James Runcie will chair the judges for this year's BBC National Short Story Award alongside authors Fiona Mozley and Derek Owusu.
Runcie, a novelist and former Radio 4 commissioning editor for arts, will also be joined by writer Donal Ryan and BBC radio books editor Di Speirs to judge the prize, which is run with Cambridge University.
The winner of this year's award, now open for submissions, will receive £15,000, with four further shortlisted authors getting £600 each. The stories are broadcast on Radio 4 and published in an anthology by Comma Press. Previous alumni include Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jon McGregor and last year's winner Sarah Hall.
Runcie said: “I am so delighted to chair the 2021 BBC National Short Story Awards. We need imaginative alternatives in these dark times: stories that question and surprise and open up new worlds. They can be short or long. They can take place in the past, present, future, or even all three at once. They can be set in a nutshell or in infinite space. But what I think we’ll be looking for is uniqueness of vision, a distinctive tone, curiosity, intrigue, surprise: an invitation to the reader’s imagination. I can’t wait to get started.”
Meanwhile, BBC Radio 1 present Katie Thistleton is chair of the BBC Young Writers’ Award judging panel for the fourth time. Alex Wheatle, Louise O'Neill, Robert Webb and singer Arlo Parks are also on the judging panel.
Thistleton said: “I’m really looking forward to chairing the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University again for 2021. As a keen writer myself, and someone who loved entering writing competitions when I was younger, I know how important and exciting this opportunity is. I always love reading the submissions and gaining a perspective on what young people are thinking and feeling at the time and, I imagine, the different world we have been living in recently will be reflected in this year’s stories. This is certainly a unique time, so I have no doubt we’re going to discover some equally new and unique, young voices.”
Writers shortlisted for the award have their stories narrated by an actor and recorded for a BBC podcast and published in an anthology.
The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC National Short Story Award is 9 a.m. on 15th March 2021. For the Young Writers' Award it is 9 a.m. on 22nd March.
Shortlists will be announced in September before the winners are crowned at a ceremony on 5th October.