The BBC Young Writers’ Award is a short story competition that gives teenage writers aged between 14 and 18 the chance to submit their fiction for the chance to have their story broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and read by a top actor (previous actors have included Sir Ian McKellen and Daisy Ridley). The winner will also receive a personalised mentoring session with an established author to help develop their writing skills.
I’m delighted to be able to announce the shortlist, which was also revealed on Radio 1 earlier today. The chosen stories, all under 1000 words, have been praised by the judges for the poetic beauty of the writing and the imaginative power of the storytelling. They are inspired by a desire for socio-political change or personal experience of mental illness, and the finalists have offered insight into the issues facing and motivating young people today.
‘Under a Deep Blue Sky’ by Davina Bacon, 17, from Cambridgeshire. Inspired by Davina’s early childhood in Africa and her passion for environmental issues, this is the raw and emotionally powerful story of a young poacher and the brutal murder of a mother and baby elephant. Beautifully structured, parallels are drawn between the boy’s memory of his own mother’s death and the harsh realities of life where killing is his only survival option.
‘Footprints in the Far Field’ by Reyah Martin, 18, from Glasgow. The pain of losing a baby is explored from the perspective of the child left behind in this evocative and moving portrayal of a mother’s all-consuming grief. An evocative and profoundly moving story.
‘Unspoken’ by Lottie Mills, 16, from Hertfordshire. Unspoken explores the fragility of teenage mental health through the eyes of a girl watching her sister crying out for help while her family are in denial. A moving and powerful story that shows the isolation of those suffering and the vulnerability and helplessness of those watching from the outside.
‘Firsts’ by Jane Mitchell, 16, from Dorset. A beautifully structured story of displacement told through the voice of a mother battling to escape the country of her birth to find a life of hope for her daughter; Firsts shows the desperation of the refugee and the prejudice that comes as a price of freedom.
‘Oh Sister, Invisible’ by Tabitha Rubens, 16, from Islington, London. Oh Sister, Invisible is a poetic story of helplessness as a sister watches her sibling disappear with each passing season as anorexia takes hold. A story of grief, and of courage, it is intensely personal and conveys the unique power of writing to convey empathy and experience.
The winner of the BBC Young Writers’ Award will be announced during the BBC Short Story Awards ceremony on 2 October 2018 at Cambridge University, and will be live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7.15pm, so make sure to tune in to Radio 4 on the night to find out who wins.
The winning story will also be available on the Radio 1 website following the announcement of the winner, and an interview with the winning writer will be available on BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks podcast.