Search Results for: Lauren Debruin

Lauren Debruin

What We Lost

 

The count down on Eli’s hour of state-allotted outside time started the moment he slammed his front door. A familiar wave of February heat warmed his fair skin as he ran towards the yard to meet Gabriel and Emilia, who were waiting for him to provide what was left of their now rather worn football. Eli had left the flat clad only in Nike basketball shorts, a no longer very white t-shirt, and a pair of beat-up trainers; all thrifted from the Republic’s charity shop in town. He was out of breath by the time he reached the wired fences of the yard, his CO2 smothered lungs straining against the increased activity. The rays of sunlight that had been kissing freckles onto the creamy expanses of Eli’s skin quickly became more forceful; leaving their fingerprints around his neck. Causing the pale birthmark on his forehead to burn white-hot against the red glow.

The yard was the centre of the community. A large expanse of concrete encircled in wire mesh. Two of the metal posts securing the fence were used as one goal by Eli’s friends and two of the larger bloodstains on Judas’ Wall marked the other. The yard was where most of Eli’s school mates met up from 2:00-3:00 pm at the weekend but during the week it was reserved for the Republic’s drills, punishments, and Youth Corp’s training. Eli had just reached the age where citizens were required to watch the executions and had witnessed his first on the afternoon of his eighteenth birthday. The unfortunate pair facing execution had been a husband and wife who broke the Republic’s decree that restricted each couple to one child in an attempt to curb the over-population of the state. The availability of food and water was scarce across the parched lands of the UK and in the ever more frequent periods of drought the Republic reduced the rations further. These meagre resources were exacerbated by the surplus population that had flooded in from areas like Australia and Bangladesh (that were now either constantly on fire or underwater.) The Republic promoted the “an eye for an eye” philosophy and whilst both children were permitted to live, the couple would be sentenced to death. The woman’s stomach was still protruding from her recent pregnancy and she pressed her palms against it; whether this was out of habit or to stop her hands shaking Eli was not sure. A woman with a greying bob and a large patchwork handbag that had jabbed into Eli’s hip had told anyone who would listen that the couple had kept the baby locked up in a basement for a fortnight. Eli tried to block out her nasally words. If he closed his eyes he could almost feel seagrass tangling around his ankles and cool waves rippling over his scorched skin. The Youth Corps lined the yard, hands hovering over their rifles in case of insubordination from the crowd or from the couple that was led to Judas’ Wall by the firing squad. The lower half of the squad’s faces were concealed behind rags to ensure their identity remained unknown. Two of the lieutenants had blindfolded the couple with strips of discarded material before stepping back to join the squad who had lined up their rifles with the target marks hastily drawn in the centre of the couple’s foreheads. Eli swallowed the bile that blistered the walls of his throat and forced his eyes open whilst the man scrambled blindly for his wife’s hand. “Ready!” called the squad leader. The man seemed to deflate when his fingers met his wife’s, no doubt he was thinking about the first time he had plucked up the courage to reach out and hold her hand. “Aim!”. A twitching of trigger fingers from each member of the firing squad. The shots rang out the moment the last syllable of “Fire!” left the officer’s tongue and the bodies hit the floor not a second later. The crowd filtered through the gates of the yard, but Eli lingered and kneeled to tie a knot in his already secure shoelace. The bulge of the woman’s stomach, where she had shielded her unborn child, was at Eli’s eye-level. Feeling the glare of twenty pairs of eyes on the back of his neck, he had arranged his features into a vacant mask and stood up. He glimpsed the thick red liquid from two bullet wounds mixing in a pool between the couple, their hands having fallen half a centimetre apart.

