Romania-based British writer wins international literature prize with short story set in Greek ruins

Arabella McIntyre-Brown and Ambassador Andrew Noble

British writer Arabella McIntyre-Brown who lives in the Romanian mountains has won an international writing competition, the first she’s ever entered, and almost half a century after she won the school English prize.

Ms McIntyre-Brown edged out 200 other writers from countries as diverse as Australia, South Africa, Canada, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Iceland and Nigeria to take the ‘flash fiction’ prize in the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA), organizers told

“It’s the first-time in the six-year history of Ireland Writing Retreat that someone living in Romania has won its international competition,”  competition co-founder, Sean Hillen said.

 “Arabella, known more for her children’s books than short fiction, should be very proud,” Mr. Hillen, who is a writer himself, added.

Ms McIntyre-Brown or ‘Arabella’ as everyone calls her, impressed judges with her story ‘Wild Weapon,’ set in the ancient Greek ruins.

“Arabella managed to incorporate into just 500 words not just keen insights into the personalities of her two characters but also developed growing tension between them.”

“She then wrapped up her story with a sudden, dramatic twist at the end… adhering to the main condition of the competition – that Nature must play a key role in the story,” Mr Hillen added.

When reached out to Arabella, a resident of the mountain village of Magura in south Transylvania, she was characteristically modest about her win and writing.

“I was scribbling stories when I was a preteen (which no-one else read), won the English Prize in my last year at school, but didn’t take the hint. I was 43 when I wrote my first book, which reached No.2 at Waterstones locally, the fastest-selling local history book in Liverpool’s, er, history. But I still didn’t take the hint. „

“Nonetheless, at the age of 62 I had never had the courage to submit anything to a writing competition or even to a magazine, let alone a literary agent,” she told

However, last autumn she heard about the competition and it piqued her interest.

“I live in the mountains and I’m rather keen on Nature, so I thought I’d give it a go. So I wrote a story about a bit of a drama, and spent the next few weeks honing, shaving, polishing the story till it fit the maximum 500-word count. For once, I followed through, and sent the damned story on time,” she added.

When she learned that she’d won: “I was pulled in two directions of disbelief and delight, and had to keep checking the Awards website to make sure I hadn’t misread it.”

“I’d won the fiction prize, after waiting just 47 years to make my first attempt.”

Among the books she has published are „A Stake in Transylvania,” but the writer is perhaps best known for her books on a puppy called Floss which has become popular in Romania.

As for the future, Arabella wants to turn her hand to crime fiction and has plenty of ideas. wishes her luck.

Here’s the winning entry.

Wild Weapon

Even for Kingsley, this was disgraceful. He was pissing in the Castalian Spring. ‘Have some respect, you disgusting oik!’ I added a violent expletive, but he just sniggered.

‘No harm done. It won’t even smell. See, washed away already.’ As he spoke, an owl hooted from the cleft beside the Spring.

‘Athena’s warning you,’ I snarled.

My husband snorted, then jumped down and strode past me. ‘I want coffee,’ he declared, heading for the kiosk by the bus stop.

We were in Delphi, arguably the most sacred site of Greek culture, home of the Oracle and the Omphalos for millennia. I’d always longed to see it, and I was here with a botanist’s excuse of searching out the Parnassus Peony, named for the mountain looming above us. Kingsley’s obsession with the Greek War of Independence would be fed, too; tomorrow we’d be in Missolonghi.

I yelled: ‘I’m going down to the Temple of Athena.’

‘See you later!’ he called.

At that point I never wanted to see him again.

Too impatient to walk the long way round on the road, I crossed it and scrambled down the limestone scree, grabbing at scrubby bushes to stop myself falling; it was a long way down.

It was the end of May; Athena’s temple blazed white against the periwinkle sky. Nature was renewing itself, life at its most vigorous – a thousand greens hung with jewels. But life is hungry, and only death can feed it. Near the marble columns, I saw a blackbird thrashing a snail against a rock until it could pick the soft body from the shattered shell; half hidden among the roots of a laurel lay a mess of small bones and tufts of fur. The sacrificial circle.

My hunt for blood-red peonies offered me other floral gifts, air warmed by oregano and thyme; I was happily lost, my face inches from the earth, camera busy. I heard my name and looked up. ‘Sybil!’ Kingsley was striding down the slope below the temple, waving and hallooing. I hadn’t realised how close I’d crept to where the land fell away to the next terrace. It was only a couple of metres, but I didn’t fancy the fall or the scramble back up.

Kingsley was edging around a large rock on the edge, but stopped to peer into a hole, fingers clinging. ‘Wow! He crowed. ‘A nest – with eggs!’ He reached a hand into the hole.

‘Don’t touch them, idiot! I yelled.

Out of the sun screamed a bullet of feathers and talons, wings and beak wide for attack as the little owl mobbed the thief. Kingsley shrieked, tried to cover his head, lost his footing, shrieked again. It wasn’t a long drop, but he landed badly on a rock, and I think I heard his skull actually crack.

Athena’s owl landed by her nest, swivelling her head to pin me with a yellow glare like a question. What now, Sybil?

Options. But funeral rites first. Time for gifts afterwards.


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