What is about the air in the seaside town of Hastings in Suffolk, that encourages the muse in so many people?

Back in the distant days of 1947, not long after the Second World War, a group of writers, among them Catherine Cookson, one of the best-known authors in Britain, got together to form the Hastings Writers' Group which is still going strong all these many years later. A later resident of Hastings, the author David Gemmell, ran a short story competition in many years and in 2001 the Legend Writing Award was started under his patronage with the intention of encouraging new writers who had never had a work published commercially or broadcast. A small entry fee was charged for each work of fiction which was put forward which went towards the cost of the prizes; Mr Gemmell was the final judge. Originally competitors were asked to put forward works of any type of fiction (excluding children's stories) and eventually the specification involved to include, since this is the age of the incident soundbite, stories of a maximum 100 words, not including the title!

The most famous person associated with Hastings is undoubtedly William the Conqueror who was far more interested in fighting than fiction; but David Gemmell had to be a fighter as well since he was brought up in his early years just by his mother, and since this was an age when a single parent family was an extreme rarity, unlike in these more enlightened (?) days; consequently he was bullied by the other children in the rough and tough area that he was brought up in and often came back from fights covered in his own blood. Eventually a step father came up on the scene and encouraged him to learn boxing and to become more aggressive; he perhaps learnt these lessons little too well and was eventually expelled from school and arrested several times during his youth. Later he worked as a bouncer in a nightclub; hardly a job for a wimp; before getting a job at a local newspaper as a journalist, and then getting married and moving to Hastings. A diagnosis of cancer in 1976 tore his world apart; convinced that he was going to die very soon he wrote a novel to take his mind off his illness but abandoned it when he found out that the diagnosis had been incorrect and it was only after a friend had read the manuscript and convinced him that it was worth publishing that he reworked it; it was published under the title of 'Legend' and was his first major success as an author, which is why he decided to call his annual competition the Legend Writing Award.

Sometimes the truth can be even stranger than fiction. You can learn more about the legend writing award and the Hastings writers group here. Want to know the truth about the financial cost of the Titanic disaster?

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