We are excited to post the blog written by our sixth
LUKE BITMEAD WRITER'S BURSARY
winner telling the story of how it felt to be voted the person who has received this award for 2013. We are proud to introduce this talented writer -
An announcement… and a miniature tree
A few weeks ago I accidentally made a grand entrance at the Luke Bitmead Bursary presentation… carrying a miniature tree:
Because that is how I roll.
I’d made my husband promise that he wouldn’t let me demonstrate my incredible talent of making an utter tit of myself in this particular social situation – he didn’t seem all that confident but assured me he would try. Surely it was a simple task to play it classy: be calm, mingle a bit, talk about my book, meet the other shortlisted authors and judges and, you know, be cool. And then the bartender passed me a small tree so he could identify our table when our food was ready. Marvellous.
I’d been shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary – an amazing fund organised by Luke’s family and Legend Press with the aim of supporting emerging authors to get a leg up in the industry. When I got the news I did my customary happy dance and then promptly tried to forget about the possibility of winning. My book had made it onto another shortlist earlier in the year but when nothing came of it I was well and truly gutted, and I didn’t want to approach this opportunity in the same all-or-nothing way. Making the bursary shortlist was a fantastic notch on my literary bedpost and if that’s as far as things went, so be it. I was content, and very chuffed.
And then there I was – tree in hand – introducing myself to Tom Chalmers of Legend Press and Luke’s step-father Chris at the presentation in London. I met a couple of the other authors and their families too – all of them friendly, chatty and slightly anxious (let’s face it – busy social events aren’t the natural habitat of a writer) – and started to wonder if I was really meant to be there. “Hey, we get travel expenses and a few free glasses of wine,” was my mantra. A few judges came past to wish me well, including the lovely Ruth Dugdall (previous Bitmead winner and author of The Woman Before Me) who told me what a supportive team Legend Press were, and said I needed to get a ‘finalist’ sticker so everyone could point and stare. “They keep looking over at you,” my husband kept telling me, which was ridiculous, obviously. Obviously.
Then: the results. Lauren and Lucy of Legend Press began reading out the six runners-up and the crowd closed in, our view obscured by a wall of suits. My husband and I perched up on the back of our seating booth and clapped enthusiastically for each writer as they were called up to be congratulated. And as each one passed I mouthed my own name, expecting it to be read out next. But it wasn’t.
“Top three!” my husband said quietly, and I began to shake a little bit. Sue Luddem, who we’d been sitting with all evening, was also waiting for her name to be called, and I thought it best to poke her in the arm to see if she was as gobsmacked as I was. (She was.) But neither of our names were next – Liam Brown received third place for his novel Fade to White and the applause got louder until:
“Second place: Susan Luddem - Getting Away With It.”
And that left just one place and one name, and somehow they were both mine. Someone in the crowd turned around and shook my hand. Whispers spread and fingers pointed to our little booth. My husband started bouncing up and down, whispering: “You did it, you did it!” and all I could do was slap him across the chest and hiss, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” I’m used to challenges, rejection, not-quite-getting there, you see. I’m good at recharging my stoic resources and soldiering on, but success is a bit of an unknown. I have no idea how to react to coming first in something, let alone finally seeing my biggest dream come true. This book is my second completed novel (my first is languishing away in a drawer, as so many first novels must do, waiting for better days, better skills, better ideas) and has been my paper-baby for getting on for six years. I’ve always been a great believer in the power of optimism and determination and it wasn’t ever that I *knew* I’d get published one day, but I was damn sure going to keep trying until it happened. And now… a crowd was gently nudging me towards the front of the room and I sort of fell into Elaine’s arms for an enormous congratulatory hug.
“Meet your publisher,” she said, passing me to Tom, whose face had turned into one massive grin, and I proceeded to repeat “Thank you, thank you, what the hell is going on? Thank you,” to everyone I spoke to for the following couple of hours, laughing because it was so utterly surreal. A publishing contract with Legend Press. And an oversized comedy cheque. And a general feeling of being very, very drunk without actually having had more than one glass.
The lovely Elaine Hanson, my very proud husband, and my gobsmacked little face.
Eloquence and articulation are lost in the face of such things. Instead I’m left with: “My book, story, baby, thing, is gonna be a proper thing. Like a book. I mean, a BOOK. With pages and a cover and you can hold it in your hands and it will have words in it. My words. Stuff wot I wrote and stuff. And you’re gonna buy it, yeah? Cos I’ll be a writer. With a book. A real papery book! Why are you looking at me like that?”