Gabriel was leaning against Judas’ Wall whilst Emilia looked outwards like a bodyguard at his shoulder when Eli reached the yard. It struck Eli how similar the pair looked when they stood together, which he then thought was stupid because they were twins. Twins were authorized by the Republic because their conception could not be helped. A familiar knot of envy had woven itself in Eli’s stomach. He used to find the waves of jealousy unnerving but one day he had watched their long limbs carry them from the yard and he had understood. Eli yearned for a sibling. A brother or sister who he could talk to when they were forced into the bunker underneath the garage to avoid the hurricanes, who would have his back against their nagging parents, who would simply be there. Eli kicked the football at a spot on the wall next to Emilia’s head. Being threadbare and rather deflated it did not make the satisfying thump! that Eli instinctively expected but it, nonetheless, managed to bring the twins out of their reverie.

As Eli’s micro-watch began its fifteen-minute countdown, Emilia booted the ball so hard it crushed an unsuspecting starling against the wire mesh. It was only after the bird crumpled to the floor that Eli realised he had not heard a screech of pain. The football bounced back into Eli’s hands, but he noticed no red skid marks across its tattered surface. No blood amongst the feathery wreckage at the base of the fence. The bird was twitching with a mechanical groan and a spark shot out from what looked like a wire buried in the odd angles of its wings. Emilia was frozen. She blinked back tears that seemed to pool from the dark depths of her pupils as the others surrounded the bizarre heap. Eli’s brows furrowed. He had heard rumours that the Republic had locked endangered animals in laboratories and were artificially breeding them, but the constant oscillations of bird song caused him to doubt these stories. Now that the speaker embedded in the starling’s beak was exposed, it was impossible not to consider that the Republic was hiding the true extent of the mass extinctions.

“We should throw it over the  fence.”

Eli did not know who had made the suggestion, but he wholeheartedly agreed. He was sure the Republic would be able to track their birds but if they found it on the road they might be convinced that it had been hit by an oblivious car. No one seemed willing to move it. Eli took off his t-shirt and reached through the fabric to pinch the robotic wing before hurling it over the fence and into the road. Nobody dared to speak. They hardly dared to blink for a breath. Then the alarms of their micro-watches jolted them out of their charged silence.

Eli’s house was only one precariously left on the edge of an eroding cliff. It lay in wait to be dragged to its deceased neighbours in the unfathomable depths of the dying ocean. Eli took the stone steps leading from his house two at a time then edged into the water until it kissed his knees, careful not to trample over the seagrass that he had spent so many months cultivating. A singular seagrass plant had given Eli the ability to grow an entire underwater meadow that now housed seahorses, trout, and an especially sluggish flatfish. It struck him that these, too, might have been manufactured by the Republic, but he did not seriously think they would spend money on building the fish-equivalent of a piece of cardboard. The seabed was one of the only pieces of wildlife that Eli had ever experienced. He would do anything to keep it safe from those who would attempt to turn it into a grotesque tourist attraction. The last place to see marine life in Penzance. The Cornwall that his grandparents recollected, the one that was home to basking sharks and porpoises and grey seals, seemed as distant to Eli as handwritten letters. The perpetual cycle of drought and water shortage, of sheltering from hurricanes in underground bunkers, of watching public executions before becoming a member of the Youth Corps or facing the firing squad himself, suffocated Eli’s already underdeveloped lungs. He wanted to watch his seagrass grow into a sanctuary where new-born seahorses could hide and seek whilst the trout swam laps and the flatfish slumbered; safe from the carnage sweeping the globe.

***

Excellent world-building! The author managed the threshold between ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’ exceptionally well. The idea of The Republic is introduced with such subtlety the reader begins to feel as if it always existed. This, then, is an excellent work of imagination and there can be no higher commendation for fiction than that it washes over its reader making them question their reality, if only for a moment. Some of the passages were a little overwrought but this in no way took away from the sense of fully realised world.” Kayo Chingonyi, Orwell Youth Prize Judge

 

‘What We Lost’ is a wonderful feat of  imagination, by turns touching and bleak, and with a powerfully drawn sense of loss and regret. Some scenes are particularly sharply  written, and in making what should be unimaginable so horribly real in these passages, Lauren has captured something Orwell felt to be of the essence – that writing should be true. She is a worthy and deserved winner.”  Ken Macdonald QC, Chair of the Orwell Foundation

 

 

Lauren Debruin is a senior 2020 Orwell Youth Prize winner, responding to the theme ‘The Future We Want’.

