23 September 2013

The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award 2013, announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Friday (20 September), features five stories all written by women, “a great example of how female writers are leading the field with innovative and compelling work”.
The subjects include 9/11 New York, meteorites falling from Mars, family holidays in Barmouth, a haunted Cornish house, and the eerie quiet of an English wood.

  • “Barmouth” by Lisa Blower
  • “We Are Watching Something Terrible Happen” by Lavinia Greenlaw
  • “Mrs Fox” by Sarah Hall
  • “Notes from the House Spirits” by Lucy Wood
  • “Prepositions” by Lionel Shriver

“Healing the State of Man” by Sarah Lewis was also given a special mention by this year’s judges.

Mariella Frostrup chairs the judging panel, which comprises novelists Deborah Moggach, Mohsin Hamid and Peter Hobbs with BBC Radio Editor of Readings Di Speirs.

Frostrup said: “The 2013 shortlist is all female, which suggests the short story is a form much suited to the innovative brilliance of women writers. From Charlotte Perkins Gilman – author of the enormously influential ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ – onwards, many favoured short story writers are women. Now we have five new names to add to the list of skilled exponents.

“We were delighted this year to be able to zoom in on the contemporary world and to compile a shortlist that is rich in imagination and diverse in style. In each of these original tales we enter a world that is at once familiar and yet surprising, each offering a unique and often startling view of society today.”

The winning author receives £15,000, the runner-up £3,000, and the three further shortlisted authors £500 each. The awards ceremony, held in BBC Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre on Tuesday 8 October, will be broadcast live on Front Row.

Five actors, including Hattie Morahan, Claire Skinner and Andrea Riseborough, will each read one of the shortlisted stories, to be broadcast daily on BBC Radio 4 at 3.30pm from Monday 23 September. Each story will also be available as a free download from the day of broadcast for two weeks at www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/nssa. After this time, the broadcasts can be purchased individually or as a collection via AudioGO.

From 23 September, an anthology – The BBC National Short Story Award 2013 – introduced by Frostrup and published by Comma Press will be available at www.commapress.co.uk and at bookshops, and will also be a Kindle ebook.

“This year’s list is exceptionally strong, exciting and is very complementary,” Speirs said. “Across these five stories, listeners and readers will find a heady mix of serious issues and fantastical flights of fancy. As a group, the stories seem to me to reflect the current excitement and passion surrounding short fiction and show its infinite variety and flexibility.

“I’m particularly delighted at the strength and sense of the voice in these stories, and that within the shortlist we have writers who are succeeding in publishing short story collections.”