HOW TO BE BRAVE
It has been uplifting to receive many messages both from Bursary winners, finalists and supporters of Luke’s Bursary following the criticism of what we do in his memory.
It reminded me of a quote that was given to me many years ago “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” It’s amazing how sometimes we forget helpful words when we are in a state of shock so thank you for helping me remember.
LOUISE BEECH one of the 7th Bursary finalists sent me sensitive and thoughtful words of encouragement. Then she sent me the brilliant news that following her place as a finalist she has now found a publisher for her book entitled HOW TO BE BRAVE
I remember Louise saying that she felt How to be Brave was the story she was always meant to write. Somehow it seems prophetic that this is the title and it feels there is a strong message there for all of us. Here is the link to read more:
For those of you who follow Luke's website regularly, you will have noticed that there has been no blog since November when we had the glorious 7th Bursary Award Night. It has been really helpful in sustaining me through a bleak time to see the steady flow of visitors continuing. I hope the film that Jannik shot for us has been a splendid reminder of the joy of being amongst like-minded people who engaged and shared the triumph of Tara Guha and the other finalists whose books all deserve to be published.
Something has been hanging over my head and blurring my vision as to the way forward. It was made clear to me by a member of Luke's family that she thinks I have too much focus on Luke and so no Christmas card this year. I wanted to ask more but was told the conversation wouldn't continue and the phone was put down! I burst into tears - very unlike me. My reaction was provoked by total shock and disbelief at this unexpected attack. Also because it was close to Christmas when understandably emotions can run high and we particularly miss those who have died too young. It seems I have now been cut off from that part of the family as I wrote a letter but haven't received a reply - yet.
I feel a little like the whistle blowers in the NHS who try to do the right thing by exposing failure of care but then get persecuted to make them keep quiet, surely this is morally reprehensible. It jeopardises safety and deters others from coming forward. It is a tactic used for its inhibiting effect and if we allow fear to prevail then none of us are safe.
Along with all this turmoil in my head I have received wonderfully encouraging emails from some of our finalists and other people that believe this is a very positive way to remember Luke. The answer lies of course within myself and I feel it is right to continue to present the Bursary as long as I have enough support, and I think I do.
By now you might be wondering where "Sichuan Sizzle" comes in. Well I was reading a recipe and it said "gently smack ginger and spring onions with rolling pin to loosen their fibres." To me it seemed to give the answer maybe what I need to do is help the family members who think I am wrong to continue to remember Luke in this way by a gentle smack, metaphorically speaking, to help "loosen their fibres", their stuckness that has allowed three generations of men committing suicide to not be spoken about, so no opportunity for healing and change.. The stigma remains.
It would be much appreciated to hear what you think.
A special moment for this years winner Tara Guha
We are delighted to have received Tara Guhas thoughts on how it felt to be the seventh Luke Bitmead Bursary Winner 2014
Break a leg people said, but it was more my little toe that worried me. Since fracturing it three months earlier in a reckless encounter with a pair of wedges, I'd kept my dodgy feet in flat shoes. But now my sister-in-law had surprised me with a stunning new dress for the Luke Bitmead Bursary award night and, at the risk of sounding like someone I'm very much not, I had a shoe conundrum. Flats with that dress were just wrong. So 6.30 pm on Friday 28th November (the day!) found me hunched by some railings outside the Betsey Trotwood (the venue!) wrestling in the dark with one particularly stiff buckle as cool London people brushed past me. Don't let go of me I hissed to Dave (the supportive partner!). Together we hobbled inside.
I knew I wasn't going to win, of course. Knew it to the extent that it wasn't something I needed to consider or visualise even briefly. I'd put everyone right on that score. I was so thrilled to be shortlisted, to have that unexpected validation pop into my inbox amid the nicely phrased rejections, that I was just going to enjoy the night. It wasn't hard to do. There was Louise, easily recognisable from her Twitter photo, and other shortlistees, many of whom had travelled down like me from the north. Everyone was excited, eager to find out about each other. The atmosphere was warm and easy, like a party amongst friends. I met Lauren, Lucy and Lottie (the publishers!). I had a long conversation with Luke's mother Elaine, and felt we really connected. I knew I hadn't won, and the conversations with those in the know confirmed that, but I was touched at how carefully people seemed to have read my book and personal statement. My mind fizzed and my feet tingled.
