The Gloucestershire Writers Network at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

‘East meets West’ was the theme of the 2018 Literature Festival which Gloucestershire writers were asked to interpret. The judges selected this year were short story writer and novelist, Kim Fleet, who judged the prose pieces and Anna Saunders, the CEO of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and author of five poetry collections, who judged the poetry entries. There were two winners in each category and three runners-up in each. The event this year was a total sell-out as an excited audience consisting of the prize-winning participants, their family, friends and fellow writers gathered around tables in the Nook Marquee at 6.30pm on Sunday 7 October.

The prose winner, Emma Kernahan, from Stroud’s piece was entitled ‘The Locals’, an amusing story about a couple relocating from London to the rural west of England. Emma was thrilled to experience her first competition win with this.

David Hale’s winning poem, ‘Cranes Flying’ was about an archaeological dig unearthing a piece of porcelain, “think willow pattern” he instructed us as he began to read.

We then enjoyed three poems from the runners-up, Derek Healy with his poem, ‘Love’s Convergence, Catherine Baker’s poem ‘Waiting for the boat’ – which was read by her friend Maureen Drew in Catherine’s absence – and Marilyn Timms poem, ‘Public School – Private Hell’. Marilyn was a double runner-up, as she also was a runner-up in the prose section with her piece, ‘Bride Price’. Marilyn has been a runner up in the GWN competition four times but still manages to be surprised by her own talent.

“It’s fantastic to be a runner-up,” she said. “You’re hopeful but you never expect it. I’m just very lucky.”

The other two prose pieces were ‘The Shawl’ by Lynda Fowke and ‘Call me Shadi, Muna, Nasima…’ by Iris Anne Lewis, both dealing with the topical subject of displaced people and refugees.

We then had the pleasure of hearing readings from both the judges, Kim and Anna.

Kim read first from her novel, ‘Featherfoot’ set in the Australian outback and then from her novel, ‘Holy Blood’, set in contemporary and past Cheltenham and dealing with the illegal holy relics trade. Kim confessed to us that all her books have something to do with crime and bodies.

Anna’s poems all came from her latest poetry collection published this year, ‘Ghosting for Beginners’.

“The Gloucestershire Writers Network Competition event is a wonderful opportunity for writers in Gloucestershire,” said Penny Howarth, the joint administrator to the organisation along with Chris Hemingway. “We are very grateful to the Cheltenham Literature Festival for hosting us.”

The Gloucestershire Writers’ Network is a non-profit organisation which connects with writers and writing groups across Gloucestershire by providing them with a central platform. The competition follows the theme of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, which like the festival itself, is run annually and is open to all Gloucestershire writers over the age of sixteen.