Chakrabarti to chair jury of BBC National Short Story Award

Journalist Reeta Chakrabarti will serve as chair for this year’s BBC National Short Story Awards (NSSA), alongside Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle, award-winning author and lecturer Okechukwu Nzelu, BBC Radio books editor Di Speirs and bestselling novelist Jessie Burton. 

The BBC NSSA – which opens for submissions on 12th January – is among one of the most prestigious awards for a single short story. Previous alumni include Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel and Jon McGregor among others. 

The prize is worth £15,000 to the winner, while four shortlisted authors will win £600 each. The stories are broadcast on Radio 4 and available to listen to on BBC Sounds. They will also be published in an anthology by Comma Press. The 2022 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Saba Sams for “Blue 4Eva”, a story about sexual identity, agency, power and class, taken from her debut collection, Send Nudes (Bloomsbury).

Chakrabarti said she can’t wait to get started on what promises to be a feast of reading! 

“I’ll be looking for work that’s fresh, original and thought-provoking; the type of story that lingers in your head long after you’ve finished it. The short story form is exacting because there is no room for meandering, every word counts. In this sense, I feel there are parallels with what we do in the newsroom — we are story-tellers too, aiming to condense complicated material into clear and pithy prose. We on the judging panel will be looking closely at the quality of the writing as well as the form. The short story has a rich heritage: there are so many great short story writers, from Henry James and James Joyce to modern authors such as Colm Toibin, Jhumpa Lahiri and Bharati Mukherjee, authors who can condense entire worlds and histories into a few thousand words. It’s going to be fascinating to see how today’s writers can contribute to this great tradition.”

Also open for entries is the BBC Young Writers Award (YWA) for aspiring authors aged 14 to 18. BBC Radio 1 presenter Katie Thistleton will chair the judging panel for the sixth year in the competition’s nine-year history. She will be joined by writer and illustrator Laura Dockrill, BookTokker Kouthar Hagi (aka Coco at @CultOfBooks) and TV presenter and children’s author Konnie Huq. One judge is yet to be confirmed.

The shortlisted writers will have their stories narrated by an actor and recorded for BBC Sounds. Their work will also be published in an anthology. The winner of the 2022 BBC Young Writers’ Award was Elena Barham, 19, from Barnsley for her story “Little Acorns”.

Both awards are being held in partnership with Cambridge University for the third year running.

Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson, fellow and lecturer at Cambridge University, said: “The University of Cambridge is delighted to support the BBC Short Story Awards in celebrating exceptional work from the very best storytellers of today and the young writers of the future from around the UK. In our rapidly changing world, the short story form offers a unique opportunity to reflect and explore. We encourage everyone to send in their stories. Good luck!”

The deadline for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University is 9 a.m. (GMT) Monday, 13th March 2023. The deadline for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University is 9 a.m. (GMT) Monday, 20th March 2023.


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