Young Walter Scott Prize winners announced

News - Prizes Friday, 22 February 2019

The winners are Joseph Burton (17) from Folkestone in Kent and Jenny O'Gorman (15) from Edinburgh

The winners of the Young Walter Scott Prize creative writing competition have been announced. The prize, which launched in 2015, is a UK-wide creative writing prize for 11-19 year olds, challenging young people to write a piece of short fiction set in a time before they were born - a time recognisably different from the present.

The judges selected a total of 14 young writers to honour this year. First prize in the 16-19 years category goes to Joseph Burton (17), from Folkestone in Kent, for his traveller's tale with a twist, set in 1930s Mississippi. Taking top prize in the 11-15 years category is Jenny O'Gorman (15) from Edinburgh, with her story based on the devastating effects of the Irish potato famine.

The two category winners receive a £500 travel grant, a published book of their work, and a two-day trip to the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland where they are presented with their prizes. The two runners-up in each category were Catherine Fitzhugh (15) from East Ayrshire, with her story of a family fleeing Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion of 1812, and Natasha Mirus (17) from Ringwood in Hampshire, with her story that takes place on a train station platform in post-war London.

Children's writer Eleanor Updale joined the judging panel this year alongside award-winning author Elizabeth Laird; the prize's sponsor the Duchess of Buccleuch; its director Alan Caig Wilson, literary agent Kathryn Ross and Walter Scott Prize shortlisted writer Ann Weisgarber.

Laird said: "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."

Updale said: "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."

Weisgarber said: "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."

YWSP director Alan Caig Wilson said: "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."

The YWSP has an association with the established Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which honours a published book every year and is also awarded at the Borders Book Festival in June. Both prizes are sponsored by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.

The Duchess of Buccleuch said: "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."

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