Here’s the All-Female Shortlist for the 2018 BBC National Short Story Award
Honoring the best unpublished short stories in the UK
Today, the BBC announced the shortlist for their 2018 National Short Story Award with Cambridge University. Selected from nearly 800 entries by judges Stig Abell (Chair), K J Orr, Benjamin Markovits, Di Speirs, and Sarah Howe, this is the fourth all-female shortlist in the BBC National Short Story Award’s thirteen-year history. The award, which honors unpublished short stories by UK writers, is one of the most prestigious for a single short work; the winning writer will receive £15,000, and the four other shortlisted writers will receive £600 each. The winner will be announced on October 2nd, but for now, the shortlist is below.
The shortlist is:
Kerry Andrew, “To Belong To”
Sarah Hall, “Sudden Traveller”
Kiare Ladner, “Van Rensburg’s Card”
Ingrid Persaud, “The Sweet Sop”
Nell Stevens, “The Minutes”
More about the shortlisted stories, from the BBC’s press release:
“To Belong To” was inspired by a week Kerry Andrew spent on Fair Isle in 2016 with the classical ensemble Chroma. Written just after the Brexit vote, the idea of islands, communities and their ability to embrace outsiders is told in the story of a grieving, desperate man saved from suicide by Anna, a fellow outsider now resident islander, who invites him into her home. The island, its beauty and seasonal rhythms, and the islanders nurture him back to life in a beautifully told story celebrating the healing power of community and friendship.
Sarah Hall’s “Sudden Traveller” is a powerful meditation on life and death encompassing the death of a mother and the birth of a child. Set in a moment in time, it tells the story of a young woman nursing her child as her father and brother clear the cemetery ready for her mother’s burial. Contemplative and tender, the second person narrative captures the numbing and distancing effect of grief, whilst rendering the moment both personal and universal.
“Van Rensburg’s Card” by Kiare Ladner is the poignant story of fractured families and the inevitability of change as Greta a slightly grumpy South African maths teacher, sets out to eat in the shopping mall one evening after work. Widowed 18 months previously and with her only daughter living abroad, she is fuelled by loneliness and self-doubt, until she finds a forgotten condolence card in her bag from neighbour, Arthur van Rensburg. What was previously thought of as intrusion suddenly becomes a lifeline. Will this be an opportunity to ‘reshape’ her life?
“The Sweet Sop” by Ingrid Persaud is set in Trinidad and is the moving story of Victor, a young man getting to know his absent father, Reggie, for the first time as he is dying. Told in West Indian patois, chocolate becomes their medium of communication as the parent/child relationship inverts and the story of their lost past – and the night of Reggie’s death – unfolds. Terminal illness and the recent deaths of close family members inspired the story as did the true story of an assassination engineered by regularly feeding the victim poisoned Belgian chocolates.
“The Minutes” by Nell Stevens is the most experimental of the stories on the shortlist and tells the story of a hapless student collective as they plan ‘The Ascension of Waderley’, a protest against the planned demolition of a South London tower block. Told as an address to an unnamed figure, a revered lecturer and potential lover who gives legitimacy to the group as a former resident of the tower block, this is a tense, intelligent love story exploring the nature of art as protest and the politics of class.