Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

In December 2020 I was thrilled to hear I had won this prestigious award. You can read the poem and an interview about writing it below.

if you’re being followed after Rachel Eliza Griffiths

choose who you want behind you, the person to tell you: you were followed, your footsteps dogged, you’re dead, you’ve been dead for some time and you’re just fine the dead way you are. Choose the person who tells you how it happened, who was there and what they said, and says let it go now. Someone you can tell about the mistakes you’ll leave, your mess of papers, the bills, the files, the easy photos and the difficult photos, the journals with all the bad things you wrote in the days when you were seriously down. This is the friend you can call on anytime without a word of explanation, the one you call after years of no contact and tell her this is what’s going on. She already knows what you need, maybe she’s been expecting your call. You say do you remember and she does, every second of it, so she knows why you can’t ask or won’t ask anybody else, why it has to be her, even if you never spent a Christmas together or went on holiday or shared a room or even if you have done all these things together. Choose the friend who knows it could be the other way round and you wouldn’t hesitate, you’d be clacking down your wooden stairs and out your door, no questions asked. And when you are trying to take yourself out of the world and they all lay hands on you and call you theirs, this person will take her hands away and let you go. She will tend all the things you love and knows she has already been thanked and loved and needs no more.  She loves you naturally.  She knows  you have been mid-air for some time.

Creative Writing Award Annual 2021

From the Aesthetica website:

Tamsin Hopkins is the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2020 Poetry Winner. We caught up with her to discuss the winning work, if you’re being followed.

A: When did you begin writing if you’re being followed, and where did you get the idea? How many times did you draft the piece before submitting; how did it change in the process?
 I began writing if you’re being followed about two months before entering the Aesthetica competition. I was working with ideas of intertextuality at the time. This poem arose out of the conflux of three things – the recent death of my mother (with whom I had a turbulent relationship), being in lockdown, and the discovery of Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ poem Chosen Family, which I used as a prompt. It’s a wonderful poem, striking for its urgency and honesty. If you’re being followed incorporates some text from Chosen Family, then takes it in a different direction with different thematic concerns.

The basic sense of the poem came in one go, but the poem underwent many re-writes almost to the point of obsession. I knew I was making something new and different from the prompt poem. In the drafting process, I was trying to be clear about what my ground was, how much grief for the difficult relationship with my mother I wanted to allow into this poem. Of course, in life as in poetry, we all stand on the shoulders of others. Sometimes those influences are stronger and it’s hard to clear their voices and allow your own for a while. I’m not always conscious of this battle, but I was in writing this poem.

A: The judge, Oz Hardwick, commented on the use of the long line; how did you decide the form of the poem?
 Looking back at my early drafts, I think I abandoned shorter lines early on after some unsuccessful versions with four-beat lines. I remember thinking I should stop imposing some vague idea of how it should look on the page and let it do its own thing. Which it then did. The longer lines seem to be the right container for what each line has to say, the emotional weight is allowed to run on through and beyond individual images. Also, you can get a sort of pulsing rhythm building up through the long line which I particularly like. One of my favourite poems for this is Momtaza Mehri’s poem Oiled Legs Have Their Own Subtext.

A: What poets are you most inspired by?
 This changes all the time as I tend to circle certain ground for a while and then move on. Old favourites are Caroline Bird and Pascale Petit, I know their work reasonably well. Both of them have exciting new collections at the moment which I am carrying around with me everywhere. Recently I have been very interested in the hermetic writing partnership between US poets Ada Limón and Natalie Diaz, and a new discovery for me is Lisa Robertson who is amazing for the way she uses the body in her eco-poetics. I’m also catching up on my knowledge of Louise Glück.

A: For you, what role do awards play in the career of a writer?
 That’s a tricky one. In some ways it’s tempting to say awards shouldn’t play a significant role in a writer’s career but that’s not really true. Like being accepted for publication, any external validation can be a relief, if only because it lets you know you are communicating. Writing poetry can feel like making handprints in a dark cave nobody will ever find. Or shouting in cupboards. You know you exist creatively when somebody reaches out to you. It’s wonderful. Also, a tax free cash prize is often extremely helpful to most writers.

A: What does it mean to win the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award?
I’ve never won anything before, although I’ve been shortlisted a few times. So the first effect of winning such a respected award is that I can’t stop grinning. I suppose going forward, I’m hoping winning the Aesthetica Award might strengthen my bio when I submit work in the future. Maybe an award like this is a helpful boost to emerging poets in overcoming the burden of anonymity when you don’t yet have a full collection out there.

