Lady Mayor and HW launch

Madam Mayor, Cllr Rosemary Farmer, congratulating Harpenden Writers on the publication of their Anthology, ‘The Words’

Local authors and poets from Harpenden Writers will be gathering in Harpenden Books at 48, High Street this Saturday morning, between 10.30am and 12:30pm. They will be on hand – not all at once, but taking it in turns – to talk about the collective efforts behind the publishing of the Anthology and to share personal stories of their own contributions to the volume.

So, come along to this welcoming and inspiring local book store, to hear some of the writers read out their work from ‘The Words’. There will also be opportunities for you to ask for their autographs too.

‘The Words’ is available in Harpenden Books for £6.50, and is also on sale on our  website and from other local stores Serena Hart and Thorns.

Discover more about Harpenden Writers, what we do, who we are and how long we have been going. If you can make it on Saturday, we shall see you in-store. Failing that, check out our Facebook page.

And for a flavour of how our Book Launch Party with the Mayor went on 3rd November, you can listen to a Soundcloud audio feature on our Facebook page too.

As the Anthology Editor, Terry Jones, has written on our blurb: “…who was it who said that the purpose of literature was to help us better to enjoy life or endure it? Expect pleasure in these pages but also some pain.  There are sure to be laughs along the way …”


Membership Secretary, Rania and publicity assistant, Jo

The Words out!

On the morning of Friday 3rd November, we hosted our Anthology Launch Party at the Friends Meeting House on Southdown Road in Harpenden. We had switched from our usual room to the larger one for the occasion, and the committee had laid out several neatly packed rows of chairs in the main Meeting Room. They had a publicity banner up outside the front of the building, and in the smallest room, the Library, they had set up the sales desk with piles of our shiny new books on display.  At the front of the Meeting Room, where the speeches, the readings and the cake-cutting would be taking place, was another well put-together, colourful display board for the Anthology.

The Harpenden Writers Anthology Team

(l-r) Hild Browning, Frances Kirkland and Derek Smith –

By the way, we find Friends Meeting House  to be a really convenient and very comfortable space for our regular meetings and would recommend it for other groups and events.

As more and more Harpenden Writers and their guests arrived at our Launch Party, so the buzz in the room grew.  Indeed, by the time our Chairman Stephen Lloyd delivered his welcome speech, the car park at the side of the building was full and there were only a couple of spare chairs at the back of the Meeting Room. The proceedings were being filmed and audio-recorded and a few people were also taking photographs. Membership Secretary, Rania and the publicity team have been posting images on our our Facebook page , check them out

A short audio report of the event has been produced and is to be broadcast on Radio Verulam on Monday morning, 13th November, sometime between 9am and 12 noon.  Quite probably around the time that Harpenden Writer and former committee member/Chair, Jo Coleman is being interviewed live over the phone by Phil Richards at 9:30am. If you miss it, the radio station does have a listen-again facility.  And the audio package will be posted here on this blog as well, at a later date – after it ‘falls off the shelf’ at the Radio Station.  On Thursday 16th November, on Radio Verulam’s West Herts Drivetime show, Anthology team member and co-designer of ‘The Words’ Derek Smith will be interviewed live by Danny Smith (no relation?!). Tune in to 92.6FM or listen online, at 5:30pm to hear this, and again it may well be on the station’s Listen Again webpage.

Once the video we took has been edited, we will endeavour to share it on our Facebook page, for posterity. But we can share some of the highlights of the morning with you here. We had a number of very special guests at the Launch Party, including the spouse of some recently deceased Harpenden Writers. It was lovely to welcome them and see that they are still interested in our activities. In particular though, we were pleased to see Ray Bell in the audience, whose wife Mo was a former chair. ‘The Words’ – this, our second major published Anthology, is dedicated to her memory.

Photo of HW display

The Words at the centre of attention

The Anthology team have produced a 132-page volume, with 56 contributions of poetry and prose from 25 of our authors. Terry Jones, the editor of ‘The Words’ and chairman of Ver Poets was another special guest at the Launch and, in his speech he explained the criteria he used to make his selections:

I was very, very happy to do it … because I love reading…I read each piece before I made any decisions twice …I’d just read it and try not to form a view, just kind of let it flow into me… then I would read it again and ask myself, am I enjoying it, is it telling me something … true about the world?

Another very special guest of course was Madam Mayor of Harpenden, Councillor Rosemary Farmer. She had been invited to attend the Launch ceremony in her official capacity and she listened to several of our readings, then delivered a genuine, heartfelt speech to congratulate us. She praised the high standard of the volume and added:

I’m absolutely sure that one of the great advantages of belonging to a writers group, such an excellent one as yours, is that you all get the mutual encouragement, the incentive, and support to get writing, and who knows where that may lead.

‘The Words’ is now available for purchase, at £6.50, from our website  and from local stores including Harpenden Books, Serena Hart and ‘Thorns of Harpenden’. In addition, on Saturday 18th November, between 10.30am and 12:30pm, there be a book-signing event with readings from ‘The Words’ at Harpenden Books on the High Street.

It’s an exciting time for Harpenden Writers, as we’re about to launch our second, properly published book, with an ISBN number and all. Our Anthology team and the HW committee have been working diligently on the project for months. There had to be enough support from the membership, for starters, to provide sufficient work from a wide cross-section of us, at an acceptable standard (honed and polished, in other words). There needed to be a budget and a sustainable costings schedule. We had to find ourselves an independent editor to assess the work, assist with the selection of pieces, suggest themes around which to structure the collection. A publisher and reliable sales and distribution methods were required. We should work out a strategy for ‘banging our own drum’ through marketing and publicity, a launch event, trumpets, bells and whistles…you name it.


The invitation to our book launch.

And it’s all come together. Not bad for a local writing society with a small voluntary committee and anthology team. Their commitment to this project proves how important they each feel it is to mark the 20th anniversary of Harpenden Writers. It’s a testament to everyone’s sense of belonging to the group. It’s not simply about taking an opportunity to self-publish (without the personal risk), but more a chance to be part of a collective endeavour which we are share with others; with our friends, family and acquaintances. A way of revealing “Look, this is what we get up to on those Friday mornings!”

Over the years, obviously, members come and go, move away or move on. But we’ve also, literally, lost a fair few. There have been several funerals recently where Harpenden Writers have gone along, with some great memories and anecdotes to share at the wakes. We’ve made genuine connections with our fellow local writers. We’ve formed special friendships. This anthology is dedicated to one such Harpenden Writer, who joined the committee to help with our previous anthology, ‘The Works’, ten years ago. As chair for quite a few years after that, Mo Bell demonstrated a humble but effective leadership.

‘The Works’ – to celebrate our 10th anniversary

Local groups and societies rely on people such as Mo who are prepared to go the extra mile, to carry the responsibility for thinking through what needs to happen in order for the meetings to take place, for there to be refreshments, speakers, and motivational writing targets throughout the year. This anthology then is also a testament to all those Harpenden Writers, past and present, who have contributed to the on-going success of the group.

‘The Words’ is out. And that’s not a grammatical error. On sale imminently. Watch this space!