Essex Book Festival is partnering with Explore Essex on its adventurous new Story Hunters Project. A quest to get people of all ages out and about exploring the amazing heritage and green spaces on the doorstep. 

Our intrepid adventurers are encouraged to visit one or more of 20 designated locations (outlined below) across Essex, and then transform that experience into a piece of original flash fiction that will be uploaded on the festival website, and entered into our Story Hunters Flash Fiction Competition. Winning stories will be announced at our inaugural Essex Book Camp hosted by Cressing Temple Barns on Sunday 29th August.

To help people on their writing journey, we are hosting 4 creative writing workshops. These will take place at Jaywick Martello Tower, Danbury Country Park, Cressing Temple Barns, and Hadleigh Country Park, each workshop including a guided tour to get the creative juices flowing.  


27 June (2 – 4pm) – Danbury Country Park 

Flash Fiction Made Easy – Jonathan Crane

Join novelist and creative writing lecturer Jonathan Crane for a two-hour introduction to the craft of flash fiction writing. Jonathan has extensive experience leading creative writing workshops in a wide variety of venues, extending from the University of Essex through to HMP Chelmsford Prison Library.  His first novel We Need To Talk is due for publication July 2021.

Danbury Country Park is an award-winning (Green Flag) and grade II listed park and garden set in the remains of the 13th century Danbury Palace. The Park is known for its historic lakes, ancient woodland, wildflower meadows, formal lawned garden and a Victorian rhododendron collection. 

Danbury Country Park, CM3 4QG 

3 July (11am – 1pm) – Cressing Temple Barns

Crafting the Short Story – Agnieszka Dale

Polish-born, London-based writer Agnieszka Dale will introduce writers to the art of writing short fiction. Her first book, Fox Season and Other Short Stories, written in English, was published in 2017. Her short stories have been selected for BBC Radio 4, Liars’ League London, Tales of the Decongested and The Fine Line Short Story Collection.

Granted to the Knights Templar in 1137, Cressing Temple Barns is of significant historic interest for its unique buildings and garden. Internationally renowned for its impressive and remarkably well-preserved medieval carpentry, the barns offer a remarkable insight into the building techniques of the time and a glimpse into the lives of the people who built them.

Cressing Temple Barns, CM77 8PD 

11 July (2 – 4pm) – Jaywick Martello Tower

Crafting Fiction Workshop – AK Blakemore

Poet and novelist AK Blakemore will lead a two-hour creative writing workshop inspired by Jaywick Martello Tower. A K Blakemore is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Humbert Summer and Fonduewhich was awarded the Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. Her debut novel The Manningtree Witches was published in March 2021.  

A unique heritage centre on the coast for visitors and the community, Jaywick Martello Tower is one of twenty-nine defences built on the east coast of England to defend the country from attacks from Napoleon Bonaparte and his armies.

Jaywick Martello Tower, Jaywick Sands, CO15 2LF 

Majid Adin is an artist and animator from Iran. Having been imprisoned and politically exiled from Tehran, he journeyed through Europe, spent several months in the Calais ‘jungle’, and after many attempts to make the crossing, finally arrived in the UK in a refrigerated van in 2016. In 2017 he won a competition to produce an animation for a music video to illustrate Elton John’s song ‘Rocket Man’, with a tale about a lonely astronaut travelling across continents to a new home in England. Glenys Newton trained at The International School of Storytelling in Sussex. She is an award-winning storyteller and writer, and is storyteller-in-residence at Essex Book Festival for 2021. Glenys and Majid met in the Calais ‘jungle’ and have been collaborating ever since.   

One of the largest green spaces in Essex, Hadleigh Country Park offers something for everyone including idyllic countryside, magnificent views over the Thames Estuary, important historical features and excellent cycling trails.

Hadleigh Country Park, SS7 2PP 

Destinations – 20 Places to Explore

Colchester Castle, CO1 1TJ 

St Peter’s on the Wall Church, Bradwell-on-Sea, CM0 7PW 

Essex Record Office, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT 

Stock Tower Mill, Ingatestone, CM4 9RY 

Cudmore Grove Country Park, East Mersea, CO5 8UE 

Beeleigh Steam Mill, Maldon, CM9 6LJ 

Flitch Way, Braintree, CM77 7FS 

Southend-on-Sea Pier, SS1 2EE 

Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea, SS16 4UH 

Thorndon Country Park, Brentwood, CM13 3RZ 

Harwich Redoubt, COR 3LT 

Harlow Museum, CM20 2LF 

Roman Circus Centre, Colchester, CO2 7GT 

Hylands House & Gardens, Chelmsford, CM2 8WQ

Epping Forest Visitor Centre, IG10 4AF 

The Hythe Quay, Maldon

Flash Fiction Competition

The story goes that novelist Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story that was only 6 words long: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Essex Book Festival and Explore Essex challenge you to do the same.

You are invited to write a piece of fiction or a poem that is between 50-250 words based on a visit to one of twenty designated Heritage and Green Spaces across Essex. Once you have submitted your story, along with a digital photo of yourself at your destination as proof of visit, your story will be uploaded on the Essex Book Festival website.

All stories/poems will be automatically submitted into our Story Hunter Flash Fiction Competition. The deadline for entry has changed to 29th October 2021. Please submit to [email protected] with The Story Hunters Competition in the title.

The Rules 

  1. Entry is open to all ages. 
  2. There are two categories: Under 16’s, and 16 and Over.
  3. Entries must not have been previously published in print or online. 
  4. Entries must be based on an actual visit to one of the 20 designated Essex Green Spaces and Heritage Site.  (Exemptions apply for anyone with accessibility issues)
  5. Entries must be accompanied with a digital photo of the entrant at the relevant site. 
  6. Entrants can submit more than one entry as long as it relates to a different site.   


  1. The Flash Fiction entry must be between 50 – 250 words. 
  2. The document must be submitted as a pdf file to [email protected] 
  3. Please put your name, age and email address at the top of the entry.  


  1. Entry is online only via [email protected] 
  2. No corrections or alterations can be made after the entries have been received. 
  3. The deadline is 12pm, 29th October 2021. Winners will be announced at the Story Hunters Awards ceremony in November.


Under 16’s 

1 x Winner will win a £25 book token + festival tote bag   

4 x Runners Up will each win a £15 book token + festival tote bag 

Aged 16 +

 1 x Winner will win a one-hour online 1-2-1 consultancy session: How to Get Your Book Published with novelist and flash fiction specialist Dr Jonathan Crane + a bundle of festival books + Festival tote bag   

2 x Runners Up will each win a £25 book token + festival tote bag 


The competition will be judged by Festival Director Ros Green and novelist Dr Jonathan Crane.   

For more information please email: [email protected]    

Good Luck!!