A: What projects do you have planned for 2021? What are you working on?
TH: I have recently started a part time Creative Writing MA which takes up a certain amount of time. I’m concentrating on producing new work at the moment after a couple of years hiatus. Ideally a second pamphlet or a collection will come together at some point. I’ve also had another fiction project on the back burner for a while and I ought to do something about that before long too.

Follow @THopkinsPoet I

Submit to the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award | Order the 2021 Anthology

Shore to Shore – shortlisted for the 2020 Rubery Book Award

Just to prove some good things happened in 2020, my short fiction collection Shore to Shore was shortlisted in this competition for books published by Indie publishers, several years after it came out. The judge particularly liked the opening story Hani’s Baby. This was the full report:

Shore to Shore – Tamsin Hopkins
A collection of short stories with the theme of water (rivers, canals etc.) written with a commendable variation in style.  Some stories are about water, while others take place near water, and the idea is that the various flows of each body of water is a representative theme in each story. In the stunning opening story, Hani’s Baby, the eponymous hero flies a hot air balloon over the skies of Egypt, carrying the body of his still born son.  It was a vivid account of Hani’s predicament, trapped in a life of stultifying tradition and expectation, and the ballooning details give extra strength.  Good, entertaining stories.

Reading/ Launch of the Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction

CRSF cover pic


On 13th September 2018 I’ll be hosting the London launch of the Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction at 49, Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JL. Do join us for free drinks from 7pm, with readings 7.30-9,30 in the Music Room.

The anthology features new international writing from: Sarah Barr, Rowan B. Fortune, Maeve Henry, Tamsin Hopkins, Isabelle Llasera, Jane MacLaughlin, Kate Mitchell, Jez Noond, Bronka Nowicka, Diana Powell, Linda Ruheman, Omar Sabbagh, Gábor Shein, David Mark Williams, many of whom will be reading on the night.

Copies will be available to buy at the event and The Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction can be purchased online from:
You can also order it on the high street through any bookshop.


Curtis Brown article on Shore to Shore and the Edge Hill Prize Listing

Former student longlisted for top short story prize

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Though we concentrate on the novel on our creative writing courses in London and online, we’re equally passionate about short stories. Our Autumn 2011 student group – including published authors Tim Glencross, Kate Hamer, James Hannah and Annabelle Thorpe – brought out their own short-story collection The Book of Unwritten Rules last year. And now we’ve just heard that another former student – Tamsin Hopkins (above), who studied on our Autumn 2015 Six-Month Novel-Writing Course – has been longlisted for the prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize for her collection Shore to Shore.

Tamsin has some stiff competition for the prize – established authors such as Mark Haddon, Philip Hensher, Susan Hill, Penelope Lively and David Lodge are all also on the list – but it’s fantastic to see a former student in such illustrious company. The Edge Hill Prize is awarded annually by Edge Hill University for excellence in a published single author short story collection. The winner of the 2017 prize will receive £10,000, along with a specially commissioned artwork. And there’s also a £1,000 Readers’ Prize, which is awarded by creative writing students at the university. Previous winners of the prize have included Colm Tóibín, Claire Keegan, Chris Beckett, Jeremy Dyson, Graham Mort, Sarah Hall, John Burnside, Kirsty Gunn, and Jessie Greengrass, who won the 2016 prize for An Account of The Decline of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It.  

The final shortlist will be announced on 30 June, and the prize will be awarded at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August.

To buy a copy of Shore to Shore by Tamsin Hopkins, please click here.

For more information or to apply for a Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course, please click here.

Delighted to be longlisted for the Edge Hill University Prize for collections of short fiction

Thrilled to be on the same page as so many illustrious names. This is a great honour for a debut writer:

Organisers of Edge Hill University’s 11th annual Short Story Prize are delighted to announce the longlist for 2017.

The list includes well established authors such as Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Susan Hill (The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror and I’m the King of the Castle) and Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird) as well as up-and-coming writers.

Prize organiser and Professor of Short Fiction Ailsa Cox said: “As ever, the 2017 longlist features a varied and exciting selection of authors. We have entries from both well-known names and debut authors, including Claire Dean (an Edge Hill MA alumna). There is also a great age range, from twentysomething Danielle McLaughlin to two distinguished authors in their 80s, both Booker shortlisted (Penelope Lively, David Lodge). As ever, we have a strong contingent of Irish authors – including Daniel Boyle, David Park, Lucy Caldwell – alongside editor of the magisterial Penguin Book of the British Short Story, Philip Hensher.” 

