The BBC National Short Story Award 2016

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Young garment workers in a Bangladesh factory seek a better life, at a price...

A girl on a deep, dark moor is drawn into a different kind of darkness after a stranger gives her a bunch of flowers...

A retired plastic surgeon, who once served the great and not-so-good of Buenos Aires, finds a new peace when he disguises his identity...

An academic seeks sanctuary in a different rhythm of life... While those who wile away the nights in A&E, unlikely memories and a good sense of the absurd keep the worst at bay...

The characters assembled in this shortlist are all looking for a new start, a chance to escape or change the way they are perceived.

This fantastic panel of judges, chaired by BBC R4’s JENNI MURRAY who also introduces the collection, featured Booker prize winner PAT BARKER, writer KEI MILLER, Literature & Spoken Word Programmer at the Southbank Centre - TED HODGKINSON and DI SPEIRS, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

Johnathan Buckley's 2015 winning story, 'Briar Road', was hailed by Chair of Judges Alan Little as a 'quiet, intriguing mystery [...] a haunting evocation of the tensions between family members at a moment of unbearable loss.' Johnathan joined an impressive alumni from previous sell-out collections, which include submissions from Hilary Mantel, Sarah Hall, Lionel Shriver and Zadie Smith.

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About the author

 K J Orr was born in London. Light Box, her first collection of short stories, was published in February 2016. Her short fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and published by The Dublin ReviewThe White Review, Lighthouse, Daunt Books and The Sunday Times Magazine online, among others. She has been shortlisted for awards including the BBC National Short Story Award, the Bridport, and the Asham. She studied at St. Andrews, UEA, and Chichester, and has published essays and reviews in Poetry Review, the TLS and The Guardian, among others.

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Additional Information

Comma Press
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Published on
Sep 16, 2016
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Fiction / Anthologies (multiple authors)
Fiction / Short Stories (single author)
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“A sharp, funny, and eccentric debut … Pond makes the case for Bennett as an innovative writer of real talent. … [It]reminds us that small things have great depths.”–New York Times Book Review

"Dazzling…exquisitely written and daring ." –O, the Oprah Magazine

Immediately upon its publication in Ireland, Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut began to attract attention well beyond the expectations of the tiny Irish press that published it. A deceptively slender volume, it captures with utterly mesmerizing virtuosity the interior reality of its unnamed protagonist, a young woman living a singular and mostly solitary existence on the outskirts of a small coastal village. Sidestepping the usual conventions of narrative, it focuses on the details of her daily experience—from the best way to eat porridge or bananas to an encounter with cows—rendered sometimes in story-length, story-like stretches of narrative, sometimes in fragments no longer than a page, but always suffused with the hypersaturated, almost synesthetic intensity of the physical world that we remember from childhood. The effect is of character refracted and ventriloquized by environment, catching as it bounces her longings, frustrations, and disappointments—the ending of an affair, or the ambivalent beginning with a new lover. As the narrator’s persona emerges in all its eccentricity, sometimes painfully and often hilariously, we cannot help but see mirrored there our own fraught desires and limitations, and our own fugitive desire, despite everything, to be known.

Shimmering and unusual, Pond demands to be devoured in a single sitting that will linger long after the last page.
 ‘I often ask myself what makes a story work,’ wrote the great American author, Flannery O’Connor. ‘I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character... which is both totally right and totally unexpected... one that is both in character and beyond character.’ The five stories shortlisted for this year’s BBC National 
Short Story Award with Book Trust all feature people 
making just such gestures, acting in ways that reach beyond 
themselves: a woman takes refuge from a disastrous 
relationship by caring for a morbidly obese man; parents of 
a missing girl desperately resort to the services of a woman 
whose talents they barely credit; a middle-class resident of a 
leafy corner of Windsor finds herself caught at a crossroads 
in history; a young man attempts to impress his girlfriend’s 
unconventional parents – to excruciating, comic effect; and 
a young woman attempts to stitch together her own 
approach to life in the face of love. In each case we see an 
individual endeavouring to stand up, to make a difference, 
to be part of something bigger. 

Now in its tenth year, the BBC National Short Story Award 
has witnessed a decade of revival for the form, and the stories 
on this list show just what fine fettle it’s in. The shortlist was 
selected by crime-writer Ian Rankin, novelist Tash Aw, previous 
winner Sarah Hall, BBC Books Editor Di Speirs, and former 
BBC correspondent and journalist Allan Little, who chaired 
the panel and introduces this collection.
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