A Croydon-based charity worker is one of 21 regional winners of the City of Stories writing competition, a scheme which inspired people to re-engage with libraries in record numbers.
Deborah Torr, aged 24, who works for the international development charity VSO, was named as the Croydon winner for her story The Dust on the Windowsill.
The story will be available, together with the other winning entries, in an anthology to be provided at an open mic writing workshop at Croydon Central Library next month.
Torr said: “I was so excited to hear I’d won as it’s the first piece of creative writing I’ve had published. It’s given me more motivation to pursue my writing.
“I started writing short stories when I was 10 years old, that was when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I had a great teacher that gave us the opportunity to be really imaginative.”
Led by Spread the Word and commissioned by London Libraries, more than 800 people participated in 42 City of Stories workshops in the summer, inspiring 313 competition entries. A London-wide celebration of short story-writing and reading, the competition’s talent level was such that in addition to the 21 winners, 41 contributors have been highly commended.
All 62 stories are featured in the City of Stories anthology, alongside specially commissioned pieces by the programme’s four leading writers in residence who were based in local libraries: Leone Ross, Gary Budden, Olumide Popoola and Meena Kandasamy.
Torr and the other 20 winners will also have the chance to read their stories at open mic events in libraries across London next month and will attend a writers’ development day.
Ruth Harrison, the director of organisers Spread the Word, said: “It’s been fantastic to see how Londoners have responded to City of Stories – showing a real appetite to engage with and develop their writing and short stories in local libraries, such as Croydon Central Library.
“We’re looking forward to London’s readers discovering the breadth and range of the stories from 62 talented writers in the new anthology, and celebrating London’s writers, readers and libraries at events taking place in libraries across the capital in November.”
Now in its second year, City of Stories saw a 50 per cent increase in attendance at library-based creative writing workshops.
Out of the 800 who attended, 44 per cent admitted they had not used the participating library before, but 97 per cent said they would go back. The backgrounds of the winners and those highly commended are culturally and professionally diverse, from teachers and volunteers to translators and dancers, with the oldest being 70 years old.
Caroline Rae, the chair of London Libraries, said: “Once again we have been delighted to work in partnership with Spread the Word on City of Stories. London’s libraries are cultural hubs, both as incubators for artists and also as venues for residents to discover cultural experiences and City of Stories is the perfect embodiment of this.”
That’s certainly Torr’s view. “I’d love there to be more creative writing workshops in the Croydon borough,” she said. “Spread the Word’s competition is doing a great job of showcasing how much talent there is in London. It’s a great opportunity to have my short stories read by a wider audience – I usually just keep them to myself.”
Croydon’s writing workshop is at the Central Library on Saturday, November 3, from 2pm.
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