography.co.uk

Making History

Next morning, a few of us who had stayed over, including Ellie Stevenson, joined Orna and her husband and Debbie for coffee and a chat at the Bodkin, just down the road from Hawkesbury. This was the defining moment, in a way – the festival hade been a great success, and it was definitely in the calendar to happen again.

A prophetic journey home from the Festival for Mari Howard

The rest, as they say, is history. But looking back, I feel enormous affection for that small, cosy, HULF. Symbolically, as we drove home, we found ourselves following a library van – next year, 2016, the larger all-day HULF, with cafe, children’s books section, visual art, and poetry all added, was opened from the local mobile library.

 

photo of South Gloucestershire mobile library van

Literally the launch vehicle for HULF 2016!

Debbie Young kicks off HULF 2016 from the steps of the mobile library, with Clare Carter from BBC Radio Gloucestershire

 

Outreach to Wotton Arts Festival

book book pages bookcase browse

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We’re delighted to have entered a new relationship with Wotton Arts Festival, which takes place each April at our nearest market town of Wotton-under-Edge.

Next year, Wotton Arts Festival will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, and its committee has invited Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival to be a part of it by providing an outreach literary event.

After an initial meeting, it’s been agreed that we will actually provide two events as part of its 2020 programme:

  • a historical novelists’ debate on the theme “My era’s better than yours” – a lively panel of authors each championing the era in which their books are set
  • a children’s Meet the Author event enabling young people to talk to authors writing for their age group

Each of these events will be managed by HULF Director Debbie Young, with historical novelist Lucienne Boyce chairing the debate and children’s author Kate Frost (who also writes for adults) directing the children’s activities. More details, including the names of other participating authors, will be announced nearer the time. Both events will take place on Saturday 2nd May, exactly a week after HULF 2020.

For more information about Wotton Arts Festival, a week-long programme of events that takes place late April/early May and its impressive forty-nine year history, visit its website: www.wottonartsfestival.org.uk.

Hugh Arthur Makes the Most of his First HULF

photo of Hugh Arthur holding his book by the Festival signIn the build up to the wonderful Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival 2019 I faced several challenges:

  • Firstly, which excerpt was I going to read from my book No More Water and how to fit it into exactly three minutes?
  • Secondly, how was I going to avoid implicating people who I had been involved with in a past life as fraudsters?
  • Thirdly, how was I going to see all the other events that the programme had advertised?

Fortunately, our chair, AA Abbott, made the preparation for the panel session ‘Novels Inspired by the Day Job’ a lot less daunting than I had anticipated by expertly briefing Wendy H Jones, Susan Grossey and myself, including checking whether we worked for the police or were criminals.  How closely did events described in our stories relate to what actually happened in a previous manifestation? Given my book features fraud, deception and big money wielding power I was careful to steer clear of the dark and secret past when discussing day job experiences.  I was very grateful that we had active audience participation during the event, which helped break the ice so well, and there were also plenty of questions afterwards.

The audience was keen to ply the panelists with questions (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

Later in the afternoon, again in the Bethesda Chapel, I read an extract from my book alongside eight other authors under the caption ‘Around the World in 8ish Books’. Listening to the others read was great as there was so much diversity and depth in performance and subject matter. It was uplifting and fitting that the final reading was by Debbie Young herself!

I was so lucky to be appearing in not one but two events and, after lunch at The Fox Inn, it was clear that I was not going to be able to attend the panels and talks and see all the authors I wanted to in the day.

I did, however, manage to catch an informative session ‘Beware of the Ghost (writer) and Other Publishing Trade Secrets’ featuring Rachel Amphlett, Edward Weiner and Katharine E Smith.

Rachel’s title of ‘authorpreneur’ demanded attention and she exuded ideas and creative energy; she also possessed a mine of tips for fledgling writers. Rachel told us how she combined a full-time day job with creative writing, publishing and marketing. On her daily forty minute commute to Brisbane, Rachel was able to find an end-of-carriage seat (the advantage of the train starting at her stop), set up for her writing and ensure nothing preventing her from hitting her daily word target before breakfast time; in the evenings she attended to publicity, promotions and correspondence.

Rachel left us in no doubt that producing only two books a year was slacking. She advised that we should have been working on the third book by the time we were ready to publish the first one; this sent me away from Hawkesbury Upton at least planning the second one but realising I’m about two books behind where I should be. Time to put the skates on.

About Hugh Arthur

Hugh Arthur has worked and lived in Paris, Istanbul, Madrid, Edinburgh, London and now lives in Cheltenham. He has travelled extensively in the Middle East. ‘No More Water’ is his first published book and draws particularly from his experiences living in Istanbul and Madrid. More crime novels with an international flavour will follow. For more information about Hugh Arthur and his books, visit his website: http://www.hexfordhouse.co.uk

Why Short Fiction Writer John Holland Wouldn’t Miss HULF

Award-winning short fiction author John Holland shares his enthusiasm for HULF

There’s nowhere I’d rather be in late April than at HULF,  Debbie Young’s completely free one day literature festival in the South Gloucestershire village of Hawkesbury Upton, writes John Holland, multiple award-winning author of short fiction himself.

