Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement are some of the themes dominating the 2019 BBC National Short Story Award shortlist, which features all-female writers for a sixth time including an ex-Waterstones bookseller.
Former Waterstones employee Lynda Clark is nominated alongside award-winning writer Lucy Caldwell, charity worker Jacqueline Crooks, as well as novelist Tamsin Grey and Welsh writer Jo Lloyd.
The five shortlisted stories, revealed on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Friday (6th September) explore sexual politics, intolerance, community and immigration. The BBC National Short Story Award—run in association with Cambridge University since 2017—"aims to expand opportunities for British writers, readers and publishers of the short story and honour the UK’s finest exponents of the form," according to organisers.
Caldwell, a novelist, playwright and short story writer, has been shortlisted for the second time for "The Children", a tale about motherhood and loss told through interweaved narratives of the true story of a 19th century child custody campaigner, a modern mother’s health scare and the child migrant crisis on the Mexican border in Trump’s America. Previously Caldwell was shortlisted for the prize in 2012.
Clark, who used to work at Waterstones in Nottingham, has been recognised for "Ghillie’s Mum"; about a family who are able to shape-shift into animals. Charity worker, Crooks, was nominated for ‘Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’; exploring social exclusion set against memories of Jamaica and childhood summers. Grey, author of She Wasn't There (Borough Press) is shortlisted for "My Beautiful Millennial" which follows a young woman alone in London is desperate to make a connection and explores the impact of #MeToo. Finally, Welsh writer Lloyd’s "The Invisible", where a community is torn apart by one woman’s stories about the ‘invisible’ Ingram family.
Now celebrating its 14th year, the award bestows £15,000 on the winner, and the four further shortlisted authors £600 each. Selected from over 900 entries - an increase of 15% on 2018 - this year’s shortlist is the sixth all-female shortlist in the BBC National Short Story Award’s history. The winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row on 1st October.
Nikki Bedi, TV and radio broadcaster and chair of judges for the BBC National Short Story Award 2019, is joined on this year’s judging panel by novelist and writer of narrative non-fiction Richard Beard; Man Booker Prize-shortlisted writer Daisy Johnson; 2017 BBC National Short Story Award winner Cynan Jones and returning judge Di Speirs, books editor at BBC Radio.
All five stories will be published in an anthology produced by Comma Press later this month.
The stories will also be broadcast on Radio 4 on BBC Sounds, a streaming media and audio download service. The readers of this year’s stories include "Line of Duty" and "Call the Midwife" star Jessica Raine, Welsh actor Aimee-Ffion Edwards of "Peaky Blinders" and Stephen Campbell Moore, of "The History Boys".
Speirs said: “Discovering new short story writers is one of the great joys of Radio 4. This year we see some prodigious new talent in the shortlist, stories from writers who have been quietly honing their craft and picking up prizes and who Radio 4 are now delighted to bring to a wider audience."
Ingrid Persaud won the 2018 award for her story "The Sweet Sop" and her debut novel has since sold to Faber in a seven-way auction, slated for publication in 2020.