The winner, to be announced at Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, will receive a £10,000 prize.

The Prize is the only UK-based award that recognizes excellence in a published short story collection and will also include a £1,000 Reader’s Choice award to a writer from the shortlist, and a further category for stories by Edge Hill University MA Creative Writing students.

This year’s judges are Thomas Morris (finalist, Edge Hill Prize 2016), Cathy Galvin (Director and Founder, The Word Factory) and Dr Rodge Glass (Reader in Literary Fiction, Edge Hill University).

The shortlist will be announced by 30th June with awards to be presented at a special event as part of Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

The 2016 award was bestowed on Jessie Greengrass for The Decline of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It. The other shortlisted authors were Kate Clanchy, Stuart Evers, China Miéville, Thomas Morris and Angela Readman.

The longlist in full:                  

Light Box K J Orr (Daunt Books)

The Travelling Bag Susan Hill (Profile Books)

Raw Material Sue Wilsea (Valley Press)

A Primer for Cadavers Ed Atkins (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

The Glue Ponys Chris Wilson (Tangerine Press)

Vertigo  Joanna Walsh (And Other Stories)

Hearing Voices Seeing Things William Wall (Doire Press)

All That Lies Be-neath/What I Know I Cannot Say Dai Smith (Parthian)

Ferenji and other stories Helena Mulkerns (Doire Press)

He Runs the Moon Wendy Brandmark (Holland Park Press)

Treats Lara Williams (Freight Books)

Mr Jolly Michael Stewart (Valley Press)

Stations Nick Mulgrew (David Philip Publishers)

When Planets Slip Their Tracks  Joanna Campbell (Ink Tears)

Speak Gigantular Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda Books)

Sandlands Rosy Thornton (Sandstone Press)

The Other World, It Whispers Stephanie Victoire (Salt)

The Parts We Play Stephen Volk (PS Publishing)

Damage Rosalie Parker  (PS Publishing)

Quieter Paths Alison Littlewood (PS Publishing)

Ritual, 1969 Jo Mazelis (Seren)

This is the Ritual Rob Doyle (Lilliput Press/Bloomsbury)

Gods and Angels David Park (Bloomsbury)

Shore to Shore Tamsin Hopkins (Cinnamon Press)

Dinosaurs on Other Planets Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray Press)

Blind Water Pass Anna Metcalfe (John Murray Press)

The Museum of Shadows and Reflections Claire Dean (Papaveria Press)

Aphrodite’s Kiss Rosemary Jenkinson (Whittrick Press)

Llama Sutra Melanie Whipman (Ink tears)

The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories Penelope Lively (Penguin)

Tales of Persuasion Philip Hensher (Fourth Estate)

The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up and Other Stories David Lodge (Vintage)

Fen Daisy Johnson (Jonathan Cape)

Multitudes Lucy Caldwell (Faber)

Legoland Gerard Woodward (Pan Macmillan)

What is Not Yours is Not Yours  Helen Oyeyemi  (Pan Macmillan)

Hostages Oisin Fagan (New Island Books)

Wild Quiet Roisin O’Donnell (New Island Books)

Sunrise Sunset Tina Pasco (Fish Publishing)

The Pier Falls Mark Haddon (Vintage)

When Black Dogs Sing Tanya Farrelly (Arlen House)

Curtis Brown Creative course September 2015 gets under way

Last week we had our introductory talk with Course Director Anna Davis and Louise Wener, our tutor – ex popstar with Sleeper and author of Different for Girls. 

Louise Wener

Going round the table it was easy to see why the participants had been selected – confidence, great ideas and good presentation in abundance. Not intimidated. No Siree. I can ooze confidence when necessary, just need to work up to it. Anyway, Louise made it clear her watchword is NURTURING ENVIRONMENT (okay 2 watchwords), which is excellent because:

Tonight is the first teaching session and – hooray, I’m first up for a tutorial with Louise. You had to submit 3k words, and yes, I do have 3k words of this novel, but only just. Actually there’s 10k in existence but currently the drivelly outpourings of a first draft. Snot on the page as it were. Lucky Louise.

I’m doing my character notes (which I do for short stories but this is MORE – more characters, more depth, icebergs in the making), putting my plot points on cards a la Sol Stein and realising I have an enormous mountain of research to climb – I did know that, but now that I’ve started attacking it, the realisation has dawned afresh. Finding out that a lady’s maid is addressed as ‘Miss’ and the cook ‘Mrs’ regardless of her marital status for example. Just another way of dehumanising servants perhaps? Who knows? The Victorian psyche – well, that’s another post.