Category Archives: HULF 2019

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

Writer Kate O’Grady Shares Her HULF Highlights – and Her Short Story

Local writer Kate O’Grady was invited to be a part of this year’s line-up for our short story readings because we knew from seeing her at Stroud Short Stories that she’d be a terrific addition to our programme. At the end of her post, you will find the story she wrote especially for the event. Many thanks to Kate for kindly giving us permission to share her story here. The story remains her copyright.

I feel really honoured to have been part of this year’s HU Lit Festival and was delighted to be asked to read a short story at the Methodist Chapel along with five other local short story writers.

From  Audience to Speaker

This is my second time attending the festival, and my first time as a participant.

When I attended the festival as an audience member in 2017 I loved every minute of it.  It was a gorgeous day and, as a reader and a writer, there really isn’t a better way to spend an afternoon than strolling around listening to talks, and hearing authors share their work.  The fact that you can do that in a beautiful village for free, and eat cake and drink tea in between all the talks and readings is heaven!

Short Story Readings Report

The audience in the lovely Methodist Hall for the short story readings was attentive, and it really was a pleasure to be there this year in the company of other writers and people who love the written word.

I was able to be at the Official Opening in the School Hall, and also able to attend the Best of British Authors reading and panel, and the talk on Katherine Mansfield in the Village Hall.

Thanks Debbie and everyone in HU for putting together such an amazing literary festival.  It’s a very special, local event.  I loved listening to the young poets from Hawkesbury Primary School read their work, and as a fan of Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, learning more about her life via Dr Gerri Kimber’s informative talk enhanced my appreciation of this great writer.

Congratulations on Five Years of HU LitFest.

At This Present Moment

by Kate O’Grady

At this present moment Charlotte is sitting cross-legged on a mat on the floor with her eyes closed and her palms resting on her thighs.  She is trying to pay attention to her breath as it comes in through the tip of her nose.  At this present moment she is trying to be “mindful”, she is trying to be “In The Now”.  At This Present Moment, This is Very Hard.

The twelve day silent meditation retreat had sounded like a grand idea when Charlotte first heard about it.  Increased self awareness, insight into the nature of reality, freedom from suffering.  Who wouldn’t want a slice of that?  Charlotte had signed up immediately and spent the two days before the retreat imagining what her new more aware and insightful self would look like.  She was sure it would be a very different self from the current one, who stole The New York Times from strangers’ doorsteps, binge watched The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and lusted after her sister’s husband.   “If nothing else, it will be an escape,” she told herself as she was packing to go.

The retreat is located in the Sierra Foothills on a 109-acre estate with oak trees and a lake.  Charlotte had shared the ride from Santa Barbara with three other women named Tania, Betty and Linda.   Tania, the driver, was a yoga instructor.  She ate gummy bears throughout the four-hour journey and drummed her fingers constantly on the steering wheel.  Betty, who insisted she had to be in the front passenger seat because she was liable to get nauseous and throw up if she didn’t, was a prison guard.  No one knew what Linda did for a living, as after she told them her name, she didn’t say another word.  Charlotte could only assume she was getting a head start on silence.

An hour into the journey they all got quiet and settled, looking out the windows and watching the hills and trees pass by, a steady stream of green and gold and red.  It was fall and nature was shouting “Look At Me!”  Charlotte tried to think deep thoughts, but mostly she just hoped she’d remembered to turn the gas off before she left the apartment.

The rules of the retreat are simple but strict:  No talking for the duration of the retreat.  No reading, no writing, no phones and, most importantly, they must remain within the designated boundaries of the retreat site at all times.

By Day 3 Charlotte is ready to punch someone between the eyes.  Perhaps the doe-eyed female meditation teacher who sits at the front of the room, her legs neatly folded in the classic, full lotus position.  Or maybe the woman to the left of her, wrapped in a mauve silk pashmina, who relentlessly clears her throat and does downward dog yoga postures in between meditation sessions.  Charlotte is ready to slap any one of the 120 human beings surrounding her, all coughing, and sniffling, and seeking enlightenment.

