THIS has been an excellent year,” said chairman Jill Fricker as she welcomed members and friends to the White Rock Hotel and introduced the group’s patron, well-known author Tamara McKinley at Hastings Writers’ Group’s annual presentation evening on December 7.
Tamara has written psychological thrillers, a series of best-selling novels set in the Australian outback, and a further series of novels under the name Ellie Dean. Her books have been highly successful and translated into at least 15 languages.
“I love working with this group because you all don’t just sit about talking about writing, you all have a go and actually write,” said Tamara. “In addition to the published authors in the group, so many of you are so nearly at the stage where you could be published – I would like to be able to help more of you take that next step.”
Helped by the vice-chairman, popular children’s author Kate O’Hearn, Tamara gave out certificates to all the members who had won, or been placed, in the group’s internal competitions throughout 2012.
Points for winning entries are added together, and the person with the most points receives the coveted Writer of the Year Award. This year, the winner was the talented Mike Walsh. Long-standing member Mike, from Bexhill, has won the award before – in 2010. His work deserves a much wider audience.
The big event of the night was the award of the Catherine Cookson Cup, awarded annually for an open-theme short story, in honour of the group’s first patron.
Tamara McKinley, who had judged the competition, commented on the high quality of the entries. Forthright as ever, she urged less experienced writers to edit their work rigorously.
“In a successful short story,” she said, “very word must count.” She singled out six entries where sufficient words had counted to impress her.
Highly commended were Charlie Menzinger with Dominic Gets a Second Chance, and Maurice Haken, with Foxed by a Phantom. In fourth place was newcomer to Hastings, Stephanie Gaunt, with How Time Flies. Established member Amanda Giles, also from Hastings, was third with Dear Aunt Lulu. Second was the consistently excellent Mike Walsh, with Pagan Sunset. The winner was Marcus Towner, from Hawkhurst, with the beautifully composed and evocative Perhaps an Indian Summer.
In addition to the awards, a final cheque from sales of the group’s anthology Ghost Writers, was presented to Sara Young from local charity, the Association of Carers. Sara explained how the money had benefited projects to support young carers.
In a slightly more sombre mood, those present sent their best wishes to Monica Percy, local author and former chairman of the group, who was unfortunately not well enough to attend.
Finally, on behalf of the group, Jill expressed gratitude and thanks to Rosemary Bartholomew, who is standing down from the committee after many years invaluable service.
After so long supporting others with their writing, not surprisingly Rosemary now feels she would like to spend more time concentrating on her own work. However, she has been persuaded to help with production of the group’s annual anthologies – the 2012 Strandline has just gone on sale.
Further thanks went to member Anne Hooker, for organising fundraising raffles on this and other occasions, and to Richard Holdsworth for organising the bookstall.
With more than 30 contributing members, the Hastings Writers’ Group is one of the largest and most active groups of its type in the country.
Newcomers continue to join, and the membership includes a diverse range of ages, backgrounds and levels of writing experience.
A number of members have had work published this year, and have entered – and won - prestigious external competitions.
For 2013, the group wants to do yet more to increase the standard of its writing, to get more involved with the local community, and to take a bigger part in cultural festivals and events.