On the day of the ceremony on BBC Radio 4 Front Row I go behind the scenes of the BBC National Short Story Award with one of its founders and BBC Radio Books Editor Di Speirs. Find out all you need to know about the judging process in Irish Times Culture.
“Over the last few years I’ve worked with a number of literary awards and prizes, and it’s been an education. The behind-the-scenes processes have varied quite significantly. To illustrate with one example; for the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize we read the longlist of twelve books then re-read our chosen shortlist of six, for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize we didn’t read the longlist only the five collections on the shortlist, for the Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Prize I was the only judge and reader, tackling around 750 short stories.
This year I was asked to be an ambassador for the BBC National Short Story Award. I first worked with the award a few years back for an event at the London Short Story Festival, which I co-founded and programmed. Now in its 13th year, the award has become a landmark on the short story landscape in the UK and internationally. I have long been a fan of their excellent website, for podcasts and recordings of previous winners and specially commissioned short stories from the best writers in the form. On that note, a little known astonishing fact, BBC Radio 4 is the world’s biggest single commissioner of short stories, attracting audiences of over a million listeners to short fiction.
Due to its unique and powerful position, at times, questions are asked about access to the BBC’s short story feast. As I watched the twitter reaction to the news of the fifth all-female shortlist and the issues raised re its selection process, I realised there were some questions even I had about the way the award worked.
I used my role as ambassador to gain an interview with Di Speirs, founding judge of the award and BBC’s editor of books, who has gone into detail about every step of the judging process, and shares her love for the short story form.”