Winner of the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2021: Tabitha Rubens

Tabitha Rubens, 19, from London, has won the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2021 with Cambridge University (YWA) for ‘Super-Powder’, a story written after the winter lockdown when young people were struggling with their mental health and self-esteem. Exposing modern society’s exploitation of insecurities for profit, the story was praised by the judges for its ‘spirit […]

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BBC National Short Story Award Winner Announced: Lucy Caldwell

Three-time nominated Lucy Caldwell has won the sixteenth BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) with ‘All the People Were Mean and Bad’, a story taken from her 2021 collection, Intimacies. The news was announced live on BBC Front Row this evening (Tuesday 19 October) by 2021 Chair of Judges, James Runcie. Caldwell, […]

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Winner of the Young Writers’ Award 2020 Announced: Lottie Mills

Young Writers' Award 2020 Logo

Lottie Mills, 19, from Hertfordshire, has won the 2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (YWA) for ‘The Changeling’, a story inspired by ‘otherhood’ and her frustration with ‘how difference, especially disability, is represented in fiction’.Lottie Mills, Winner of the 2020 Young Writers' Award

A second-year student at Cambridge University, Lottie, who has Cerebral Palsy, was previously shortlisted for the Award in 2018. Praised by judge and YA Book Prize winner Will Hill as ‘heartbreakingly well-written’, her story reclaims the myth of the ‘changeling’ and transforms it from something used to persecute and exclude, into a magical, fantastical fable about a girl’s  extraordinary coming of age.

Lottie Mills said:

My previous shortlist experience really fuelled my writing. Hearing so many amazing people the judges, the representatives from the University and First Story, and of course, the BBC praise my writing had a huge impact on me, and for the first time a career as a writer seemed to be a realistic prospect. As a disabled person, my stories are quite often preoccupied with ideas of otherhood, based around characters who are outcast from their society in some way or another. I had been researching fairy-related myths for a university essay and when I came across the idea of ‘changelings’, it really stuck in my mind – especially the modern theory that children suspected of being these fairy imposters were actually displaying symptoms of various disabilities. I really wanted to write a story which would show the strengths of disabled people or people who are ‘othered’ in some way, rather than portraying them as disadvantaged and in need of ‘fixing’ as so many stories do.”

The news was announced this evening during a special short story edition of BBC Radio 4 Front Row (Tuesday 6 October). ‘The Changeling’, and a further four shortlisted stories, are available to listen to via the Short Works podcast on the BBC Sounds app and the BBC Radio 1 website. Lottie will be interviewed about her win on Radio 1’s Life Hacks on Sunday 11 October, and will be mentored by award-winning YA author and Judge Will Hill.

Katie Thistleton, BBC Radio 1 presenter and Chair of Judges for BBC YWA 2020 said:

We were blown away by ‘The Changeling’, it’s simply beautiful. I love the way it uses fairy mythology to tell a story about difference, disability, acceptance and coming of age. We had no idea that Lottie, who has been shortlisted for the Award before, was the writer when we chose the winner, but it shows what an incredible talent she is. I’m so happy she has won and is considering a career as an author after being inspired by the Young Writers’ Award.”

Lottie beat stiff competition from Maleeha Faruki, 18, from Leicester for ‘Winds that Travel Across’; Mei Kawagoe, 15, from Leicestershire for ‘Three Pomegranate Seeds’; Ben Marshall, 18, from Otford, Kent for ‘Bingo Tuesdays’ and Naomi Thomas, 17, from Sheffield for ‘The Battle of Trafalgar Square’.

All five shortlisted writers attended a virtual workshop on Saturday 29th October designed to develop their writing skills and inspire them to consider different career paths within the arts. The session included personalised feedback for each writer from the YWA Judges, and covered how to take stories from page to broadcast with BBC Audio producers, a close reading of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own led by Cambridge University’s Dr Lisa Mullen, and an interactive creative writing activity with YA author and Judge Muhammad Khan based on a Pixar short animation. Their work is also published in an anthology. 

Antonia Byatt, CEO, First Story, said:

“Congratulations to Lottie Mills for such an extraordinarily powerful and beautifully crafted story.  ‘The Changeling’ challenges us to look beyond our own expectations and boundaries. Lottie’s writing is a superb flight of the imagination for a world now even more narrowed down for so many of us; it opens a door onto a wider, more tolerant view. It really is the right story at the right time. The judges had an immensely difficult task choosing from such a very strong shortlist; congratulations to all this year’s young writers and I urge everyone to read their fantastic stories.”

Now in its sixth year, The BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University  has quickly built a reputation for discovering the literary stars of the future with one of Lottie’s fellow 2018 award cohort, Reyah Martin, winning the 2020 Canada/Europe Commonwealth  Short Story Prize aged just 20. Open to all writers between the ages of 1318 years at the time of entry, the Award is a cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Radio 1.

