2018 Writing Competition

Now in its third year, we are delighted to announce the 2018 Tarbert Book Festival Writing Competition. This year we are delighted to be able to offer two prizes. The Open category prize is generously sponsored by Chasing Time. The Novice category prize is generously sponsored by WriteRight Editing Services.

The competitions are for a short story/researched article/reminiscence piece of up to 500 words maximum on a subject of your choice.

Shortlisted candidates will be notified by Sunday 26th August 2018.
The winner will be announced at the Prize Giving Ceremony on Friday evening at the Tarbert Book Festival during the weekend of 26th – 28th October 2018.

Terms and Conditions
Entry to the Open Competition is open to anyone aged 18 or over.
Entries must be your own work and previously unpublished and not under option by any other competition at the time of sending or during the judging period.
Entries must not exceed 500 words.
Entries must have a unique title.
Each entry must be accompanied by a fee of £5. Payment to be made via the Ticketsource website – please ensure you enter the correct category*.
The unique title and reference number of your payment must be on every page of your entry. Note: this e-ticket is just your entry to the online writing competition, not the actual prize giving.
Entries should be emailed to
tbfcompetition@tarbertbookfestival.org quoting the reference number.
Candidates may submit up to three entries per person; each entry requires a separate registration number.
Entries should be typed in a simple font (no graphics please).
Entries will be judged anonymously so please do not put any identification on your entry other than your unique title and Ticketsource reference number.
Closing date is midnight on Sunday 22nd July 2018.
*Additional requirements for the Novice Category.
Entry to the Novice Competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over.
The Novice category is open to those who have not yet been published in any form, including online (except for personal blogs or websites), who have no professional/academic qualification in writing and are not currently undertaking any such course.
The Open prize is a weekend course at Chasing Time Retreats in Angus, to be taken during 2019. The winner will be able to choose from a number of retreat options, which run at various times throughout the year, covering a wide range of writing-related topics. *(Please note that these are all subject to a minimum number of attendees being reached for the weekends in question).
The Novice prize is a 6 week online tutored course entitled Writing Short Fiction from WriteRight, facilitated by judge Anne Hamilton.
Shortlisted candidates will receive vouchers for 3 events at the Book Festival and it is hoped that they will be available to attend the prize-giving ceremony in the Gallery on Friday evening. (Travel and accommodation expenses are not included.)
There is no cash alternative prize.
Shortlists will be prepared by Anne Hamilton and the winner will be judged by Anne and members of the Chasing Time team. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
The winner(s) agree to their details and their winning entries being used in promotion of the Tarbert Book Festival and associated press.

Who’s Coming to TBF in 2018?

We don’t quite have the timings finalised but we’re bursting with excitement about the fantastic line-up for 2018 and can’t wait to share it with you. Roughly speaking, we have Saturday with the Stevensons, with Sunday being devoted to Muriel Spark.  In addition we have Anne Hamilton for the Writers’ Workshop on Saturday morning and Denise Mina on Saturday evening for the Stonefield Session.

As usual we begin with the writers’ workshop run by Anne Hamilton. The theme this year will be Constructing Your Short Story. It has often been said that it is harder to write a short story than a novel. Maybe Anne has some answers!

Saturday with the Stevensons

Included in this category is Bella Bathurst, whose history The Lighthouse Stevensons won the 1999 Somerset Maugham Award. We all know that Robert Louis Stevenson came from a family of lighthouse engineers but perhaps we don’t realise the incredible catalogue of their work. Over four generations, they built every lighthouse round Scotland, developing, as they went, inventions in both construction and optics in the most dangerous conditions.
Bella will also be talking about her recent book ‘Sound’ which provides an emotional but intelligent insight into her own experiences of hearing loss – and remarkably, recovery.

Professor Joseph Farrell is Emeritus Professor at Strathclyde University. His book, Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa, is an account of Stevenson’s last four years on the Samoan island of Upola. The Samoans and their culture were to have an enormous influence on the writer, his life and his last works. Joseph Farrell has written a book, part history, part biography which shines new light on one of Scotland’s most celebrated story tellers.

Liz Shaw’s evocative and fast-moving tale set in Skye and the West Highlands, No Safe Anchorage, invokes the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson whose childhood it portrays. She says, “I’m interested in this period of history because it was a time of rapid change that caused disruption and heartache to so many people and provides a rich source for the imagination.”

Les Wilson is a writer, and an award-winning documentary maker who specialises in Scottish historical subjects. The Drowned and The Saved tells what happened when the loss of two British ships crammed with American soldiers bound for the trenches of the First World War brought the devastation of war directly to the shores of Islay. Les Wilson outlines these terrible events, painting a vivid picture which also pays tribute to the astonishing bravery of the islanders, who risked their lives pulling men from the sea, caring for survivors and burying the dead.

