TV’s Mel Giedroyc and Katie Thistleton chair 2018 panels of judges as the prestigious BBC National Short Story Award and BBC Young Writers' Award




Call for Submissions

11 December 2017

The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) today calls for submissions for the 13th year with television presenter, author and actress Mel Giedroyc chairing the judging panel for the 2018 award. Mel, who has co-hosted a myriad of television shows including The Great British Bake-Off, has written two books From Here to Maternity (2005) and Going Ga-Ga (2007). Mel’s counterpart on the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (YWA) is BBC Radio 1 and CBBC’s Book Club presenter Katie Thistleton, who will chair the judging panel for the teenage award as it opens for submissions for the fourth year.

“It’s a great honour to be chairing the BBC National Short Story Award for 2018 and very exciting that it has a new association with the University of Cambridge. I love stories of all kinds and am an avid reader – by my bed at the moment I’ve got some weighty material - Victor Hugo, the London A-Z, Thomas Mann, so to immerse myself in the very best stories from celebrated British writers will be a huge pleasure. We live in such a fast-paced world that the short story acts as a perfect meditation. Although I know that choosing a winner from the wonders that we will receive will not be easy, I’m ready for the challenge.” Mel Giedroyc, Chair of the BBC National Short Story Award Judging Panel

Giedroyc and Thistleton will be joined by an esteemed group of award-winning writers and poets on their respective panels. For the BBC National Short Story Award: short story writer and 2016 BBC NSSA winner, K J Orr and Granta’s ‘20 under 40’ novelist, Benjamin Markovits, one of last year’s shortlisted writers, returning judge, Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio, and multi award winning poet and Cambridge alumni Sarah Howe. For the BBC Young Writers’ Award, Thistleton will lead Carnegie Medal-winning YA author and former teacher, Sarah Crossan, celebrated poet Dean Atta, adult and YA author William Sutcliffe and bestselling author, actress, singer and vlogger, Carrie Hope Fletcher.

The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The shortlisted writers for the BBC Young Writers’ Award will have their stories featured on the BBC Radio 1, Cambridge University and First Story websites, with the winner’s story broadcast on the radio station. In addition, a new initiative, the BBC Student Critics’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (SCA), will give selected 16-18 year olds around the UK the opportunity to read, discuss and critique the five shortlisted NSSA stories from Easter 2018.

Last year’s winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Cynan Jones for his ‘exhilarating, terrifying and life-affirming’ story ‘The Edge of the Shoal’ with previous alumni including Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jon McGregor and William Trevor. The winner of the 2017 Young Writers’ Award was 17-year-old Elizabeth Ryder for her ‘sophisticated’ and ‘original’ story ‘The Roses’. Previous winners are Brennig Davies for ‘Skinning’ and Lizzie Freestone for ‘Ode to a Boy Musician’.

“I’m a complete book worm so to chair the BBC Young Writers’ Award and find the authors of tomorrow will not only be incredibly exciting, but a huge pleasure. I’ve interviewed many bestselling writers, but this feels even more of an honour as we will be discovering the next generation of original voices. Having read the winning stories from previous years I know I, and my fellow judges, will be inspired and enthralled in equal measure.” Katie Thistleton, Chair of the BBC Young Writers’ Award Judging Panel

2018 will be the first year of a new and exciting collaboration between the BBC and partners First Story and the University of Cambridge. The charity First Story will support the YWA and BBC SCA with further activity that will engage young people with reading, writing and listening to short stories. The University of Cambridge will support all three awards, including hosting a short story symposium at the Institute of Continuing Education on 7th July 2018, and curating an exclusive online exhibition of artefacts drawn from the University Library’s archive, to inspire and intrigue potential entrants of the YWA.

Di Speirs, Editor of Books at BBC Radio and judge of the Award since its launch, says:
“It’s that wonderfully exciting time of the year when we begin our search for the outstanding, haunting, surprising short stories of 2018. Every year the BBC National Short Story Award opens my eyes to new writers and exceptional short stories and I can’t wait to read the submissions that will come our way. With a new partnership and lots of plans, especially for younger writers and readers, it’s going to be a big year – but at its heart will still be the very best short story writing in the UK.”

