The Imagining History Programme UK

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They come from all over, and they are thinking hard!

Apart from being Creative Director of The Imagining History Programme UK I am also Director of The Young Walter Scott Prize. The two things are inextricably related, both in their foundation and in their inspiration.  I am so excited to post this map, showing the geographical spread of entries to the Prize. This year the range and expertise of the writing was impressive and in many cases astonishing. Young writers of Historical Fiction are showing themselves to be perceptive, engaged, energetic and, for readers, inspirational in the way they look at the world they encounter.

There has never been a more important time to promote the reading and writing of Historical Fiction. Sir Walter Scott hoped that his novel Waverley, or ’tis sixty years since would prove useful to people in putting bad times to rest and looking forward to better times. Our times now are troubling but surely there is hope in the coming generations of young people who are learning to take the long view.youngwalterscottprizeentrants2018dataview

Introducing our Historical Adviser

Meet Dr Dina Gusejnova, lecturer and researcher in Modern History at Sheffield University and author/presenter of the BBC Radio 4 documentary Tarpaulin-A Biography . dina nov 2018We collaborated with her on an oral history project on the Isle of Man in 2017 and she has agreed to join us as our adviser on all things to do with thinking through the historical research aspect of our workshops. She believes that Historical Fiction is an important way in which teenage minds can interact with sometimes impenetrable history.

She asks two questions of young fiction writers creating historical characters:

How do your characters see their lives developing?  If they could do something now, how would they change the world they live in?

She writes: By engaging with history, we open our eyes to the multifaceted nature of our world: the paths not taken, things that might have been, the factors which led to things as they are now, a universe of peculiar but forgotten characters, of past dreams and expectations.

Flightpaths of Historical Inspiration

Here is a fascinating infographic showing where entrants to the Young Walter Scott Prize sourced their inspiration. From the history of the hidden Christians in Japan, to a 1950s family dealing with racial integration, from political intrigues in Ancient Byzantium to the personal sorrow and despair of Suffragettes and Soldiers, young writers of historical fiction are fearless in their writing and connected in their ideas.YWSP2017 Flightpaths of Inspiration-page-001

Someone quoted an opinion to me last year that The Young Walter Scott Prize and The Imagining History Programme is ‘niche’ – only about history. IT SO ISN’T. History is not ‘just’ history. Mining history for its significances is more important than ever right now. Historical Fiction is all about new thinking. Most Historical facts are invisible. Historical Fiction is the search for new possibilities.

” The historical fiction writer puts us in the battle. We do not watch the young Marine slog his way up Mount Suribachi; we feel his heavy pack digging into our shoulders, curse as our feet slip in sand and mud, hear the snap of passing rounds and feel his fear as we hit the dirt with him and scramble for whatever cover we can find. We pray with him in the moments before he raises his head from the sand and looks around. We care about the things he cares about: not expansionism or oil embargoes or national strategy, but his brother who lost a leg at Pearl Harbor, his girl back home, the buddy who was right next to him, but now lies in the dirt not moving. We’re not just watching the fight; that’s our buddy, our girl back home, our brother. The writer of historical fiction is first a writer not of history, but of fiction, and fiction is about characters, not events.

So historical fiction is a close relative of history, but not simply a retelling of the lectures we learned to dread in high school. We write historical fiction, and read it, not to learn about history so much as to live it. It is the closest we can get to experiencing the past without having been there. We finish a history and think “So that’s what happened!” We finish a work of historical fiction, catch our breath, and think “So that’s what it was like!” “

Dina Gusejnova: The Tarpaulin-A Biography

Follow this link https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b083n15m

To a BBC documentary made by our historical adviser, Dr Dina Gusejnova in 2016. You will hear how something as mundane as a sheet of Tarpaulin opens up stories untold of lives lived and events experience.

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Dina’s approach is an excellent example of how the existing historical record might be the source of high quality Historical Fiction. It also shows that History, as a subject to be studies is anything but the stuffy procession of names and dates that it is often made out to be.

No historical facts are too mundane or “boring” if, with a writer’s mind, you are looking at them for their human value and for the stories that hide behind them.

Launch of Suffragette Stories in Norwich

Photos from the Launch of Suffragette Stories.The resource, centred around the Annie Kenny archive held at UEA, includes stories written by professional authors and young people based on both historical details of Suffragette lives and inter-generational interviews with older women in Norfolk.
In July Alan Caig Wilson and Elizabeth Ferretti of The Imagining History Programme UK ran a training event for MA Creative Writers at UEA in techniques of inspiring Historical Fiction writing for young writers, at the invitation of the British Archive of Contemporary Writing.
https://suffragettestories.omeka.net/

From Source to Page to Stage. A performance to remember following their involvement in a Young Walter Scott Prize Imagining History Project. Thanks to the students at Sir James Smith’s Community School, all at North Cornwall Book FestivalPatrick Gale.
“these young authors brought a thoughtfulness and honesty to their work..” Laura Wood
See how assured and connected the readers look as they present their work. A fascinating and moving event. We wish them luck with their entries to YWSP2018.

Cornwall Odyssey ends at St Endellion

On 5th Oct, the team of writers who have been exploring their history and their sense of place will present excerpts of their work during the schools day at the North Cornwall Book Festival. We will be part of an event during which the Charles Causley Poetry Prize will be presented.

Our young writers will write and devise their presentation to show off their developing skills in using senses of place and history to tell satisfying stories.

https://www.ncornbookfest.org/

 

18th September 2018 – Into the woods, time-traveling the centuries back to the 1300s.

20 young writers from North Cornwall, digging with minds and pens to uncover the hidden voices of Penhallam Manor.

Results of their creative excavations will be presented at the North Cornwall Book Festival on 5th October.

Maybe there’s a winner of the 2018 Young Walter Scott Prize emerging amongst them, with the closing date of 31st October fast approaching.

http://www.ywsp.co.uk

#youngwalterscottprize

 

IMAGINING HISTORY IN NORTH CORNWALL

In partnership with Stephanie Haxon, English Heritage and the North Cornwall Book Festival, Newquay Tretherras School and Sir James Smiths School Camelford.Penhallam vista

18th Sept – field trip to Penhallam Manor

28th Sept – 2nd in-school writing session

5th Oct – Spoken-word Performance at the North Cornwall Book Festival

This completes a project, two years in the planning since Patrick Gale invited us to consider working with NCBF. It began with a first in-school session at Sir James Smiths and a first field trip to Launceston Castle. One of the participants wrote this:

It was as if my imagination filled in the missing blanks; who?what?when?. The atmosphere was amazing and it felt very natural to be writing here. I really enjoyed the free writing time we had to start our stories as well.

Thanks to Lisa Cooper at NCBF, Jennifer McCracken at English Heritage, Chris Eames at Sir James Smiths Camelford, and Jay Snashall & Ciera Harvey at Newquay Tretherras.