Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

person-reading-book-and-holding-coffee-1550648Loneliness, comfort and a little science fiction (plus local literary info)

Our lives have taken a surreal turn as though we’ve suddenly stepped into a science fiction movie that we weren’t expecting. Here are some books to read while we are self-isolating or looking after others – researched by Angela J. Phillip.


220pix-Station 11Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (2015)
This is science fiction about a pandemic that wipes out most of human civilisation and it’s about the survivors who try to rebuild their lives.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again. Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.’

The book blurb goes on to ask what you would want to preserve if civilisation was going to be lost? And how much you would give to protect it? These are good questions.

220pix-severanceSeverance by Ling Ma (2018)
Another science fiction offering – this time the pandemic that ends civilisation is the Shen fever believed to have originated in China. This is the story of what comes next narrated by Candace Chen who works in New York City and manages to escape with some others.

There is praise from all quarters for this novel, but the review extract I liked best is this one: ‘Ma’s writing about the jargon of globalised capitalism has a mix of humour and pathos that reminded me a little of Infinite Jest and a little of George Saunders; it produced a sense of estrangement from my cosmetics, my clothes, and my iPhone. I finished it feeling sad and sensitive to the garbage all around us that comes at such a high cost to planetary and human welfare.’ New Yorker, What We’re Reading This Summer


220pix-RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue (2011)
A mother and her five-year-old boy, Jack are being held captive in a single room. The story is narrated by the small boy and shows how they triumph over isolation. This is Jack talking “Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.

This book was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and has been made into a film starring Brie Larson.

220pix-MeditationsMeditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara (1996 reissue of 1957 edition)
This is a book of poems full of the rhythms of life and reflections upon it. For those of you who don’t know, Frank O’Hara was an American writer, poet and art critic who died in 1966 just after he turned 40. He was a leading figure in the New York School which was a loose group of artists, musicians and writers influenced by jazz, surrealism and abstract impressionism.


220pix-Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2013)
‘When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.’

There is wit and humour and lots of adventures along the way, but it is the commentary on our everyday lives that makes us smile…. and think. ‘It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal.’

220pix-Eleanor OliphantEleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman (2018)
Eleanor Oliphant is an eccentric woman who lives on her own and who doesn’t see the world as her colleagues in the office see it. She is isolated because of her views on life, but there are reasons for how she behaves which slowly become clear. Gradually things change for her because of one kind man. An uplifting read.


News & Events

Events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Coming soon probably starting in the autumn (virus permitting) – Staglit Tuesdays at the Stag Inn in the Old Town 6.30 – 8.30 pm  Monthly.  This is a chance for writers to read short extracts from their work and sell their books – and for readers to listen & comment. If you are interested in attending these events and/ or you would like to read from your work, please contact Angie and you will be included on the email list.

If there are any announcements you would like me to make, please get in touch with Angie

Writing Competitions

Short Story

Hastings Literary Festival 2020
Short story – up to 2,500 words see website for details.
BAME short story – up to 5,000 words (BAME entrants only) see website for details.

Hastings Writers’ Room. Theme Misrepresentation (1,500 words) deadline 30 April 2020. Fee £6. First prize Gold membership of Retreat West (worth £100). Please check rules and conditions at Hastings Writers’ Room

Early Works Press. Short Story competition. Entry fee £5 per story up to 4000 words. £10 for over 4000. Maximum 8000 words. £200 first prize. Deadline 31 October 2020. Please check rules and conditions at Earlyworks Press.

Flash Fiction

Hastings Literary Festival 2020
Flash fiction up to 500 words see website for details.

Hastings Writers’ Room. Flash fiction five/ twenty-nine – submit FIVE stories, each with max 29 words, deadline 31 May 2020. Fee £7 for five stories. First prize Gold membership of Retreat West or cash alternative £100. Please check rules and conditions at Hastings Writers’ Room

Early Works Press. Flash Fiction competition 2020. Max 100 words. Deadline 30 August 2020. First prize £100. Please check rules and conditions at Earlyworks Press.


