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.

What inspired YOU to write?

 

The winner of the 2018 11-15yrs Young Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (YWSP), Jenny O’Gorman from Edinburgh, was inspired by a striking memorial to those who died during the Irish Potato Famine. 70423-famine_memorial_coffin_ship_2Her story Shadow of Hunger tells of the desperation of those who boarded ships to a find a better life in the US.

Joseph Burton from Kent, winner of the 2018 16-19yrs prize was inspired to write his suspense story Dust On The Road by the work he did during his GCSE History on the Great Depression in the United States during the 1930s.

How do your ideas emerge?

I remember, when I was around 14 or 15, the moment when an idea took hold. But better than that, I still remember the excitement I felt when I felt the idea forming in my head. It was as if there was a time before the idea and the time after the idea. Between not having it and having it, my life changed.

I was on horseback, riding fast across the sands towards Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, the sea wild on my left and the other people in my group yelling with excitement on their horses in front of me. It was the nearest I ever came to flying and it was my moment, and not anyone else’s. The idea I had was about how important it was to trust the moment I found myself in, and to pay attention to everything that was around me, otherwise the memory would be lost in time.

The source material for a Historical Fiction story is out there, just waiting to picked up, rolled around your mind and written about. And it can also be in there – in you as you experience the place you find yourself in. This is why we developed the Imagining History workshops. We put you in a place and at a time where an idea you never previously though about might grow and develop in your mind.

We want you to feel that shiver in time when an idea can make you into a new person.There you are, surrounded by the fizzing inspiration of objects and place and a feeling that real people in history once existed there or once held the object you are touching. Slowly but surely an idea emerges into your writer’s mind! Many of our young writers say that they grew ideas during a workshop that they could not have predicted they would ever have.

With the added spur of finishing your entry for the Young Walter Scott Prize, who knows where your initial inspiration will take you, when you explore a time before you were born when the world was very different to the world of your present time.

People in history were just like us – same needs and wants and dilemmas and big questions –  except that the details of the living of their lives were different. As a Historical Fiction writer you are free to base your story on events, people and places that already figure in history. Then, by adding experiences from your own life into the mix and imagining how the people of the past might have been thinking,  you can create a completely new take on the historical time period you are writing about.

Who is to say that the insights you have are wrong? A fiction writer’s job is to explore ideas and characters – to create new dreams and inspire new thoughts. A Historical Fiction writer’s job is to explore history and to take their readers to a time and place where they never expected to get to. You are a time traveller – you, your imagination and your notebook.

Imagining History UK 2019

The Director and Development team of The Imagining History UK Programme are proud to announce:

WEBPANEL Prog 2019-page-001

Along with The Young Walter Scott Prize, we are now in our fourth year of inspiring young people to explore the writing of Historical Fiction.  Together with the challenge of the Prize, IHUK is the only creative writing programme for teenage writers in the UK focusing on the research and writing of Historical Fiction. We appeal to both young fiction writers and young historians. We offer opportunities to get out into the historical environment to see, sense and feel the richness that is available to enrich creative thinking and writing.

From modest beginnings at two venues and two workshops in 2015, we have expanded to nine venues and 14 workshops nationwide in 2019.

Innovations this year include our first two workshops in London and a psycho-geographical-historical exploration of the extraordinary waterfronts of Great Yarmouth.

In Cornwall our young writers will give a live public performance of excerpts of their work at the personal invitation of Patrick Gale, Artistic Director of The North Cornwall Book Festival.

We are open for bookings from schools and Sixth Form Colleges, individual over-16s attending under their own steam and home-schooled students. For further details, and to book places: YWSPrize@outlook.com

Scottish Borders         Bowhill House, Selkirk       The House Breathes…        17 June

Edinburgh                     Trinity House of Leith         They Went to Sea…            20, 21 June

Cornwall                         Trerice              A Cornish Journey pt1                   27 June & 5 July

London                           Wallace Collection   The Time-Traveller’s Map            2, 16 July

Norwich                         Museum of Norwich    Starting With Samson…           6, 9,10 July

Woodbridge                  Sutton Hoo  On the Border of Myth and History          8 July

Aylsham                        Blickling    The People That Changed The Land            11 July

Great Yarmouth & The Elizabeth House    From Shoreline to Quayside       12 July

Cornwall                       Penhallam Manor    A Cornish Journey pt 2        2 Sept dates tbc

Special performance: The North Cornwall Book Festival                         11 October

We are, as we have been since our establishment, generously hosted by properties owned and managed by Heritage Environment Scotland, English Heritage, the National Trust, the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, Norfolk Museums and the Wallace Collection. We are grateful to the staff, volunteers and resident experts who make our young writers feel at home as they explore these amazing places. We are deeply grateful to our ongoing collaborative and creative partnership with the Young Norfolk Arts Festival, and IlluminateUK in Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Imagining History UK Programme announced

WEBPANEL Prog 2019-page-001The Young Walter Scott Prize is proud to announce the 2019 Imagining History UK Programme.

14 workshops for teenage writers that explore the writing skills and creative research that build a work of Historical Fiction.

Workshops are held in

  • Edinburgh,
  • The Scottish Borders,
  • Norfolk,
  • Suffolk,
  • London
  • Cornwall.

From Edwardian country houses, to archeological sites, hidden treasures and spectacular art collections – explore sources of rich inspiration for your writing.

Come along and write stories you never thought you could write!

Then enter the Young Walter Scott Prize – the UK’s only writing competition for young people writing Historical Fiction. Check out this year’s winners at http://www.ywsp.co.uk

For more information about Imagining History, the Young Walter Scott Prize and how to book places on our workshops: YWSPrize@outlook.com.

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/