Emotional connection and reconciliation feature in the all-female shortlist for the 2019 BBC Young Writers’ Award, run in association with literacy charity First Story and Cambridge University.
The finalists were announced live on BBC Radio 1’s "Life Hacks" on Sunday (22nd September), featuring an all-female shortlist of young writers aged 16 and 17 years from across the UK.
Sixteen-year-old Eleanor Clark’s “Insula” is about a young woman’s journey from the safe community island of her childhood to the isolation of the city.
Flash fiction entry, “Another Pair of Eyes”, by 17-year-old Tallulah Howarth, is inspired by the true story of John Dalton, a Northern scientist known for his study into colour blindness who asked for his eyes to be preserved after his death.
Meanwhile a psychiatric ward is explored in “The Blue of Spring Violets” by Isobel Paxton, 17, and the patients’ attempts to find connection.
A daughter’s changing relationship with her father is featured in “Allotment” by Rowan Taylor, 16, from Reading, following a break-up between the parents.
Finally, Georgie Woodhead offers a comic but tragic story of two friends in “Jelly-headed” about two friends on a night out and a lightning strike that brings devestation.
The five shortlisted stories, each under 1000 words, are available to read on the BBC Radio 1 website, and can be heard on BBC Sounds as part of the Short Works short story podcast.
BBC Radio 1 presenter and chair of the judges, Katie Thistleton said: “I am particularly excited about the shortlist this year because we had such a diverse range of stories submitted and the final five really reflect that – no two have a similar style or topic.”
Thistleton is joined on the judging panel by authors Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Patrice Lawrence, Anthony Cartwright along with writer, rapper and world-record breaking human beatboxer Testament.
Millwood Hargrave, judge and author, commented on how emotional connection was a dominant theme. “This was one of the most stimulating and collaborative experiences of judging I've ever had and we've emerged with a shortlist to be proud of. The writers demonstrate all the skills I look for in any piece of writing, from immediacy of voice to sensitive pacing, and most of all an emotional connection made with the reader. I think the way a story is told is just as important as the story itself, and these writers have each paid attention to language as well as plot.”
The shortlisted writers will have their stories read by an actor and broadcast by BBC Radio 1, and available to listen to on BBC Sounds as part of the Short Works short story podcast. The stories will also be published in an anthology and the writers will attend a creative writing workshop with Lawrence, in addition to a session in a recording studio and a tour of Broadcasting House with BBC producers.
All five finalists will attend the exclusive BBC Short Story Awards ceremony with their families on 1st October when the winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row”. The finalists will have the chance to meet industry figures at the award ceremony and the winner will also receive a personalised mentoring session with an author to enhance their writing skills.
The BBC National Short Story Award shortlist is also all-female this year and features themes such as Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement, with an ex-Waterstones bookseller Lynda Clark among those nominated.