The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award has been announced.
Other People’s Gods by Naomi Alderman
The Not-Dead and the Saved by Kate Clanchy
Moss Witch by Sara Maitland
Hitting Trees With Sticks by Jane Rogers
Exchange Rates by Lionel Shriver
Read more below about the shortlisted writers and their reaction to being shortlisted:
Naomi Alderman's first novel, Disobedience was released in 2006 and won the Orange Award for New Writers. It was broadcast as a Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4.
In 2007 Naomi was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, and one of Waterstones' 25 Writers for the Future. Naomi also writes online computer games, including writing for Penguin's award-winning We Tell Stories project. She has written commissioned short stories for BBC Radio 4. Penguin will publish her new novel, The Lessons, in April 2010, when it will also be broadcast as a Book at Bedtime.
Naomi writes: 'I am incredibly honoured to be shortlisted for the NSSA. The prize already has such an awe-inspiring list of previous nominees, that I'm quite astonished I'm allowed to be in their company. I'm passionate about short stories, and delighted that the NSSA has done so much to bring them back to their rightful place in our literary landscape.'
Kate Clanchy was born in Glasgow in 1965 and was educated in Edinburgh and Oxford. She is a popular poet: her collections, Slattern, Samarkand and Newborn, have brought her many literary awards including a Somerset Maugham Award and Saltire and Forward Prizes. She writes radio plays and frequently contributes to Radio 4 arts programmes and Comment for the Guardian. Her latest book, Antigona and Me, was published in hardback under the title What Is She Doing Here? It was dramatised on BBC Radio 4, won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Book 2008 and was shortlisted for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Award 2009, in partnership with the Scottish Arts Council.
Kate writes: 'I am only just beginning to write short stories. The whole process of making up a character and an event is new, and thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. I have very little idea- much less than with a poem, for example- as to whether what I am writing is intelligible at all, let alone any good. My main motivation in sending The Not-Dead and the Saved into the BBC competition was to get the story out of my private realm and into the public realm: I wanted it read by disinterested judges. Just read, I really did not aspire to more. To have the story shortlisted is beyond my wildest hopes. The effect on my confidence has been immediate and huge. I will be writing more short stories, and sending them out to be read, too.'
Sara Maitland was born in 1950. Her first novel Daughter of Jerusalem won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1979. Since then she has written five more novels and has published five collections of short stories, including On Becoming a Fairy Godmother (Maia Press 2003). In March 2008 Maia press published Far North and Other Dark Tales to celebrate the launch of the film Far North. A Book of Silence, (Granta 2008) is partly a cultural history of silence and partly a personal memoir of her own search of that elusive lifestyle. She is currently working on a book about forests and fairy stories.
Moss Witch first appeared in When it Changed edited by Geoff Ryman (Comma Press, 2009)
Sara writes: I am excited to be shortlisted- and very eager to know who the other writers are. Because all the stories are broadcast and reach such a wide audience, this is the most valuable short story competition to me- and even being short listed is winning.
Jane has written eight novels including Mr Wroe's Virgins (which she dramatised as a BBC TV serial); Promised Lands, (Writers’ Guild Best Novel Award 1996); Island (1999, Arts Council Writers Award, currently in development as a film); and The Voyage Home (2004). She also writes for radio, most recently Dear Writer (Afternoon Play) and an adaptation of The Age of Innocence for Classic Serial. Her short stories have been broadcast on radio and occasionally published, most recently by Comma Press. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and Course Leader in Writing at the Open College of the Arts.
Jane writes: 'I'm delighted to be shortlisted. I've always thought short story was the most perfect (and most perfectly difficult) form, and as a writer I used to struggle with stories that wanted to turn into novels; well, that did turn into novels- in two cases, novels that are constructed from clusters of stories.
'Over the past couple of years I've been reading short stories almost exclusively, great stories by writers like Alice Munro and William Trevor and Flannery O'Connor, and trying to learn the precision and economy that make a short story (in A.L.Kennedy's words) "small in the way a bullet is small." It's immensely encouraging to have been picked out by such an eminent panel of writers and broadcasters because it allows me to hope that maybe I am at last getting properly to grips with the form.
'As a writer and a reader it's been very pleasing to see the resurgence of the short story over the past few years, thanks in no small measure to this competition. The BBC kept the morning/afternoon story going through years when there seemed simply no other outlets- there was a period of about 10 years when I never sold a story anywhere else. Now there are competitions springing up everywhere, there are increasing numbers of anthologies being published, newspapers are printing short stories on a regular basis, and there's at least one independent press (Comma) solely dedicated to short story. At last, the short story is valued again; which is not only a joy, but also a real boost at a time when publishing novels has become increasingly difficult.'
Lionel Shriver is best known for the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World (2007) and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, the 2005 Orange Prize winner that has now sold over a million copies worldwide, and was dramatised on BBC Radio 4. Her work has been translated into 25 different languages. She is a widely published journalist, appearing regularly in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. Her ninth novel, So Much for That, will be released in March 2010.
Lionel writes: 'I'm both pleased and abashed. Exchange Rates was the first full-length short story that I'd written since I was in my early twenties. I've never thought of myself as good at short stories- not because as a novelist I consider myself above them or anything, but because they're too hard. Concision has never been my strong suit. I have enormous admiration of the form-eg, I idolise William Trevor- so maybe at the crusty age of 52 I am finally mature enough and good enough at my craft to write short stories. Indeed, they're ideal for that uncertain maw between novels, and I've just started a new one. Being shortlisted for this prize has an especially high Wow Factor for me because the judges this year are so estimable.'