On Day 4, after a night of bad dreams, one in which she is being chased by huge drooling black dogs who snap at her ankles as she runs screaming into a stream of oncoming cars, Charlotte spots Linda in the dining room.  This is the first time she has seen her since their arrival at the retreat center.  Linda is sitting alone facing a blank wall and she is crying.  Her shoulders are shaking and she is taking in small, rapid gulps of air through her mouth.  The image of Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” comes to Charlotte’s mind, along with the words “abject sorrow.”

Someone has made a smiley face in the frost that covers the bench outside the dormitories.  It is the morning of Day 6, and it is icy cold.  Charlotte can see her breath as it leaves her mouth.  Instead of going into the meditation hall with the others, Charlotte turns and walks to the path that surrounds the lake.  She has seen Linda heading that way and decides to follow.  For the last two days Charlotte has thought only of Linda and what the source of her grief might be.  Is it disease, divorce, death?

Linda has stepped off the path now and is walking down a small, steep hill.  She stops at a barbed wire fence, in front of which is a sign that says “Retreat Boundary.  Do Not Go Beyond”.  Beyond consists of hundreds of trees.  Beyond is a forest.  Beyond seems to be a great unknown.

As Charlotte makes the descent down the hill, Linda turns, and their eyes meet.  Linda’s eyes are red and wet with tears.  She stares at Charlotte, but she does not seem startled by her approach.  Charlotte stares back at Linda and takes in the anguish on her face.  She tries to convey to Linda, through her facial expression, that she is friendly.  This is done with half smiles, nods, and a head tilt towards the wire fence.  Charlotte has understood in a flash that Linda is trying to escape.  In one quick move she steps down to the fence, and with her right hand grabs hold of a piece of wire and pulls it up so that there is now space to crawl out. With her left hand she grasps Linda’s palm and motions for her to step through.  Linda does so immediately and Charlotte follows.

They are still holding hands when they are standing again at the other side.  Charlotte turns to look at Linda and nods her head in the direction of the forest in front of them.  Then together, in silence, they proceed towards the trees, towards the interior of the woods, towards whatever lies beyond.

© Kate O’Grady 2019

Historical Novelist Marg Roberts Shares Her Impressions of HULF 2019

Marg Roberts read from “A Time for Peace” as part of the Around the World in 8ish Books panel

We were very pleased to receive a submission for this year’s HULF from historical novelist Marg Roberts, and to be able to include her in the line-up for the lively and well-received final panel of the day, “Around the World in 8ish Books”. Today she shares her impressions of taking part in the Festival, both as a guest speaker and as a member of the audience.

A Time for Peace is a complex story of love and loss set in Serbia during the First World War. The narrative weaves between that of a Serb colonel and a British medical orderly. Stefan, a brave soldier and family man longs for peace, while romantic and spoiled Ellen, seeks adventure before she marries.  War brings trauma for each of them. Only by facing the horror of their experiences, are they able to find personal peace. Their psychological journeys are based on the actual exodus of the Serbian government, army and 30,000 of its cadets.


Thanks to Marg Roberts for providing this appropriate local photo taken on the day of the Festival to reflect the theme of her novel: the war memorial to soldiers from Hawkesbury Upton who died during both World Wars

Hawkesbury Upton is an evocative place name and never having visited, I imagined a village on uplands, where hawks fly.

In fact, I approached by a narrow steep lane.  I didn’t see any hawks.

Following a cyclist intent on fighting wind and hills, I was relieved to turn into the village proper. The main street was lined with parked cars, so I was confident I had reached the right place. I unloaded copies of my novel, A Time for Peace, in the bookshop and enjoyed a chat with others enjoying coffee and cake in the adjacent café.

