We support women writers living and working in the East of England * Shortlisted for the Women In Publishing New Venture Award 2015 & 2016, for Saboteur Best One-Off Event 2015 and Best Anthology 2014 * Our anthologies are available to buy from Unthank Books * The Words & Women Compendium will be launched in March!
Our annual prose competition is open for entries until
the 15th November. Click here for submission
There are two major prizes on offer: the
East of England Prize and our National Prize for Women
Writers over the age of 40.
The national award, generously sponsored by Hosking Houses Trust, offers
women over the age of 40 the opportunity to win £1,000 and up to a month-long
writing retreat at Church Cottage near Stratford-upon-Avon.The East of England prize offers the winner £600 and a mentoring session
with Jill Dawson of Gold Dust.
Below is a post from Deborah Arnander, the national winner of last
year’s competition with her short story The
Wife, which opens a window on her time in Church Cottage. If you’d like to
read up on what it means to win the regional prize then click on April in our
blog archive and winner Melissa Fu will give you the low-down.
A House of
(C) Deborah Arnander
Cottage, the Hosking Houses Trust provides the lucky resident with more than a
room: with, in fact, a House of One’s Own, to quote the title of Janet
Malcolm’s wonderful essay on Bloomsbury and the ‘spirit of industry’ that still
resides in houses like Charleston.These
places speak, Malcolm says, ‘of the values by which Chekov’s good characters
are ruled: patient, habitual work and sensible, calm behavior.’That spirit rules in this place too.You cannot fail to feel its benevolent
The cottage has been appointed with
great thoughtfulness.There is a huge
enamel bath, a comfy bed, a proper writing chair. A well-stocked bookcase includes works by many
of the impressive women who have been here before.The River Stour is at the bottom of the lane,
and the resident has use of a reputedly unsinkable white boat.Clifford Chambers is a pretty village built
around a cul-de-sac, with an interesting church, some beautiful old houses, and
a Manor that reminded me of Tintin’s Marlinspike Hall.It is a walkable two miles from
Stratford-upon-Avon.At night, there is
total silence.The church bells ring the
I worried before I came that I might balk at the
change to my routines, that I might even miss the perverse satisfaction of stealing
time out of the day.But the cottage
works its magic, and in the time I’ve been here, I’ve found myself unwilling even
to turn on the radio. I knew it would be an age before I got another chance to
be so single-minded about my work.I let
the outside world recede.I had the
whole day to dive down.
(C) Deborah Arnander
I brought my most recent notebooks
with me, and some print-outs of my semi-abandoned novel. I decided to work on the novel first.In the absence of other distractions, I
managed to rewrite the first four chapters in a way that gives me hope: it’s
much closer to the point-of-view character now.I’ve always known that there are major problems with the plot; I’ve had
some ideas about what I need to do to fix that.
I’ve also been thinking for
some time about a book of interconnected short stories.At the Cottage I started to wonder what that
might look like: there would need to be enough variation, for example, in the
ages or life stages of the protagonists.I sketched out half a dozen potential stories centred on a particular
theme, and started composing one of them. I have always found it difficult to see my
work as a whole, rather than the few sentences or pages I’m working on.But now I realize that a less fragmented day,
with no other responsibilities, makes that wider view possible.
There are several books at the cottage by one of
the Trust’s patrons, Tracey Emin.Speaking of the inspiration for her ‘Lonely Chair’ drawings, she told an
interviewer: ‘When I’m in my house in France, I’m really, really happy.I feel at one with something and at peace
with something.I spend a lot of time on
my own there and I spend a lot of time sitting in a chair thinking.’Those words have been echoing inside me all
the time that I’ve been here.Encouraging surroundings, time for uninterrupted thought, and perhaps
especially, solitude: these things are essential for a writer.I am so grateful to the Hosking Houses Trust,
and to Words and Women, for running the competition.
was born in Northumberland but spent her childhood in Thailand. She has a PhD in French literature, and works
as a translator. She won an Escalator
award in 2010, when she began her first, soon to be completed novel, The Cinderella Watch, which was
shortlisted in 2014’s TLC/PEN Factor competition. She has published stories in Unthology One and Words and Women One, Three and Four,
all with Unthank Books, and poetry in the webzine Ink, Sweat and Tears. She is
married with two children.