Hastings Literary Festival 2020
Poetry – up to 40 lines see website for details.


Writers’ Groups

Please get in touch with the contact person for each of these groups to check current arrangements.

Hastings Writers’ Group meet fortnightly on Mondays 7.30 – 9.30 pm at the White Rock Hotel. Membership is subject to vacancies and costs £80 per yr (or £40 per half year). For more details please see the website.

St Leonard’s Writers  meet on Wednesdays 1 – 3 pm at St Ethelburga Church in St Saviours Rd. There is a small joining fee and weekly contribution (see website for details). Contact person: David Edwards For more details please see the website

Shorelink Writers meet most Monday evenings between September and July  in the Tesco Community Room, Tesco Extra, Churchwood Drive, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 9RB. Small donation for each meeting. Membership is subject to vacancy so please get in touch first. Contact /
For more details, please see the website.

The Literary Shed Writing Circle
For writers working on their own material to meet/write in interesting venues.
Weekly. Thursday, from 10am. Café sessions free. Monthly workshop: £8
Please contact Aruna for details. e:

Old Town Writing Group meet Wednesdays 4 – 6 pm in The Stag Inn, All Saints St, Hastings Old Town. Free. For more details, please see the website.

CALL FOR WRITING GROUPS & BOOKGROUPS TO GET IN TOUCH – Do get in touch if you have any announcements you would like to make. Please write to Angie


Please contact the bookshops directly to check their current arrangements. 

Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page to see more.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Please see Facebook page for more details of these and other events.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at the Bookkeeper Bookshop Facebook page to see more.

The Hare & Hawthorn Bookshop 
51 George St, Hastings Old Town
For more information see the Hare & Hawthorn Facebook page

600pix-AJP-sky banner-squashed

Hi there – how are you all? A bus has just driven past my window – no-one on it. Here we go into another week of finding new ways to live, to look after each other and to stay safe.

I was going to say that writing is the same as usual, but no, it’s not. Writing is like every other activity – it comes out of living a life so when our lives change like this, it comes as a shock and alters everything.

We need each other. We interact with each other and everything follows from that. It is lucky that we have technology – to telephone, to email, to share chatgroups to join online music sessions. It all helps. But nothing is the same as the gentle touch of another human being.

I’m writing this on mother’s day and we’ve been told not to see our loved ones. That’s hard. Staying apart is one of the hardest things to do because it doesn’t feel kind. But it seems as though we’ve got to learn that it’s the only way to beat this thing.

Yes, I’m still ploughing on with my proof-reading – up to book four now but I keep stopping for phone calls. Or just to stare into space. Many of my friends are not in Hastings and one of them is very ill. We are talking a lot, exchanging details of what’s happening in different places. Working out what to do. Just heard from a friend in Papua New Guinea that the first case has been detected and the government has ordered a partial lockdown. University and schools all closed.

In places without complete lockdown (like here in the UK*), there are still some people who are meeting as usual probably because they don’t understand the effect such behaviour will have on those more vulnerable than they are (or even on themselves – this is a tricky virus – fit people and young ones, too, can die). Hope that everyone understands soon how important it is to keep a good distance apart from each other.

[*Update – on Monday 23rd March – UK is now in lockdown.]

But there are good sides. Lots of people in Hastings and everywhere are offering to run errands and are doing their best to help others. Last week I posted a vid of the Italians singing from balconies to cheer themselves up. This week I’m going to post a vid of the Germans singing to the Italians. It cheers me up when I watch it. Here it is.  This reminds me of my friend Verena Bradbury who sings this song for us to join in with her at Steve Bennett’s sessions at The Old King John in Ore. Dear pub landlords – we are thinking of you and hoping you pull through this so we can meet again.

Once again, thanks to those of you who have written to me. It is a pleasure to hear from you.

If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up for the newsletter at  – the  signup form is on the right-hand side as you scroll down. I shall post something soon.

Comments and suggestions on anything and everything are always welcome.

Thanks so much for reading and sending me your thoughts. Stay safe!


Angela J. Phillip


Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Mar 24, 2020 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us

  • Subscribe to HOT