Congratulations to Zareen (Year 12), Freya (Year 11) and Aniya (Year 7) whose work has been selected to represent NHEHS in the Historical Association’s Historical Fiction Writing Competition 2020. All pupils were invited to write a piece of any length, in any format, set in any time/place. National winners are due to be announced in September and October, but each girl has received 50 House Points, and a new trophy goes to Freya, for best overall entry.
NHEHS actually won this competition back in 2016, so fingers crossed that the judges are again impressed by our talented students’ work!
Miss Gordon was incredibly impressed by the engaging characterisation, touching moments, and how each story was firmly rooted in a tangible historical setting.
We asked the three writers about their three very different entries and their tips for summer historical reading.
What motivated you to enter the competition?
Zareen: I have always wanted to be an author, and I really enjoy history, so this seemed like it was perfect for me. Also, in Year 9, I was going to enter this competition, but missed the deadline, so I am glad that I managed to enter this year.
Freya: The competition is usually for Year 7-9 and I enjoyed entering during those years and was disappointed when I outgrew the writing competition. When the Historical Association opened it to older years due to Covid-19 it was the perfect opportunity for me to have something to do over lockdown and be able to compete again.
Aniya: I decided to enter just because I love writing. I’d never really done anything like this before and I thought, why not have a go?!
How did you get your inspiration for writing?
Zareen: I chose to write about Aeneas at the end of his life, looking back on the time when he left Dido and regretting it, even though he had little choice in the matter. It was the text that I studied in Latin last year, and I really enjoyed it. Their story has inspired a lot of my creative writing.
Freya: I got my inspiration for writing for a mixture of research and music. The setting that I chose (Königsallee in Düsseldorf) was taken from a first-hand account from an old edelweiss pirate whereas many other scenes I thought of as I listened to music – I have a Spotify playlist for my entry which I wrote to.
Aniya: I chose one of my favourite historical time periods and that gave me all the inspiration I needed. I chose the Victorian time period. I had never had a single lesson at the time so I taught myself.
What was the hardest part of writing it?
Zareen: Entering it. I didn’t feel like it was ready and kept wanting to change it, but in the end I had to believe in it and send it in.
Freya: The hardest part of writing it was the fight scene at the beginning as I find writing action quite difficult. It is hard to have a balance of being descriptive but also to keep the pace and the feel of the fight.
Aniya: The fact that I’d never really written a fiction story with non-fiction facts before!
Did you have to do any extra research around the time period?
Zareen: I did some research on Aeneas to find out about what we know of his life after he left Dido, and luckily, last summer, I had read the first few books of ‘The Aeneid,’ so I already knew the story quite well.
Freya: I did a lot of research about the time period, with smaller details such as what military commands did Hitler Youth learn as well trying to piece together the life of an edelweiss pirate. There was not a lot of information out there, so I used articles and a few eye witness accounts in addition to more general research into life in Nazi Germany to shape my understanding.
Aniya: I definitely did have to do extra research and once I had done it, it wasn’t that challenging to write. I wanted to make sure that people knew what time period I was writing in based on the features I included.
What did you learn?
Zareen: I think I have learned to consider both sides of a story, because last year I firmly believed that Aeneas was in the wrong, and caused Dido most of her pain, but, after putting myself in Aeneas’ shoes, I have realised that neither had much choice in the matter. The gods are the ones to blame for their misfortunes.
Freya: I learnt that Düsseldorf and Reading are twinned towns and in the aftermath of WWII where Düsseldorf came under British occupation, the Royal Berkshire regiment helped people who were hungry and homeless and the Mayor invited six German children to live in Reading. They still have ties today.
Aniya: Altogether I learnt that even if you have doubts about something (like entering a competition) you won’t lose anything. It was also nice to learn about an interesting time period ahead of time.
Do you enjoy reading historical fiction? Can you recommend any historical novels to other girls for summer reading?
Zareen: I do enjoy historical fiction, especially of a classical nature. I would recommend ‘Circe’ by Madeleine Miller, ‘The Penelopiad’ by Margaret Atwood, and (for older readers) ‘The Silence of the Girls’ by Pat Barker.
Freya: I am currently enjoying reading ‘A Gentleman in Moscow‘ by Amor Towles it is set in 1922 and is about Count Alexander Rostov who is under house arrest in Hotel Metropol by the Kremlin and his story.
Aniya: I definitely enjoyed reading some but mostly writing some. Some novels I would recommend are ‘The War That Saved My Life’ and ‘Chains’.
Good luck to Zareen, Freya and Aniya come the autumn when the results are announced!