Preston author shortlisted for BBC short story award

Jenn Ashworth (c) Martin Figura

Preston author Jenn Ashworth has been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award.


Jenn is a Betty Trask Award winner and was nominated for her story “Flat 19”.

Jenn Ashworth is a professor of writing at Lancaster University and her story is a highly original and humorous “skewer of middle-class pretension” and an exploration of the “sometimes mind-numbing demands of a long marriage”.

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The story is told by Eve, a successful artist who is also a wife, mother and daughter. Struggling to be everything to everyone, she finds an ingenious way to solve the problem by cloning herself.

Based on the short story by Doris Lessing, ‘To Room 19’which explored the competing demands of a middle-class woman in the 1960s, and the pandemic experiences of Ashworth balancing work and homeschooling her children while her partner worked for the NHS, the story asks how much women have really changed and what makes us who we are?

The shortlist was announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row program on Thursday 15 September. The list is dominated by five of the UK’s most original and imaginative writers, heralding a ‘new vanguard of British writing’ coming from different disciplines – from music to poetry to writing policewoman.

The judges praised the shortlist for its inventiveness, exuberance and compassion, with stories inspired by the lived experience of inequality, chronic disease, sexual fluidity and the pandemic.

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The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award with the University of Cambridge 2022 is:

“And the Moon Descends on the Temple That Was” by Kerry Andrew

“Apartment 19” by Jenn Ashworth

“Long Way Ahead for a Sip of Water” by Anna Bailey

‘Green Afternoon’ by Vanessa Onwuemezi

‘Blue 4eva’ by Saba Sams

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 other shortlisted authors £600 each. The 2021 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Lucy Caldwell who won for ‘All the People Were Mean and Bad’.

The 2022 winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Tuesday 4 October 2022.

The five stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds and published in an anthology by Comma Press. Readers of this year’s stories include Olivier Award winner Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who reads “Green Afternoon”; Maxine Peake, twice BAFTA nominee for Shameless, reads “Flat 19”; Imitation Game’s Tuppence Middleton, reading ‘Blue 4eva’ and House of the Dragon actor Matthew Needham reading ‘And the moon descends on the temple that was’. Batman and Heartstopper actor Joseph Balderrama rounds out the line-up by reading “Long Way to Come for a Sip of Water.”

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Elizabeth Day, chair of the BBC National Short Story Award 2022 jury, said: “Good news says something meaningful. A great short story keeps some things hidden. The best news finds its power on the page precisely because of what the writer chooses not to say.

“Our five shortlisted stories are fine examples of this talent. Their subjects are varied – blended families, road trips across America, AI clones, post-apocalyptic love story and urban knife crime – but they are bound by a tactile caution.

“Each of these writers has taken great care to choose the brilliant details that grab our attention, inflecting their paragraphs with precision and a unique lyrical flair without ever losing sight of the pacing or purpose of the story in question. These stories represent the new avant-garde of British writing and I am convinced that the future of short stories is in good hands.

Elizabeth Day is joined on this year’s jury by novelist Ingrid Persaud, winner of the Costa First Novel Award; writer, poet and publisher, Will Harris; Booker Prize-nominated novelist and professor of creative writing, Gerard Woodward; and returning judge Di Speirs, books editor at BBC Audio.

The BBC National Short Story Award with the University of Cambridge was created to raise the profile of the short form and this year’s shortlist joins prominent alumni such as Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Rose Tremain and William Trevor. In addition to honoring the most renowned short story writers, the award has raised the profile of new writers including Ingrid Persaud, KJ Orr, Jo Lloyd, Cynan Jones and Clare Wigfall.

Dr Midge Gillies, Academic Director, Creative Writing, University of Cambridge, Institute of Continuing Education, said: “The shortlist offers the diversity of voices and themes that we expect from the BBC National Short Story Award. Hearing these stories read on air, or reading them on the page, will inspire writers and readers alike. The shortlist provides a checklist of writers to watch for the future, as each of the shortlisted authors seems destined to leave their mark in one way or another.

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