Today’s Advent Calendar post is prompted by the present-day writers who cite Mary Stewart as an influence and inspiration. Just imagine having the opportunity shown below – a short story competition, with Mary Stewart as one of the judges. Mary Stewart reading and assessing your work, possibly providing you with feedback!

Argosy short story competition. Copyright Fleetway Publications Ltd, 1959

Sadly for budding writers, this competition in the Argosy was judged in 1960. I must find out who the winner was, and if they went on to be a published writer.

The Argosy, as well as running this writing competition judged by Mary Stewart, H E ‘Darling Buds of May/Fair Stood the Wind for France’ Bates and John ‘Room at the Top’ Braine, serialised Mary Stewart’s novel My Brother Michael. In a preface to the beginning of the story, there is a letter by the author. She writes:

‘What led me to write “My Brother Michael”? Another unanswerable question: I don’t know, except that I have been in love with the idea of Greece all my life, and the novel wrote itself out of the recent history of that most exciting country.

‘I have talked to Greeks and Cretans who fought both against the Axis invaders and in the Communist putsch of 1944. If I have made mistakes, I hope that those who know better than I could, will forgive me. They at least had the luck to be there. I’d give quite a lot to have been with them.’

I’m not too sure of the ‘luck’ of being caught up in war, resistance and civil conflict… I suppose Mary Stewart is emphasising that she would have liked not only to write about standing up for justice and goodness but to have actively fought for these values during the war. I think that the Argosy was predominantly a publication for men* and so Mary Stewart may be trying to signal that she should not be written off as some kind of fluffy, helpless female who wrote ultra-feminine books that only women would read. What do you think ?

*The adverts in this issue of Argosy are predominantly for pipe tobacco, razors etc. And just look at this:

Job vacancies, 1950s style. Copyright Fleetway Publications Ltd, 1959