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BBC Radio 4 - Opening Lines

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Gemma Jenkins | 13:26 UK time, Thursday, 3 November 2011

We're writing this as the first short stories for the new series of Opening Lines start to land on our desk.

About to enter its 12th year, the series showcases new and emerging writers, sourced directly from the hundreds of unsolicited submissions the team receives each year.

From this pool we select three stories to be read by actors and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. We're excited that this year we are launching a special Opening Lines webpage and we will be publishing the transcripts of the six strongest stories on it. This gives us the chance to profile those stories which perhaps aren't best suited to being read out loud but are nevertheless fantastic examples of the genre.

There's always a sense of anticipation when we begin the reading process. There are a team of ten readers and we particularly enjoy getting together to champion our favourites.

It's always nice in the covering letter when writers give us a little bit of background info to the genesis of their story. In the past we've broadcast published stories, stories written specifically for Opening Lines and on more than one occasion a story which turns out to be the very first time a writer has put pen to paper. The only strict rule is that a writer must be new to radio.

We're on the look out for those writers with an original voice who perhaps explore familiar territory but with a subtle twist which makes you feel like you are reading about it for the first time. Strong stories and intriguing central characters always go down well - no surprises there!

We often get asked questions about subject-matter but we really don't want to tell you what to write - your story can be about anything, just remember that the slot goes out in the afternoon so there's a strong chance that children will be listening.

We can't recommend enough that you listen to the Radio 4 Afternoon Reading short story slot as this is the best way of finding out what works well being read out loud.

We look forward to receiving your work.

Gemma Jenkins is the producer of BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines programme.

Opening Lines is now open to unsolicited submissions of short stories from writers new to radio for its new series. Find out more about how you can submit on the opportunities page.


  • Comment number 1.

    On the submission details it says to put your name and address on the script itself.

    Does this mean my name and address details should go on the front page of the script, or does it mean my name and address information should be put on as a footer on every page of the script. I'm almost certain it will mean on the front page but wanted to check.


  • Comment number 2.

    Hi there,
    Just wondering the reading is going for the Opening Lines submissions. Will you be notifying writers to let them know how they've got on?
    Lullahbell :-)

  • Comment number 3.

    Any news on the chosen few yet?

  • Comment number 4.

    I still havent heard anything from Opening lines. We were told we would all be responeded to by March. is anyone else still waiting?

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes, I'm still waiting.

  • Comment number 6.

    yes its a bit poor treatment. I cant get any answer about it from the beeb in any form . I sent in two complaints but no one has answered me. I know others have heard back so whats happened to ours?
    Gemma J if you are there can you reply?

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Margareths,
    Have people heard back? Have they had feedback, been shortlisted or not made it? I haven't heard anything either, just be good to know they even received it! :)

  • Comment number 8.

    Sadly I have no idea and I cant get any response from anyone. They should not promise to contact us all if they have no intention of doing so. its the waiting and yes just to know that they recieved it would put it to bed a bit. Maybe if we all complained someone would answer ? Let you know if I ever do hear anything! Does Gemma Jenkins exist in fact there seems to be no way of contacting her.

  • Comment number 9.

    Good news
    I have recieved a reply and I have been put on the longlist ! G Jenkins has said that they had many more entries than expected so it has taken more time than expected. they have concentrated on advising those they def didnt consider braodcasting first. Therefore anyone who has not heard yet should still be in with a chance !

  • Comment number 10.

    Ooooh lovely news Margaret, well done, you must be really pleased :)

  • Comment number 11.

    I am excited beyond belief even if I dont get any further its something!! Hope you get an envelope too. let me know?

  • Comment number 12.

    Rejected :( Was quite excited as I hadn't heard anything, but letter dropped through box this morning with blandly worded no thank you... well, on with the next! Glad you got good news :)

  • Comment number 13.

    Im sorry Lullahbell dont despair even Rowling was rejected a few times and look how succesful she is! you will find the right market for your work I'm sure x

  • Comment number 14.

    Has anyone heard anything yet? My letter said I could expect some more news towards the end of May, but two months from when I received it would make that, the end of June.I have no nails left, am now chewing on knuckle.

  • Comment number 15.

    My letter said end of May as well, and the two month thing which didn't quite tally. I guess the longer we don't hear the longer we can hope! I know what you mean about the nails!

  • Comment number 16.

    I understand your anticipation. I don't know if this is useful but I generally forget about my submissions and focus on what I'm doing rather than what I've done. I think it can be easy to lose momentum if you put all your eggs in one basket. I know it's difficult, especially when you feel you are so close yet so far! I find that starting a new piece is the best way, so that if you don't get shortlisted you already have another project, making sure each story is better than the last. And if you're actively writing, at least you can't chew your nails.

    Also, whilst not a good idea to dwell, it can be really helpful to revisit a story from a distance, and to ask questions: would a little rewriting have tightened the pace? Is my narrative clear? Are my characters' journeys compelling? Is the writing alive and distinctive? Is the opening unputdownable, the ending rushed/too ambiguous? Does one paragraph spring organically from the previous one?

    Good luck with the longlist.

  • Comment number 17.

    Very wise words indeed not Stoppard, but having already dissected every sentence of my entry and found it wanting, I thought it best to leave it in the lap of the Gods and retain a shred of self confidence just in case I should get lucky.
    Silhouette 12, its good to know I'm not the only one pacing the floor.Good luck with your entry x

  • Comment number 18.

    Its been a long wait indeed I try and forget about it but the expectation of news keeps niggling away in the background. Lets hope they come to some decision soon

  • Comment number 19.

    Didnt make it. My entry is a favourite, so I would like to develop it further. In the meantime I will crawl away, lick my wounds and count myself very fortunate to have shared the stage, albeit briefly with such accomplished folk. Congratulation to those who made it, To the rest, I empathise, and I'll probably be back next year to give it another bash.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ah neither did I. However we did well to get so far I think. x

  • Comment number 21.

    Neither did I. I was thrilled to make the longlist, and feel disappointed mainly because of all the energy I used wondering if I might make it to the shortlist. We all have to keep going and not give up. I suppose the more competitions you enter, the more resilient you get, well that's what I tell myself anyway - I am not totally sure if that is true. But definitely going to keep busy with projects now and not sit around wondering about whether I have won any competitions - this will be a challenge for me.

  • Comment number 22.

    I didn't make it either. I pulled a pure white envelope out of my letterbox this morning - it looked exciting - my name appearing under the letters BBC. 'We enjoyed reading your submission very much. It's both an accomplished and compelling piece of writing and the ideas behind it are impressive.However, I'm afraid that, after much deliberation, it has not made it...' I polished and polished my story before submission - but guess what? I found a mistake this morning, in the first paragraph- the worst place it could be. Where had it been hiding? I could kick myself.
    I hope we will be informed when those who were successful are having their stories broadcast. Congratulations to you all. VERY well done indeed! xx


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