Shriver wins BBC National Short Story Award

Shriver wins BBC National Short Story Award

Lionel Shriver has won the BBC National Short Story Award 2014 for her story “Kilifi Creek”, with Zadie Smith the runner-up.

Shriver – author of We Need to Talk about Kevin (Serpent's Tail) - was awarded the £15,000 prize at a ceremony held in the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London this evening (Tuesday 30th September). Chair of the judges, BBC’s creative director Alan Yentob, handed her the cheque as the news was announced live on BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row”, during a special programme celebrating the short story.

Yentob said: “From a fantastic shortlist, Lionel Shriver's 'Kilifi Creek' stood out as a wonderful evocation of life in miniature, crossing continents and generations. She is a worthy and deserved winner in an exciting year when the short story has taken centre stage. Shriver proves that short really is sweet and it’s never been sweeter than now.”

Shriver, who has been shortlisted for the prize twice before, originally published “Kilifi Creek” in the New Yorker in 2013. It is the story of Liana, a thoughtless gap year traveller outstaying her welcome as a house guest in Kenya, whose brief encounter with mortality in a treacherous river is a painful coming-of-age shock. We meet her again years later in New York leading a more conventional career and continuing to cheat death, for now.

Shriver said of her winning story: “I have a little collection in my head of the occasions on which I almost died. Some of these are dramatic, but in others, to an observer, nothing would have occurred. What makes the near-miss catalogue so haunting is awareness that at some point, as the text observes, 'there is no almost'. So when I read a story in the NY Times about a young woman who plunged to her death in Manhattan, just because a railing of her apartment balcony came loose, I was moved to write 'Kilifi Creek'. That young woman emblemized the 'no almost'.”

Smith received £3,000 for her story “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets” in which an ageing American performer comes face-to-face with a multitude of resentments while buying undergarments on the East Side of New York City. It was first published in the Paris Review earlier this year.

The three other authors on the all-female shortlist, Tessa Hadley, Francesca Rhydderch and Rose Tremain, received £500.

In addition to Yentob, this year’s judging panel included: writer, illustrator and performer Laura Dockrill;  poet and novelist Adam Foulds; editor-at-large, Scribe Publications, Philip Gwyn Jones; and longstanding judge, BBC Radio editor, Books, Di Speirs.

BBC Radio 4 broadcasts of all of the shortlisted stories, read by actors including Carey Mulligan and Rebecca Hall, are available to listen to at online for up to 30 days after their first airing.

The BBC National Short Story Award 2014 Anthology, published by Comma Press, is available now.

Meanwhile the BBC and Booktrust announced they are to launch a BBC Young Writer’s Award for teenagers in December., to celebrate the award's 10th anniversary in 2015.

Young writers, aged 14 to 18, will be invited to submit short stories of up to 1,000 words. A shortlist of five writers will be announced in autumn 2015. The winner, who will see their story broadcast on air and receive a mentoring session with an adult writer, will be celebrated at the annual BBC National Short Story Award ceremony.

Viv Bird, chief executive, Booktrust, said: “After nine successful years working together with the BBC on the BBC National Short Story Award, we are delighted to be extending our partnership to launch a brand new award for writers aged 14-18 to coincide with the 10th anniversary. The BBC Young Writer’s Award will complement our existing work with schools and young people to encourage them to read, share and write stories, and enable us to inspire a new generation of writers to follow in the footsteps of our 2014 winner Lionel Shriver, to whom I’d like to give my sincere congratulations.”