Yes, I am flying on clouds of awesome right now, but in all seriousness, there are thank yous and nods and points to be made. The bursary was created in honour of Luke Bitmead, author of White Summer, The Body is a Temple, and co-author of Heading South, all published by Legend Press. After Luke’s tragic death in 2006 his family set up a fund “to support and encourage the work of fledgling novel writers” in association with Legend, which now offers the largest literary prize for new writers in the UK.
At the presentation evening Luke’s mother Elaine gave a speech about the importance of making personal connections, of inviting in new experiences, and relieving the isolation in which writers often find themselves. I was drawn to the Luke Bitmead bursary because of what it stands for – not simply the support of emerging authors in a tough financial climate, but also the attempt to break down the stigma attached to mental health issues. There are far fewer than seven degrees of separation between you and someone with mental health problems, I guarantee it. And yet it’s very hard to talk about, or acknowledge, or find peace with. But when lines of communication do open up, the taboo quickly becomes something of a norm – people sympathise, empathise, sidle out of the woodwork to admit that they, too, have experienced similar problems, and it’s not such a lonely place after all.
At the core of my book lies a battle between whatever normality the characters are hoping to achieve, and the psychological problems that are fundamental parts of their personality. A father with dementia, a son with depression, and a splintered family in between, grappling to retrieve lost connections – because sometimes the people closest to you can feel the furthest away.
White Lies will be published by Legend Press in 2014.
(Oh my… Did I say that out loud?)
Award Evening 2013!
We are delighted to be able to post more pictures of the evening and our finalists who we were privileged to meet. They fully engaged with what we are doing in memory of Luke. It was an awe inspiring evening talking with them
Martin Cathcart Froden
Andrew Hatch with Lauren from Legend
Our winner Jo Gatford
Sam Mills, Elaine and Jo Gatford
Elaine presenting Jo Gatford with her cheque
Sam, Lauren and Liam Brown
Elaine with Jo Gatford and her husband Joe
We are proud to announce
as the winner of the Luke Bitmead Writer's Busary 2013
LUKE BITMEAD 6th BURSARY PRESENTATION
7th November 2013
Standing listening to the vibrant conversations being held around me it makes my heart sing with joy knowing that like minded people are talking and hopefully listening to each other. This is a healthy way to be. Engaging with each other bringing our own thoughts, experiences and ideas to the conversation, and listening to different and maybe challenging responses. It is what writers perhaps don't get the opportunity to do enough of as writing can be a solitary profession.
Luke loved telling stories about his travels in many parts of the world and the interesting people he engaged with. I remember him telling me about one of the best meals he had ever had. He shared it with a Thai family who lived in a shack with little as far as material possessions were concerned. They invited him to eat with them. Fresh fish straight from the sea simply prepared and served with great generosity of spirit. As many of you know he wrote TBisaT following the two years he lived in Thailand and that is what gives the book its authenticity. He experienced the beauty of the country and its people but also got caught up in the darker narcissistic side of life where people took what they wanted for themselves with no concern for the trauma imposed on others. It's a tense story of survival combined with a strong desire to live in a finer way. It's Luke's story.
Maybe this sounds as if I am grappling with nostalgia, regret and the relentless passage of time. Yes there is a devastating wistful pathos in these words of mine, a mother who had to stand and watch her son die. Helpless to save him. We can't legislate to make people care about each other but surely life is a never ending learning curve and one has to give of oneself to reap any reward.
I have learnt a huge amount since Luke's death. I could decide to lead a much quieter existence and make speeches which were purely replete with platitudes but inside me is a determination to make Luke's death something I work with to create an opportunity for better understanding. To encourage both the medical profession and families to increase their knowledge and understanding of how our brains work and what is required to enhance our mental health. I know the government have at last realised that there is "no health without mental health." It is an important step forward.
Gross Domestic Product is rising at a healthier pace and this brings financial stability but this is not sufficient to give us a healthy society. To achieve that what we need is to care about each other. Luke cared about people and even when life was very tough for him he thought about others. He had the idea to create a writer's bursary to provide some support for unpublished writer's to help them make the momentous leap to becoming published with a bursary to ease the financial strain.
You can't start a fire without a spark and Luke was that spark but to keep it burning we have had to keep stoking the fire. Chief stoker is Tom Chalmers of Legend Press he embraced the thought of a bursary from the moment I told him of Luke's idea and with Lucy Publicity Director, Lauren Editorial Director they have this year had many more entries to read and what an amazing selection of books were finally selected.
