BBC National Short Story Award 2013

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

Sarah Hall wins the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 with her story ‘Mrs Fox’

Mariella Frostrup chaired the judging panel for the Award, one of the most prestigious for a single short story. The winning author, Sarah Hall, announced at a ceremony on 8 October, receives £15,000, the runner-up, Lucy Wood, £3,000 and three further shortlisted authors £500 each.

Read our interview with Sarah Hall





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Sarah Hall wins BBC National Short Story Award 2013


Sarah Hall has tonight added another accolade to her growing list by winning the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 for her story 'Mrs Fox'. Following her shortlisting for the Award back in 2010, this evening she picked up the main prize of £15,000 at the ceremony held at the Radio Theatre in the BBC's Broadcasting House in London. She was presented with her cheque by this year's Chair of Judges, journalist and arts critic Mariella Frostrup, as the news was announced live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

Lucy Wood was selected as this year's runner-up receiving £3,000 for her story 'Notes From the House Spirits', taken from her debut book, a collection of short stories entitled Diving Belles, inspired by Cornish Folklore. She has previously been longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize and has received a Somerset Maugham Award.

The other shortlisted authors, Lionel Shriver, Lisa Blower and Lavinia Greenlaw, each received £500.

Hall's winning story is a darkly erotic transformation tale in which a woman turns into a fox to her husband's confusion and dismay. Bristling with feminist undertones, it delivers an uncanny account of a sexual, childless couple who continue with an unorthodox acquaintance after the woman's metamorphosis. Inspired by the moments in life when humans return to a feral state, it examines our nature as biological beings, governed by our natural responses at key points; love, sex, pregnancy, death, conflict and survival.

Mariella Frostrup, Chair of Judges said this of Sarah's story:

'From the outset of our deliberations we were all seduced by our winning story. The poetic use of language, the dexterity and originality of the prose made Sarah Hall's 'Mrs Fox' utterly unique. Inspired by the classic literary motif of metamorphosis, this thoroughly modern interpretation asks unsettling questions about our relationships to each other and to the natural world, an environment we are increasingly alienated from but continue to be compelled by. 'Mrs Fox' is firmly rooted in reality but with its liberal dash of magical thinking transports its readers way beyond it.'

Listen to Andrea Riseborough read Sarah Hall's 'Mrs Fox'




All female shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award 2013


The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 was announced on BBC Radio 4's Front Row on 20 SeptemberFor the second time in the eight-year history of the Award, the five stories on the shortlist are all written by women, a great example of how female writers are leading the field with innovative and compelling work.


From 9/11 New York and meteorites falling from Mars to family holidays in Barmouth, a haunted Cornish house and the eerie quiet of an English wood, this year's list spans a breadth of contemporary landscapes, styles and themes.


The shortlist features well-established writers including: Lionel Shriver, Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin; Sarah Hall, one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists 2013 and an acclaimed short story writer; and Lavina Greenlaw, poet, novelist and Professor of Poetry at the University of East Anglia. There are also two newer names on the list: Lucy Wood, debut author of short story collection Diving Belles and Lisa Blower, winner of The Guardian's National Short Story Competition in 2009.


This year's shortlist is:

·         'Barmouth' by Lisa Blower

·         'We Are Watching Something Terrible Happening' by Lavinia Greenlaw

·         'Mrs Fox' by Sarah Hall

·         'Notes from the House Spirits' by Lucy Wood

·         'Prepositions' by Lionel Shriver

Healing the State of Man by Sarah Lewis was also given a special mention by this year's judges.


Mariella Frostrup, Chair of Judges commented: 


The 2013 shortlist is all female, which suggests the short story is a form much suited to the innovative brilliance of women writers. From Charlotte Perkins Gilman - author of the enormously influential The Yellow Wallpaper - onwards, many favoured short story writers are women. Now we have five new names to add to the list of skilled exponents.

'We were delighted this year to be able to zoom in on the contemporary world and to compile a shortlist that is rich in imagination and diverse in style. In each of these original tales we enter a world that is at once familiar and yet surprising, each offering a unique and often startling view of society today.


Five top UK actors, including Hattie Morahan, Claire Skinner and Andrea Riseborough, will each read one of the shortlisted stories, broadcast daily on BBC Radio 4 at 3.30pm from Monday 23 September. Each story will also be available as a free download from the day of broadcast for two weeks at After this time, the broadcasts can be purchased individually or as a collection via



An anthology - The BBC National Short Story Award 2013 - introduced by Mariella Frostrup and published by Comma Press is available at and all good bookshops, and as an e-book at

The winner of this year's Award will be announced at a ceremony held in BBC Broadcasting House's Radio Theatre on Tuesday 8 October 2013, which will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.


