81-year-old former brickie wins top prize in Bedford writing competition

Bedford deputy bookshop manager also awarded with poetry prize
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A former Bedford College lecturer and brickie who took up writing short stories when he retired has won a top prize at a national competition.

Jesse Perrin won his first prize in the Bedford Writing Competition at the grand old age of 81.

Meanwhile, Bedford deputy bookshop manager Lucia Wilde, who uses the pronouns they/them, started writing as a teenager. They won an award for their poem Holy.

Octogenarian Jesse Perrin, who took up penning short stories when he retired, has won his first prize in the Bedford Writing CompetitionOctogenarian Jesse Perrin, who took up penning short stories when he retired, has won his first prize in the Bedford Writing Competition
Octogenarian Jesse Perrin, who took up penning short stories when he retired, has won his first prize in the Bedford Writing Competition

The competition attracted more than 2,000 entries from 41 countries with the first prize going to Australian Damen O’Brian for poetry and to American David Shelley in the short story section.

There were separate awards in each category for Bedford residents and young writers.

Jesse says he started writing in longhand but soon moved to a computer: “A definite boon, as my first thoughts are rarely as good as those that come after.”

He also prefers – and claims to even need – the background buzz of a cafe or burger bar, plus an Americano coffee to help him stay “fully alert and in creative mood.”

Lucia Wilde - who prefers the pronouns they/them - started writing as a teenager and won several prizes. Their poem Holy collected an award in the Bedford Writing Competition.Lucia Wilde - who prefers the pronouns they/them - started writing as a teenager and won several prizes. Their poem Holy collected an award in the Bedford Writing Competition.
Lucia Wilde - who prefers the pronouns they/them - started writing as a teenager and won several prizes. Their poem Holy collected an award in the Bedford Writing Competition.

It’s a far cry from his early days as an apprentice bricklayer, before he rose through the ranks to become curriculum manager and head of the building department at Bedford College of Higher Education.

He also had a spell as Biggleswade clerk of works and spent his last 10 working years as contracts and estate manager for 80 industrial estates.

His stories have been published in a variety of magazines and are often a reflection of life.

His literary heroes are Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, Daphne du Maurier and John Updike although he admits: “I will read any author who tells a good story.”

Lucia – who says “I am queer and that heavily informs my writing and lived experience” – recalls winning a sonnet competition at Bedford Modern School Sixth Form and an internal short story competition at the University of Sussex.

Writing runs in the family. Their father writes music and songs and their maternal grandfather often wrote articles on the various causes in which he was interested.

Lucia, 32, is inspired by places, books, TV programmes and conversations with friends and loved ones.

“I spend a lot of time inside my own head overthinking things – writing is one way of letting off a bit of that pressure,” they explain.

"I don’t set out to write about anything in particular – an idea comes and I try to make something of it. Or I have a super weird dream and need to write it down to stop thinking about it.”

Their most creative time is at night: “That’s when my mind is most active and I’ve had time to process the day.

"I used to fill notebooks when I was younger but now I use a computer – it’s much easier to edit when I can actually read what I’ve written.”

Literary heroes include Alfred Lord Tennyson, Philip Larkin and Carol Ann Duffy.

Lucia adds: “As I’ve grown older, I’ve fallen in love with poets Jay Hulme, Nikita Gill and Ashe Vernon.”

The Bedford Writing Competition is a not-for-profit organisation with proceeds donated to charities promoting literacy.

The 2023 competition runs until October 31 with various cash prizes.

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