I attended an illustrated talk about the relevance of Katherine Mansfield’s work to modern times. It’s many years since I read any of the New Zealand writer’s short stories and I was unaware of the personal life that informed some of her work. Dr. Gerri Kimber used the short story, The Doll’s House, as a backdrop to Mansfield’s life. She showed slides of her home on the outskirts of Wellington, interspersed with extracts from the story. Mansfield seemed to have lived quite a life – adventurous, feisty, breaking many social convention and perhaps inevitably breaking literary boundaries.

I felt sorry Katherine Mansfield never knew how popular and admired she was to become.

I wondered whether all writers rebel – in more modest ways- but like Kezia Burnell in the Doll’s House, challenge the established order. Kezia invited outcast children to see the doll’s house that all the other girls in their class were allowed to see.

In our stories and poems, do we shine a light on an aspect of life, a way of telling a story or writing a poem that is out of the ordinary and makes our readers think?

I was delighted to take part in readings in Bethesda Chapel (for a small population, the village has three places of worship).  The event, Around the world in 8ish Novels, was represented by eight countries and several periods in time. It being my first time at this Literary Festival, I don’t know if it’s a regular feature, but I thought it was a great idea. (Editor’s note: We think it should be a regular feature in future – it was great fun!)

We were asked to read from our novels for no more than three minutes. A Time for Peace is set in Serbia during the First World War. The story weaves between that of a Serb colonel and a British woman medical orderly and it’s about how the war affected their personal relationships. I chose a passage about the Serb colonel leaving Belgrade and worrying why his wife was no longer as obedient. (Times were different then!) It was little longer than a page.

The purpose was to help the audience glimpse the writing – rather like flipping through the pages in a shop to see if the book appeals.

Despite some apprehension about the prospect of reading at the penultimate event, I relaxed and enjoyed the day. There was a wide range of events to choose from: workshops, talks and readings. I chatted to writers, readers and villagers and found some good places to eat. It was one of those days when no one was whinging, when strangers smiled. A fabulous day.

Thank you, Debbie and all your volunteers.

Find out more about Marg Roberts and her work at her website: www.margroberts.co.uk.

 

Bobbie Coelho’s Ode to HULF 2019

photo of Bobbie Coelho holding up one of her books

Bobbie with her latest poetry collection, snapped at HULF 2018 by Angela Fitch

We always enjoy Bobbie Coelho‘s contribution to the Festival. As well as taking part in poetry events in the Methodist Chapel, she joins in our Outreach programme to Beaufort House, the care home in the village.

This programme sends poets into Beaufort House to read to those residents who are too frail to visit the main Festival. Beaufort House residents love hearing poetry read to them and are always moved by the poets’ words.

It’s very important to us at HULF to be as inclusive as we can, and we are very grateful to the poets who volunteer for the Outreach.

Bobbie also kindly made a special trip to Hawkesbury in between Festivals for a solo reading at Beaufort House, which the residents very much appreciated.

Bobbie’s Poetry Collections

cover of Finding the LightBobbie has now published three collections of poetry, Finding the Light, Reflecting the Light, and The Lesson. She started writing to help her come to terms with her diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. She also uses her poems to raise awareness of Parkinson’s. The beautiful covers and upbeat titles of her books reflect her positive attitude and determination, Her presence at the Festival inspires us all.

No surprises then that Bobbie’s review of this year’s Festival arrived in the form of a poem!

ODE TO HULF 2019

A Cotswold village, so pretty,
It would be a pity
To miss HULF while its around
Though its only on for one day

It is Debbie Young
Who organises the fun
I don’t know how she does it all in one day
I hear a lot of people say

There are books galore
To which are added plenty more!
On every subject under the sun
Get there quickly before it goes away.

Bobbie Coelho’s Children’s Stories

Bobbie’s latest children’s book

Bobbie also enjoys writing children’s stories, and since HULF 2019 has published her latest book for children, Blodwyn’s Baby. Bobbie whets our appetite for the new book as follows:

“Imagine if you will a large, red, very large and extremely grumpy dragon, called Blodwyn. While out walking one day, she finds a baby …………..human”!