Mónica Parle, Executive Director at First Story says:
“At First Story, we know from experience the pleasure and power that writing gives young people, and we urge any young writers between the ages of 14 and 18 to consider submitting a story for the Young Writers' Award. This award offers a unique opportunity to bring your work to the attention of our expert judges and, potentially, BBC Radio 1 and 4 listeners. If you are a parent, teacher or librarian, please encourage the young people you know to take this brilliant opportunity, and look out for further information in due course about the Student Critics' Award. The BBC Young Writers' Award and Student Critics Award together create an unparalleled avenue to nurture and celebrate young people's creativity critical thinking skills. We look forward to your entries.”                

Prof. Stephen Toope,Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge says:
“The University of Cambridge has a proud tradition of nurturing literary talent, educating many people who have gone on to become our most successful novelists and short story writers. From undergraduate students to the adults, of all backgrounds and ages, who discover the joy and importance of creative writing at our Institute of Continuing Education’s Centre for Creative Writing, Cambridge inspires and encourages new writers. We are delighted that through this partnership with the BBC and First Story we can reach out to a wider audience and inspire more people to unlock their creative potential.”

Full ‘Terms and Conditions’ for both awards are available with submissions accepted online at from 9am on 11th December 2017. The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 12th March 2018. The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 19th March 2018.

The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University will be announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7.15pm on Friday 14th September 2018. Readings of the shortlisted stories will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 17th to Friday 21st September and interviews with the shortlisted writers will air from Friday 14th September 2018 on Front Row. The shortlist for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University will be announced on BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks at 4pm on Sunday 23rd September 2018.

The announcement of the winners of the two awards will be broadcast live from the Award ceremony in Cambridge on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row from 7.15pm on Tuesday 2nd October 2018.


Mel Giedroyc is a television presenter and actress best known for co-hosting shows with her on-screen partner, Sue Perkins who she met while studying at Cambridge University. Their programmes include Light Lunch, Mel and Sue and The Great British Bake Off. In 2017, she co-presented the BBC’s Light it Shine with Graham Norton. Mel is working on her third book. She lives in London.

Sarah Howe is a British poet, academic and editor. Her first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award; it was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Poetry Review, Poetry LondonThe GuardianThe Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The Telegraph, Ploughshares and Poetry, as well as anthologies such as Ten: The New Wave and four editions of The Best British Poetry. She has performed her work at festivals internationally and on BBC Radio 3 & 4. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. From 2010-2015, she was a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, before taking up a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at University College London. Previous honours include a Hawthornden Fellowship and the Harper-Wood Studentship for English Poetry, as well as fellowships from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. She is a Lecturer in Poetry at King’s College London.

Benjamin Markovits grew up in Texas, London, Oxford and Berlin and now lives in London. A former professional basketball player, he has taught high school English, worked at a cultural magazine, and written essays, stories and reviews for, among other publications, The New York Times, Esquire, Granta, The Guardian, The London Review of Books and The Paris Review. He has published seven novels and his most recent novel, You Don’t Have To Live Like This, won the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction in 2015. His forthcoming novel A Weekend in New York will be published in June 2018 by Faber & Faber. Granta selected him as one of the Best of Young British Novelists in 2013 and he was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award with his story 'The Collector' in 2017. He teaches Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

K J Orr was born, and lives, in London. Light Box, her first collection of short stories, was published in February 2016. Her stories have appeared in publications including Best British Short Stories 2015, the Irish Times, the Dublin Review, the White Review and the Sunday Times Magazine, and have been recognised by numerous awards including the BBC National Short Story Award and the Bridport Prize. She studied at St Andrews, UEA, and Chichester, and has published essays and reviews in Poetry Review, the TLS and the Guardian, among others. K J Orr was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2011 and won the award with ‘Disappearances’ in 2016.

Di Speirs edited the Woman's Hour serial for three years, produced the first ever Book of the Week, and has directed many Book at Bedtimes as well as dramas. She is now Editor, Books, leading the London Readings team and also editing Open Book and Book Club on BBC Radio 4 and World Book Club on the BBC World Service. A long-time advocate of the formidable power of the short story, she has been closely involved in the BBC National Short Story Award since its inception twelve years ago and is a regular judge on the panel.


Dean Atta is a poet from London, UK. His debut collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, published by the Westbourne Press, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. He was named as one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK by the Independent on Sunday Pink List and featured in Out News Global Pride Power List. He has performed across the UK and internationally at the Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean (Italy), CrossKultur (Germany), Ordspark (Sweden) PuSh Festival (Canada) and Word N Sound (South Africa). He is Guest Artistic Director of New Writing South and Writer in Residence with Creative Future, as well as a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and Point Blank Poets. He has been commissioned to write poems for BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, Dazed & Confused, Keats House Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern. He is currently working on his second collection The Black Flamingo.

