Our History

The Gloucestershire Writers’ Network was founded in the early 1990’s by Roger Drury and Jamila Gavin, author of award-winning children’s novel, Coram Boy, following an approach from Cheltenham Literature Festival to Gloucestershire Libraries Service to find ways of engaging with local authors and to extend the benefit of the Festival across Gloucestershire. The GWN ran a programme of workshops and readings, produced bi-monthly newsletters and collections of writers’ work, Gloucestershire Writes, which were loaned through the library service to the public. The Gloucestershire Writers’ Network competition event at the Literature Festival soon followed and has been a principal feature of the GWN’s work ever since.

Over the years, many local writers have benefited from the links created by the GWN and from winning the competition in developing their careers.

Our 2018 Cheltenham Literature Festival Event


Emma Kernahan - Prose Prize Winner 2018

Emma Kernahan‘I entered the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network competition because I saw a poster for it in Stroud and loved the idea of reading at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

After a career in the voluntary sector, I started writing two years ago, while at home with my children. Initially I thought I had no time to be creative, but began writing poetry on my phone while the kids were napping or playing.
From there I branched out into blogging, short stories and flash fiction, which I’ve found are a good fit with the demands of working and parenting. I have been greatly supported in this by amazing writer friends, both online and at my local writing group.

It was because of their encouragement that I submitted my piece on the theme of East Meets West, and I’m enormously glad that I did. I enjoy writing funny stories most of all, and it was wonderful to discover that other people enjoyed this one. I was mostly just relieved that the audience laughed! Writing is a solitary business, so meeting a whole new group of talented people at the event was a huge boost to morale. I find I am now writing with new confidence and a flurry of ideas.

I would encourage anyone who hasn’t so far to join the network and submit to the competition, especially those who are new to writing, or who think that they are not the kind of person who reads at literary festivals! Support networks like this are an incredible resource, and I feel very grateful to the GWN for the time and hard work they put into running the event.’

David Hale - Poetry Prize winner 2018

David Hale‘I was thrilled when I found out that I had won the GWN poetry competition. I had never won a single poem competition before, and being a local competition made it particularly special.

‘The poem I submitted on the theme of East meets West was written after a morning spent in the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, and was originally meant to be included in a publication celebrating the museum’s artefacts, a project, which unfortunately never got off the ground.

The poem came into being after I spent a number of hours studying certain pieces in the museum’s collection which I became rather fascinated by. Fortuitously, a few days later I turned up a piece of Willow pattern crockery while digging in my vegetable garden. These two factors collided and produced the necessary sparks, the result being ‘Cranes Flying”.

I am so glad this poem has now found a worthy resting place in the beautifully produced GWN competition pamphlet, and that I had a chance to read it at the Literature Festival which was a wonderful and friendly event, and one I would recommend to all Gloucestershire writers.’


Kim Fleet - Prose Judge 2018

Kim FleetKim Fleet is an award-winning short story writer and novelist. She has published four novels: Sacred Site (Picnic Publishing, 2009); Featherfoot (Kindle, 2012); Paternoster (The History Press, 2015), which was nominated for a Golden Dagger Award; and Holy Blood (The History Press, 2017). She has won/ been placed in over 20 international writing competitions and has published extensively in short story magazines in the UK and abroad.

Read more on her website www.kimfleet.com.

Anna Saunders - Poetry Judge 2018

Anna SaundersAnna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press) Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press), Burne Jones and the Fox (Indigo Dreams) and the Ghosting for Beginners (Indigo Dreams, Spring 2018) described as ‘ a beautifully evocative read’ by Fiona Sampson. Anna has had poems published in journals and anthologies, which include Ambit, The North, New Walk Magazine, Amaryllis, Iota, Caduceus, Envoi, The Wenlock Anthology, Eyeflash, and The Museum of Light.Anna is the CEO and founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival. She has been described as ‘a poet who surely can do anything’ by The North, ‘a modern myth maker’ by Paul Stephenson and as ‘a poet of quite remarkable gifts’ by Bernard O’Donoghue.

Read more on her website annasaunderswriter.co.uk.


Liggy WebbMontpellier Writers’ Group

Liggy Webb

‘GWN adds great value to the local writing community across Gloucestershire in so many ways. It supports and connects various writing groups and events by sharing information that local writers may not necessarily have access to. Also, by hosting a writing competition for the Cheltenham Literature Festival this positively encourages writers to focus and showcase their skills, which is such a fantastic and unique opportunity for any writer.’

Helene HewettSuffolk Anthology

Suffolk Anthology

We would like to thank Helene Hewett of The Suffolk Anthology for her continued support of the competition.

Previous Winners, Runners-up and Judges

Roy McFarlane - Poetry Prize Judge 2017

Roy McFarlane‘I had the wonderful privilege of judging GWN Poetry Competition 2017. The theme ‘Who do you think you are?’ garnered together a varied, diverse reflection of Britain today. As a judge I was given entrance into the lives, histories, joys and pains of individuals. Beautifully written, lyrically told, musical and picturesque in form, this competition truly evoked the best out of poetry.’

