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Congratulations to the winners and runners up in our 2019/2020 Writing Competition
Poetry winners: 
1st  - Love to Love by Derek Smith
2nd - Agadir by Alastair Paterson
Prose winners: 
1st  - Spare by Susanne Barry
2nd - The First Time I Learned a Poem By Heart by Marjorie Mansfield
View some of the winning entries on the 'Featured Authors' page 

The optional theme for the competition was 'The first time I ……..'
Have you a memorable first time? e.g. first day I went to school, started work, first writers meeting or first kiss.
Nick Cook our judge for this competition wanted the writers to bring that first time to life for readers so they could experience that first time, be taken back to the time it happened. Prizes go to the most vivid realisation.

Nick Cook provided us with his final adjudication - here are the main points from his transcript of the on-line meeting held on Friday 8 May 2020.Nick Cook competition results picture 

Thank you very much for inviting me to judge your competition.  I was very impressed with the number of entries – 10 poems and 17 prose.  I was also very impressed with the quality.  Judging was clearly going to be a daunting task.  So, I took a cue from who wants to be a millionaire and phoned a friend.

The friend was Jacky Steemson who edited a journal I started writing for 30 years ago.  Despite the fact that she once described me as a man who never knowingly met a deadline, we have remained friends ever since.   She is self-isolating in Birmingham and jumped at the chance of getting involved. 

But I have to say isolation – what isolation.  In the last month Harpenden writers have taken Jacky and over the world – not only to different places but to different times as well. 

I just want to give a brief taste of our travels. 

Appropriately, given that this is VE day, we have been taken back to the second world war, to Hitlers first chilling speeches and to a Spitfire pilot who inspired poetry.  Just after the war we have tasted cakes on an Irish farm in a sparkling celebration of the ordinary.  A little nearer the present we have experienced the wonder of that first Star Wars film, climbed a mountain in Malaysia, survived an earthquake in Manila and braved a precarious chair lift ride in the Austrian Alps  

Family relationships have been put under severe strain by traumatic driving lessons and disastrous camping holiday in Spain, probably a pan of burnt spaghetti.  But a YHA camping holiday made adults out of us. 

And as adults we have eaten the eyeballs of an octopus l and starred in a Karaoke drum solo on a drunken evening in Japan.

Nor have our experiences been confined to land.  We have enjoyed fish and chips after competing in a river race and met unicorn fish and manta rays beneath the wave.  And we have become a Raindrop, which in turn became part of a plastic polluted sea. 

We have met the Queen and held our own in conversation with the eccentric and intimidating sculptor Jacob Epstein and contemplated the insignificance of man in the haunting beauty of Agadir. 

We have experienced love and loss and the joys of a new arrival in the form of a baby. 

Perhaps more disturbingly, we have murdered two, possibly three people. This entry may achieve fame as being the first writing competition submission to be impounded as a witness statement.

This has been a whistle stop tour through the wonderful and varied world of your competition entries.  Not only were they hugely entertaining but they highlighted the importance of writing – especially at times like these.

But the high quality of the writing and the almost infinite variety made picking winners almost impossible. I did consider disqualifying every entry, putting my name at the bottom and sending them off to publishers.  And then sitting back and looking forward to a very comfortable retirement. 

But Jacky prevailed.  But picking the winners was incredibly difficult because there were so many that we could have picked.  However, we narrowed it down to four. Two poems and two prose pieces.  (Nick gave a full review of the winning entries but to protect the author's publishing rights we are not displaying his comments here)

At this point I will just say that Jacky and I have provided a written feedback for each entrant.   Rania will be emailing these to the entrants after this meeting. 

Now I will announce the winners. 

Poetry winner:  Love to Love by member 16

Prose winner:  Spare by member 12

Runner up poetry: Agadir by member 18

Runner up prose: The First Time I Learned A Poem by Heart by member 24.

They were the winners.  But there are others that we would like to mention:

Member 1: for two prose pieces that celebrated an idyllic childhood and showed that the ordinary can be extraordinary.

Members 16 and 17: for their fiction pieces On the Edge and The First Time respectively.  The writing in both pieces was flawless and the plotting in On the Edge was extremely well crafted.

Member 3: for The First Time I Met the Queen.  Tremendous and irreverent humour!

Member 20: for A Voice on The Wireless – a child hears the chilling voice of Hitler on the radio.

Member 6: for Sunday – a celebration of childbirth.

Member 13: for the first Time We Met. 

That concludes the adjudication. We would like to thank everyone who entered this competition and took us out of our lockdown and Harpenden writers for the opportunity to read and evaluate the entries. 

And finally, a big thank you to Rania for all the communications and help over the period of judging. 

Some of the winning entries are available to read on our 'Featured Authors' page