Sarah Crossan is originally from Dublin. She graduated with a degree in philosophy and literature before training as an English and drama teacher at Cambridge University. Sarah taught English at a small private school near New York until she became a full-time writer. She now lives in Hertfordshire. Sarah is the author of The Weight of Water, Breathe, Resist, Apple and Rain, One (winner of CILIP Carnegie Medal, YA Book Prize, CLiPPA Poetry Award and CBI Book of the Year Award and The Children’s Choice Award) and Moonrise (shortlisted for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards and the Costa Children’s Book Award). She co-authored We Come Apart with Costa Children’s Book Award winner Brian Conaghan.

Carrie Hope Fletcher is an actress, singer, author, vlogger and, thanks to her popular YouTube channel, 'honorary big sister' to over a million young people around the world. Carrie's first book, All I Know Now, was a number one Sunday Times bestseller and her debut novel, On the Other Side, also went straight to number one in its first week on sale. Carrie's second novel, All That She Can See, was a Top Three Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and a Top Ten bestseller in Ireland.
Carrie played the role of Eponine in Les Misérables at the Queen's Theatre in London's West End for almost three years and received the 2014 WhatsOnStage Award for Best Takeover in a Role. She has since played Beth in The War of the Worlds, Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family and will play Brenda Payne in Tom Fletcher's The Christmasaurus in December 2018. Carrie lives just outside of London with numerous fictional friends that she keeps on bookshelves, just in case.

William Sutcliffe was born in London in 1971 and read English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He is the author of the international bestseller Are You Experienced?, The Love Hexagon, New Boy, Bad Influence and Whatever Makes You Happy. His first YA novel, The Wall, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal in 2014, and his next YA novel, Concentr8, was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2016. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Edinburgh.

Katie Thistleton has been a familiar face on BBC programmes since 2013 where she has been a live Presenter of 'the bits in between the shows' on CBBC for almost 5 years. She is the presenter of The CBBC Book Club, where she has interviewed authors such Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams and Cressida Cowell to name a few. Katie is now also a regular voice on BBC Radio 1, presenting 'Life Hacks' on Sundays 4-7pm and previously presenting Radio 1’s ‘The Surgery.' Other credits include Hacker's Birthday Bash, a celebration of 30 years of Children's BBC, and Hacker's Crackers, a special live Christmas show. Prior to becoming a TV presenter, Katie worked for a variety of local and community radio stations, and in various roles across the BBC for Radio 4, CBBC, CBeebies and BBC Radio 1. She’s also an avid writer and reader and campaigns for getting young people to read and write. Katie is passionate about raising mental health awareness, and is an ambassador for children's mental health charities YoungMinds and Place2be. Her book, Dear Katie: Real Problems, Real Advice is published by Hachette Children’s in February 2018.



For AWARD PRESS ENQUIRIES contact Emma Draude at or
on 020 7732 4796/07801 307735 or
for BBC RADIO 4 PRESS ENQUIRIES contact Isobel Pyrke at isobel.
or on 07718 118012


University of Cambridge and First Story announced as new
partners of the BBC's short story awards

28 September 2017

BBC Radio has today announced two new partners for the BBC National Short Story Award, the BBC Young Writers’ Award and the BBC Student Critics' Award, in a three-year collaboration starting in 2018.

These short story awards already serve to highlight the BBC's commitment to the short story form and to bringing it to a wider audience. The University of Cambridge will support all three of the awards. The charity First Story will support the BBC Young Writers' Award, the Student Critics' Award and further activity that will engage young people with reading, writing and listening to short stories. These two new partners replace BookTrust who have been the valued partner on both awards, working with BBC since 2006.

Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Radio, said: "I’d like to warmly welcome both of our new partners as we continue to champion brilliant storytelling across the BBC, including with these awards on Radio 1 and Radio 4. We are the biggest commissioner of short stories and these awards are very much part of our commitment to bring our listeners the best new writing both from established and emerging talent. We greatly appreciate the support of our new partners, and I’d also like to thank BookTrust for their work with us over the past decade."

