Esther Byrne

I’ve had a short story published!

A 15-year-old boy named Christopher is sent to rural Scotland as an evacuee during WWII. He stays with his fierce grandmother, who is determined to toughen him up.
While there, Christopher makes it his mission to see the white stag he has read about in books, in the hopes it will make his grandmother happy and bring his father home safe from the war.
Will a flash of white grant him his heart’s desire?


I originally wrote this story for a historical fiction competition, where we were randomly assigned a historical period. I had high hopes for the Roaring Twenties or the Victorian era and was somewhat disappointed to be given WWII.

However, we were allowed to mix historical with another genre, and I was soon thinking about fantastical ideas I could use. I’ve seen the filmĀ The Great Escape many times, and that seemed the obvious choice, but I couldn’t quite make it work, especially with a 3,000-word limit.

I’m very interested in folklore and wanted to write about a vast landscape that my protagonist could feel lost in. Scotland was ideal for that, and many children were indeed sent there during the war.

Once my research led me to the legend of the white stag, I definitely wanted to use it. It was both real and seemingly magical at the same time, and I knew it would inspire a sense of awe in the imaginative child I wanted to put at the centre of the story.

I began working on it and then recollected that my mother has a white stag ornament she likes to hang on the Christmas tree. That was when it all fitted together.

I submitted the story to the competition and received an ‘honourable mention’ for it. Encouraged, I resubmitted it to a few magazines, and after a few months, I received an acceptance. It’s not like anything I would have set out to write, and it shows the importance of challenges and competitions for writers. We often limit ourselves, but we can trust our imaginations to take us to many places, however unlikely they may seem at first.


You can buy the magazine issue here (or read through Kindle unlimited):



Get the latest updates from Esther by signing up to the newsletter!

* indicates required