Young Walter Scott Prize writing event open for entries

The distinguished Young Walter Scott Prize 2021, a UK-wide historical writing prize for 11-19 year olds, now in its seventh year, is open for entries.

The prize challenges young people to write a piece of short fiction – stories of between 800-2000 words – set in a time before they were born.

Entries are judged in two age groups – 11 to 15 years and 16 to 19 years, and any form of fiction is welcomed – prose, poetry, drama, fictional letters or reportage.

The two winners receive a £500 travel grant and tickets to the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland, in June 2022, where they are presented with their prizes. All winning and highly commended writers see their work published in the special Young Walter Scott Prize anthology.

Stories can now be submitted until the closing date of 1 November 2021. For complete details, see www.ywsp.co.uk.

The judges said: ‘We are so excited to see the entries we will be lucky enough to read this year. already more so after the upheaval, uncertainty and stress that young people have endured over the last 18 months at the hands of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are intrigued to see how those unheard of experiences manifest themselves in the writing of our talented young people – will it be by tackling difficult issues, events and experiences overtly, or will ultimate escapism come to the fore. We cannot wait to find out.

‘Of course, as ever, the challenge remains to make the story true to its time and true to the facts of that time, whilst also alluring to a current reader. And it is a challenge, most definitely, but one we know our unexpected writers relish, as the number of entries we receive grows each year, along with the range of experiences, approaches and styles.’

The 2020 Young Walter Scott Prize winner in the 16-19 age category was Madeleine Friedlein for her Slaying Holofernes, inspired by the visual artist Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting Judith Slaying Holofernes, displayed in the National Gallery in 2020. Poignantly, the young winner saw the exhibition on BBC 4 during the first UK lockdown in Spring 2020 as the Covid-10 pandemic stilled life as we knew it.

The 11-15 age category was won by Atlas Weyland Eden, whose We Wolves is set 35,000 years ago in the steppe of Central Europe, before the written information and static settlements, on the eve of the next phase of human evolution.

To those starting out in writing historical fiction, master of the genre, and winner of the iconic 2021 Walter Scott Prize for The Mirror and the Light, Dame Hilary Mantel, advised: ‘Remember facts are never the whole story. Research is not just about names and dates –it’s about imaginative, sensory closeness to the past…For your chosen period, you become a magpie. As you are reading, watching, listening, you pick up anything that glitters. Don’t ask, how does this fit in my story? Just take it home to your nest. Sooner or later, you’ll see why it attracted you.’

The Young Walter Scott Prize was launched in 2015 by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, and is named after Sir Walter Scott, who, as a boy sent to live in the Scottish Borders, set about exploring the countryside and listening to the stories of the people he met there. This inspired him to write, and ultimately to become the most famous author of his time. The Young Walter Scott Prize has an association with The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which is this year being held in November at Abbotsford, the home of Scott himself, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

The winners of the 2021 Young Walter Scott Prize will receive their awards in June 2022 when the Baille Gifford Borders Book Festivals returns to its usual home of Harmony Garden, Melrose.

For further information, visit www.ywsp.co.uk

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