Donations are a vital part of enabling us to present this Bursary and we will be passing round sparkly bags during the evening and hope you will help us to start replenishing our empty coffers in preparation for next year. We feel encouraged by every contribution we receive and excited by the ingenuity of our donators who undertake all sorts of activities to raise money. Things that have been done in the past include a swimathon, running a half marathon, giving a talk, renting a field for parking for Kate Moss's wedding, tax advice - yes we will be receiving the fee for this. That was really inventive and a first! Tom did mention a cycle ride to Paris but since his daughter was born he has gone quiet on that one something to do with lack of sleep, I think. It is wonderfully inspiring to hear how you raise money and we really enjoy hearing your stories.
The Personal Statement is an important part of the judging process and for the first time this year we are giving an additional prize for the best one. To read about a person's life experiences and how they have been drawn to writing as a career gives me, a psychodynamic counsellor working closely with people all the time, an idea of what depths this person has to draw on enabling their characters to feel real and readers to become immersed in the story they are telling. Thank you all for listening and I shall end with Thomas Aquinas's intuition, that too much information blocks the act of understanding.
SUNDAY 27th OCTOBER THE SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY OF LUKE'S UNTIMELY DEATH
This photograph of Luke was taken during his first term at Radley when he was twelve years old. He was a handsome boy who grew into a handsome and talented man.
He left us a rich legacy to work with. Two unpublished books and his idea to give a bursary to support fledgling writers was an important part of that legacy. On 7th November in London we will present the sixth Luke Bitmead Writer's Bursary that has been chosen from vigorous discussions amongst the judging panel.
The dark veil that hangs between life and death has become lighter as we work together to honour Luke's memory giving others the opportunity to have their work published by the great team at Legend Press.
These powerful words were read by a friend of Luke's at his funeral.
"You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
The Prophet Kahlil Gibran
We are delighted to be posting this invitation to all the supporters and donators of The Luke Bitmead Memorial Fund. It is you who have enabled us to gather the necessary funds for this years Bursary and hope you will be able to join us at the presentation.
RSVP Lucy Chamberlain email@example.com
Shortlist for 2013 Luke Bitmead Bursary announced
Legend Press are delighted to announce the 10 shortlisted authors for the 2013 Luke Bitmead Bursary. Set up in memory of Legend Press' first ever published novelist the award, now its sixth year, supports the work of struggling unpublished authors.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Central London on 7th November 2013. The winning author will receive £2500 and a publishing contract with Legend Press for 2014 for their submitted novel.
The 10 shortlisted authors are:
Alex Vargas - Trudy Mean
Andrew Stephen Hatch - Los Gigantes
Susan Gee - Getting Away With It
Paul White - Winter Daffodils
Paul Vates - Plot 51
Jo Gatford - Piecemeal
Fran Slater - Fierce Animals
Paul McMahon - Dead Reckoning
Liam Brown - Fade to White
Martin Cathcart Froden - Robert Anderson's Files
The award will be judged by Tom Chalmers, Lucy Chamberlain and Lauren Parsons from Legend Press, Luke's Mother Elaine Hanson and award-winning authors Sam Mills and Ruth Dugdall.
The Luke Bitmead Bursary was founded by Luke's family, in association with Legend Press, shortly after Luke's tragic death in 2006 at the age of just 34. Luke's book White Summer was the first novel to be published by Legend Press and Luke was one of the UK's most talented up-and-coming writers. Legend Press are delighted to be working with Luke's family to ensure that Luke's name and memory lives on. Previous winners of the award are: Andrew Blackman in 2008 for On the Holloway Road, Ruth Dugdall in 2009 for The Woman Before Me, Sophie Duffy in 2010 for The Generation Game, J.R. Crook in 2011 for Sleeping Patterns and Joanne Graham in 2012 for Lacey's House.
THE TEMPERATURE IS RISING
After this glorious summer with many hours of sunshine we are now moving into autumn the season of 'mists and mellow fruitfulness.'
However at Legend Press the temperature is rising following Lucy's glorious wedding in August and Legend's move to larger offices now they are reading all the entries for the sixth Luke Bitmead Writer's Bursary. Here is a comment from them:
'We are delighted with the quality of this year's entries, it will be extremely hard to pick our shortlist of 10 authors. We have received some amazing and inspirational personal stories, and a real range of genres - from historical, literary, crime to romance, experimental prose and fantasy. We thank everyone for entering and look forward to our judging meeting in October.'