It has been my honour and delight to chair the short story session at the festival since 2016. These days Debbie and I together draw up the list of authors to be invited to read at the short story session.  As organiser of Stroud Short Stories, the twice-yearly live lit event for Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire writers, I’ve read quite a few short stories by members of the local short story community and seen a large number of authors read/perform in public. The short story authors who read at HULF are re-shuffled annually with new faces each time to help keep the session fresh.

This year, after a year or two in the primary school, the short story session was back in Hawkesbury Upton’s Methodist Chapel. The hall lends itself superbly to its new role as a venue for short story readings. And, as I am wont to say, the short story session is the only session at the festival where the audience will hear entire stories, rather than extracts.

As well as the readings, Debbie had arranged for Dr Gerri Kimber, the Chair of the International Katherine Mansfield Society, who had, only an hour earlier, provided an engrossing talk about New Zealand’s doyenne of short stories, to speak about the short form at the end of our session.

This year I was able to persuade local authors Kate O’Grady, Nastasya Parker, Mark Rutterford, Chloe Turner, Steve Wheeler (aka Steven John) and Katie Witcombe to read/perform their stories at HULF. I must say, they didn’t take much persuading! I received an immediate ‘yes please’ from all six of them. These are all writers whose work I respect enormously. They had all read at Stroud Short Stories and all have gained publication and international short story competition success. It was the first time as a performer at HULF for Chloe, Kate, Katie and Steve.

We had the 1pm slot in the festival programme and I had warned the authors not to expect a large audience, as we were competing with a panel discussion, a lecture, a workshop and lunchtime! I was amazed that in fact we had the largest turn-out to date with nearly every seat in the hall taken.

Each story was to a maximum of five minutes, leaving enough time for a quick story from me and a lovely finale from Dr Gerri in which she touched on the current state of the short story, the relevance of Katherine Mansfield to contemporary writing and generously predicted successful writing futures for the writers she heard.

As well as Gerri’s talk on Katherine Mansfield, I was also able to attend the Official Opening of the Festival with some thought-provoking words from Brad Borkan and some wonderful readings by local children, together with the Best of British session featuring a number of very accomplished authors reading from their novels.

It was 3pm before I realised I hadn’t eaten lunch but that’s how it goes at HULF. There are sessions I felt compelled to see so my stomach had to wait.

As ever the organisation of the Festival was amazing. The range of lectures, panel discussions and readings was quite extraordinary. These were provided free for the Festival by the authors involved, all of whom whole-heartedly support Debbie Young’s efforts in creating this annual event in the South West literary calendar which has now gained ‘unmissable’ status.

Debbie, you’re a marvel.

To find out more about John Holland and his wonderful stories, visit his website:  www.johnhollandwrites.com

To find out more about Stroud Short Stories, visit: www.stroudshortstories.blogspot.com

With thanks to John for allowing us to share the story he read at HULF this year, which was first published in the National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood Journal (June 2017):

The River

It is too hot to walk. The sun has rendered the day harsh and distorted. Bleached it of its softness. They flee the starkness of the stubble field. Head for the river. And are cooled by its deep swell and the purple shadows of overhanging trees.

The smell of wild garlic seeps into them. In places the river bank gives way to rough tracks leading to the edge of the water. They step down to peer into the river’s surge.

 “I’m going to lie on the grass bank in the shade,“ he says.

“I’m going in,” she says, thrilled at the idea.

”You’re mad,” he says.

Already without stockings, she sits on the bank and removes her shoes. Stands and places one foot, then another, in the river. Feels the ooze between her toes.

“It’s amazing,” she screams. “It’s so cold.”

He sits up on both elbows to watch. “You ARE mad,” he calls.

She takes a few more steps. “Come on in,” she shouts.

He continues to watch her.  She begins to walk slowly upstream, away from him. And is aware of the strength in her calves and thighs as she strides on. The river splays around her thighs.

The water is deeper – nearly to her knees. She lifts her green cotton skirt. Then stumbles on a rock and loses her footing. He sees her lurch before steadying herself.

He shouts to her, but the water drowns his call.

He stands and moves to the river’s edge. Sees her in the distance moving purposefully away from him, a V of water following her. He imagines her walking mile after mile into the open sea.

She turns and begins to walk back towards him, feeling the power of the river against the front of her legs. She is laughing uncontrollably.

When she reaches the bank he holds out his arm for support, as she strides from the water.  She is shivering, laughing, out of breath.

“That was amazing,” she says.

He says nothing. As they walk up the bank into the bright day, she holds her skirt so that it doesn’t fall onto her wet legs. Still in sight of the river, they lie on their backs on the grassy slope. She breathes deeply, her white legs apart, bent at the knees, dripping river water, feeling the sensation of the sun on her wet skin as something familiar, yet intensely sensuous. The air tastes and smells like that of her youth. She imagines that they are 18 years old. Discovering each other, testing their nerve. It is as if all the years of their marriage have never existed. 

Still grounded next to her, he moves on to his side. His face is close to hers, shielding it from the sun. 

“I guess we’ll talk about everything when the kids are back at uni,” he says, searching her face.

“Yes,” she says. “Not now.”

© Copyright John Holland 2017