BBC National Short Story Award 2009

Latest update 'Submissions for the 2017 Award are now closed'


  • 'The Not-Dead and the Saved'

    by Kate Clanchy

The winner was Kate Clanchy for her story 'The Not-Dead and the Saved' and the runner-up was Sara Maitland for her story 'Moss Witch'.

Kate Clanchy, who has worked primarily as a teacher and as Poet in Residence for the Red Cross, beat an exceptional shortlist which included past Orange Prize for Fiction winners Lionel Shriver and Naomi Alderman, and BAFTA-nominated author Jane Rogers.

The story, entitled 'The Not-Dead and The Saved' is a haunting story of parental love and sacrifice set in a hospital ward. The story of a mother and child whose relationship is conducted against a background of hospital visits, transplants and tumours was praised by the judges for its rich lyricism and deeply affecting style.

Read an exclusive interview with Kate about her win

Clanchy received her winner’s cheque of £15,000 at a ceremony on Monday 7 December 2009 at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon. The winner was announced and interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.

Sara Maitland, who was shortlisted for her story 'Moss Witch', was awarded £3,000 as runner-up. Sara is a distinguished short story author who has had six collections published.

Each of the other shortlisted authors was awarded £500.

Chair of judges, Tom Sutcliffe commented:

Kate Clanchy's story was the unanimous choice of the judging panel - an account of a deeply painful experience that we felt had become richer on every re-reading. We were all impressed by its acute control of emotional tone and by the vividness and generosity of the writing.

Di Speirs, judge and Editor of Readings, BBC Radio 4 commented:

Judging this award on behalf of the BBC since its inception, I have been keenly aware of the growing strength of entries - not just in volume but in range and depth and poise. Year on year, acclaimed writers from other disciplines have been drawn to try their hand at it and I am delighted to see this broader appeal paying such dividends now, and that the BBC continues to play its part in what is clearly a palpable resurgence in the form.

Mark Damazer, Controller of Radio 4 said:

‘The BBC National Short Story Award is a highlight of the Radio 4 literary calendar. We continue to broadcast nearly 150 short stories every year - some sad, some funny, some from famous writers, some from newcomers. The award celebrates the range of what we do - and this year, for the first time, I am delighted to say we will have been able to offer the Radio 4 audience the chance to podcast the brilliant finalists.’


  • 'Other People's Gods'

    by Naomi Alderman
  • 'Moss Witch'

    by Sara Maitland
  • 'Hitting Trees with Sticks'

    by Jane Rogers
  • 'Exchange Rates'

    by Lionel Shriver

Click on the story to download a free electronic copy of it:


The writers on being shortlisted

Naomi Alderman:

 I am incredibly honoured to be shortlisted for the Award. 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:

 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:

 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 Rogers:

 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:

 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; 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.


About the BBC National Short Story Award 2009

For updates on the Award follow #bbcnssa on Twitter.


Previous winners

2016 Orr 'Disappearances'; runner-up Claire-Louise Bennet 'Morning, Noon & Night'

2015 Jonathan Buckley 'Briar Road'; runner-up Mark Haddon 'Bunny'

2014 Lionel Shriver 'Kilifi Creek'; runner-up Zadie Smith 'Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets'

2013 Sarah Hall 'Mrs Fox'; runner-up Lucy Wood 'Notes from the House Spirits'

2012 Miroslav Penkov 'East of the West'; runner-up Henrietta Rose-Innes 'Sanctuary'

2011 D W Wilson 'The Dead Roads'; runner-up Jon McGregor 'Wires'

2010 David Constantine 'Tea at the Midland'; runner-up Jon McGregor 'If It Keeps On Raining'

2009 Kate Clanchy 'The Not-Dead and the Saved'; runner-up Sara Maitland 'Moss Witch

2008 Clare Wigfall 'The Numbers'; runner-up Jane Gardam 'The People on Privilege Hill'

2007 Julian Gough 'The Orphan and the Mob'; runner-up David Almond 'Slog's Dad'

2006 James Lasdun 'An Anxious Man'; runner-up Michel Faber 'The Safehouse'

Please go to for more information on the BBC National Short Story Award.


Terms and conditions for the 2017 Award are available from 26 January 2017, until the deadline of 6 March 2017.