Aspiring writers encouraged to enter competition celebrating the Norfolk countryside

People are being encouraged to put pen to paper and write about how the Norfolk countryside inspires them for a new competition taking place as part of this year's Hostry Festival at Norwich Cathedral.

The inaugural Bernardine Coverley Nature Writing Competition is being organised by the Book Hive, in Norwich, to celebrate Norfolk's natural beauty, and also in memory of Ms Coverley, a traveller, writer and gardener, who lived in Suffolk.

Her story of travelling in Morocco in the 1960s was the inspiration for Kate Winslet's character in the film Hideous Kinky, an adaptation of the book by Ms Coverley's daughter Esther Freud.

The writing competition is open to both adults and children and will be part of the 2012 Norfolk Arts Awards, in association with the Eastern Daily Press, which will open this year's Hostry Festival.

Henry Layte, from the Book Hive, first got to know Ms Coverley through Norwich publisher Black Dog Books, and she twice visited the Book Hive to speak about her book Garden of the Jaguar, a tale of travel, plants and people in Chiapas, Mexico. 'We had two lovely events with Bernardine in the shop in the short time between us opening and her sudden death after a quick illness with cancer,' he said.

'Her warmth and enthusiasm were contagious and both occasions turned into informal affairs, where the audience stayed to sit and chat and exchange stories about their own experiences with the natural world. She quickly became a friend and her sudden loss seemed particularly unfair as she had talked so inspiringly about how much she still wanted to do.'

He said before she died, Ms Coverley had spoken about writing a book about her local area where she was a tree warden.

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'A last conversation was about nature at night, and night walking – setting off into the dark with no torch, adjusting to the darkness and experiencing a whole new aspect to your surroundings,' he said. 'It is with that in kind that the theme for this year's Bernardine Coverley Nature Writing Competition is Night and Dark.'

He said he hoped the competition would encourage people to share the same enthusiasm for writing about their natural surroundings.

'It is about people of Norfolk having a go at writing about Norfolk. It is a great celebration of where we live and I am really interested to see what people come up with,' he said.

'It is not just about trees and beautiful scenery. It is about the experience of being out in your natural surroundings, and recording how you react to them.'

He said the theme Night and Dark can be interpreted in any way, and there are three age categories for the competition.

For 12-year-olds and under the word limit is 300 words, for ages 13 to 18 the limit is 1,000 words, and for ages 19 and over people can write up to 5,000 words. The deadline for entries is Monday, October 15.

Entries should be marked 'Nature Writing' and include your name, age and contact details. They should be emailed to or sent to The Book Hive, 53 London Street, Norwich, NR2 1HL.

The winner from each of the age categories will be presented with a copy of Garden of the Jaguar and a selection of nature books as well as a Book Hive token, at the 2012 Norfolk Arts Awards at Norwich Cathedral's Hostry on Friday, October 26.

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