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January: short-story low-down

Enter the BBC National Short Story Award

One of the most unmissable short story competitions on the literary calendar – whose past winners include Cynan Jones, Lionel Shriver and Ingrid Persaud – launched afresh this month, so polish off your best stories of up to 8,000 words and enter them before 9am on Monday 9th March.

Judges this year include the journalist and author Jonathan Freedland, Lucy Caldwell (who was shortlisted last year), writer Irenosen Okojie (whose excellent collection Nudibranch is out now), short story columnist Chris Power and BBC Radio’s Book Editor, Di Spears.

The winner will be announced later in the year and will receive £15,000. The five shortlisted stories go on to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in an anthology by Comma Press.

The award is free to enter and it’s open to British nationals and UK residents, aged 18 years or over, who have a prior record of publication in creative writing in the United Kingdom.

  • Read an extract from last year’s winning story, The Invisible, by Jo Lloyd here
  • Listen to last year’s five shortlisted stories here
  • Buy the Comma anthology, with an introduction from Nikki Bedi, here
  • Enter this year’s BBC National Short Story Award here

Look out for a new collection of Zora Neale Hurston’s short stories

Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick, a new collection of 21 short stories by the legendary African-American author Zora Neale Hurston, will be published in February, 60 years after her death in 1960. It’s the first time all her stories will be together in one collection – many of which are newly recovered from obscure periodicals and archives. Neale Hurston's contemporary, Toni Morrison, who died last year, called the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God and Barracoon ‘one of the greatest writers of our time’.

Get to know the Costa Short Story Award finalists

The finalists of Costa Short Story Award have been revealed as Anna Dempsey, Kerry Hood and Iain Rowan. Dempsey is an American-born writer and teacher based in south-east London and was shortlisted for The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community. Hood is full-time writer based in Devon and is in the running for The Dog Friend of Dastardly. Rowan is a Sunderland-based author who entered Birds of the Mountain. The winner, who receives £3,500, will be decided by public vote and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony on 28th January. The judges are Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud, Joe Haddow, the Radio 2 Book Club producer, literary agent Simon Trewin, and authors Adele Parks and Kit de Waal (who was a finalist for the same award in 2013).

Watch the very first trailer for Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People

The Irish author Sally Rooney was shortlisted for this Award in 2017, with her short story ‘Mr Salary’. It was the first time her extraordinary talent had been recognised by a prize (read an excerpt of that exceptional story here). Since then, she has gone from strength to strength and The BBC adaption of her novel, Normal People, will air later this year. Watch the first official trailer here.

Reflect on the fact that Lee Child is retiring

Lee Child, the sensationally popular author of the Jack Reacher thrillers (who published a collection of Reacher short stories in 2017), shocked his fans by announcing in January that he will no longer write novels about his most-loved hero. But while Lee might be looking ahead to enjoy his retirement, his younger brother Andrew Grant is gearing up to take over the authorial rights over the multimillion grossing series, which to date has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. But there’s one catch – Andrew must change his surname to Child first. Lee intends to keep fans happy with “many, many more Reacher stories”, written by a man he describes as “me, 15 years ago, full of energy and ideas”. It was also announced earlier this month that Lee will be sitting on the Booker prize jury alongside the author Sameer Rahim, writer Lemn Sissay, classicist Emily Wilson and with publisher Margaret Busby as chairperson.

Read The Book of Newcastle from Comma Press

Comma Press have published a collection of ten new stories about and from the city of Newcastle, by its local literary talent, including the Portico Prize shortlisted author Jessica Andrews. The collection, edited by Angela Readman and Zoe Turner features "characters in search of something, a new reality, a space, perhaps, in which to rediscover themselves: from the call-centre worker imagining herself far away from the claustrophobic realities of her day job, to the woman coming to terms with an ex-lover who’s moved on all too quickly, to the man trying to outrun his mother’s death on Town Moor". The Book of Newcastle is part of an ongoing series published by Comma that celebrates writing in and about the north of England. They can be purchased here.

Enter the Brick Lane Short Story Prize

The 2020 Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize is now open for submissions. This year’s judges – Sharmaine Lovegrove, Harriet Moore and Chris Power – are looking for "new, exciting and diverse" voices who have written original stories of between 1,000 and 5,000 words. First place wins £1,000 (with £250 and £100 for second and third prize). The winners and longlisted entrants' stories will be published in the Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize anthology in October. Enter here (£10 per story) before 5pm on Friday 15thMay.

What's YOUR favourite short story collection of 2019?

Kristen Roupenian’s You Know You Want This, Sarah Hall’s Sudden Traveller, Julia Armfield’s Salt Slow or I Will Not Be Erased, edited by gal-dem? Let us know what you think was the best short story collection of 2019 on Twitter: @shortstoryaward #iheartshortstories @audibleuk

Compiled by Sophie Haydock

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