Hampstead Literary Society launched - and looking for exciting writers

Morgan McClaren and Ted Shergalis, founders of Hampstead Literary Society

Morgan McClaren and Ted Shergalis, founders of Hampstead Literary Society - Credit: Wu

From the Romantic poets, to the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, the du Maurier family, and George Orwell, Hampstead has inspired countless writers over the centuries. 

Indeed, Hampstead and the Heath have been the backdrop for many important works of literature. Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White opens with a moonlit walk on the Heath, while in Bram Stoker’s Dracula Lucy preys on children in a Hampstead churchyard and John Le Carré's spies were seen on the Heath the author loved so much.

And against that backdrop, the Hampstead Literary Society has been launched. 

Ted Shergalis and Morgan McClaren, both Hampstead residents originally from the United States, said such a society is long overdue, and have founded a quarterly journal, with a view to also holding informal society meetings once the pandemic is over. 

You might have seen one of their posters pinned up on Oriel Place already, with its eye-catching illustration of a fox, by artist Ross MacDonald, above an open call for submissions of “stories, poetry and musings”. 

Hampstead Literary Society is looking for contributions

Hampstead Literary Society is looking for contributions - Credit: Katy Amos

The two friends met in The Holly Bush pub, and said that the history and the beauty of the area inspired them to start a literary society. 

During our conversation, Ted read aloud a passage from Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways, on how paths connect people and places, and said he views the journal as a similar tool for connection: “People are writing this stuff for themselves. But once you create a place for people to send it, you move from just the footprints to the footpath.

“The intent is once we can get back together, as much as it is a journal, it is a society – we will have get-togethers over pints and share our work."

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Morgan said: “You will be able to discuss the work you’ve written, but also just tell stories, which is what you’re supposed to do at a pub, and what we’ve really missed during Covid. So we can do both, share some stuff, and then meet and hang out.” 

The pair have decided to keep their call for submissions entirely open, with no set theme, and they are open to having guest editors for future editions.

“There’s some amazing talent in this town. We’ve been talking about getting other people in the town to be guest editors, and they might set a theme, but right now, it's just open”, Ted said.

A first edition of the journal will be published online, but a physical edition is planned for the future.

The pair say they accepting "musings" - essays in a loose sense of the word - and poetry of all lengths, but they would prefer short stories to be between 750 and 3,500 words. 

And while the society may have Hampstead in its name, they are accepting submissions from all over.

“If you've been writing anything during Covid, and want to share it, here's a platform”, Morgan said. 

They plan to publish work with minimal editing, and the journal will not have editorials.

“If you have enough gumption to submit something and send it out for other people to read, kudos to you. Most people can’t do that. You don’t need to be dissected afterwards”, said Morgan. 

Ted added: “At the worst, we won’t publish it. But we are the nicest, easiest crew to be able to submit to. We’re just here to share your work.”

  • Contact Hampstead Literary Society at hampsteadlitsoc@gmail.com