Books and Borrowing 1750-1830

Books and Borrowing Creative Writing Competition Announcement

Calling all creative writers! The Books and Borrowing project are delighted to announce the launch of the 2022 Books and Borrowing Creative Writing Competition.

Entries may be in any genre (prose, verse, drama) but must not exceed 2000 words of prose, or 40 lines of poetry. They must be on the theme of books and borrowing, and must make some use (however small) of one or more of the materials available here.

As a starting point you might, for example, look at a page of a borrowing register, and think about how the bare facts of the name and occupation of a library user could be interesting. Why might a housemaid be borrowing a book of practical animal husbandry, for example? Looking at the page from Innerpeffray Library, about two-thirds of the way down, you’ll see the entry for John Drummond, a stonemason living at Gilmore, who borrowed Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor (published in 1819), in 1869. Could you imagine his journey to the library and what he encounters or thinks about on the way? Or could you write a dialogue between him and his fellow masons, who might be somewhat bemused by his taste in literature? Looking at the map of early nineteenth century Edinburgh, you could identify two neighbours in an Edinburgh street who have read the same book. What would their conversation about it be like should the book fall onto the pavement when they literally bump into each other? Turning to the pages from the Leighton Library in Dunblane, you might wonder whether Miss Dalgleish and Dr Murray ever met at the library. What happens when they do? Will sparks fly as their eyes meet over the pages of John Moore’s sensational Gothic novel Zeluco? If you look at the Orkney Library register, do any books jump out at you? Do you think any of these books ever went to sea? If so, what might their role have been on ships?

These are only starting points! Feel free to use your own creativity regarding these materials.

Don’t worry if you can’t fully identify the books recorded in these registers – just think of them as prompts for your own creativity.


A cash prize of £250 is offered for the best entry in each category. The work of the winner and runner-up in each category will be published


  • The competition aims to encourage writers of all ages, but entries will be divided into two categories: Adult Writers and Young Writers (16 years and under).
  • There is no charge to enter the competition.
  • All entries must be the entrant’s original work.
  • The entry should not have been previously published anywhere else.
  • Only one entry is permitted per person.
  • Please include your name, category in which you are competing (i.e. Adult Writer or Young Writer), age (if 16 or under) and e-mail address on the submission. A word count should be stated.
  • All entries should be sent to .They will all be acknowledged.
  • All entries should be on an attached Word document or PDF file. Please use a legible font.
  • All entries should be based on the theme of Books and Borrowing. The content can be challenging, but must not be deliberately offensive.
  • The competition is open from 1 November 2022, and the closing date for all entries is midnight 31 January 2023.
  • The winners will be notified within one month of the closing date.
  • The work of winners, and runners-up, in both categories, will be published on the Books and Borrowing website, and in a limited-edition hand-sewn pamphlet, printed by the Pathfoot Press.
  • Entries which do not comply with the rules will be disqualified.
  • The judge’s decision is final.

Entries will be judged by Daisy Hay, author of Young Romantics and Mr and Mrs Disraeli. You can see details of Daisy’s work here. She’s also an Associate Professor in the creative writing department at the University of Exeter.