2019 Competition Winners

Read the writing journeys of Sarah Hemings and Julie Carthy, our two winners, and how it felt to win the 2019 competition.

Sarah Hemings - Poetry Winner 2019

Poetry winner Sarah Hemings
Poetry winner Sarah Hemings

I have written poems ever since I was a little girl. Now in my fifties, I only decided to take my writing seriously about five years ago and (tentatively) to consider myself a poet. A colleague handed me the flier for this competition, suggesting that I enter. I glanced at the theme (Numbers) and automatically ruled myself out, feeling sure that none of my poems referred to numbers (they’ve never been my strong point). I re-read the flier at home and thought I would flick through my collection of poems just in case, and to my surprise found three poems that fulfilled the brief. I submitted all three and ‘Vestry’ won first prize.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago when my daughter was 14. She was going through a prickly stage and didn’t want anything in the way of physical contact from me. She’d swat me away like a fly if I so much as tried to kiss her. She’d just started to have a maths tutor, and was immersed in that, which is where all the maths imagery came from.

The writer, Robert Macfarlane, posts a ‘Word of the Day’ on twitter (@RobGMacfarlane). As soon as I read what the word ‘vestry’ means (it’s an old Cornish dialect word for the smiling of children while they sleep), I knew precisely the poem I wanted to write about my teenage daughter.

I thought that reading at Cheltenham Literature Festival would be intimidating but the GWN members couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. It was an honour to receive ‘The Poets’ Hare’ trophy, ‘for a poet with a promise to poetry’, in front of such a supportive and interested audience.

Julie Carthy - Prose Winner 2019

Prose Winner Julie Carthy
Prose Winner Julie Carthy

Last year I decided to give my writing some attention so that I could fulfil my dream of publishing a novel. I have nearly completed the first draft. I probably hadn’t written a short story since I was at primary school but decided to enter the GWN competition to see if I could. I never expected to win.

I really enjoyed the process of developing a handful of characters and telling their story in just 750 words. Every word has to count and it is surprising how many words can be removed whilst still retaining the desired narrative. I was chuffed when Amanda Reynolds, this year’s prose judge, described my piece as ‘a masterclass in brevity’.

In fact, the feedback from Amanda, the GWN team and the other winners has been really valuable and has encouraged me to keep carving out time to write.

I am an incorrigible show-off so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. The event was beautifully organised and well attended, and an experience I hope to repeat one day. I learned a lot from meeting a diverse range of writers including the judges. I will treasure the anthology as it is the first piece of fiction I have ever had published

The whole experience has been a wonderful insight into the world of writing. I would encourage anybody with the tiniest inkling to write, to have a go at entering the GWN 2020 competition because who knows where it will take you?

Julie Carthy
October 2019


Poetry judge - Stephen Daniels

Stephen Daniels
Poetry Judge Stephen Daniels

Stephen Daniels is the previous editor of Amaryllis Poetry. His poetry has been published in numerous magazines and websites. His debut pamphlet ‘Tell Mistakes I Love Them’ was published in 2017 by V. Press. His second pamphlet ‘£5 for this love’ was published in 2018 by Paper Swans Press. His third pamphlet ‘Birth, Love, Work, Love, Death & Other B-sides’ was out in summer 2019, through Picaroon Poetry.

Prose judge: Amanda Reynolds

Amanda Reynolds
Prose Judge Amanda Reynolds

Amanda Reynolds’ debut novel ‘Close to Me’ was published in April 2017 by Wildfire Books (Headline) as their very first fiction title. It has been translated into multiple languages and was an eBook bestseller.
Her second book ‘Lying to You’ (‘Compulsively readable and beautifully told, Amanda Reynolds delves expertly beneath the surface of human relations in this compulsive thriller’ – Kate Hamer) was published in summer 2018 and has been in both the iTunes and Kobo fiction charts.
Her highly anticipated third book ‘The Hidden Wife’ was published in summer 2019.
Amanda lives with her family and dog in the Cotswolds.

Twitter: @amandareynoldsj

2019 Competition Results

Winning Prose Piece

‘Coping by Numbers’ by Julie Carthy, The Pludds, Forest of Dean

Winning Poem

‘Vestry’ by Sarah Hemings, Oldland Common (S Glos)

Prose Runners-up

‘Numbers not required’ by Mandy Robotham, Whiteshill
‘Private Number’ by Catherine Brennan, Winchcombe
‘The Weigh-In’ by Liz Carew, Cirencester

Poetry Runners-up

‘Gathering’ by Phil Kirby, Tetbury
‘Safety in Numbers’ by David Hale, Horsley
‘Five Minutes’ by David Hale, Horsley

Poetry Commended

‘Playing the Game’ by Michael Newman, Bishops Cleeve
‘Scanner’ by Phil Kirby, Tetbury
‘The Golden Ratio’ by Roger Hale, Gorsley, Herefordshire
(works in Gloucestershire)

Prose Commended

‘Countdown to the Kiss’ by Sophie Flynn, Moreton-in-Marsh
‘The Perfect 10’ by Tom Ware, Cheltenham
‘Winter Starlings’ by Joanna Campbell, Bisley

With many thanks to our sponsors Liggy Webb and The Suffolk Anthology and to The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival for their support of our event.

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Supporting local writers

The Cheltenham Arts Council

The Gloucestershire Writers’ Network runs an annual competition supported by The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, for anyone living, working or studying in Gloucestershire (including South Gloucestershire) to submit poems and prose pieces based on a different theme chosen each year.