Debut British author K J Orr has beaten off competition from Booker Prize-winning Hilary Mantel to win the £15,000 BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust for 2016.
Orr won for her story ‘Disappearances’, featured in her collection Light Box published by Daunt Books Publishing.
The tale is a “richly layered story of guilt and identity” set in Buenos Aires which author and judge Kei Miller described as “a near-perfect example of how the short story works – a small world that’s perfectly observed”.
Orr was revealed as the winner at a ceremony held at the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London live on BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row”, tonight (4th October) during a special programme celebrating the short story.
K J Orr receives her award from John Wilson, presenter of Radio 4's "Front Row" and chair of judges, Dame Jenni Murray
Orr beat off competition from Mantel, shortlisted for “In a Right State”, a story inspired by an Alan Bennett article in the London Review of Books.
Claire-Louise Bennett, also a debut writer with her first collection recently published, was selected as the runner-up and received £3,000 for her story ‘Morning, Noon & Night’. Mantel along with the other two shortlisted authors, Lavinia Greenlaw and Tahmima Anam, received £500.
Di Speirs, books editor at BBC Radio 4 and longstanding judge of the award, said: “In a year when the shortlist was supremely well balanced and the judges initially quite divided about a winner, our meeting was full of insight, debate, discussion and courtesy; by its conclusion we were all of a mind. I’m delighted, as are we all, to be honouring as winner, and as runner-up, both the debut writers on the list, both writers who have dedicated themselves to the short story, honing their craft, experimenting with form and finding their unique voices. K J Orr’s precision and clarity, her ability to expose a life in a line and to induce sympathy and disdain, linger long after reading the final paragraph.”
Lizzie Freestone was also named the winner of this year’s BBC Young Writers Award with BookTrust, open to youngsters aged 14-18.
Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine, judge and poet Anthony Anaxagorou, winner Lizzie Freestone and judge and author, Juno Dawson
Her short story "Ode to a Boy Musician" was inspired by her household piano and was described by author and judge Juno Dawson as a “haunting, intriguing and lyrical story” and by poet and judge Anthony Anaxagorou as a “brilliant piece of storytelling”.
As part of her prize, Freestone will hear her story read by actress Daisy Ridley, ‘Rey’ from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1 at 11 pm tonight. She will also receive a personalised mentoring session with poet and playwright, and judge Anaxagorou, to further develop her writing skills.
Book Trust c.e.o Diana Gerald said: “This award is only in its second year, but we have been blown away by the number, and quality, of entries. BookTrust’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children everywhere, and the quality of all the entries this year certainly gives hope that young people are being inspired- not just to read but to write captivating stories also.”
Pictures: Tom Pilston