‘The Last Chance Hotel’ – Nicki Thornton and Rachel Hickman discuss writing, publishing, and what it takes to win The Times/Chicken House Children’s Novel Award. By Georgina Lippiett 

On Tuesday 20th November, Rachel Hickman and Nicki Thornton came to talk to past and present creative writing students at Winchester University. Rachel is the Deputy Managing Director of Chicken House, where she has worked since it was set up by her colleague Barry Cunningham in 2000. Nicki is a past winner of the Times/Chicken House Competition and her debut novel, The Last Chance Hotel, was published in June this year and was Waterstones’ ‘Book of the Month’ in October.

Rachel started by explaining a little about the competition. Many people think the only way to get published is to follow the traditional, agented model, or attempt ‘self-publishing, crowd-funding, nepotism or magic.’ The Times/Chicken House competition is now in its tenth year and offers something different. Although there is ultimately only one winner each year many of the long and short-listed authors go on to be represented by agents.

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A talk with Patrick Gale by Beth McKeeman

On Wednesday 10th October, at 7.30pm, I popped down to Winchester Discovery Centre to hear Patrick Gale leisurely talk about his new book with Judith Heneghan, before throwing open the floor to audience questions.

Gale’s new novel, Take Nothing with You, is his 16th so far. It tells the story of fifty-year-old Eustace, whose present-day cancer treatment is reminding him of his childhood, splitting the narrative into two time periods. Unlike his previous novels, which have been loosely set in either Winchester or Cornwall – places he holds close to his heart – Take Nothing with You is set in Weston-Super-Mare. This came about after visiting the seaside town as part of Plymouth-based charity Literature Works, of which Gale is a patron.

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An Interview with Lissa Evans by Georgina Lippiett

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Lissa Evans (left) and Georgina Lippiett (right)

Lissa Evans had a successful career in radio and television for many years before she realised her long-cherished dream of writing a novel. To date she has written five novels for adults: Spencer’s List (2002), Odd One Out (2004), Their Finest Hour and a Half (2009), Crooked Heart (2014) and Old Baggage, which is out this month. Their Finest Hour and a Half was longlisted for the Orange Prize and went on to become an acclaimed feature film, Their Finest, in 2016. Her first children’s book, Small Change for Stuart, was shortlisted for the 2012 Carnegie Medal, the Branford Boase Award, the UK Literacy Award and the Costa Children’s Book Award and she has since written a sequel, Big Change for Stuart (2012) and Wed Wabbit (2016).

The moment we meet, Lissa notices how excited I am to be in London during the school holidays and takes me straight to the BAFTA Cafe. Keen to make the most of our child-free chatting time, I dive right in with the questions. (Reader beware, there may be a couple of plot-spoilers in here).   

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‘Start from the Heart’: An evening with Sarah Crossan by Laura Walsha

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Laura Walsha, Sarah Crossan, and Judith Heneghan

A long-awaited and much-anticipated evening with award winning novelist and poet, Sarah Crossan, took place on Tuesday 13th March at The University of Winchester.  Crossan opened the evening by saying that her journey to publication “happened quite quickly.” However, after saying these words Crossan paused, thought for a moment, then laughed and said “No it didn’t, that’s a lie!”

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Will Eaves Talks About Writing by Georgina Lippiett

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Will Eaves (right) signing a book for Judith Heneghan (left)

Will Eaves joined us for the final evening of this year’s Winchester Reading Series. Will is a novelist, poet and teacher. He was Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement for many years before moving to Warwick where he is Associate Professor in the Writing Programme. His novel-in-voices The Absent Therapist was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize in 2014. The Inevitable Gift Shop, a collection of poetry and prose, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for Poetry in 2016 and specially commended by the Poetry Book Society. The opening section of Murmur was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2017.
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John Haynes to the Rescue by S.J. Munday

“ … like Mowgli whose own hairless coat of skin he thought was just another shape of wolf, who learned to turn his human throat to languages that neither beast nor child can really learn …”

From ‘Ashes’ – by John Haynes

On Tuesday 6th March the great John Haynes came to our rescue on what was nearly an evening of literary mourning. At very short notice he agreed to stand in for the highly anticipated Emily Berry who was unable to join us. John has been a poet of high standing for many years and has been the recipient of the Costa Award (Letters to Patience 2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize (You 2010) and runner up in the Arvon International Poetry Competition (‘Ashes’ 1992). He has published collections with Seren Books and The London Magazine, and has several non-fiction titles to his name. John spent many years as a teacher and poet in Nigeria, whose culture and language is behind much of his life’s work.

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An Interview with Andy Hamilton by Georgina Lippiett

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Andy Hamilton, one of Britain’s best loved comedy performers and writers for more than 30 years, is a multi-award-winner (British Comedy Award 2009) with two sell-out UK stage tours to his credit. He is known to millions for his appearances on TV shows such as Have I Got News For You and QI, and is co-creator and co-writer of the BBC One TV hit sitcom Outnumbered.

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