Roy has held the roles of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate, Starbucks and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Poet in Residence. His publications include writer and editor of Celebrate Wha? Ten Black British Poets from the Midlands (Smokestack 2011) and Beginning With Your Last Breath (Nine Arches Press 2016).


Dr Lania Knight - Prose Prize Judge 2017

Dr Lania Knight‘The Gloucestershire Writers’ Network Prose and Poetry competition is a great place for writers of all kinds to send work and to get a chance to see their writing published as well as read at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. An excellent experience!’
Lania’s second novel book Remnant is published by Burlesque Press

Frances March - Poetry Prize Winner 2017

Frances March 2018‘After a teaching career in English I achieved an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Gloucestershire (prose route). Since then I have explored poetry in more depth with the OU and regular workshops. These have been vital in building my confidence in combination with a much-valued network of fellow poets.
To win the GWN poetry prize was a wonderful experience and gave me a real boost. I think the last time I’d won anything was when I was sixteen. It was a poem I’d already written as part of a sequence and had left it on the shelf for a while after two years of hard work. It happened to meet the theme of ‘Identity’ so I entered it along with two others which were similar. The theme appealed to me as it’s the sort of issue that inspires me. Thank you GWN! I now have the courage to concentrate on working towards a publishable collection. Recent publications are included in: Snakeskin; Gooddadhood.com; World Refugee Day and Freedom Poetry (for Worcestershire Poet Laureate) and New York Times Poetry Blog Jan 2017.’

Nastasya Parker - Prose Prize winner 2017

Nastasya Parker‘I entered the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network competition because I loved Cheltenham Literature Festival and wanted my own chance to read there. Besides, I had that rare thing: a more-than-decent story. Often the creative journey from idea to story results in something I’m reluctant to submit. I suspect I’m not alone in this.
Participating in the GWN evening at the Literature Festival fulfilled my high expectations. GWN members greeted me warmly in the VIP tent. The Festival put out delicious food for us, but what every author craves is a willing audience, and the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network delivered that too. Our event was sold out, so our work had a great reception, while also getting printed in the beautifully done GWN prize anthology. I hadn’t realised there was a cash prize, and that added bonus justified yet another trip to the Festival’s Waterstones tent. I am incredibly grateful to GWN for their kind recognition of my little story.
Since that unforgettable night in October, I’ve read at NovelNights in Bristol, and have events planned from Cotswolds arts festivals in Wotton-Under-Edge and Hawkesbury Upton, to the esteemed Stroud Short Stories. I’m also writing a novel imagining the life of Eve and blogging about the process on NastasyaParker.com.’

2017 event testimonial

‘I thought the GWN Cheltenham Literature Festival event was well organised and welcoming, I’d not been before so didn’t know what to expect.
I’m always impressed with organisations that promote local talent and the competition is a great way to get local writers to showcase their work. I was surprised with the local variety and the contrast between the guest performers was perfect. I look forward to the next one.’
Christina Caldwell

2017 event testimonial

‘I thought it was an extremely well organised evening with an excellent choice of readers. I very much enjoyed the variety of performers. It was good to see Gloucestershire poets being showcased.’
Dot Glover

Dr Angela France, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing,University of Gloucestershire - Poetry Judge 2015

Angela France
Photo courtesy of
Derek Adams Photography

‘Gloucestershire Writers’ Network does so much for emerging and young writers in the county. I consider GWN to be essential for the local literary landscape; developing as a writer is hard and all writers, however well known, have depended on grass-roots support such as GWN at some stage.’

Angela’s latest collection is The Hill published by Nine Arches Press in 2017, find out more here.


John Holland - Prose runner-up 2013 and 2015

John Holland‘I see reading at live lit events as a kind of rite of passage for writers. When I read at GWN/CheltLitFest in 2013 it was only my third reading and I was terrified, but, because of the experience, I gained confidence, both as a writer and a reader/performer.
Who wouldn’t want to read at Cheltenham LitFest? Or have the chance to read with other talented local writers, and the opportunity to win some prize money? That’s the opportunity that Gloucestershire Writers’ Network offers. And, importantly, it provides the same equality of access to professional authors, skilled amateurs and newcomers. It welcomes all.’

John is the author of over 70 published short stories and flash fiction and has won or been short listed/long listed/commended in competitions over 40 times. John read his story ‘The Song’ at GWN/CheltLitFest in 2013. ‘Strange Fruit: a Re-imagining’ was read for him by Moses Hardwick in 2015. John organises Stroud Short Stories, a twice-yearly event for all writers from Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire.