Di Speirs, Books Editor for BBC Radio said: "The launch of our new three-way partnership with the University of Cambridge and First Story is a hugely exciting moment. The BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers' Award have made a genuine difference to individual writers and to the literary landscape over the past twelve years. The Student Critics' Award will foster a new generation of readers alongside our exciting plans for writers of all ages. We share with our partners a commitment to inspiring new writers and readers and to championing the very best short story writing in the UK."

This new partnership heralds an expanded programme of activity around the awards. A short story symposium will be hosted by the new University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing, at the Institute of Continuing Education's Madingley Hall campus. The symposium is aimed at new writers and anyone interested in short stories and creative writing, comprised of writing workshops and author talks, with guests including friends of the awards. Cambridge will host the 2018 prizegiving, with a special short story edition of Front Row broadcast live from the University Library, and the Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities will host First Story’s Young Writers’ Festival for 600 young people in 2018.

The BBC Young Writers' Award and the BBC Student Critics' Award enhance the offering for young people, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of readers and writers of short stories. Entrants to the Young Writers’ Award will have the opportunity to write their own short stories inspired by a treasure trove of literary artefacts, as the Cambridge University Library opens up its digital archives for writing prompts. Through the Student Critics' Award selected 16–18 year olds around the UK will read, listen to, discuss and critique the five stories shortlisted for the NSSA and have their say. They will have access to discussion guides and teaching resources created with BBC Learning, and in-school events with writers, judges, First Story networks, and staff and students from the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.

The prizes for both the BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers' Award remain the same. The five writers shortlisted for the BBC NSSA will all be celebrated individually on Radio 4: as in previous years, the stories will be read on BBC Radio 4 and the authors will be interviewed on Front Row, followed by a live edition of the programme where the winner is announced. For the Young Writers' Award, the shortlist will have their stories published on the BBC Radio 1 website and the winning story will be broadcast on Radio 1. The awards will open for entry in December 2017.

The University of Cambridge has a rich heritage of investigating storytelling for eight hundred years...

Dr. Sarah Dillon, University of Cambridge, Faculty of English

Mónica Parle, Executive Director at First Story said: "First Story is delighted to partner with the BBC and Cambridge University on the Young Writers’ and Student Critics' Awards. These Awards resonate strongly with our own work placing talented, professional writers in schools across the country to work with young people and teachers to develop students’ creativity, communication skills and confidence. First Story believes that writing can transform lives and that there is dignity and power in every young person’s story. Partnering with the BBC and the University of Cambridge presents us with an unparalleled and exciting opportunity to extend that message to a wider audience, and encourage more young people to engage in writing for pleasure."

Dr Sarah Dillon, Cambridge University Lecturer, said: "The University of Cambridge has a rich heritage of investigating storytelling for eight hundred years and in that time we have produced many acclaimed creative writers including those who excel at the short story form such as A.S. Byatt, Helen Oyeyemi and Zadie Smith. The BBC shares more stories with more people than any other organisation in the world, and both organisations have an outstanding reputation for excellence and literary merit. The combined strengths of Cambridge and the BBC with First Story will make this a powerful and productive partnership."

Notes to Editors

  • The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) aims to promote the best in contemporary British short fiction. Since it began in 2005, its alumni have included established writers such as Hilary Mantel, Mark Haddon, and Lionel Shriver. From 2018, the Award will be run in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. This award aims to support and award excellence in the short story genre.
    The BBC National Short Story Award is open to authors with a previous record of publication who are UK nationals or residents, aged 18 years or over. The story entered must either have been unpublished, or be first published or scheduled for publication after 1st January of the previous year. The story should have a maximum of 8000 words and must have been written in English. The Award offers £15,000 for the winner and £600 to four shortlisted writers. For more information please visit
  • The BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (YWA), for 14-18 year olds, was launched in 2015. This Award looks for the best new writing from teenagers, and considers all entries on the basis of quality and originality of prose and narrative voice. This Award aims to encourage and celebrate the next generation of short story writers. For more information please visit
  • The BBC Student Critics' Award with First Story and Cambridge University (SCA) gives selected 16–18 year olds around the UK the opportunity to participate in the National Short Story Award: to read, listen to, discuss and critique the five NSSA stories shortlisted by the judges, and have their say. The students are supported with discussion guides, teaching resources and interactions with writers, judges, First Story patrons, and staff and students from Cambridge University Faculty of English, for an enriching experience that brings literature to life.