We are all excited at the prospect of the judging panel meeting in October followed by the presentation evening in November.
It must seem a long wait for those of you who have entered the competition but it is a lengthy process to make sure everybody has their work carefully read.
This year we have had more donations for smaller amounts and this is I feel a much better way to gather the necessary funds. If there is anyone who would like to contribute we would be delighted to receive your donation to help us reach our target of £4,000. This means we can give £2,500 to the winner plus prizes to the runners up as well. All ten finalists will receive a cheque for £100 to help with travel costs enabling we hope everyone to come to the presentation evening.
Everyone who works to give this award gives their time and so all donations are passed on to the fledgling writers who are our finalists. See Donations on the left.
BREAKING THE SILENCE
As I read emails that have been sent to me since the article about Luke appeared in The Mail on Sunday it becomes more and more clear how the fear of speaking openly about mistakes prevents the opportunity to change and improve things. What is it that prevents us challenging things? Why do we feel we must accept the way things are even if we aren't happy about what has happened. People suffer when their emotions are discounted and so often this starts in our own family. If our emotions are discounted as a child then we grow to believe this is how it will be for us in adulthood unless we discover a way to challenge what has been taught to us through the dynamics in our own family. Psychotherapy and counselling help people to discover how to regulate emotions differently, re-working toxic narratives and building confidence in trusting relationships. It takes time to embed these new ways of thinking in our neural pathways. Maybe if we allowed ourselves the freedom to feel comfortable to seek help when we are not happy in our lives and unable to cope, then early intervention would attend to mental health issues before they escalate and become more difficult to treat.
HUGE THANK YOU
It has been outstanding to receive messages from people who have really engaged with Luke's story and some who have told tragic stories of their own. We are becoming increasingly aware that these mistakes are made due to lack of knowledge and training. To be faced, as a professional, with a situation caring for a patient that you feel incompetent to manage does not allow for the patient to receive healing treatment.
There seems to be an important message that we all need to be more aware of how to look after our mental health and certainly the experiences of our childhood can determine our future emotional well being.
It feels important that we all share in the responsibility for gaining more awareness in how to encourage a healthier society to develop both physically and mentally.
Mail on Sunday pages 64 - 65
Today's feature article showing vibrant pictures of my talented son along with the appalling facts of his case make it clearly necessary to change the law - if you agree please contact your MP - to start the debate as to how this can happen.
Together we can create change
The full article is on this website see the Mail on Sunday page
A FEATURE ARTICLE TELLING LUKE'S STORY IN THE MAIL ON SUNDAY THIS WEEKEND
To be able to maintain a need to know why rather than slide into acceptance of something that could have been prevented from happening is what the press have enabled us to do. Curiosity correlates with all sorts of good things - health and happiness are important but one of the useful things that curiosity brings is a first step towards change. Unless we change, the same mistakes will be repeated so to have an attitude of inquiry into ourselves and the world around us seems to be a more dynamic way to live.
Thank you to the press for their amazing energy and continuing curiosity into understanding Luke's story.
AMAZON BIG SUMMER SALE
It is brilliant to see that Amazon have chosen to reduce
THE BODY IS A TEMPLE Kindle to 99p !!!
J. R. Crook our fourth Bursary winner emailed me to check that I had seen this and his amazing book SLEEPING PATTERNS Kindle has also been reduced to 99p.
It feels poignant to know both these books have been put on the frontline to encourage sales this summer. Knowing we have enabled a talented writer to get published by winning Luke's Bursary and that the last book we had of Luke's to publish are both now achieving success makes me feel exceptionally proud.
Please, now we need you all to go out and buy more copies to give as presents so the royalties will continue to support this year's Bursary.
LOVE IS THE STRENGTH THAT GIVES YOU LIFE
When you receive love you lose fear and you can give the best in you. The practical form of love is respect. Respect means acceptance of the fact that we are all different and unique also we all have something important and valuable to share.
It has been uplifting to know how people are doing things that show their respect for Luke. And for those who didn't meet Luke it seems they have respect for his story.
A wonderfully talented illustrator Christian Mtima drew a picture of Luke for an article in Spindle Magazine. It was a really well written article and Christian's drawing cleverly captured Luke with his uncertainty showing in his beautiful eyes. Including his drums along with symbolising The Body is a Temple with an artist's model showed how Christian had spent time creating an image that portrayed the essence of Luke.