It didn't go entirely smoothly. In a chat with lovely ex-winner and judge Ruth Dugdall I felt my brain cave in on itself when she asked me about my literary influences. I heard myself, in horrified slow motion, answer that I'd done a literature degree and loved "Emily Bronte and … er… people like that." People like that? Bet she was glad she hadn't picked me! By now the tingling in my feet had become a persistent throb, so as the presentations started I took a seat away from the stage and the cameras. Ruth's speech was properly inspiring and I admired, in an abstract way, how she had seized on the opportunity of being the Bursary winner. And then there was a Strictly Come Dancing moment as all the shortlistees were called up "in no particular order", which my kids would have appreciated. Better get ready...
I clapped as each shortlistee was named and came to the stage. More names, more clapping, and still not my own name, which was odd. Names, clapping, names … good grief, we'd reached the top three and Dave's eyes were nearly popping out of his head. I wasn't third. I pictured telling my parents I'd come second as I prepared to hear my name. But it wasn't my name. Dave grabbed me but I was frowning - there had been a mistake, they'd forgotten to announce me earlier, the real winner was still out there. I was shaking. People were turning to look at me. Then I heard it - my name, my book. Never in my life have I been more completely and utterly poleaxed.
I hadn't thought for a second what I might say in this situation. Somehow I managed to thank Legend Press and Luke Bitmead's family, but not a word for anyone else. Oscars speech it was not. I had to hold a giant comedy cheque (could I smuggle it home to show my kids?) and grin for the cameras. The pictures of me that evening show the same wide-eyed, wondering, slightly trippy smile as on the photos taken just after my children were born. At least I was expecting them!
Afterwards Lauren casually delivered the second most shocking revelation of the night - the publication date of my book. My book had a publication date. My book that I'd worked on for eight years in the corner of a bedroom around ill kids and long winters. People had been talking about it, scheduling it, writing a press release about it. I may have opened and closed my mouth several times like a fish at this point.
For the rest of the night I drifted around sipping champagne and hoping my brain would play catch-up. People were so warm in their congratulations: best-selling author and judge Sam Mills, my fellow shortlistees, and Elaine, who told me they were all being careful not to give the game away earlier (no problem on that score, folks!). Tom, the MD of Legend Press, referred to me as an award-winning author, and I laughed. Until I realised he was serious. Finally numbers dwindled and just a handful of us were left at the bar. I looked around, feeling fuzzy, happy and strangely at home. It was time. Foraging in my bag, I got out my flats.
A celebratory moment!
Watch the 7th Bursary Award speech on
We are greatly looking forward to awarding Luke's Writer's Bursary on 28th November 2014 and will be posting my speech the next day for those of you who are unable to be with us.
THE 2012 LUKE BITMEAD BURSARY WINNER JO GRAHAM GETS HER SECOND BOOK PUBLISHED ! SHE SENT US THIS QUOTE:
"On the 31st October 2014, my second book - To the Edge of Shadows - was published. I walked into my local Waterstones and there was a lovely stack of them waiting for someone to pick one up. On the shelf behind was my first book - Lacey's House - winner of the 2012 Luke Bitmead Bursary. It was a dream come true for me and none of it would have been possible if it weren't for the bursary set up in Luke's memory by his wonderful mother Elaine. To say that it has changed my life is an understatement. At the time of winning I was working in my day job with teenagers who displayed challenging behaviour. I was writing in the evenings after my children went to bed... it was exhausting and there never seemed enough hours in the day. In July of this year I finally took the plunge and gave up my day job to write full time. It feels incredible to be able to say that I am now officially a full time writer and two years ago I would never have believed it possible."
It is thrilling and encouraging to receive this news particularly as we are about to hold the award evening for the 7th Bursary on 28th of this month.
To know past Bursary winners have received a really solid step forward in their writing careers demonstrates the validity of awarding Luke's Bursary.
The 27th October is the date when Luke left this earthly life and the day I started to learn to live differently. I miss him all the time but I no longer get hi-jacked by my own feelings. I remember all he has taught me about how to really live because I now understand better what really matters. How to be aware of not knowing which in itself is a kind of knowing and not knowing is embraced in awareness.
