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The BBC National Short Story Award 2021

Runcie, James, Smyth, Richard, Caldwell, Lucy, Gleeson, Rory, Harding, Georgina, Rhodes, Danny
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Comma Press
Published: September 13, 2021
ISBN: 9781912697496
160 pages
Country of publication: United Kingdom


A group of teenage boys take turns assessing each other’s changing bodies before a Friday night disco…

A grieving woman strikes up an unlikely friendship with a fellow traveller on a night train to Kiev…

An unusually well-informed naturalist is eyed with suspicion by his comrades on a forest exhibition with a higher purpose…

The stories shortlisted for the 2021 BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University take place in liminal spaces – their characters find themselves in transit, travelling along flight paths, train lines and roads, or in moments where new opportunities or directions suddenly seem possible. From the reflections of a new mother flying home after a funeral, to an ailing son’s reluctance to return to the village of his childhood, these stories celebrate small kindnesses in times of turbulence, and demonstrate a connection between one another that we might sometimes take for granted.

The BBC NSSA is one of the most prestigious prizes for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The stories are broadcast on Radio 4 and published in an annual anthology.

James Runcie is joined on the judging panel by a group of acclaimed writers and critics including: Booker Prize shortlisted novelist Fiona Mozley; award winning writer, poet and winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize, Derek Owusu; multi-award winning Irish novelist and short story writer, Donal Ryan; and returning judge, Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

The 2020 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Sarah Hall for ‘The Grotesques’, a timeless and unsettling story set against a backdrop of privilege and inequality in a university town. Previous alumni of the award include Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jon McGregor, Ingrid Persaud, Cynan Jones and Jo Lloyd.

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