 

Climate Resources

With so much information about the climate crisis available, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here’s a few resources to get you started. We will be updating this page with more content to read and listen to over the course of the year leading up to the Prize deadline – so make sure to check back soon!

Read

Orwell Youth Prize Inspiration

Listen

Orwell Youth Prize Inspiration

Orwell Youth Prize Winners Revealed: reports from the collective frontline of being young in lockdown

1200 young people across the United Kingdom write on the ‘future they want’ (and reveal the future they fear)

In the acres of Covid coverage, young peoples’ future has been a political weapon for every side – school, jobs, and mental health all discussed and described by everyone except young people themselves. This year’s overwhelming number of entries to The Orwell Youth Prize proves that young people have a lot to say about their future – both the future they want and the future they fear. Winning pieces reveal concerns over knife crime, climate change, systemic racism, social housing, gender inequality and the future of work. The winners follow in the footsteps of the sought-after Orwell Prizes for political writing, which are administered by the Youth Prize’s ‘Big Brother’, The Orwell Foundation,whose winners were announced last month,

The seven winning pieces, echoing George Orwell’s own genre-hopping, include short stories, journalistic essays and poetry, were judged by writer Kerry Hudson and poet Kayo Chingonyi. Alongside the winning pieces, analysis of the collective prize entries revealed mental health, the climate crisis, social media and tackling racism to be clear concerns for young people seeking to create a better future.

Kayo Chingonyi said:

It was a tremendous honour to read this work and gain an insight into some of the things young people are thinking about. We found a particularly moving political engagement in writers who are at the beginning of their writing lives but write as if they’ve been writing for decades, lifetimes. I want to commend all entrants for having that courage to set something down on the screen or on paper and share it with the world.”

 

 

This year’s winners are as follows:

Senior Winners

Junior Winners

[Read the full list of winners, runners up and highly commended entries]
Lessons From Lockdown

In the year when teacher and writer Kate Clanchy won the Orwell Prize for Political Writing for her memoir ‘Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me’, teachers were crucial in encouraging young people to enter the prize, despite schools being closed: almost 80% of entrants told the Youth Prize that it was their teachers who had alerted them to the opportunity.

Kate Clanchy said:

I want to congratulate the teachers, I know that’s how students – especially those from a disadvantaged or unconventional background – get to these prizes and opportunities. What you’ve done for your students they will always remember, it will change their lives now and in incremental ways into the future.”

(Watch Kate’s full message here)

With entries more than quadrupling in lockdown compared to previous years in the face of an unprecedented demand for educational resources and engagement, the Orwell Youth Prize transformed into a network of volunteers to enable the charity to meet its offer to young people. 170 volunteers, including academics, editors, PhD students and professional writers and journalists came together from organisations such as Oxford University Press, King’s College London, University College London and the University of Westminster to offer 600 entrants personalised feedback on their drafts and help with the sifting process for judging.

Professor Jean Seaton (the Director of the Orwell Foundation) said:

We were so proud that young people turned to the Prize as a way of saying what was important to them during lockdown. We had to scramble an army of volunteers to give them feedback, fan out to writers and political players to respond to their ideas, as they asked us. Everyone wanted to help because everyone knows these voices tell us things we need to know. And we listened to the wider story the entries told us: we will honour that creativity and bleakness in the coming year.”

 

Uncovering Unheard Voices

The lockdown also impacted the Orwell Youth Prize’s face-to- face programme designed to support harder to reach young people around the country to enter the prize. While many resources were put online, the Orwell Foundation also knew that not all young people have reliable internet access and the support systems to enter. As a result, the Foundation ran a sustained series of focused workshops delivered by writer Stephen Armstrong with the Star Project in Paisley, Scotland, to support a small number of young people to write about the future they want, but to also reflect on the impact of coronavirus on their lives and communities. Stephen also worked with Cloe Heaton, a university undergraduate from Wigan, who spent her lockdown period volunteering at the Sunshine House Community Centre, to write on her experience.

