Entertainment

BBC unveils winner of National Short Story Award Story

The winning writer receives £15,000 and the four shortlisted writers are given £600 each.
The winning writer receives £15,000 and the four shortlisted writers are given £600 each.

Saba Sams has won the BBC National Short Story Award with Blue 4eva, taken from her debut collection Send Nudes.

The Brighton-born writer, 26, was praised by the judges for her “utter truthfulness” and they were particularly enamoured by the “veracity” of her writing.

Blue 4eva tells the story of a 12-year-old navigating the powerplay of a newly-blended family’s summer holiday and is an exploration of sexual identity, agency, power and class.

Saba Sams
Saba Sams (Sophie Davison/PA)

It was inspired by Sams’ memories of her own childhood holidays and was first drafted when she was a 19-year-old creative writing student at the University of Manchester.

Sams said: “It’s very special to have Blue 4eva – a story I’ve been working on, in one way or another, since I was 19 – be given this kind of esteem.

“I first wrote Blue 4eva in rainy Manchester when I was a student, though it was very different then.

“The story was very short, more of a vignette, but I had fun with it. When I was writing Send Nudes a few years later, I returned to the story and started working on it again.

“I’m always thinking about what it looks like to be a young woman: about bodies and power, about friendships and family, about the ways we’re constantly looking to break free.

BBC National Short Story Award
BBC National Short Story Award 2022 (BBC/PA)

“Blue 4eva engages with sexuality too, particularly with queerness, in a subtle way that I found interesting to write.”

This year’s judging panel was chaired by broadcaster Elizabeth Day, who said: “When I first read Blue 4eva, I was engrossed by its transportive atmosphere, its masterful telling of complex family dynamics and the sense of building tension.

“Saba Sams is adept at wrongfooting our assumptions, creating a set of unique, multi-dimensional characters with rich internal lives, and viewing it all through the lens of a 12-year-old girl.

“It’s such an achievement to be able to do that in under 8,000 words. I loved this story from the moment I read it and can’t stop thinking about it even now.

“I’m delighted we found such a worthy winner.”

Elena Barham
Elena Barham, winner of BBC’s Young Writers’ Award (BBC/PA)

Sams defeated composer, performer and writer Kerry Andrew; Professor of Writing at Lancaster University and Betty Trask Award winning novelist Jenn Ashworth; thriller writer Anna Bailey and short story writer and poet, Vanessa Onwuemezi.

She receives £15,000 following her win of the BBC National Short Story with Cambridge University. The four shortlisted writers were given £600 each.

The 2021 winner of the accolade was Lucy Caldwell, who won for All The People Were Mean And Bad.

On Tuesday, the BBC also announced that Elena Barham, from Barnsley, had won the BBC Young Writers’ Award Story with Cambridge University for her story Little Acorns, which she wrote when she was 16.