Jennie Farley - Poetry Judge in 2013

Jenny Farley‘I would like to applaud the splendid work the GWN is doing. There is a wealth of writing talent and allied events in Gloucestershire which the GWN regularly promotes and provides updates for. Of particular value is the annual GWN poetry and short story competition which brings to light much local talent. This also prov
ides a deservedly wide audience beyond the local fraternity when the prize-winners event features in the annual Cheltenham Literature Festival programme’.

Jennie is a poet, workshop leader and runs the poetry event, New Bohemians, at Deepspace Works, Cheltenham. She published My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams) in 2016 and is working on a new collection Hex.

Alison Brackenbury - Poetry Judge 2012

Alison Brakenbury‘I was deeply impressed by the technical standard of the poems in the competition. The best poems would have been worthy of prizes in the national competitions which I have helped to judge. I was very struck by the liveliness and variety of the poems.
The winner I chose is now a published, and award-winning poet with a growing reputation. So don’t hesitate to enter this competition! It has the twin virtues of strong local roots and a track record of launching fine poets to wider success. Winners also have the chance to read at one of Britain’s leading literary festivals. Choose your best poems and enter today!’

Alison Brackenbury has published nine collections of poetry. Her newest collection, ‘Skies’ (Carcanet, 2016) was featured in ‘The Guardian’ and on Radio 4 and was chosen by ‘The Observer’ as one of its Poetry Books of the Year. New poems can be found on her website: www.alisonbrackenbury.co.uk

David Clarke - Poetry prize-winner 2012, Poetry Judge 2014

David Clarke‘Winning the GWN Poetry Competition was a great thrill and gave me the confidence to put my work out there and be heard. The ceremony organised by the Network at Cheltenham Literature Festival is a wonderful event that creates a real community spirit among writers in the county. Needless to say, I was delighted to be invited back to judge the poetry competition a few years later, and to engage with the breadth and quality of work currently being produced in Gloucestershire.’

David’s pamphlet Gaud won the Flarestack Poets Pamphlet Competition in 2012 and the Michael Marks Poetry Award in 2013. He published his first collection of poetry, Arc in 2016 (Nine Arches Press) and the pamphlet Scare Stories in 2017 (V. Press)
He blogs at athingforpoetry.blogspot.co.uk

Sophie Livingston - Prose winner 2011 and Prose Judge 2015

Sophie Livingston‘Reading my story in the Spiegeltent at the Cheltenham Literature Festival remains one of the most terrifying and terrific experiences of my life. It was the moment when I said to myself, ‘Okay, I am a real writer now’. It gave me the confidence to start selling my stories.
It’s a cliché for judges to say how difficult deciding the winner is – but it really was agonising and involved some sleepless nights. Talent deserves a public showcase and the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network Competition provides it at one of the country’s top literature festivals.’

Sophie studied English at Newnham College, Cambridge and worked as a newspaper journalist for 15 years. She now sells her short stories to women’s magazines. She has also been a judge for Stroud Short Stories and chairs the Cirencester-based group Somewhere Else Writers.

Guy Hunter - Poetry Runner-up

‘GWN is a permanent fixture in my diary – not just because I love creative writing but GWN has been creating opportunities for writers and poets in the area for many years.
I am no professional but like to ‘have a go’ and sometimes it’s not until you hear your own voice and your own work that you then realise what needs to happen to it …
Being invited to read my work during the Cheltenham Literature Festival was fun and I will continue to meet the annual challenge – if only to force the poor judge to read my work!’

Julie Allan - Poetry Runner-up 2016

‘GWN is invaluable as a hub, both for those who can regularly get to events and for those who are constrained for various reasons. The GWN helps by keeping members updated and offering the chance to connect virtually and relatively widely across the region and is a good way to continue flagging the importance of the arts generally in these difficult times. As a Mum and a psychologist who works with leadership, the importance of imagination, creative endeavour and new perspectives has never been clearer.
There are periods of time when I let my writing lose its place and I have found two antidotes: workshops and competitions. The 2016 competition was the first I had entered, and it made me pay attention, gift myself time, explore. I didn’t expect to win but I had a topic I cared about, so I was delighted by a prize that money couldn’t buy – reading at the festival. And then I had to do it. Anxious, happy, grateful, daunted, supported. I’d recommend it and I’d do it again.’

Christine Griffin - Winner of the prose prize and runner up several times in prose and poetry sections

‘I have been fortunate enough to have been placed several times over the years and it is such a boost. I have always been tremendously flattered to be able to perform my work at such a prestigious festival. It is wonderful that there is still space for local writers at Cheltenham Literature Festival, many of them gifted published authors and many beavering away trying to get their work “out there”.’
Christine’s book of short stories, The Road Ahead, is available via Fast Print and Amazon.

Richard Vick - Prose Runner-up 2015

‘GWN has given a platform and voice to countless poets and other writers over many years and their participation in the Cheltenham Festival has boosted their prestige and the high quality of the writers’ work they support.’