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

 

Historical Novelist Edward James Delights in the Cotswolds

Historical novelist Edward James writes:

photo of Edward James

Edward James, historical novelist and reviews editor for the Historical Novel Society

The delights of HULF began even before I arrived at Hawkesbury Upton.  What a soaring view over the Severn valley as we drove along the Cotswold Edge, along a road never travelled, although I have lived in Gloucestershire for over a decade! It was a cold, windswept day (our rotary dryer blew away during my absence) but marvellously clear.  And that was before I discovered Hawkesbury Upton, a delight in itself.

I arrived in time for the opening ceremony and laid out my books on the display table.  Alas, nearly all of them were still there at the end of the day.  After the readings from the schoolchildren’s poems and Brad Borkan’s inspirational speech, I followed Brad across the road to listen to his stories of the Heroic Age of  Antarctic exploration. I am writing a feature article for the Historical Novel Society on historical fiction with a Polar setting, so I booked Brad for an interview later in the month.

cover of TheFrozen Dream by Edward James

A novel set in Arctic Russia

After a leisurely lunch at one of the two local pubs I listened to Rod Griffiths and Lois Parker give their poignant presentation on dementia before taking another break to chat with other festival goers at the school and the Methodist Chapel.  Then it was time for the literary tour ‘Around the World in 8ish Books’ at the Bethesda Chapel. My 15 minute slot was on Arctic Russia, introducing my novel The Frozen Dream, an adventure story about England’s first contact with Russia in the 16th century.  I read the passage where the ships first meet the pack ice.

Not that I write exclusively about cold places.  Freedom’s Pilgrim is set in Mexico and I am currently writing Beyond the Big River, which begins in Texas (the Big River being the Rio Grande).

cover of Freedom's Pilgrim by Edward James

Freedom’s Pilgrim is set in warmer climes

And so to the closing ceremony and collecting my unsold books.  At least they earned me a place on the HULF programme, which is one of the things which makes being an author worthwhile.  Thank you Debbie for making it possible.

Edward James is a review editor for the Historical Novel Society and has published two historical novels, The Frozen Dream and Freedom’s Pilgrim.  He is retired and lives in Cheltenham.  See more on https://busywords.wordpress.com/about-myself  .

Barry Faulkner’s Entertaining Take on HULF 2019

Crimewriter B L (Barry) Faulkner is a staunch HULF supporter, always happy to turn his hand to any task here, whether or not related to his successful series of police procedural novels, and can be depended upon to add his own brand of wry humour to any event. We’re delighted to share his memories of this year’s Festival below.

photo of Crimefest panel

Crimewriter Barry Faulkner, pictured second from left, was in the spotlight at CrimeFest a couple of weeks later

The alarm woke me at 7am. Quick outing with the dogs in the Forest and back for a shower and check on my to take with me, HULF list. All present and correct and in the bag so off we go. A leisurely drive through the Forest of Dean (where I live) and down the A48 to Chepstow and the  Seven Bridge. PANIC!!! Bridge closed due to high winds!  So foot down to Cardiff and pick up the M4. Arrive at Hawkesbury as the opening ceremony (?) is finishing. Can’t find my name tag on the book tables to stack my books. Yes I can, another author was sitting on it.

I’m chairman for the Best of British panel which is first off in the Methodist Chapel so quickly put a bunch of pamphlets I did on the computer promoting it on the table inside the main door and more spread around the cafe tables. Bit worried as we are at the other end of the High Street in the Methodist Chapel. Will people make the effort?

Walk down to the Chapel. Door locked. Go round the back and find an art display being arranged in the back hall.

‘Can I get through to the Chapel from here?’ I ask.

‘Yes, there is a door behind the refreshment counter.’

It’s locked.  A helpful lady says she will phone the caretaker for a key. No signal on her phone so she leaves me and goes outside to try. I don’t think that will make any difference, if there’s no signal inside there won’t be one outside either. I take a close look at the lock whilst she’s gone and when she comes back I have the door open. (Don’t ask).

