21st February, 2019

2018 YWSP winners announced!

We’re thrilled to announce the fourteen young prizewinners of our 2018 creative writing competition.

Step forward Jenny O’Gorman from Edinburgh and Joseph Burton from Kent, who take first prize in the two age categories!

Jenny’s story Shadow of Hunger, set during the Irish potato famine, was the 11-15 age group winner, and was inspired by a visit to the National Famine Memorial.  In her own words:

“The Memorial is near the foot of Croagh Patrick (a mountain in County Mayo). The monument is of a boat with twisted skeletons in the rigging, and depicts the refugees it carries as dead souls hanging from the sides; symbolising all those who tragically died on the coffin ships during the Irish Potato Famine. This was a humbling and emotional experience that stuck with me. My grandparents lived in Galway; the misty Irish landscape is steeped with fascinating history, fairies, goblins, songs and stories which have always captured my imagination.”

Joseph’s winning story in the 16-19 age group, Dust on the Road, describes a 1930s road trip through America’s Deep South, with echoes of the Civil War and an unexpected twist in the tale.  Joseph commented on his inspiration:

Dust on the Road  largely came from my GCSE studies of the American dust bowl in the 1930’s. I really enjoyed studying this period of history”.

The two runners-up in each category were Catherine Fitzhugh (15) from East Ayrshire, with her story Little Matron, describing a family fleeing Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion of 1812; and Natasha Mirus (17) from Ringwood in Hampshire, with her story The Station, which takes place on a train platform in post-war London.

Ten further entries were Highly Commended, making a total of fourteen winners – a full Roll of Honour is on our home page.  We’ll be publishing the fourteen winning stories in a special YWSP printed anthology later this year. Every single entrant received a letter with feedback from the Judges on their entries – it’s one of the things that is unique about our Prize.

Here’s what the judges said about this year’s entries:

“Enthusiasm, the joy of exploring history, the delight of experimenting with words, and above all the thrill of exercising the imagination – all these leap off the pages of the stories submitted to the Young Walter Scott Prize. It’s been a bumper year both for the quantity and quality of the stories submitted, and I’ve no doubt at all that we’ll be hearing from some of these young writers in the years to come.”

Elizabeth Laird, Chair of Judges

“The best of these young writers are well read, curious about the past and able to put themselves in the shoes of the people who inhabited that past – real or imagined. The Young Walter Scott Prize asks a great deal of the entrants, and they have risen to the challenge in ways that are eye-opening and heartening”

Kathryn Ross, literary agent

“As a new judge on the team, I have been struck by the verve with which our young writers set their imagination to work on events from the past. The best of the stories show skills in the craft of writing and the art of storytelling of which anyone, of any age, would be proud”

Eleanor Updale, children’s writer

“This year the range and expertise of the writing was impressive and in many cases astonishing. Young writers who enter the Young Walter Scott Prize are continuing to be perceptive, engaged, energetic and inspirational in the way they look at and think about the world they encounter.”

Alan Caig Wilson, YWSP Director

Many of this year’s stories are powerful, imaginative works of everyday people caught in circumstances beyond their control.  The writing is sophisticated, and the authors courageously assumed voices different from their own.  The future of historical fiction is in good hands”

Ann Weisgarber, author of the Walter Scott Prize shortlisted The Promise

“I am both proud and moved by the imagination and strength of feeling that I have read in this year’s submissions, and I congratulate all who took part, and especially our winners and runners up.

It is when history is ignored that troubles flare up in our world, and when history is forgotten or warped, that the problems begin.  I believe that the future belongs to the young, and it is their desire to look back and learn from the mistakes of past, that gives me hope.

The Duchess of Buccleuch, sponsor and founder of the YWSP