Writing Winter Magic: A Night At The Frost Fair

About a year ago I received an excited direct message on Twitter from my buddy and brilliant author Abi Elphinstone. ‘I want to discuss something with you…an idea…an opportunity… very exciting….can’t share it yet, but soon…’ she wrote, which of course was completely maddening.


Fast forward a few months. It was spring. After a horridly wet, miserable, snowless winter I was mulling over the idea of moving to Canada, or Sweden or the Arctic Circle. Yes I was that desperate for snow.


Me and my dog Pip on a very rare occasion in 2010 when it snowed BUCKETS!

When Abi finally was able to officially share her idea- an anthology of short stories on a magical wintery theme, and would I like to contribute?- I pretty much bit her hand off.

Not only that, the other contributors read like a swoon list of my writing heroes: Michelle Harrison, Amy Alward, Piers Torday, Lauren St John, Jamila Gavin, Berlie Doherty, Geraldine McCaughrean, Michelle Magorian, Katherine Woodfine, and of course Abi herself. So yes, I bit her other hand off too.

I already had an idea simmering away- a short story idea that might just fit the brief. ‘A Night At The Frost Fair’ took its inspiration from an exhibition held at the Museum of London Docklands in 2014 which celebrated the 200 year anniversary of the last frost fair to be held on the Thames in 1814.



Among the exhibits was a piece of gingerbread, wrapped in bright blue paper with a handwritten message on it, that had been bought as a souvenir. Immediately, it got me wondering:  whose gingerbread had it been? Why did they buy it? Why were they at the frost fair in the first place? How did a 200 year old piece of cake manage to survive?

You can read all about the exhibition here (and see pictures of the gingerbread) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25862141

My version of events involves a traffic queue on London Bridge, time travel in a snow storm and family heirlooms that aren’t all they seem – oh and a spot of terrier racing on ice just for good measure!

‘A Night At the Frost Fair’ was an absolute joy to write. I love short stories- the way you have to squeeze your plot into just a few thousand words. I’d imagine its quite a challenge for any writer, but like stomping up a steep hill, you feel like its done you good.

On the 3rd November, ‘Winter Magic’ was published to rave reviews.



Eight of the contributors at our launch party. This picture made The Bookseller too! 


The ever-inspirational Abi Elphinstone talking about the magic of hope at our launch. 


Last week we celebrated with a joyously hot and noisy launch party at Waterstones Piccadilly, and the next few weeks will see events taking place in London and Birmingham (see details here). https://www.waterstones.com/book/winter-magic/abi-elphinstone/amy-alward/9781471159800

I’m so proud of the book we created together. It’s a reminder that in dark times there’s still magic- and hope. And that the colder the day, the better the hot chocolate. I’ll leave you with that thought. ( and another one…)


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