It’s that time of year again, folks. The BBC National Short Story Awards are back!
Now in its fourteenth year, the BBC NSSA was established to raise the profile of short form writing. It’s one of the most prestigious awards for a single short story, and I’m excited to share the shortlist with you.
Selected from over 900 entries (an increase of 15% on 2018), this year’s shortlist is the sixth all-female (*first bump*) shortlist in the BBC National Short Story Award’s history.
The nominees are:
The Children by Lucy Caldwell is a powerful story linking the past and present inspired by the true story of 19th century writer Caroline Norton and her battle to change Victorian child custody law after her abusive husband took her children from her.
Caldwell deftly weaves together Caroline’s tragic story of personal pain turned to public good, alongside that of a mother researching Caroline’s story while battling her own thoughts of loss as she faces a possible breast cancer diagnosis, with the plight of mothers separated from their babies on the Mexican border in Trump’s America. Connected across the ages by the pain of a mother’s love, this moving story of loss links the personal with the political.
Ghillie’s Mum by Lynda Clark is a magical realist allegory that plays with the notion of outsiders and ‘other-ness’ through the story of Ghillie and his mother’s ability to transform into a menagerie of animals.
Inspired by a dream where a dumbo octopus, a baby orangutan and a baby elephant were giving a human baby a bath, this surreal, strange and darkly comic story won the regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2018.
Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea by Jacqueline Crooks was inspired by the author’s memories of childhood isolation, exclusion and poverty triggered by the sudden death of her sister.
The story of three siblings forced to play in the garden while their night-shift working, single-parent mother sleeps, this rich, haunting and fantastical story explores the many faces of displacement – children locked in, and out; a mother parted from her Caribbean homeland; and a ghostly figure trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead.
My Beautiful Millennial by Tamsin Grey is set in contemporary London and is the comic story of Dido, a young woman alone and alienated in the metropolis who finds herself in a ‘relationship’ with an older man, through want of a human connection.
Inspired by the tube route from city to country and the author’s own experience with a pigeon on the Bakerloo line, sexual politics and millennial angst are explored as Dido’s journey from central London to Amersham becomes transformative.
The Invisible by Jo Lloyd is a distinctive and compellingly original story inspired by a real-life Welsh woman called Martha who claimed to be friends with an invisible family living in an invisible mansion.
Set in a closely-knit community in Wales, the villagers are at turns intrigued, fearful and then jealous of the strangers and as the seasons unfold, the presence of ‘The Invisibles’ has a devastating effect on their lives. A thought-provoking meditation on ‘seeing’ and ‘unseeing’ and society’s wilful blindness towards inequality and class division.
The winner will be announced live during the award ceremony at 7.15pm on BBC Radio 4 Front Row on Tuesday 1 October.
If you want to hear the stories before then, head to the BBC Sounds website, where you can listen to the shortlisted stories being read.
The stories shortlisted for the BBC Young Writers’ Award will be announced on Radio 1 on BBC Sounds on Sunday 22 September from 4 – 6pm, so don’t forget to tune in for that!
Do you write or read short stories? Have you ever entered any competitions and will you be checking out the BBC NSSA awards? Let me know!