A Blast from the Past 2024


This competition is always, as the name would suggest, for writing with an historical theme and this year it was the turn of fiction.

Our adjudicator, Suzanne Stirke, began by explaining that, when first drawn to pick up her pen, she had gone on a short writing course at Darlington 6th Form College.  From there, she was  encouraged to do a University Master’s course in Creative Writing as a mature student. Since then she has written and self-published two books set around Bedale, one about a particular building set in the early 1800s and the other about the resolution of a mystery surrounding that building set in modern times. She is now working on a third book about a local woman called Dorothy Patterson.

Suzanne went on to say what she was looking for in a short story:

  • A beginning, middle and an end
  • Must be concise
  • No irrelevant detail (in a short story)
  • Assume that the reader knows nothing
  • Either 3rd person or 1st person narrative (she didn’t mention the rarer 2nd person narrative form)
  • Not too many characters
  • A good ending.


Turning to the seven entries Suzanne then made her comments on each. The entries were:

  • ‘A Bedtime Story’ – Lotte Wilson – a grandfather tells two young boys a bedtime story based on his own memories
  • ‘Departure and Arrival’ – Joe Peters – a young woman begins to travel the world
  • ‘Great Aunt Tillie’ – Sheila Whitfield – June is sorting out belongings after the death of her husband
  • ‘Private Tom Brownlea’ – Charles Lubelski – a story about a reluctant recruit in the First World War
  • ‘The Big Decision’ – Peter Page – a young Irishman from the Dingle Peninsula decides to emigrate to America around 1900
  • ‘The Fine Aroma of Coffee’ – Maggie Cobbett – a ghost story set in the York Castle Museum
  • ‘The Star of the Sea’ – Susan Perkins – a story about a haunted pub beside the sea in Northern England.


Suzanne then announced the winners as follows

  • Joint Second – Peter Page with ‘The Big Decision’ and Maggie Cobbett with ‘The Fine Aroma of Coffee’
  • First – Lotte Wilson with ‘A Bedtime Story’

Suzanne presented Lotte with the trophy.

After the break, the remaining entries were paired with their authors and accompanied by discussion before Susan invited Lotte and Peter to read their stories.

Suzanne had brought along copies of both her published books for members to examine and there was just time for her to read the blurbs from the backs before the meeting closed with thanks being expressed to her for a much appreciated adjudication.

Our friendly group meets once a fortnight at the St Wilfred's Community Centre on Trinity Lane and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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