What fun!

For More Information

Bobbie shares many of her poems on her website and her Facebook page. Here are the links so you can enjoy more of her work – and you’ll also find her books available to order online or from good bookshops.

 

 

Historical Crime Writer Susan Grossey Reflects on her First HULF

Susan Grossey, historical crime writer, shares her enthusiasm for her first ever Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest

 

 

Full disclosure: until I became e-friends with Debbie Young, I had never heard of Hawkesbury Upton – let alone its literature festival.

When Debbie started mentioning it, I realised that it was my chance to meet her in person and to attend a free book festival – which is a rare beast these days, with most such events charging upwards of £10 per session ticket.

I felt a bit bad about just turning up as a spectator and so I asked whether I would be any use as a speaker, thinking – arrogantly – that I would be doing a little festival something of a favour. Once I had been accepted and gathered into the HULF family, I quickly realised my mistake: this is a prestigious and well-attended event, and I was jolly lucky to make it onto the programme at all.

Susan, seated on the right, was part of the “inspired by the day job” panel, with AA Abbott, Wendy H Jones and Hugh Arthur. (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

The panel session in which I took part had as its theme “authors inspired by their day jobs”, and I found myself sitting alongside an accountant (AA Abbott), a former military nurse (Wendy H Jones) and a commodities trader (Hugh Arthur) – so with me as an anti-money laundering consultant, we were certainly an eclectic bunch. Oddly enough, we are all crime writers (that nurse can think up some dastardly murders…) – and money laundering has featured in books by each of us, so perhaps I am not quite the trail-blazer I had imagined myself to be!

What was common to the three panel sessions I attended – one as a participant and the other two in the audience – was the generosity and fair-mindedness of everyone concerned.

There was no grandstanding, no “I’ve got a three-book contract and you’re only a beginner”, and no barging into anyone else’s spotlight. The audience questions were sometimes predictable but often so thought-provoking that everyone fell silent for a few moments as the answer was considered – and I really like that evidence of true connection with, and deep interest in, the books under discussion.

The fabulous organisation of the HULF was quite something to behold, with locals obviously incredibly supportive of the initiative. The village has an impressive selection of suitable venues, including a brace of lovely chapels, and with a bespoke map and excellent signposting we were all dashing around with true purpose – with a packed programme, no-one wanted to miss a moment. The Wonderland Café was a marvel, and the volunteer-staffed bookshop gave all authors equal status and marvellously prompt payment. And there was even a professional photographer on hand, with a special deal for HULF authors dreaming of needing a head-shot for that Booker Prize publicity material.

Applications to feature in the HULF 2020 line-up will open on 1 September 2019 and I urge you to note the date in your diary: it’s an inspiring and invigorating day – and even if you don’t know anyone at the start of the day, I guarantee that by the end of it you will have made some firm friends.

The story so far… the first five in a planned series of seven Constable Sam Plank historical mystery novels.

Susan Grossey is the author of numerous non-fiction books about money laundering and – more thrillingly – the Sam Plank series of historical crime novels set in London in the 1820s. There are five already published, with the sixth due out in October 2019 and then one more to complete the series. After that, unable to contemplate life without a Regency constable, Susan has planned a series of five novels set in her home town of Cambridge, and narrated by a university “bulldog”.

Website: https://susangrossey.wordpress.com/
Blog: https://susangrossey.wordpress.com/current-project-blog/
Twitter: @ConstablePlank

2019 Keynote Address by Brad Borkan

Inviting Brad Borkan to be our keynote speaker was a masterstroke. Not only was his talk, Lessons Learned from the Early Antarctic Explorers, both fascinating and inspiring, he also gave an entertaining speech as part of the opening ceremony. Thanks to Brad for allowing us to reproduce it below. (The speech remains his copyright.)