 

Speaking Truth to Power

The end of the Prize is not the end of the story. The prize has shown what young people fear and what they want, it has also revealed whose voices and ideas are missing. There is work to be done. The Orwell Foundation is committed to getting these pieces of writing and ideas an audience. So far, commentary on the winners has come from professional journalists, authors and politicians of all stripes, from Ruth Davidson MSP and former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman OBE to Times investigative journalist and Orwell Prize Shortlistee Rachel Sylvester and Orwell Prize winner Ian Birrell.

This year, the Orwell Youth Prize has worked in partnership with Rethinking Poverty, the Webb Legacy. Rethinking Poverty is a hub for discussions on eradicating poverty and creating a good society, with the aim to create a narrative on a good society and help connect key people and promising approaches.

Barry Knight of Rethinking Poverty said:

The Orwell Youth Prize gives a much-needed vehicle for young people to use their moral imagination to set out the society they want. Young people don’t have the baggage of older people and can cut through the obstacles that stand in the way of a good society.  We will be examining the entries to the prize and preparing a composite overview of the lessons we can draw from this excellent work.”

 

The Orwell Youth Prize 2020

The winners, runners-up and highly commended entries are as follows:

Senior Winners

Junior Winners

Senior Runners Up

Junior Runners Up

 Senior Highly Commended

  • Divided We Fall, Heather Murdoch (Fiction)
  • All the Way Down, Caitlin Self (Fiction)
  • The Future We Want, Faith Falayi (Poetry)
  • Document 407, Niamh Bradshaw (Fiction)
  • A second chance at change, Connie Smith (Fiction)
  • Past Enclosures, Hollie Cole (Poetry)
  • Ad Hominem, Edmund Clark (Essay)

 Junior Highly Commended

  • Mars, Sophie Leedham-Green (Fiction)
  • Poem for the Paperback, Catherine Booth (Poetry)
  • The Greater Good, Thomas Hurst (Fiction)
  • The Trials, Asha Birdi (Fiction)
  • The Future We Want, Carrieanne Burford (Poetry)
  • Subconscious are the Stairs, Lia Marziano (Poetry)
  • Woman, Abigail Roberts (Drama)

Winners – Orwell Youth Prize 2020

We can now announce the winners of the Orwell Youth Prize 2020.

Congratulations to our winners, and to everyone who entered this year and gave their responses to the theme, The Future We Want. We have received a record number (over 1200!) of entries this year, with young writers from across the UK creatively responding to the theme through essays, poetry, prose, and reportage on topics from climate change to living in a more equitable world. Every entry was read by at least two assessors, and the final winners were chosen by the 2020 judges Kerry Hudson and Kayo Chingonyi.

A big thank you to everyone who has taken part, especially in these difficult circumstances. See below for our judges’ message to you all.

 

 

Senior Winners

Junior Winners

Senior Runners Up

Junior Runners Up

 Senior Highly Commended

  • Divided We Fall, Heather Murdoch (Fiction)
  • All the Way Down, Caitlin Self (Fiction)
  • The Future We Want, Faith Falayi (Poetry)
  • Document 407, Niamh Bradshaw (Fiction)
  • A second chance at change, Connie Smith (Fiction)
  • Past Enclosures, Hollie Cole (Poetry)
  • Ad Hominem, Edmund Clark (Essay)

 Junior Highly Commended

  • Mars, Sophie Leedham-Green (Fiction)
  • Poem for the Paperback, Catherine Booth (Poetry)
  • The Greater Good, Thomas Hurst (Fiction)
  • The Trials, Asha Birdi (Fiction)
  • The Future We Want, Carrieanne Burford (Poetry)
  • Subconscious are the Stairs, Lia Marziano (Poetry)
  • Woman, Abigail Roberts (Drama)

 

A message from our Patron, George Orwell’s son Richard Blair:

 

A message to all the fantastic teachers that supported young people to enter the youth prize this year!