Gradually learning and growing from understanding one another's perspectives is a beautiful way to live. Running Luke's Bursary with Tom, Lucy and Lauren at Legend Press has enabled me to remember Luke at this time of year particularly as we prepare for the 7th Award Night. What a brilliant idea Luke gave us before his death and what a huge privilege it is to meet our finalists every year.
Luke has great kindness and we his family have the honour of continuing to show this with the support of many like- minded people. A heartfelt thankyou to you all.
Shortlist for 2014 Luke Bitmead Bursary announced
Legend Press are delighted to announce the 10 shortlisted authors for the 2014 Luke Bitmead Bursary. Set up in memory of Legend Press' first ever published novelist the award, now its seventh year, supports the work of struggling unpublished authors.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Central London on 28th November 2014. The winning author will receive £2500 and a publishing contract with Legend Press for 2015.
The 10 shortlisted authors are:
Ankia Scott - Secrets
Catherine Murphy - Bleak Lush
Christine Browne - Revenge Ritual
Emily Ruth Verona - Steady is the Fall
Jacqueline Grima - Coming Second
Jose Toledo - The Queen of Madagascar
Louise Beech - How To Be Brave
Melanie Garrett - This He Did Without Remorse
Simon Van Der Velde - The Benjamin Exhibition
Tara Guha - Absent
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, Joanne Graham in 2012 for Lacey's House and Jo Gatford in 2013 for White Lies.
Tom Chalmers, Managing Director of Legend Press commented: 'We are thrilled with our 2014 shortlist. With a record number of submissions for this our seventh year of the Bursary, we have been overwhelmed by the quality of submissions we have received. It is a pleasure to be working with Luke's family on a literary award growing year-on-year. Luke would have loved the idea of another struggling talented writer being supported on the arduous road to securing their first publishing deal. We look forward to announcing the winner in November.'
It is with much regret that I offer my apology for saying the ten finalists for the Luke Bitmead Writers Bursary would be announced today. I was wrong. I misinterpreted Legend Press saying last week it would be early this week and I thought early meant Monday. Please let me assure you Lucy Chamberlain the Publicity Director at Legend Press will always make sure she gets the best publicity available and this will of course be good for you. It will be soon and I hesitate to be more exact as the world of journalists allows for flexibility with regard to timing.
I do remember what an anxious time it was for Luke waiting to hear back from agents and am fully aware that having poured so much of your selves into a book, waiting isn't easy. Please know I am contrite.
Looking out of my kitchen window I can see two stunning horse chestnut trees in the copse opposite our house. They are wearing their autumn colours of bronze with auburn high lights; soon they will lose all their leaves and stand bare branched but robustly tolerating the winter gales. Magically when spring arrives their sticky buds will start to burst open revealing unfurling green leaves and glorious white candles. Luke loved these trees and now they seem to symbolise his Bursary. We open for submissions on the 1st May, the month of Luke's birthday and now in October the month Luke died we will announce our ten superb finalists.
I struggle to find words eloquent enough to explain how impressed, humbled and privileged I have been feeling as I have read the personal statements that give us a flavour of the person behind the book they have submitted.
Please know your statements have taken me through a whole gamut of emotions. Thank you for your openness sharing your thought provoking ideas and your belief in the way we are remembering Luke. I feel enriched and inspired reading your words and full of admiration for your tenacity.
Tomorrow our ten finalists will be announced.
We are aware from comments made in past years what a long time it seems for those who have submitted books, and are waiting for the finalists to be announced, so we wanted to give some news keeping you in touch with progress.
Here is a quote from Lucy at Legend Press:
'Following the closure of submissions for this year's Luke Bitmead Bursary we are delighted to be able to say we have received a record number of submissions this year and it is fantastic to see the prize growing from strength to strength. The Legend Press team have now begun to read entries and it is superb to see the wealth of writing talent out there. The award is a brilliant way to support new writers who are struggling to find their way and also to raise awareness of mental illness in society in general, through Luke's story. We have received a real range of submissions, both in terms of genre and style, and some really powerful supporting personal statements from the authors who have submitted.'
It is a joy to know that selecting our finalists is in safe professional hands and thank you to everyone that entered.
