Her heartbreaking story of a woman struggling with dementia was inspired by her grandmother’s battle with the cruel disease.
And while ten-year-old Clara Cowan’s tale may not have won BBC Radio 2’s short story competition for children, 500 Words, yesterday, it moved the nation to tears – including the Duchess of Cornwall.
Clara’s entry, The Sands of Time, was read by actor Tom Hiddleston on Chris Evans’ breakfast show in a live broadcast from Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
The Duchess of Cornwall, a judge in the contest, told the Daily Mail: ‘It really does bring a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? What poignant words from such a young girl.’
Hiddleston, tipped to be the next James Bond, described the story as ‘really heart-breaking and sophisticated’ and said he had worried about doing it justice.
Listeners also praised Clara’s story on social media. One said they were ‘staggered 10yo Clara can understand dementia so well’, while Laura Walker, from Edinburgh, wrote: ‘Clara’s story was just beautiful. I am 34-year-old woman driving to work bawling eyes out. My granny has dementia too.’
Beth, from Liverpool, said: ‘Clara wrote a fantastic story which touched me deeply as my mom has dementia. Thank you Clara.’ Author Malorie Blackman, a former Children’s Laureate, added: ‘It is poignant, heartfelt, evocative and beautifully written. This story brought a lump to my throat.’
The schoolgirl, from Glasgow, won the silver medal in the ten to 13 age category. She said last night: ‘I wanted to let people know more about what dementia is like because not everyone knows.’ Her story is in two parts, the first in the words of a dementia sufferer, Kathryn, trying to remember a family trip she took to the beach as a child. It then moves to the point of view of her granddaughter, who shows Kathryn a photo of that trip.
Clara, who goes to Lochfield Primary School in Paisley, said it took a week to write. She said it was ‘amazing’ to hear Hiddleston read her story – but added that her mother Suzanne Cowan was ‘more excited than I was’.
Mrs Cowan said Clara’s grandmother Kay, who is her mother, is just 72 but is not aware of her condition. The 48-year-old added: ‘Clara has got a wee notebook, where she writes lots of different stories. I got quite emotional when I first read it – and again today.
‘It struck a chord with so many people. It is something a lot of people have experienced, and for her to have first-hand experience made it more meaningful.’ She said of Hiddleston’s narration: ‘I thought he did such a beautiful job. He brought it to life.’
Now in its sixth year, 500 Words received a record 123,436 entries from children aged five to 13 this year. As the title suggests, they must write an original story on any subject and it must be 500 words or fewer.
The winner in Clara’s category was Ned Marshall, 12, for his story e-COURTROOM.com, in which a court case is carried out in the style of a Twitter exchange.