Entertainment & Arts

Debut writer KJ Orr beats Hilary Mantel to short story prize

KJ Orr Image copyright Lottie Davies
Image caption Orr was first shortlisted for the BBC competition in 2011

Debut author KJ Orr has won the BBC national short story award for Disappearances, beating the likes of double Booker winner, Hilary Mantel.

The £15,000 prize was presented to London-born Orr by Woman's Hour's Dame Jenni Murray at a ceremony in London.

Author and judge Kei Miller described Disappearances as "a near perfect example of how the short story works".

The story about guilt and identity was inspired by Orr watching a solitary man in a cafe while in Argentina.

It tells the tale of a retired plastic surgeon who develops a relationship with a local waitress.

The shortlist for the competition was made up of five women.

Image copyright Ben Geoghegan
Image caption Claire-Louise Bennett, also a debut author, came second

Runner-up Claire-Louise Bennett, also a debut writer, received £3,000 in prize money for her story Morning, Noon & Night.

The other three shortlisted authors, Mantel, Lavinia Greenlaw and Tahmima Anam, each received £500.

Di Speirs, books editor at BBC Radio 4, which broadcasts the event, said: "In a year when the shortlist was supremely well balanced and the judges initially quite divided about a winner, our meeting was full of insight, debate, discussion and courtesy; by its conclusion we were all of a mind.

"KJ Orr's precision and clarity, her ability to expose a life in a line and to induce sympathy and disdain, linger long after reading the final paragraph."

Orr's debut collection of short stories, Light Box, was published in February.

Her stories have appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine, The Irish Times and The Dublin Review amongst others and she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award for the first time in 2011.

Orr studied at St. Andrews, UEA and Chichester and has published essays and reviews in Poetry Review, the TLS and the Guardian.

Previous winners of the BBC National Short Story prize include Jonathan Buckley, Julian Gough, James Lasdun, Lionel Shriver and Clare Wigfall.

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