Entries have now closed for the Luke Bitmead Writer's Bursary.
Lauren Commissioning Editor at Legend Press said: 'We are delighted to be working on the Bitmead Bursary again, now in its seventh year. In the past we have discovered some wonderful debut writers that have gone on to achieve fantastic success both here in the UK and around the world. We have received hundreds of submissions for the next round and look forward to diving in to find the next hidden treasure!'
Following the successful launch of our 6th Bursary winner's book White Lies by Jo Gatford we are now focusing on raising funds for this year's Bursary. We have already raised £3,000 and so now need £1,000 for this year. We know from the feedback we receive this is proving a worthy way to remember Luke and also highlight the continuing need for better treatment for people struggling with mental health issues.
When donating please remember no amount is too small and for many people to donate a little maintains the hope in our hearts that Luke's tragic and untimely death is remembered in a way that rekindles for all of us enthusiasm for life's journey.
Send a cheque payable to The Luke Bitmead Memorial Fund to:
"FREEPOST THE HANSON PARTNERSHIP LLP"
There is no postage to pay.
Or pay by BACS/Internet transfer to:
The Luke Bitmead Memorial Fund
Account number 71543547
Sort code 40-05-26
If you pay tax please ask for a Gift Aid Form so we can claim from HMRC 25 pence for every £1 you donate
LUKE BITMEAD WRITER'S BURSARY
1ST JULY 2014
It is the last month for entries for Luke's Bursary this year. The summer solstice passed with magnificent skies. It is a time when hope becomes more believable and hearts can rekindle enthusiasm for life's journey.
Tomorrow JO GATFORD launches her book WHITE LIES it is a book that everyone should read bringing clarity and understanding to a difficult subject. We are proud that she was our 6th Bursary winner.
Here are her words sharing how she feels now knowing her first book has made it to the book shelves.
White Lies is about people who don't know how to talk. Its about all the little white lies we tell ourselves, and each other, to try to gloss over the fact that something might be wrong. Its about not being able to say what we need to say.
When I won the Luke Bitmead Bursary I knew my book had found its home and would be in good hands. Luke's family work towards raising awareness and breaking down taboos around mental health - a cause that resonates personally with me and is the subject of a lot of my writing. When you suffer from mental illness, depression or a cognitive disorder like dementia, you feel trapped. Whether you're trapped inside your head, your body, your family, the health system or society as a whole, its often extremely difficult to make your voice heard. A big part of challenging preconceptions about mental health issues is to help give voice to all those stifled feelings, and I hope that White Lies offers a lesser-seen perspective, and a loud voice, to people in the same kind of situation.
And so, on my book's launch day, I'm feeling extremely grateful to the Luke Bitmead Bursary and to Legend Press for believing in my story and making me feel so welcome, and for letting my voice be heard.
Remembering Luke in Scotland
We spent many happy times in Scotland with Luke. It is a great opportunity to promote his books and his story always remembering that people with mental health problems need understanding and support not criticism. We spent a delightful time with the Scotts on Inchmurrin Island ( www.inchmurrin-lochlomond.com ) arriving after a short ferry ride from the mainland to a warm welcome and directions as to how to find the ruined castle. It was charming and peaceful with only the wildlife to be heard. We wandered back for dinner - freshly made from local produce. It was a truly memorable experience to be cared for by three generations of the same family who embraced not only us but Luke's story. We will visit again next year.
LUKE'S BIRTHDAY 13th MAY 2014
Luke was fascinated by words. We kept a tin in the kitchen and when he heard a word he really liked from the age of about nine he would write the word on a piece of cardboard and keep it in the tin. When there seemed to be a good collection of interesting words he would create a sentence or two that would eventually evolve into a story.
Words are wonderful things but they can be slippery. They may not speak as loudly as actions yet they can certainly whisper themselves insidiously into the wrong ear at the wrong moment. Words have great power but need to be chosen carefully.
Writers get the opportunity to whisper into many ears and tell compelling stories that the reader can interpret in the way that feels right for them.
Now we have opened submissions for Luke's Writer's Bursary we will have a great opportunity to explore fresh talent. Please don't feel intimidated at the thought of presenting your work but seize the opportunity to become a published writer.