What a smashing intimate venue.It’s a House of God so look up and ask his permission to re-arrange the pews.  I didn’t get a jolt of lightning cast down on me so I pulled them about a bit, put some pamphlets out and by now my panelists are arriving and so are some punters. Soon the place is buzzing and time to start.

I’ve done my homework on the panelists and suffice to say I’m batting above my league! I explain to the audience, now standing room only, that each one of the panelists will do a short reading and then at the end they will take questions.

I kick off with a short read from one of my DCS Palmer books and quickly move onto Nicola Horton. I know Nicola will get us off to a good start as I have suffered extremely late nights lying in bed with the wall lights on as my wife chuckles and laughs her way through one of Nicola’s Diary of a Stressed-Out Mother books. True to form, the audience chuckle too.

Next up is Ali Bacon with that lovely Scottish accent and that great novel  A Kettle of Fish, a coming-of-age novel. Ali has numerous awards and is also a judge at this year’s Stroud Short Stories competition. (I made the long list, perhaps I should have had a quiet word with her about the next one?)

Lucienne Boyce is a historic novelist of repute, a radio presenter and has an MA in Eng Lit with distinction. (I was a milk monitor once.) She regularly gives talks on Women’s Suffrage and has a book of essays on the subject. She is currently working on the third novel in her Dan Foster Mysteries series and a biography of suffragette Millicent Browne. Wow!!

J J Franklin is an ex nursing professional who has written for the BBC and is writer of the psychological thriller novel Urge to Kill,  featuring DI Matt Turrell of the Warwickshire Police which she is developing into a series with the second book A Kind of Justice out now. She also runs a crime-writers’ group in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Melanie Golding’s debut novel Little Darlings is out soon and destined for the top of the best sellers list with a film option already taken.  She has also won many short story awards and is currently working on a second novel.

Alice Jolly, novelist and playwright has a host of awards for her work, having been produced at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham and published novels through Simon and Schuster, plus a memoir with the arresting title Dead Babies and Seaside Towns. Alice teaches creative writing at Oxford University.

And last but not least to read was Jo Ullah who pulled me up for the wrong pronunciation of ‘dyslexic’.  (I told you I was batting above my league.) Jo told us she was brought up on a diet of horror and the supernatural by her mother’s inventive mind! ( My mother’s inventive mind only stretched to porridge for breakfast and chips on Sunday.) Jo’s debut novel The Locksmith was a Kindle Scout Winner. She is half way through a second book and studying for an English Literature and Language Degree in a cluttered house with four kids in Bristol.

Those were our 7 Best of British authors. What a gold medal lot, eh? They took questions and made the whole experience a really enjoyable one judging from the feedback I had from members of the audience afterwards.

I noticed John Holland in the audience as we were finishing and as his Stroud Short Stories event was coming up soon. I called on him to give it a promo (even though I only got to the long list John. I don’t hold grudges, anyway I know where you live.) and then thanked everybody and made my way back to the main hall for a coffee and sandwich before… the Poetry Slam competition!

I had been drafted into being a judge in the Poetry Slam as one of the real judges had had to pull out at the last moment.

So, what do I know about poetry? Well, 40 years ago I did a two-hour train journey London to Manchester with John Cooper Clark. As I recall we played cards and slept most of the time. So you can see my poetic knowledge is somewhat miniscule.

Lucky for me I had Peter Lay as the other judge.

‘How do you judge a poem, Peter?’

‘See how much you like it.’

I liked them all. Had to give marks out of 25.

The first poet gave forth.

Peter looked at me.

‘Twenty five,’ I said

‘And what if you like the next poem more?’ he said.

‘Twenty six,’ I said.

He gave me a sad look and shook his head.

I would have given them all 25,  but Peter’s advice was, ‘If you give them all 25 they all go through to the 2nd round and all then through to the final and we will be here all night trying to find a winner.’

