This year marks the fourth year of the BBC Young Writers’ Award,which invites all 14 – 18-year-olds living in the United Kingdom to submit short stories of up to 1,000 words. The Award was launched as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations for the BBC National Short Story Award and aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of writers.
Today I’m delighted to be able to share an extract from one of the finalists with you. This short excerpt comes from Lottie Mills, aged 16, whose short story is titled Unspoken.
When my sister ran away that night, we thought it was an anomaly. Just a silly teenage strop, a drunken impulse, the product of a thoughtless boyfriend and too much vodka. We sat up, blanketed and shaking in the living room; doused by the cold light of police sirens, and we stared at nothing, and we waited. When they found her in the small hours of the morning, tear-drenched and frozen half to death, we simply let her slip past, up the stairs to her bedroom, to feign sleep until her alarm went off and pretend the whole thing had never happened.
We didn’t talk about it.
When she stopped going to school, we thought it was laziness. She was bright, my mother said, tentatively, just struggling to apply herself. My father was harsher, said she was throwing her life away, that she would amount to nothing if she refused to conform. I kept quiet, simply darting my eyes between them, like a spectator at Wimbledon. Upstairs, my sister slept, or else lay down, knotted in duvets with her bedroom door bolted shut, for hours on end. She did leave the house eventually, the spectre of exclusion from Sixth Form looming over her head, and returned home later that day with puffy red eyes and slumped shoulders.
We didn’t talk about it.
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.
The five shortlisted writers will attend the exclusive BBC Short Story Awards ceremony on 2 October 2018 at Cambridge University, when the winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.
The winning story will be available on the Radio 1 website after the award ceremony on Tuesday 2 October, and will be available to download on the Life Hacks podcast from Sunday 7 October. Follow the BBC Young Writer’s Award 2018 on Twitter for all the updates using the hashtag #BBCYWA or follow@BBCRadio1.