The Stonefield Session with preceding whisky tasting, sponsored by Springbank, welcomes back award winning Glasgow crime writer Denise Mina. Author of over 12 crime novels and 4 graphic novel adaptations, The Long Drop is her first foray into true crime. This is the story of Peter Manuel, a serial killer operating in the 1950s in Glasgow. His intriguing story baffled police until the wrongly imprisoned widower was set free and undertook his own investigation. The Long Drop is a re-imagining of the trial and of one drunken night the two men spent carousing in Glasgow.


Sunday at Starfish

On Sunday our theme is more lighthearted as we move to the Starfish restaurant and open with a double bill of Muriel Spark. Ms Spark would have been 100 this year so we are more than happy to be joining the celebrations.

The first event here is a double bill with Alan Taylor and Olga Wojtas – refreshments will be available to purchase, while the second is an exciting experiment for us – a meal with a purpose.

Alan Taylor was fortunate to have been allowed to interview Muriel Spark at her home in Italy in 1990. A genuine friendship ensued, which lasted until her death in 2006. Taylor’s familiarity with his subject gave him privileged access and insight into the many controversies of Spark’s colourful life. His memoir, Appointment in Arezzo is a valuable adjunct to Martin Stannard’s biography and he appears in conversation with Brian Morton.

Olga Wojtas’ award winning debut novel is entitled Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar. Fifty-something Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.
Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician,
Shona is thrilled when selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a one-week mission in 19th-century Russia: to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained
origins. But, despite all her accomplishments and good intentions, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. As the body count rises, will she discover in time just who the real villain is?

Struan Stevenson MEP represented Scotland in the European Parliament since 1999. He is an author and international lecturer on the Middle East and Human Rights and was a former MEP for Fisheries. His 5th book, THE COURSE OF HISTORY – Ten Meals That Changed The World, reflects on the many decisions, with their historical consequences, which have been made over the dinner table, and have been accompanied (and perhaps influenced) by copious amounts of food and wine. In The Course of History Struan Stevenson brings to life ten such moments, exploring the personalities, the issues and of course the food which helped shape the course of history. Starfish’s wonderful chef (name) will recreate one of these menus and your ticket includes a 5 course taster (i.e. small portions) menu.

And The Winner Is…

The 5th Tarbert Book Festival got off to a great start today with Theresa Breslin and Ken McTaggart entertaining pupils in the Academy.

The ‘adult’ part of the Festival began with the awards ceremony for our 2nd Writing Competition generously sponsored by Moniack Mhor.  5 out of 6 shortlisted writers attended the Gathering in the Gallery, where judge Anne Hamilton introduced each of the writers, saying why she thought their submissions were special.

It was particularly pleasant to hear the stories read out, some informative, some reflective, some funny, but all very enjoyable. We also welcomed back last year’s winner, Frances Ainslie, to tell us what a  valuable experience she found on her chosen course.

Finally, Richmond Clements of Moniack Mhor announced the winner who is – Sylvia Hehir from Strontian.

You can read their entries now and see if you agree with Anne!

Barbie and Me by Mike Hunter from Nova Scotia

Click by Simon Cowdroy from Victoria, Australia

Frae a Haggis by Kate Donne from Dollar

Oban, The Perfect Destination by Sylvia Hehir from Strontian

The Mad Crone of Comriach by Sue Stubbs of Kilmichael Glassary

Who Do We Think We Are by Mary Easson from Linlithgow

Shortlist for Success

Many congratulations to the shortlisted entrants in our writing competition. Our judge  Anne Hamilton has spent countless hours reading and rereading your stories, reminiscences and researched articles and has come up with the following eclectic selection for her top 6.

In alphabetical order:

Barbie and Me by Mike Hunter from Nova Scotia

Click by Simon Cowdroy from Victoria

Frae a Haggis by Kate Donne from Dollar

Oban, The Perfect Destination by Sylvia Hehir

The Mad Crone of Comriach by Sue Stubbs of Kilmichael Glassary

Who Do We Think We Are by Mary Easson from Linlithgow

These six writers have been invited to an awards ceremony in Tarbert on the evening of 27th October where they will read their entries. Only then will we discover who has won the major prize of a week’s course at the fabulous Moniack Mhor.

Of course everyone who entered is a winner in their own way as it can be a real achievement to complete a piece of writing and then submit it for another writer’s scrutiny.

Keep up the good work everyone!


Congratulations to the Longlisted Entrants

In response to popular demand (see? we listen to your suggestions) we have decided to publish a longlist this year. Although it’s only two weeks until we publish the shortlist, some of you are keen to know whether you can get excited or abandon hope.

Congratulations to those who can get excited, but, as we have been careful to keep the judging anonymous, it is very important that in your facebook posts and tweets you do not link your name to your entry yet. Here they are in alphabetical order and in a couple of weeks we will be publicising names with the shortlisted entries.

Barbie and Me
Don’t Call Me Susan
Frae A Haggis
Oban – The Perfect Destination
The Mad Crone of Comraich
Who Do We Think We Are?

