The Young Walter Scott Prize

Adventures in Time Travel

Write up to 2,000 words set in time before you were born when the world was recognisably different to the world of today

The Young Walter Scott Prize (YWSP) is much more than a creative writing competition for teenagers. It challenges young writers to investigate their history, their world and the stories of their people, tasking them to roam, explore, research and be courageous in their fiction-writing. It offers a young writer an Adventure in Time Travel – in and of entirely their own process of creation.

I was invited in 2014 to become director of this innovative creative writing initiative by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. In 2013 and 2014 they had commissioned me to adapt  two of Sir Walter Scott’s works (The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Waverley respectively) for performance at the Borders Book Festival to precede the award of the international Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Research for my direction of The Ragged Lion, Allan Massie’s speculative biographical play giving voice to Scott, had drawn me to the extraordinary life and philosophy of one of Scotland’s seminal figures. Scott can be  credited with the underpinning of the modern idea of his native country, quite apart from being a novelist of unparalleled influence both in his lifetime and since.

YWSP reflects our desire to honour the creative drive of Scott in his youth, before scaling the heights of fame – a young man overcoming physical disability and gathering inspirations that would spark his mould-breaking life of writing.

Historical fiction is the genre that is suspended between scholarly history and more free-floating fiction writing, sharing the best qualities of both. Currently, in the academic study of history, the notion of Time Travel describes the activity of delving into and traveling around in a historical period, letting the mind wander amongst available facts and hypotheses. For a young person encountering past eras for the first time, all history is historical fiction.

YWSP is growing as a creative ‘destination’ for young writers keen to explore their past worlds. In 2017, we had a four-fold increase of entries over our first two years. Entries have come from all parts of the UK, from members of the many communities that make up our country to young people who have recently come to live in this country.

To date, our winning, runners-up and short- and long-listed writers have fulfilled their challenge with inspiration and courage. The range of their inspirations is truly humbling.

Given the world we live in now, with our attention is being drawn again and again to  ‘historic’ events, the Young Walter Scott Prize offers young writers a relevant and important channel for taking the long view on current events, motivations and consequences.

Each one of the entries since we opened the competition has tussled with the task of creating absorbing fiction based on verifiable historical facts, often producing startling results.

Read for yourself! – this link takes you to the official YWSP website, where you can view and download the stories written by the prizewinning authors.

Read on here to find out more about Imagining History , our innovative and growing workshop programme, specially tailored to inspiring the kinds of thinking and writing that produces fascinating Historical Fiction .