The BBC National Short Story Award 2020


Edited by Jonathan Freedland

A young woman’s birthday party is disturbed by the vision of a homeless man sleeping under an arrangement of mocking fruit…

A late-night text conversation goes awry when a forwarded link to a live feed of gathering walruses doesn’t have its intended effect…

A woman hopes a pending announcement to her in-laws will finally give her husband the attention he craves…

The stories shortlisted for the 2020 BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University demonstrate how a single moment might become momentous; how a small encounter or exchange can irreversibly change the way others see you, or the way you see yourself. From the struggles of two women trapped by joblessness and addiction to the hopes of two teenage brothers embarking on a new life without the protection of their parents, these stories show us what happens when we fail to relate to each other as well as the refuge that belonging affords.

Now celebrating its fifteenth year, the BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning writer receiving £15,000, and the four further shortlisted authors £600 each.

The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University was established to raise the profile of the short form and the writers shortlisted for this year’s award join distinguished alumni such as Zadie Smith, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain, William Trevor, Sarah Hall and Mark Haddon. As well as rewarding the most renowned short story writers, the Award has raised the profile of new writers including Ingrid Persaud, Jo Lloyd, K J Orr, Julian Gough, Cynan Jones and Clare Wigfall.

Featuring Jan Carson, Sarah Hall, Jack Houston, Caleb Azumah Nelson and Eley Williams.

Further reading

Read: Read an extract from all shortlisted stories on the Comma Press website

Review: n/a

Prompt: Go to your bookshelf and choose a book of poetry. Select a page and line at random. Begin by copying the line and then write freely for 10 minutes.

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