The BBC National Short Story Award celebrates the best of contemporary British short fiction and is one of the most prestigious for a single short story with the winning author receiving £15,000; the runner up £3,000 and the three further shortlisted authors £500 each.


Lisa BlowerLisa Blower - 'Barmouth'

Lisa on the story…

I was teaching a creative writing class - its subject - the use of childhood memories for inspiration - and I was surprised at how many of the students wrote about family holidays, in particular, the journey to a set family holiday destination. It was this notion of a journey - from home to holiday, from childhood to adulthood, from place to place, from generation to generation - that I wanted to capture in a story that had that epic expedition of Stoke-on-Trent to Barmouth at its heart.






Lavinia Greenlaw. Credit Julian AbramsLavinia Greenlaw - 'We are Watching Something Terrible Happening'

Lavinia on the story…

The background to the story is that in February 2012, I was asked to do a Fact to Fiction for Radio 4 (the instant response to that week's news) and wrote a short drama bringing together the conflict in Syria and the acquisition by the Science Museum of a meteorite from Mars. It wouldn't leave me alone and over the next year became this story.



Sarah HallSarah Hall - 'Mrs Fox'

Sarah on the story…

'Mrs Fox' is very loosely based on a 1922 novella called Lady Into Fox by David Garnett. Though it's now on my shelf, I haven't yet read the book. My version is an homage to what sounds like a very brave and odd piece of fiction indeed, if indeed lack of intimacy with the original can constitute an homage! I am fascinated by situations in which human beings are challenged and placed outside the usual codes of conduct. How do we act then? Do we become better versions, worse versions, or just different versions, of ourselves? The husband in Mrs Fox must contend with a lot, and ultimately redefine his concept of happiness. As for Mrs Fox herself - was she happier as a human, or is she in her element now?


Lionel Shriver. Credit Suki DhandaLionel Shriver - 'Prepositions'

Lionel on the story…

Coming up on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (I was in New York at the time), I was struck by a sense of disproportion.  Surely it would be seemly for the tragedy finally to take its place alongside so many others--modestly, quietly.  Why specially privilege the families of these victims over all the other families that, for whatever reason, lost loved ones prematurely?   So I personalized it--contrasting two friends, one of whom lost her husband in 9/11, the other of whom lost her husband on 9/11 (hence the title).  The husband trapped in the World Trade Center was merely unlucky; fatally burned while trying to rescue a family whose rattletrap car had caught on fire, the second husband was truly heroic.  




Lucy WoodLucy Wood - 'Notes from the House Spirits'

Lucy on the story…

'Notes from the House Spirits' was written as part of a collection of short stories based on Cornish folklore called Diving Belles. I wanted to use aspects of Cornwall's folklore as jumping off points for new stories and when I read about 'house spirits' I knew straight away that I wanted to write a story about them. In the original folklore these spirits are often only mentioned in passing, but I thought that house spirits might offer a unique (and slightly skewed) perspective on the way that we live in houses.



Sarah Lewis - 'Healing the State of Man' (Special Mention)


'Healing the State of Man' focuses on the grieving process in the aftermath of an untimely death of a man due to illness. A woman left behind with her daughter and Jewish mother-in-law thinks back on the too short time she spent with her partner before his death, and wonders how she will say goodbye.  


Sarah Lewis studied Mathematics at the University of Sussex. From this unlikely start, she is now an environmental journalist and editor, and was named London and South Environmental Journalist of the Year in 2007. She graduated from the University of East Anglia Creative Writing MA in 2011 and won the David Higham Award. She is currently finishing her first novel.


Sarah LewisSarah on the story…

I was inspired to write the story after reading a number of short stories that had a profound emotional impact on me and I wanted to replicate that in my own writing. At the time there were also quite a few people in my life who had been taken ill at a young age and it naturally followed that I picked that topic for the story.



Judging panel

The judges are:


  • Mariella Frostrup, journalist, television presenter and arts critic
  • Novelist and short story writer, Mohsin Hamid
  • Arvon tutor, novelist and short story writer, Peter Hobbs
  • Deborah Moggach, screenwriter, novelist and short story writer
  • Editor of Readings, BBC Radio, Di Speirs

The BBC National Short Story Award, managed in partnership with Booktrust, continues to serve as a reminder of the power of the short story and to celebrate a literary form that is proving ever more versatile in the twenty first century. The genre is enjoyed not just on the page, on air and increasingly on every sort of screen, but also in flash fiction events, short story festivals and slams. The short story has moved beyond the revival of recent years and is now experiencing a golden age. BBC Radio 4 is the world's leading broadcaster of short stories and a staunch and long-time supporter of the form. Short stories are broadcast every week attracting over a million listeners

About the BBC National Short Story Award 2013

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.