In March 2020 we launched the Weald & Downland Living Museum’s Historical Fiction short story competition, which at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown, saw an exciting opportunity for creative minds to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and start tapping away at a historical fiction short story or two!
Anyone who has a passion for creative writing and/or history were invited to produce their own short story, which related to an aspect of the Museum’s collection (buildings/houses/artefacts) and to be set within the time periods of 900AD and 1930AD, the time period of the Museum’s collection.
A strong and highly regarded line-up of creative writers made up the 2020 panel of judges:
- Jane Borodale, Historical Fiction author and previous Writer-in-Residence at the Weald & Downland Living Museum
- Katherine Clements, Author and Winner of the Museum’s 2012 Historical Fiction competition [Also her blog piece with image could still be used]
- Phil Hewitt, Author and Group Arts Editor, Sussex Newspapers
- Greg Mosse, Writer and encourager of writers
- Richard Pailthorpe, Author and previously Museum Director – Weald & Downland Living Museum
- Suzie Wilde, Author
The judges looked for high-quality stories in one of two categories, ‘Museum-inspired historical fiction’ and ‘General historical fiction’.
Lorna Fraser, from Scotland won the Museum-inspired historical fiction category, with her short story ‘The Tollhouse Tearoom’.
Sharing where her inspiration came from, Lorna said “I was walking my dog in the woods near my house on a sunny summer evening when inspiration for The Tollhouse Tearoom started. Like many of the short stories that I write, it began with an image in my mind of someone seemingly quite ordinary.”
“This time it was a woman sitting on a bench outside an old tollhouse, enjoying the evening sun. The characters I write about in my short stories are usually ordinary people but they have secrets which can be dark or dangerous or tragic.”
Lorna Fraser has written a number of prize-winning stories. Many of these are featured in her collection ‘Ill Divided World’ (available on Amazon). She loved the opportunity of the short story format to capture moments of change in ordinary lives.
Winner of the general historical fiction category, for her short story ‘The Second Mrs Turner’ is Tessa Byars from Cambridge.
After retirement from a lifetime working in education Tessa took an MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University, and is currently working on a collection of short stories inspired by Cambridgeshire news reports of the late Victorian and Edwardian era.
“I’m a magpie, and intriguing objects, pictures, or overheard snippets of conversation are often what spark my imagination and set me off. Old newspapers are full of fascinating stories about everyday events; all human life is there in all its colours. The report that inspired this story made me smile, and conveyed so much about Edwardian morality that it was irresistible.”
Tessa has won a number of prizes for her short stories, and believes it is never too late to begin writing, for the older we are the more stories we have to tell.
Congratulations to both Lorna and Tessa.