Point taken.  I am pleased to say most of my marks were within one or two points of Peter’s.  There were some great poems.  The subjects were amazing,  Love, Spiritual, Environment, Hot Air Ballons and even one about  Washing Machines.  And it all closed with Josephine Lay’s poem about banging her head, twice. Josephine, like me, had stepped in to compere the slam when  Dan Holloway had to unfortunately pull  out at the last minute.

So, thanks to the poets,  Linda Alvis, Chris Burleigh, Jason Conway, Bobbie Coelho, William Fairney, Mari Howard, Gef Lucena, David Willams, Shirley Wright and of course Peter and Josephine Lay, I now view poetry and poets in a different light. I even bought two books of poems from the charity shop last week that are on my TBR pile.

Talking with Peter after the slam one of the poets approached me, one that didn’t win.

‘So what parameters do you use to judge a poem with?’ he asked.

I looked at my watch. ‘I have to get across to another panel,’ I lied. ‘Peter will explain’ And I scarpered.

I do lots of talks and get to attend as many Lit Fests as will have me, but guess which one I’m already looking forward to the most for next year?

pile of Barry's books in bookshop

Barry’s books – eight in the series so far – on display at the HULF bookstore. (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

Barry Faulkner’s entertaining series of police procedural stories set in London is available in paperback and ebook via Amazon and at the many events he speaks at throughout the region – he is in great demand as a public speaker. He also writes a fascinating blog about real-life crime here: www.geezers2016.wordpress.com

A High Time at HULF by Maureen Armstrong

What a buzz!! Arriving in the school hall at the start of the day, we found the place crowded, and humming with conversations. We set up our books in the allotted space, got my Author badge, and sat with a cup of coffee to absorb the atmosphere.

The good folk in the cafe were working flat out from the moment we arrived (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

The good folk at the “Alice in Wonderland” themed food counter were working flat out. There were excited children from the school, whose book of poems was being launched at HULF. (What a good idea to make sure every child’s poem was included.) Authors were busy setting up their displays, and Debbie Young was gathering her speakers for the opening ceremony. Then the Festival began in earnest, with an introduction by key speaker Brad Borkan, and some of the Hawkesbury Upton children reading their poems.

The programme was so extensive, it was hard to decide which talk to choose. We went to the Village Hall, to hear Dr Gerri Kimber talk about New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield. It was a fascinating look into the life and works of a woman who was a ground-breaker in early 20th century literature, and one of the first to focus her work entirely on short stories.

photo of Gerri Kimber addressing the audience

We enjoyed Dr Gerri Kimber’s talk about Katherine Mansfield (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

After lunch it was our turn to talk, as part of  the Panel Conversations in the Bethesda Chapel. With the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two, this year, it was appropriate that our session featured novels about the impact of WWII on civilians.

Richard Vaughan-Davies‘ novel In the Shadow of Hitler portrayed the utter devastation of Hamburg, and raised serious moral questions about victory and defeat.

cover of Bombweed

Bombweed was written by Maureen and Gillian’s smother

Then we discussed our novel Bombweed, originally written by our mother in 1947, which tells how women in England survived bombing, evacuation, rationing, and bereavement, but still found fun, friendship, and even love.

Finally Rosalind Minett introduced us to her trilogy, A Relative Invasion, in which the relationship between two boys develops through the war and post-war years. I found the descriptions of bullying painfully real. The message that your own family is not necessarily the one to give you love and support came over very clearly.

We then hurried back to the Village Hall to be thoroughly entertained by Lucienne Boyce‘s presentation “Make More Noise!”, which was actually a programme of silent film clips about the Suffragettes. We were both laughing and angry at some of the “comic” films – who would have thought that women were supposed to be punished by being made to wear trousers for two weeks!

Finally, it was back to the school for more tea and delicious cakes, and the closing ceremony.

We had a lot of interest in our novel Bombweed. Full information, including reviews and how to order, is available on our website www.gfmortonbombweed.com.

Gillian Fernandez Morton and Maureen Armstrong