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Young writer celebrates major literary prize win

Published on 12/07/18

A young author from Jane Austen College has won first place in a prestigious national competition for historical fiction after being inspired by a school creative writing scheme.

Lenny Belderson was awarded the Young Walter Scott Prize for his story The City Of World’s Desire, set in 11th century Constantinople.

He was presented with the award by author Sebastian Barry at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland, in June.

Lenny’s literary success comes after he was encouraged by Jane Austen academic mentor Stuart Farley and English teacher Emma Waterworth to sign up for a Brilliant Club creative writing scheme, which aims to nurture young writing talent.

Lenny went on to attend a historical fiction workshop at Holkham Hall and worked through the summer holidays to complete his story. 

He said: “I chose to set my story in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire (although the populace proudly called it Roman). This is a fascinating city, now known as Istanbul, which I would one day love to visit.

“The story itself is imagined, but descriptions of the city, the palace rooms and the events, such as the Battle of Manzikert or the invasion of Rûm, are all based on historical records from that time.”

Lenny’s mum Pippa said: “The creative writing scheme gave him a lot more confidence as a writer.  His teachers really encouraged him and we are delighted that it has led to this award.”

The judging panel - author Elizabeth Laird, literary agent Kathryn Ross, and the director of The Young Walter Scott Prize, Alan Caig Wilson – described Lenny’s work as “full of drama and vivid description of the opulent surroundings… a well-structured story that reflects the author’s close attention to the historical period”.

Lenny’s prize includes a £500 travel and research grant. His story has been published on the Young Walter Scott Prize website and will feature in a special anthology.

Alan Caig Wilson said: “Lenny was a star at the prize-giving and we’re all very proud of him.”

Jane Austen head of school David Thomas added: “This is an absolutely fantastic achievement and we are hugely impressed with Lenny’s well-deserved success.”