Introducing Léonie Gregson: Q&A With Our Writing Bursary Competition Winner

DAN BARKER www.danbarkerstudios. © Léonie Gregson, Writing Bursary Competition Winner

Congratulations to Léonie Gregson, overall winner of our £10,000 Writing Bursary Competition with her story, “Fossils”. Find out what inspired her poignant story, and how this win will help her writing aspirations… 

Léonie’s story of grief and love struck a cord with all our panel, including head judge Sally Lindsay.

Sally says: “When I first read Leonie’s story ‘Fossils’, I thought ‘that’s the one’. It was a standout piece and just had that little bit extra. I read and re-read all the finalists and all were excellent, but ‘Fossils’ takes you on an unexpected journey, just as the best short stories should. Definitely a deserving winner.”

Read full details of our Writing Bursary Competition winner and runners-up here.

Q & A With Writing Bursary Competition Winner Léonie Gregson

What inspired your winning story, “Fossils”?

A few years ago, during a break between Covid lockdowns, I decided to travel to Brighton to do a bit of location research for another story I was writing (yet to come!). Walking on the cliffs nearby, I started thinking about what I would do if I saw someone who looked as though they might be about to jump. Would I intervene – or would I tell myself they were just admiring the view? So I started with the woman, Hannah, seeing Alistair on the cliff and somehow the idea of fossils came naturally out of their conversation.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve loved writing stories and poems ever since I can remember. In fact, I still have an old book of children’s Bible stories which I was given when I was very young, about five or six, and I’ve written this story in pencil on one of the front pages: “Little Betty Brown is cruel to her pet lion. Do you think she loves God?” (I must admit that I’m rather proud of my early use of a rhetorical question!). I grew up in Australia and was a member of the Tasmanian Young Writers’ Fellowship, and I occasionally contributed to my university’s literary review and to local magazines. But then, for a few years, life got in the way. I had to work full-time and writing became just a hobby. It has only been the last few years that I have made space in my life to give it the attention it deserves.

How did you hear about the competition, and why did you decide to enter?

I happened to see the competition on Twitter/X, quite late on – I think it was the second last day before the submission deadline – and thought ‘why not?’ I thought the story might be something “People’s Friend” readers would enjoy and I might have a shot at getting it published. It never crossed my mind that I would win!

How did you feel when you were announced winner of “The People’s Friend” New Writer’s Prize?

I was shocked and excited. I hardly ever win anything, and to win something related to my writing was especially satisfying. I am really fond of these two characters and I’m delighted that the judges enjoyed the story. I hope readers will too!

What do you think this win will do for your writing aspirations?

As part of the bursary prize, “People’s Friend” have given me the chance to work closely with one of their story editors and I hope to use their expertise to improve my writing skills. There is always more to learn and, as I’ve said, this comes at the perfect time for me as I  recently made a promise to myself to make more time to write and develop my skills.

Do you have any plans for the money yet?

I’m planning to use it in different ways to support my writing. So one thing will probably be to replace my tired old laptop which now has keys that don’t work! I’m also planning a trip up to Scotland to visit the location for another story. I find it really helps to visit a place, wander around and take note of sounds, smells, the type of plants you see. Even checking out local surnames by visiting churchyards and so on. That way I can get into my character’s head and experience what they are experiencing. So thanks “People’s Friend” for giving me the opportunity to do it!

Léonie Gregson’s “Fossils” will be included inside the May 4 issue of “The People’s Friend”, on sale May 1-7, 2024.

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.