 

A message from Emma Hardy MP Hull West and Hessle who has been a fantastic support to the youth prize this year:

I always enjoyed writing while I was at school. However, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to enter a competition, so congratulations to everyone who entered for taking that step. I know a lot of entrants are encouraged to do so by their teachers so I’d like to thank them – and all those others – who have supported these young writers. This year’s title, “The Future We Want”, has asked them to consider a fundamental human question. At a time when a great deal of attention is being placed on functional education, it is important to remember that without imagination, without creativity, the ability to fashion a future significantly different to the present becomes greatly limited. There is no doubt that new ways of thinking are required to meet the challenges facing us today such as discrimination, climate change and our emotional and mental well-being. I hope that getting involved in the Orwell Prize has helped to inspire in all these young people the beginning of their own creative journeys and an exploration of the possibilities of human imagination. I wish every one of you bon voyage.”  Emma Hardy MP 

 

A message from Alex Talbott, Orwell Youth Prize Programme Manager:

Reading Recommendations

Throughout lockdown, we asked youth prize entrants what they’d been reading in this strange period, and we’re sharing the literary suggestions that helped keep them inspired! We’ll be adding to this throughout this year too, so check back soon for more recommendations!

‘At the moment I am reading The London Eye Mystery and I am really liking it.’ Summer Greene, A Junior Entrant, has been reading ‘The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.

 ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge is fantastic. It is a gothic children’s fantasy novel set in the Victorian period. ‘I am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai is another one of my favourites. It is an enlightening work of non-fiction.’ Favourites from Junior Entrant Sophie Harrison.

‘I have been reading one of my favourite books again, Little Women [by Louisa May Alcott] -simple escapism, really lovely especially in uncertain times such as these! I’ve also been reading Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy [by Douglas Adams]-two very different books- which is such a funny and clever book.’  Two favourites from Junior Entrant Alena Cartmell. 

‘I have also just completed reading ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood and have found her dystopian novel to be most enthralling. It has kept me occupied for hours as the sense of mystery and tension is cleverly built through the narrative with the forever changing structure from past to present enhancing the intensity.’  Senior Entrant Molly Harmon on Atwood’s most famous novel. 

‘For older audiences, I would recommend the book Vox [by Christina Dalcher]. Its is very empowering for females, promoting equality.’ Entrant Piya Patel recommends Vox. 

‘I have recently finished reading Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘In The First Circle’. It is an extremely powerful novel about political prisoners in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The alternating perspectives give the reader insight into various ideologies and experiences at the time.’ –  Senior Entrant Lauren DeBruin

‘I am currently re-reading Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, it truly makes you aware of the society around us and the progress we’ve made within the equality between men and women whilst still highlighting how far we have to go! I would truly recommend this amazing novel and Plath’s poetry, ‘The Bell Jar’ is such an interesting read when looking at Plath’s life. I have been possessed by Sylvia Plath.’  Senior Entrant Molly Luck 

‘I’ve recently finished – and would greatly recommend – The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.This is a book for those who want to truly get lost in a story and this is one that you can never quite pin down. The author’s unique style links together multiple perspectives to weave a unique and elaborate world that the characters illustrate through their travels across time and space within it. Not only is the description and prose beautiful, but for those who appreciate decorative books, the hardback cover is stunning.’  Junior Entrant Phoebe Shea

‘I’m currently reading ‘Witness to my Life [The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone De Beauvoir 1926-39] and would highly recommend it!’  Junior Entrant Will Jump.

Other recommendations from youth prize entrants include:

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
Aristotle – Collected Works
Dante – The Divine Comedy
Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man
So this is love by Elizabeth Lim
Speechless by Kate Darbishire
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Animal Farm by George Orwell
My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel

 

Of course, we also recommend reading Orwell,  happily, you can find lots of Orwell to read on our website for free!