“Books stimulate our brain, enliven our conversations, and enrich our soul”

Brad Borkan, keynote speaker for this year’s Festival

It is a great honour to be here today.  There is such an incredible array of talented authors and wonderful books here that it promises to be a fun and highly memorable event.

Special thanks to Debbie Young and her team who have brought this all together.

To prepare for coming here today, I read some of the books on display here.  I read Debbie’s book Best Murder in Show, about a murder that takes place in a village surprisingly like this one.  Debbie assures me that I will get out of here alive.

Currently I’m reading Wendy Jones’ wonderful book, Killer’s Crew, about a murder in Dundee.

Last night I had dinner with two other great crime and murder writers: David Penny and Rachel Amphlett.  Seems like there is a theme running through this of murder.

You’ll be pleased to know that my talk today about the early Antarctic explorers has no murders in it.  In fact, it is the absence of murders, sabotage, mayhem or even fistfights, among the men during multi-year Antarctic expeditions where survival took place in the most extreme and dangerous conditions, that makes the stories I will tell so remarkable.

There are books of many genres on display.  There is easily a year’s worth of reading here.  Maybe two years.

Why is reading important?

Well, I grew up in America, and have lived in the UK for the past 25 years.  In January 2019 I received UK citizenship so now I have a foot in both countries, and for me, reading is a great escape from the politics in the US and UK.  It doesn’t matter what side of any debate you are on, reading is great escape from the turmoil.  Or, if you enjoy the turmoil, then reading is a great way to learn more about the present situation.

Books transport you.  They can transport you back to historical times like the books of David Penny or my book about early Antarctic exploration.  They can focus on the present, and they can transport you 10, 20 even 50 years into the future as some of the books on display here do.

But reading is different than television and film.  And I love TV and I love films, but what is remarkable about reading a book is each person has their own unique interpretation of what they are reading.

Books stimulate our brain, enliven our conversations, and enrich our soul.  They do this in a way that films and television cannot.

I’m sure you’ve all seen Star Wars movies.  If I said to you, “3CPO – the gold-plated robot,” you would all conjure up in your mind what 3CPO looks like and you would all have the exact same image.  But if none of us had ever seen a Star Wars movie and we read about it in a book, we would each have a different view of what 3CPO looked like – influenced by our own experiences and imagination.

Books also transport us across continents.  There are books here set in New Zealand, the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, even Antarctica, and they enable you to experience the world without ever leaving the comfort of Hawkesbury Upton.

Books also make great gifts.  Right here you can buy books as presents for birthdays, anniversaries, Father’s Day coming up in June, and Christmas.  Everyone enjoys receiving books, and especially ones signed by the author, and endorsed specifically for your friend or relative.  When November and December come around, and everyone is scrambling to buy Christmas presents, you can sit back, relax and say, “I did all my Christmas shopping in April, at the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival”.

Lastly, I’d encourage all of you to chat to the authors.  Every author I know loves talking with readers.  As authors, we are great readers ourselves.  The initial motivation for an author to start writing is, having read many books, thinking, “I can do better,” or “I see a gap in the market,” or “I have a story to tell that no one else can write.”  Engage the authors and engage each other.  Make new friends.

Brad Borkan with Debbie Young, Festival Director (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

And if you had dreams of writing your own book, talk with us.  All authors love to talk about the writing and publishing process and are happy to share their experiences and knowledge.

I’d just like to wrap by saying it is absolutely thrilling to be here.  Special thanks again to Debbie Young and her team for bringing this wonderful event together.

I’d like to now declare the 2019 Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival is officially open.


And here’s what Brad said after the event:

HULF was incredible.  You assembled a truly remarkable wealth of writing talent and friendly people.  Speaking at it is one of the highlights of my author career that I will always cherish.  Thank you for inviting me.

cover of When Your Life Depends On It

“A remarkable book” – Sir Ranulph Fiennes

For more information about Brad Borkan’s book, co-authored with David Hirzel, When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic, visit his website: www.extreme-decisions.com. You’ll find him on Twitter at @PolarDecisions.