BBC National Short Story Award 2011

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


  • 'The Dead Roads'

    by D W Wilson

PhD student becomes the youngest ever winner of the BBC National Short Story Award

At 26, D W Wilson has become the youngest ever winner of the prestigious BBC National Short Story Award for his story 'The Dead Roads'. He was presented with a cheque for £15,000 by this year's Chair of Judges, broadcaster Sue MacGregor, as the news was announced live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row from an event at The Free Word Centre in central London.

Wilson was born and raised in British Columbia before coming to England as the recipient of the inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship for the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, where he is now a PhD candidate in Creative and Critical Writing.

Jon McGregor was runner-up for the second year in a row with his story 'Wires', receiving a cheque for £3,000. He is the author of the critically acclaimed novels If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, So Many Ways To Begin and Even The Dogs, which between them have won the Somerset Maugham Award and been twice longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The other shortlisted authors, M J Hyland, Alison MacLeod and K J Orr, each received £500.

Wilson's winning story is a classic North American road trip with a difference; a muscular and tense tale of two old school buddies trying to win the affections of a free-spirited girl as they drive across the other-worldly landscape of Alberta. The judges described the story as 'perfectly constructed' and 'note perfect'.

Sue MacGregor, Chair of Judges:

The judges were unanimous in their choice of David Wilson's story as the winner: a beautifully crafted and involving tale set in the Canadian Rockies. His offbeat, slightly wayward quartet of characters stays with you long after your first reading. The plot is tightly controlled and builds the tension perfectly. A rattling good read.

Judge Joe Dunthorne on the winner:



  • 'Rag Love'

    by M J Hyland
  • 'The Heart of Dennis Noble'

    by Alison Macleod
  • 'Wires'

    by Jon McGregor
  • 'The Human Circadian Pacemaker'

    by K J Orr

From the hard shoulder of the motorway, to an operating theatre, to the forests of Alberta, the five shortlisted stories are drawn from the extremes of human experience; they explore the complex workings of the human heart - in every sense - and the moments and events that can alter the course of a relationship forever.


Judge Tessa Hadley on the shortlist:



Sue MacGregor, Chair of Judges, on the shortlist:


  So at last the dozens of stories we judges have pondered and discussed are down to a final five. Eventually a winner will emerge, but meanwhile we can savour this selection, and the craftsmanship which produced them. Two of them are gripping tales of suspense, one may change your mind about luxury ocean liners, and two ponder great scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century - proving that on a relatively small canvas a true artist can paint a perfect little picture.



These are the authors who have been shortlisted for this year's Award...

M J Hyland nssa

M J Hyland

M J Hyland's first novel, How the Light Gets In (2003), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Her second, Carry Me Down (2006), won the Hawthornden and Encore Prizes and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her third novel, This is How (2009), was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Prize. Her short fiction has been published in Zoetrope: All Story, BlackBook Magazine (USA), Best Australian Short Stories and elsewhere. Her non-fiction regularly features in publications such as London Review of Books, Irish Independent and the Financial Times.

She worked for seven years as a commercial lawyer, and a lecturer in criminal law, before her first novel was published. She has also worked as an assistant director in film and television, and as a cadet journalist. She is currently a lecturer in creative writing in the Centre for New Writing, at the University of Manchester.


'Rag Love' is an eerie tale set in Sydney in which a daring attempt to indulge a light-hearted fantasy leads to a dark conclusion. A magnificent cruise ship is in harbour and all one down-and-out couple want is an hour together in the top suite.


alison macleodAlison MacLeod

Alison MacLeod's short fiction has been published in a wide range of magazines including Prospect, London Magazine, The Sunday Times online magazine, in numerous anthologies and broadcast on the BBC. A story from her most recent book, Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction, 'Dirty Weekend', was awarded the Society of Authors' Olive Cook Prize for Short Fiction. She is also the author of two novels, The Changeling (1996) and The Wave Theory of Angels (2005), and has won Writers' Awards from both Arts Council England and the Canada Council for the Arts. 


Her next novel will be published by Penguin in September 2012 and is set in Brighton, where she now lives and lectures on a part-time basis at the University of Chichester. She is currently completing her second short story collection.


'The Heart of Denis Noble' is drawn from real life; it shows us Denis Noble, the pioneering systems biologist, awaiting an operation on his heart - the organ that he has spent his whole adult life studying - and looking back to consider the relationship between the heart of love and the heart of science.  


Jon McGregorJon McGregor

Jon McGregor was born in 1976 and graduated from the University of Bradford with a BSc in Media Technology. Since 1999 he has built a career as a novelist and short story writer, publishing If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002), So Many Ways To Begin (2006) and Even The Dogs (2010), which between them have won the Somerset Maugham Award and been twice longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has also written for the Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The New York Times and Granta magazine.


His story collection This Isn't The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, will be published in February 2012. He was a co-founder of the Nottingham Writers' Studio, and has been a writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, the Santa Maddalena Foundation, and, through the First Story organisation, Ellis Guilford School in Nottingham. In July 2011 he was made an honorary Doctor of Letters at the University of Nottingham. In 2010 Jon was runner-up in this Award with his story 'If It Keeps On Raining'


'Wires' is a funny but disconcerting story with an underbelly showing how a bizarre life-or-death moment can force you to re-examine everything. A young woman's life flashes before her eyes as an unusual object flies towards her windscreen on the motorway.


KJ OrrK J Orr

K J Orr was born in London. As an undergraduate, she won the Dan Hemingway Prize at the University of St Andrews for a short story later published in the collection Doris Lumsden's Heart-Shaped Bed & Other Stories (2004). Her work has also appeared in the anthology Cheque Enclosed (2007) and the Bridport Prize Collection 2010. She has won awards for both short fiction and plays, and been shortlisted for the London Writers' Prize, the Asham Award and the Bridport Prize.


She is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and in 2010 won Arts and Humanities Research Council funding for a collection of short stories, as part of a PhD on the form at the University of Chichester. She divides her time between London and Chichester.


'The Human Circadian Pacemaker' reveals the hidden, domestic story behind the fireworks and glamour of space travel. As an astronaut attempts to re-adjust to life on earth, how will his wife cope and can their relationship ever return to its old rhythm?  


DW WilsonD W Wilson

D W Wilson's first book, a collection of short stories titled Once You Break a Knuckle, is published this autumn by Penguin Canada, to be followed next year by a novel, Ballistics.  His fiction and essays have appeared in literary journals across Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In 2008, he won the silver award for fiction at the Canadian National Magazine Awards, and this year he has been shortlisted for the Writers' Trust of Canada Journey Prize - the most prestigious award for emerging authors in Canada. 


He studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was the recipient of the MA programme's inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship.


'The Dead Roads' is a classic North American road trip story with a difference. Three already seems like company as two old school buddies try to win the affections of a free-spirited girl; when a mysterious man enters the picture, things become even tenser.


About the BBC National Short Story Award 2011

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'

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