Born of the Island and other Sea Stories: The HG Wells Anthology 2012

by Aki Schilz

I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of 10 finalists in the Junior category of the 2012 HG Wells Short Story Competition, and was invited to Folkestone for the launch of the book at the Grand Hotel. Writer Stewart Ross spoke as the special guest, and Reg Turnmill gave a moving speech on the importance of nurturing emerging literary talent, and his hopes for the prize and its continued success. At the end of the luncheon, the top prize was awarded to Angus Nesbitt for his story ‘A Visitor from the Deep’.

The theme for the competition was ‘the sea’, so I chose a piece I wrote whilst on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA, entitled ‘West Hartlepool, 1962’. The story was inspired by a photograph taken in 1963 by photojournalist Don McCullin, whose work was showing at the time at the Victoria Art Gallery. Un-posed and often harrowing, McCullin’s photographs set out to document, in unforgiving, high resolution clarity, the human condition at its most extreme; in war-torn countries, in run-down urban cityscapes, in famine and in drought, through flooding and fire. He captures with his trusty Nikon F-series cameras the moments at which humans must make the most difficult decisions – to kill or to be killed, to rescue or abandon loved ones, to run across a border and risk being snipered for a chance at freedom, or to sink back into the shadows of poverty and repression, and count one’s blessings that one is still alive. He has journeyed across the globe, covering major conflict sites in Cyprus, the Belgian Congo, Lebanon, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as focusing his lens closer to home, zooming in on Britain with the same cool deference that makes his photographs so particularly moving.

Of all the photographs, for me one particular photograph leapt out of its glass casing and embedded itself in my heart. It spoke to me. And so, ‘West Hartlepool, 1962’ was born:

The HG Wells Anthology this year took the title ‘Born of the Island and Other Sea Stories’. The cover was designed by the organiser’s daughter, Becky Unsworth, who has won much critical praise for her work, and was awarded the 2012 Turner Contemporary Prize for Young Artists. To order a copy of the anthology, click on the picture of the book cover below. I’ve also included a link to my story in PDF format, in case anyone is interested in reading it.

West Hartlepool, 1962 Copyright Aki Schilz

Thanks for reading,