February 2019

This year, Hearth took place on Saturday, 2nd February in the cosy common room of our residential library. This intimate literary festival offers keen writers the opportunity to pick up hints and tips, and ask questions of published authors about their experiences. It also encourages anyone interested in the world of books to find out more about the writing and publishing process.

10.30am - 11.30am: Jacqueline Saphra - A Bargain With the Light: Poems After Lee Miller

Jacqueline Saphra’s A Bargain with the Light: Poems After Lee Miller was published by Hercules Editions in 2017. In this hour Jacqueline takes a closer look at the life and work of Lee Miller, extraordinary and courageous photographer and trailblazer for women. Jacqueline will offer some background about Miller’s place in twentieth-century history and share her experience of writing poems that explore the intersection of life, art and world events. Followed by a reading of the full sequence with projected images and an open mic session where the audience is invited to perform image-inspired poems (their own or written by others).

Jacqueline Saphra describes herself as a poet, editor, agitator, teacher, organiser and word-enthusiast, writing prose and poems across genres and collaborating with composers, musicians and visual artists. The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye 2011) was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing but Naked Women (The Emma Press 2015) won the Saboteur Award for Best Collaborative Work. In 2017 A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller (Hercules Editions 2017) was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award and her latest collection from Nine Arches Press, All My Mad Mothers, was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize. Her next collection, Dad, Remember You are Dead will be out from Nine Arches in September 2019. She lives in London and teaches at The Poetry School. www.jacquelinesaphra.com

12pm - 1pm: Ellen Wiles - Hidden Stories of New Arrivals: The Invisible Crowd

It’s 2nd March 1975 and two babies are born: Yonas Kelati in Eritrea, and Jude Munro in Britain. 30 years later, Yonas’s asylum case ends up on Jude’s desk – their lives couldn’t be more different, and yet one hinges on the other. A multi-voice novel, The Invisible Crowd is a compelling exploration of the British asylum system, the lottery of birth and the kindness of strangers. The Chief Executive of the Refugee Council called it ‘a wonderful book’ and it was one of the GuardianReaders’ Books of the Year in 2017. Join Ellen to meet the ragbag of people who encounter Yonas on his journey, and to find out how Jude will argue his case…

Ellen Wiles is a musician-turned-lawyer-turned-writer. As a human rights barrister at a London chambers, Ellen worked on British cases and international projects including with the Bushmen in Botswana, Karenni refugees in Thailand and local lawyers in Myanmar. Her first book, Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar under Censorship and in Transition (2015) features new literary translations and interviews with censored Burmese writers. Her first novel, The Invisible Crowd (2017) won a Victor Turner Prize for ethnographic writing. Ellen is completing a PhD in literary anthropology alongside fiction writing. She has two small children and lives in London.  

1pm - 2pm: Lunch

2pm - 3pm: Tania Hershman - From One Form to Another: A Writing Life So Far

Tania Hershman might be a poet. She might be a short story writer, or an editor, a critic, a blogger, a journalist and a short fiction activist (via her website ShortStops). She has been Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library and at a university biochemistry department, and is currently writer in residence in a cemetery. Her writing is eclectic, funny, thought-provoking and rare. It is inspired by science and by the poems of Louis MacNeice. In this hour Tania will read a specially-chosen selection of her past and current work while talking to Louisa Yates about how her writing life has shaped her, what she’s writing now, what hybrid writing means, and all that she might be next.

Tania Hershman is a writer, teacher and editor. She is the author of six books, as well as many short stories and poems. Her short stories and flash fictions (The White Road; My Mother Was an Upright Piano; Some of Us Glow More Than Others) are noted for their precise tone and wild, complex settings, while her poetry (Nothing Here is Wild, Everything is Open; Terms and Conditions) is similarly intricate and rich. After years spent living and working in Bristol, Tania currently lives in the north of England, where she is Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Manchester and writer in residence in the Southern Cemetery.

3.30pm - 4.30pm: Alys Conran - Dignity

Alys Conran is one of Britain’s most exciting new writers. Her first novel, Pigeon, was praised for its humanity and skill: ‘might have been authored by Faulkner’, one critic wrote. Appropriately enough for a festival called Hearth, Alys’s second novel Dignity (forthcoming in 2019) is all about the places we call home. It tells the story of three women: sharp-tonged Magda, her carer Shusheela, and the memories of Magda’s mother Evelyn, a former teacher. Magda spent her childhood in the British Raj, a place that ground down her mother and left a lasting legacy on all three women. Dignity considers what the Raj means to Britain today.

Alys Conran's first novel Pigeon (Parthian Books) won the Wales Book of the Year Award 2017 and was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. It also won the Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, The Wales Arts Review People's Choice Award and was longlisted for the Author's Choice First Novel Award. She also publishes poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, creative essays and literary translations and her work is to be found in numerous magazines and anthologies including Stand and The Manchester Review. Her short fiction has been placed in the Bristol Short Story Prize and the Manchester Fiction Prize. She has read at festivals including The Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival and on the radio, including Radio Four. Originally from north Wales, she spent several years in Edinburgh and Barcelona before returning to the area to live and write, and speaks Spanish and Catalan as well as Welsh and English. She has worked as a youth worker, teacher, and in community arts and is now Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bangor.

5pm - 6pm: Reading and Reflection with all four Hearth speakers 

From 6pm: Dinner