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Writer strikes lucky for the second time

Dr. Mark P Henderson and Stephanie Billen

A LOCAL writer, who won the first ever Chapel Arts' annual writing competition, was over the moon to learn that she had scooped the prize for the second time.

Stephanie Billen from Buxton, who won the competition in 2016 with her story Black Sheep was delighted to discover that she had hit the jackpot again with this year's entry on the theme of Invisible Friends.

Stephanie who is a member of Chapel Arts’ Creative Writing group said: “It’s really exciting to have been recognised twice in the same competition and I'm also pleased that my story, which is a bit quirky, caught people's imagination.”

She urged other would-be wordsmiths to join a creative writing class saying: "The three tutors we have had have all inspired me in different ways. It is also very confidence-building to be part of a supportive group of talented fellow writers.”

Chapel Arts’ Writing Competition is in its third year and previous judges have included author Margaret Holbrook and screenwriter Neil McKay. This year’s sponsor and judge was Dr. Mark P Henderson, writer, editor, folktale collector and storyteller.

Mark, who lives in Old Glossop, is also secretary of Glossop’s Write from the Heart group and tutors the Chapel Arts Creative Writing class of which Stephanie is a member. He said: “The quality of the entries was excellent. Stephanie is a really talented writer and had interpreted the title, Invisible Friends, as people you only know over the internet. She had a list of people and told you something about their lives in a few lines. What it conveys is a narrator who is very unsettled. Gradually we learn what the cause of the distress is and the tension increases and is not resolved until the end. I was bowled over by it.”

Fans of Mark will be pleased to know that his novel, National Cake Day in Ruritania, is due to be published in September and that he will be hosting a storytelling session for Glossop WI at the Cricket Club on Monday 4 June at 7.30pm.

Stephanie’s winning story can be read on the Chapel Arts website at