‘The Student New Angle Prize ‘SNAP’ is an annual event and offers all students of the University of Suffolk the chance to enter by submitting 500 words of original writing as prose or poetry. All entries must either be set in or clearly influenced by our East Anglian region.’
SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK’S WEBSITE
INTERVIEWED BY ROSE GANT, ENGLISH UNDERGRADUATE AND LIFE AT SUFFOLK STUDENT BLOGGER.
How does it feel to be the runner up of the 2021 SNAP Award?
I’m thrilled! It’s really boosted my writing confidence, as I’m really interested in both reading and writing historical fiction. Coming this far has meant I’ve proved to myself that I can do it.
Why did you choose the Anglo-Saxon Queen Aelfthryth as the focus of your story?
I picked the name after I had been researching old Anglo Saxon witch names – Aelfthryth was the name of a queen from the 10th century who was accused of witchcraft and I thought the name fitted perfectly with the themes of my story. The real Aelfthryth was accused of murdering the Abbot Brihtnoth of Ely, so there was a good local connection to the name as well. The Aelfthryth in my story isn’t intended to be the real Queen Aelfthryth, but it was a good way of linking all the elements of the story together – the location, subject and historical setting all fitted.
What was the planning process like for your entry?
I already knew that I wanted to set the story in and around the Fens, and that it was going to be witchcraft- related. I spent a lot of time living and working in Cambridge, Soham and Ely so the area was familiar to me and had always intrigued me. I came up with the idea of Agamede, a young pregnant village girl, terrified and looking for the witch to help her out of her predicament, as the starting point. I tried to make it as geographically and historically accurate as I could. It helped that I could already picture Wicken Fen as it is now – I tried to imagine how eerie it would have looked and felt all those years ago and my imagination took me from there.
Does the writing experience vary depending on each story?
Definitely. Although I always start with an idea, sometimes as with Aelfthryth, the idea is influenced by a theme like East Anglia. Other stories I’ve written come from a germ of an idea I have that won’t go away. I love historical fiction and I think that’s because if you have some information about an event, time or person, you can weave a completely different story around them, but the historical element always gives you a point of reference. It also means you get to find out a lot of interesting things when you’re researching a story!
What advice would you give to future entrants of SNAP?
Just enter. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s just 500 words. I’m sure everyone says that, but I’ve found entering writing competitions is great for my creative writing practice and I certainly don’t win everything – this is the first time I’ve come close to winning any of the writing competitions I’ve entered. It’s also fun. If you take an area of East Anglia for inspiration that holds special memories for you, or has always fascinated you (like the Fens) – or perhaps something that is there already like folk tales and myths that you can explore – I think that is a good starting point.