Burnley teenager shortlisted for BBC Young Writers’ Award

A teenager from east Lancashire has been shortlisted for a BBC prize which celebrates the work of young, aspiring writers.

Nabiha Ali, from Burnley, has been shortlisted for the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2022, organized in partnership with the University of Cambridge.

Her story is called “Dandelions” and was praised by the judges for being a “quietly beautiful”, upbeat and light-hearted story.

Nabiha Ali (Picture: BBC)

The protagonist reflects on the memory of small moments spent with a man she is close to, and how novelty and meaning can be found in the simplest experiences.

Inspired by Frank O’Hara’s poem, “Having a Coke with You”, its vivid descriptions read like a “story in every sentence”; even more impressive considering that Nabiha wrote it the day before the submission deadline in place of the original story she had planned to submit.

When Nabiha is not writing, she enjoys taking leisurely walks and trying her hand at watercolor.

This summer she volunteered at the Burnley Youth Theater as she enjoys promoting art and literature.

She enjoys reading a wide variety of classics – “The Mill on The Floss” by George Eliot, Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” and Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, to name but a few.

She also enjoys reading more contemporary works from The New Yorker.

She often has ideas late at night or early in the morning that she writes down to type later, and has been shortlisted in writing competitions for her poetry.

The contest stories, while diverse in setting, character, and voice, all explore relationships, love, and intimacy in varying forms.

Whether it’s an urban gothic vampire tale that explores how far a daughter would go to support her ailing mother, or a unique genre-defying war story about a new friendship, each story captures a specific world in less than 1000 words.

Now in its eighth year, the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University 2022 is open to all writers aged 14-18 and was created to discover and inspire the next generation of writers. This is a cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Radio 1.

Katie Thistleton, chair of the jury for the 2022 BBC Young Writers’ Award, said: ‘What a year of outstanding entries.

“It was an absolute privilege to read so many bold, yet quietly intimate stories of such stunning quality.

“Relationships seem to be a real focus for our shortlisted writers this year and yet each has found a totally unique and original, sometimes subversive, way to explore the subject, whether drawing on lived experience or on topics who fascinate them.

“I am impressed and I know my fellow judges feel the same. Every writer on this list has a bright writing future ahead of them, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Kate is joined on the judging panel by Melissa Cummings-Quarry, author and co-founder of the Black Girls’ Book Club; poet Nikita Gill; YouTuber and digital creator, Joel Rochester; and Irish novelist and podcaster Caroline O’Donoghue.

Nikita Gill, judge for the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2022, said: These stories are tales so rich in images, lyrical words and with such unique plots!

“I am honored to have read these truly outstanding stories and would like to commend all of the writers for the way they have handled even the most difficult subjects with nuance and great care.

“The quality of this year’s submissions is beyond brilliant and I look forward to seeing these writers continue to thrive in their great work!”

The five shortlisted stories, each under 1,000 words, will be read by Sophie McShera (Downton Abbey), Maimuna Memon (co-founder of Wildcard Theater Company), Callie Cooke (Disney+’s Wedding Season), Abbie Andrews (Watch Dogs Legion) and Elizabeth Green (2022 ALRA South graduate).

Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson, Scholar, Lecturer and Director of Studies at the University of Cambridge said:

“The BBC Young Writers’ Award with the University of Cambridge continues to showcase the brilliant prose of emerging writers.

“Urgently relevant, thoughtful and funny, these pieces will surprise and entertain.

“A changing world needs stories more than ever: we encourage all budding writers, whatever their background, to share with us their vision of the world in which we all live.

“We encourage all readers, regardless of age, to sit down and enjoy the craft of these youngsters.”

The winner will be announced live from the awards ceremony at the BBC Broadcasting House on Radio 4’s Front Row on Tuesday 4 October.

Shortlisted stories can be read and listened to on the BBC Radio 1 website.

About Jerry Richter

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