14th BBC National Short Story Award selects its sixth all-woman shortlist

Award-winning writer Lucy Caldwell is joined by former bookseller Lynda Clark, charity worker Jacqueline Crooks, and new voices Tamsin Grey and Jo Lloyd to complete a shortlist of writers exploring sexual politics, intolerance, community and immigration.

The shortlist of five stories was announced on Friday 6 September 2019, during BBC Radio 4's Front Row.


Read more about the BBC National Short Story Award and this year's shortlist at The BBC

'Lucy Caldwell shortlisted again for BBC National Short Story Award.' - The Irish Times

'Ex-Waterstones bookseller shortlisted for 2019 BBC National Short Story Award.' - The Bookseller

Read The Litro report on the BBC NSSA 2019 shortlist. 

Read shortlisted story 'Ghillie's Mum' by Lynda Clark for free at Granta.

The shortlist is:

- 'The Children’ by Lucy Caldwell

A writer researching the life of 19th century child custody reformer, Caroline Norton, draws a worrying amount of parallels between motherhood then and now.

- ‘Ghillie’s Mum’ by Lynda Clark

A mother and son struggle to fit into society with their uncontrollable shape-shifting abilities in this story of overcoming stigma.

- ‘Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’ by Jacqueline Crooks

Three children’s ancestors watch them from the stars, as their mother’s house is haunted by her past on a far-away island.

- ‘My Beautiful Millennial’ by Tamsin Grey

The story of a young, leave-voting woman who escapes her relationship with an older man, and finds friendship on a London tube train populated with myriad kinds of people.

- ‘The Invisible’ by Jo Lloyd 

The values of a small farming village are challenged by talk of a wealthy community living on the other side of the lake that only one person can see.

The need for empathy and human connection are key themes this year in a rich and varied shortlist that is set in both contemporary and fantastical worlds. Loneliness, activism, intolerance and social exclusion are all explored in stories that range from the comic contemporary to the mythic with inspiration coming from Brexit, Trump, #MeToo and experiences of immigration and isolation.

Now celebrating its fourteenth year, the 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. Selected from over 900 entries (an increase of 15% on 2018), this year’s shortlist is the sixth all-female shortlist in the BBC National Short Story Award’s history. 

The winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row on Tuesday 1 October.

Nikki Bedi, TV and radio broadcaster, is joined on this year’s judging panel by novelist and writer of narrative non-fiction Richard Beard; short story writer, novelist and youngest author to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize Daisy Johnson; screenwriter, novelist and 2017 BBC National Short Story Award winner Cynan Jones; and returning judge Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

All five stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 on BBC Sounds in September and are published in an anthology produced by Comma Press, which you can order here.