'Intimate, yet universal' BBC short story award shortlist revealed

'Intimate, yet universal' BBC short story award shortlist revealed

Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel, poet and author Lavinia Greenlaw, and short story writer K J Orr have all made the shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust for the second time.

Shortlisted this year for "In a Right State", a story inspired by an Alan Bennett article in the London Review of Books, Mantel was first shortlisted in 2015. Greenlaw, who was first shortlisted in 2013, is on this year's list for "The Darkest Place in England", in which 15-year old Jamie longs for essential experience. Also shortlisted is Orr’s "Disappearances", the story of a retired surgeon who discovers the possibility of another life in a local café. Orr was first shortlisted for the award in 2011.

Joining Mantel, Greenlaw and Orr on the shortlist is Tahmima Anam's "Garments", the story of three ‘garment girls’ in Bangladesh searching for security, love and laughter amidst their "brutal, unforgiving lives" and Claire-Louise Bennett for "Morning, Noon & Night", a "visceral, painterly depiction" of the rhythm of a failed academic’s day.

A spokesperson for the award said: "Intimate and yet universal, the 2016 shortlist is a diverse, multi-generational selection that shows how direct and powerful the short story form is in its ability to reflect every facet of human experience. Human connection and the quest for experience are key themes for this year’s stories."

The shortlist of five stories was announced this evening (16th September 2016), during BBC Radio 4’s "Front Row" programme.

Now celebrating its eleventh year, the award nets the winning author £15,000, the runner-up £3,000, and the three shortlisted authors £500 each.

Ted Hodgkinson, senior programmer for literature and the spoken word at the Southbank Centre and award judge, said: "These short stories catapult you through distinct lives, sensibilities and in just a few thousand words, expand the possibilities of the form. From illuminating the telling details in the everyday, to pitching us into hidden underworlds that exist in parallel to our own, these stories are full of insights, humour and revelations. Being part of the judging this year for an Award I've long admired has been a privilege, not to mention rich in discoveries."

Hodgkinson is joined on this year’s judging panel by Booker Prize winner Pat Barker; poet and author Kei Miller; and books editor at BBC Radio, Di Speirs. The panel is chaired by BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter and author, Dame Jenni Murray.

Speirs said: "Every year judging the BBC National Short Story Award is a reminder of how much talent, invention and imagination there is among the UK’s short story writers. Each year sees new preoccupations in focus and proves a litmus test for the state of the short story. This year is no exception, with stories ranging across the world but all investigating human connections – the need for them, the perils when they are lacking and the joy that can be found in recognising just who you are. The five stories this year are all very different – together they show once again how strong, vivid and irrepressible short form fiction can be."

Alongside this year’s BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust shortlist and eventual winner, the BBC and BookTrust will also continue to celebrate young, emerging talent with the second BBC Young Writers’ Award with BookTrust, shortlist announced on the 1st October. Open to 14 to 18 year-olds, the aim of this award is to inspire and encourage the next generation of short story writers and is a cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Radio 1. The winner of the Young Writers’ Award will also be announced on 4th October.

BookTrust chief executive, Diana Gerald, said: "Working with the BBC on the BBC National Short Story Award is a fantastic way to expose a huge audience to short stories; and also find new and enthusiastic writers and readers. So we are particularly excited to expand the Award even further by running the second BBC Young Writers’ Award, as it complements BookTrust’s existing work with young people and encourages them to read, share and write stories."