Elizabeth Rawlinson-Mills, Fellow in English at Robinson College and Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, said:

“I am delighted to congratulate Lottie Mills on her winning story, from a diverse and exciting shortlist. ‘The Changeling’ is an astonishing, moving and important story in which grief and pain are transfigured and difference is rendered magical. Lottie’s prose is remarkable for its subtle economy; as in all the greatest short stories, carefully chosen details open up a whole beautiful life, a whole convincing and complex mother-daughter relationship. Drawing on folklore and fable, Lottie’s story is nonetheless entirely contemporary – a particularly fitting winner in a year when issues of marginalisation and representation are increasingly receiving the critical attention they deserve. Lottie was inspired to apply to Cambridge after a visit she made to the University as a shortlisted writer for the 2018 Award. It is clear that her journey as a writer, and as a student, has been shaped by the Young Writers’ Award, and we are very proud of her achievement.”


All five shortlisted stories can be read and listened to online at:

Winner of the BBC National Short Story Award: Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall Becomes First Writer to Win
BBC National Short Story Award Twice

Twice nominated for the Man Booker Prize, Sarah Hall previously won the BBC NSSA award in 2013 for ‘Mrs Fox’. She was further shortlisted in 2010 and 2018. The award-winning author of five novels and three short-story collections, she was born in Cumbria and lives in Norwich.

Hall beat stiff competition from an extremely strong shortlist that included established and new voices, comprised of: 26 year old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson whose eagerly anticipated debut novel Open Water is released in 2021; James Tait Black Prize winner Eley Williams; poet and newcomer Jack Houston and EU Prize for Literature for Ireland 2019 winner Jan Carson.

This years’ judging panel was chaired by journalist and author Jonathan Freedland and included Commonwealth Prize winner Lucy Caldwell, who was shortlisted for both the 2012 and 2019 BBC NSSA; British-Nigerian writer Irenosen Okojie, a Betty Trask and Caine Prize winner; Edge Hill Prize shortlistee and Guardian short story columnist Chris Power; and returning judge Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Audio. 

Established in 2005, the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University was originally established to highlight a literary genre regarded as undervalued and under threat. Its aim was to recognise and celebrate the very best writers of short fiction who had no prize equivalent to major literary awards like the Man Booker Prize. 15 years on, the short story is in robust health and the BBC National Short Story Award is recognised as the most prestigious for a single short story with the winning writer receiving £15,000 and the four shortlisted writers £600 each.

Dr Midge Gillies, Academic Director, Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education, said:
“Sarah Hall’s unsettling short story takes a good, hard look at power structures and inequalities – not just in the fascinating mother/daughter relationship at the heart of ‘The Grotesques’ – but in the wider associations between the homeless and the entitled in an ancient university city. As a second-time winner, Sarah Hall proves, again, how adept she is at introducing us to fascinating new characters and the strange worlds they inhabit.”

Alongside the BBC NSSA, BBC Front Row also announced the sixth annual BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University, an award created to inspire and encourage the next generation of short story writers. Open to 13–18 year olds at the time of entry, it is a cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 1. The award was won by Lottie Mills, 19, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire for ‘The Changeling’. Lottie was previously shortlisted for the BBC YWA in 2018. Her story is also available on BBC Sounds.

2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award shortlist revealed

After months of waiting, the deeply impressive shortlist for the 2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award, with First Story and Cambridge University, has been announced on BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks. The five shortlisted writers are: ‘Winds that Travel Across’ by Maleeha Faruki, 18, from Leicester‘Three Pomegranate Seeds’ by Mei Kawagoe, 15, from Leicestershire‘Bingo Tuesdays’ by […]

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Sarah Hall Nominated for Fourth Time as 15th BBC National Short Story Award Reveals Bold, Experimental Shortlist Celebrating a Generation of Voices #BBCNSSA #ShortStories BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University 2020 shortlist is: ‘Pray’ by Caleb Azumah Nelson ‘In The Car With the Rain Coming Down’ by Jan Carson ‘The Grotesques’ by Sarah Hall ‘Come Down Heavy’ by Jack Houston ‘Scrimshaw’ by Eley Williams The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the […]

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Celebrated young poet, Georgie Woodhead wins 2019 BBC Young Writers’ Award with short story about a night out clubbing, friendship and guilt

Georgie Woodhead, 16, from Sheffield has won the 2019 BBC Young Writers’ Award with First Story and Cambridge University (YWA) for ‘Jelly-headed’, a tragi-comic story about an ill-fated night out that ends in devastating circumstances on a nightclub roof. A gripping story about friendship, moral dilemma, and the absurdity of life, it was praised by […]

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National Short Story Award Winner

WELSH WRITER JO LLOYD WINS THE 2019 BBC NATIONAL SHORT STORY AWARD WITH ‘TIMELESS’ AND ‘DEEPLY TENDER’ STORY INFLUENCED BY BREXIT, SOCIAL DIVISION AND FOLKLORE Welsh writer Jo Lloyd has won the fourteenth BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University 2019 (NSSA) for ‘The Invisible’, a distinctive and compellingly original story. Inspired by the […]

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