We will always miss Luke and feel desperately sad that he isn't here to develop his talent but it is hugely comforting to us to know that again this year we will bring another talented writer out of the shadows. And for those people suffering from depression and other health issues we will continue to shine the spotlight on the need for better understanding and treatment.
It has helped us to have emotional resilience remembering our much loved son in this positive way. Thank you to everyone who remembers Luke. Souls that love live on forever.
When a door is opened with the hope that someone will want to enter it is particularly satisfying to have many people requesting information and making the opening of submissions seem bold and colourful.
We thank the brilliantly organised Lucy Chamberlain who had these words to say:
'We are delighted to have opened submissions for the Bursary for a 7th year. It is fantastic to see all the buzz online about the Bursary and we are pleased to see everyone using the #bitmeadbursary hashtag on Twitter. This is a brilliant prize for unpublished authors and it is great to see the word spreading! We look forward to reading all the submissions we receive over the coming months, and discovering more talented and inspirational writers.'
We will be posting news more regularly now
The 1st May heralds the opening for entries for the 7th year for THE LUKE BITMEAD WRITER'S BURSARY.
This is potentially a life changing week both powerful and historic. It brings a total Lunar Eclipse plus a rare 'Grand Cross' shape of heavenly bodies. During a Luna Eclipse the earth's shadow passes between the Sun and the Moon. Briefly the Moon is plunged into darkness. It can no longer reflect the glorious light of our star.
It is worth remembering in life when we find ourselves in a dark place that we can change this by changing what is around us. This sometimes means changing the people we interact with. It is possible to learn more when we disagree rather than live in a state of bland neutral acceptance.
The moment we can realise we have a problem and we are able to rise to the challenge and do something then that is a moment of personal growth.
Spring is all around us showing bursting buds on the trees and in the hedgerows. The birds are singing in excitement while they seek places to build their nests. Yes the sap is rising and creating new life. It hardly seems possible remembering the incessant rain through the winter months. Nature shows us how to be resilient and trust that things will get better. The sun shine will return.
Soon we will open entries for The 7th Luke Bitmead Writer's Bursary and look forward to reading the work of fledgling writers. Maybe those dark wet months will have inspired some inspirational writing.
We will be posting more news soon..
We are getting great feedback from people who have recently discovered White Summer.
This is the first book that Luke had published. It is a fast paced vibrant comedy that is hilarious but also full of pathos. Guy Chamberlain is looking for meaning in his life and love because if we don't have love we have nothing. Love is revealed in the choices we make and the commitment we make to others in good times and bad. Guy thought love was about being romantic or erotic then he discovered it was so much more.White Summer is available on Amazon at a discounted price. If you buy White Summer and The Body is a Temple the price is reduced further
LET'S WALK TOGETHER DOING IT DIFFERENTLY
Maybe you are thinking - doing what differently? The answer is LIFE. Since Luke's death I have met some wonderfully empathic people who have sustained me through very dark, bleak times. The way they have sustained me is by simply, metaphorically taking my hand and walking with me. The going has been rough sometimes but when I stumbled a hand would steady me and I would regain my balance and walk on looking at the world differently.
It has taught me so much about life and the importance of understanding what really matters. It's people that really matter and the relationships we develop with them. The business of life is the acquisition of memories and we can all choose what it is we think about.
Many people find great pleasure in achieving physical fitness and that is a healthy way to be but along with that is a need for intellectual muscle including an ability to make sense of their feelings. In the UK it can sometimes feel as if our culture floats like a raft of trash on a sea of nonsense, borne by currents of materialistic needs. It seems we live in the age of measurement rather than enlightenment.
There is no algorithm for living but heightened awareness of ourselves and our environment, developing our spirituality and the ability to let go of fear so we can engage with like minded people then all this gives the opportunity to improve the quality of our lives. And there is no financial cost!
Looking at the amazing blue sky on Christmas Day lifted my heart but at the same time I was aware that there were people with flooded homes and no electricity. Maybe if we all develop a stronger moral compass we will be there to offer a steadying hand to people who are in distress and then we in turn can feel confident that when we are in need a hand will be offered to us.
to everyone who follows this website and a huge thank you to all the generous people who have given donations enabling us to continue Luke's Bursary.
More news soon
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.