Fiction In A Flash

A writing workshop about how to make every word count

Date: Saturday 28th October

Venue: TALC, Tarbert

Time: 9-11 am

Leader: Anne Hamilton

Supported by: Moniack Mhor

Writing very short stories – flash fiction – that are also satisfying and well-structured is no mean feat. In this two hour workshop, which is part of the 2017 Tarbert Book Festival, author, editor and creative writing tutor, Anne Hamilton, will discuss what makes good flash fiction, and guide you through a series of practical writing exercises to help you hone your craft.

Whether you’re an experienced writer or a ‘beginner’; whether you write fiction or non-fiction, this workshop offers you the space to write, to chat, to ask questions and to receive feedback.

All welcome but numbers are limited so booking (£10) is essential through Moniack Mhor

The Magic of Moniack Mhor

I’m here at Moniack Mhor feeling the magic of this special place after winning the Tarbert Book Festival Writing Competition last year.

The Writing Centre sits in a tangle of green wildness under a huge sky, where nature lives in every nook and cranny. Here, you stop to listen . . . start with one word. . . then a sentence. . . then the magic happens. . .

It’s sad to leave, but I go brimful with new skills, friendships and words to inspire the next story – It’s all part of the alchemy.

I’d highly recommend entering this years competition to experience it for yourself.

Many thanks to Tarbert Book Festival and Moniack Mhor for giving me this amazing opportunity.
Frances Ainslie

Moniack Mhor are sponsoring this year’s competition as well. The closing date is 23rd July so why not Get Writing!
Continue reading “The Magic of Moniack Mhor”

Story Competition Winners – Read Their Entries

It was a real treat to listen to four of our six shortlisted writers reading their entries on Awards night. Unfortunately two of them weren’t able to come, so thanks to Susan Connor who read them for us.

You can appreciate what a hard time Anne Hamilton had judging the entries so many congratulations to Frances Ainslie, who is the winner.

Nights With Mary-Anne, by Frances Ainslie, Dunblane

Fighting Back, by Jackie Goulding, Alton(Surrey)

A Wet Coast Tale, by Mike Hunter, Nova Scotia

The Groatie Buckie, by Cath King, Muir of Ord

Close Encounter by Louise Mangos, Switzerland and

Breathing Room, by Kendra Olson, London.


Books, Books, Books

Well smack my gob but I was truly amazed by the local talent that was uncovered on local author’s day!

I had imagined sitting round listening to someone presenting for the first time ever a wee poem or a short “I’d just be interested to know what you think of it” story. Instead we had a series of highly professional readers, most of whom had actually published books. So I thought it would be nice to summarise those books and let you know where they can be found.

In order of presentation:

Shemaron: A Beautiful Endeavour by Fiona Malkin is beautifully produced and available in the Loch Fyne Gallery.

Catherine Wilson of Ailsa Press on Islay presented her own children’s stories and those of Joan Porter. These can be obtained from the Loch Fyne Gallery or from www.MyBookSource.com

Sound of Gigha came hot off the press by Ed Tyler, beautifully illustrated by artists Julia Love-Griffiths and Anne Thomas. For details of how to obtain a copy, contact Ed on edtyler@bioregioning.com

When Viv Dobbie wrote her book The Harlequin Triangle, the agent she sent it to suggested she make it into a trilogy. The first two books are available on Amazon and the third will be out by Christmas both as paperbacks or e-books.
Colouring In and More Colouring In

Lindsay Campbell’s historical story Ane Compact of Villany: The History of Argyll’s Outlawed Gang is also available as a paperback from Amazon here.

Malcolm Trott from Carradale has written a story within a story called a Sense of the Past, which is available as an e-book on Amazon

Evelyn Smithies from Bute treated us to a synopsis of her planned novel The Saliera. Watch this space!

Marian Pallister spoke about her history of the Crinan Canal which, along with others such as Cruachan,can be found in the Loch Fyne Gallery.

And Roddy Regan entertained us by using the story of the Lady on the Rock to demonstrate how fickle historical reports can be.

Some books from other authors at the Festival can still be found in the Loch Fyne gallery, including some by Chris Brookmyre which would make a great Christmas present for someone.

The Hub – Where it’s all Happening

The Templar Hall on Harbour Street will be the main venue during the Festival and will have various activities on all day on Saturday 29th.

For children, there will be face painting and storytelling from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. on the top floor. There will be a small charge for this.

Downstairs on the ground floor we will have Catherine Czerkowska from 11 – 12 and Janice Galloway from 1-2.

In between speakers and during the afternoon, you can book a 15 minute shoulder massage with May Taylor from the Red Cross or try a qigong class with West Coast Wuji.

There will be craft demonstrations from local artists including glass engraver Wilma Mackenzie and Lucky Dip books for sale with proceeds going to charity, as well as our official TBF Box Office and Bookstall.

Shemaron will also be available to visit at the pontoons between 1 and 4 on both Saturday and Sunday. Fiona will be talking about the restoration of this beautiful boat on Sunday morning.