The Mystery Lady of Gladstone’s Library – Short Story Competition

The UK’s only residential library (doesn’t that just sound brilliant? A library you can sleep in?) is running a short story competition as part of the library’s first ever literary festival.
The mystery portrait hanging in Gladstone's Library
The mystery portrait hanging in Gladstone’s Library

Gladstone’s Library, founded by Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone, is challenging writers to come up with a story inspired by a mystery portrait that hangs in the library’s front hallway. The lady in the portrait is richly dressed, pictured with a small dog and holding a blossoming orange (a clue to her tale?), but no one knows who she is.

Louisa Yates, organiser of GladFest, the Library’s first literary festival which is being held in September, says,“we know what the picture looks like but not the story behind it or who the lady is. We would love people to use their imagination and create their own story around this mysterious lady. The competition is not intended as a research exercise, as it’s much more fun to imagine than to know!”

Entries can be in either of two categories – short fiction up to 3000 words or flash fiction up to 360 words. The deadline for submissions is Friday 9th August.

The first prize for both categories is a 7-night stay at Gladstone’s Library and the winning story will be published online at The Word Factory and the winning flash fiction will be published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and the second prize in both categories is a 3-night stay at Gladstone’s Library.

More details on how to enter can be found here.

Emily Cleaver

About Emily Cleaver

Emily Cleaver is Litro's Online Editor. She is passionate about short stories and writes, reads and reviews them. Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press, Paraxis, .Cent, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, One Eye Grey, and Smoke magazines, performed to audiences at Liars League, Stand Up Tragedy, WritLOUD, Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio. As a former manager of one of London’s oldest second-hand bookshops, she also blogs about old and obscure books. You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at and see more of her writing at

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