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Send Nudes: By the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2022

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Blue 4eva is about a 12-year old girl who is adjusting to her mother’s remarriage, and the new blended family that comes with it. It’s a story about sexuality, identity, and trying to fit in. What inspired you to write it?

A few months ago, Stella attended one of Frank’s shows. It was full of blurred, bare skinned women against a blue sky, and those translucent, dusty-looking bubbles that sunlight sometimes creates in a lens. His photographs were printed large enough to take up an entire wall on their own, and people seemed to be able to stand in front of them for hours, just staring. Stella knows her grandparents don’t have that much space in their house, or that much patience. Blue laughs. Am I going to feature in an upcoming exhibition, Franklin Royce? Franklin Royce is Frank’s public name. Stella’s never heard anyone call him that in real life before. The earthy resilience and joie de vivre of these stories make for an exhilarating debut ... Sams joins the ranks of writers such as Megan Nolan and Frances Leviston with these acute portraits of the fragile intimacies and euphoric moments snatched by a generation of women coming of age into a precarious future ... In spare, rhythmic sentences, this exhilarating collection captures the light and dark of negotiating relationships, solitude, sexuality and loss Stella almost takes another spoonful, but changes her mind. Let’s save the rest for mum and Frank. I want them to try it.It isn’t a question Stella’s been asked before. Frank’s interest in taking photographs of her only developed this holiday. I don’t mind, she says. It’s fun. The salad has green beans in it, and the water next to Stella’s plate has been poured into a pint glass. She takes a sip. At the villa, Stella sits on the veranda with the adults while Jasmine and Blue shower and get ready to go out. It’s almost like before Blue arrived: Claire leafing through a book, Frank loading a new film into his camera. He puts the previous canister carefully into his bag, and lets out a long, low whistle. In another story titled ‘Blue 4eva’, three young girls are on vacation with their parents, enjoying the freedom and fun the trip affords them. As the days progress and tensions develop and relieve in different familial settings, each girl makes a choice seemingly without realising the weight it may carry over their holiday. As with most short story collections I seem to prefer some stories to others but this one is being rounded up.

Can you offer any advice to other writers? Anything to help inspire or motivate, or to keep going when things get tough? This included stories on toxic female friendships, jealousy, abortion, sending nudes (hence the title), seduction, desire and the complex relationships to other women (eg mothers and daughters, best friends, the ex’s). How do you feel winning the BBC NSSA will shape you as a writer? Will it change your life, in any way, do you expect?

What do you think the judges admired about this story? Why does it connect with readers, do you think? Blue leans forward, catches Stella’s eye, and winks. Hey bestie, she says. You wanna split the last fig? Saba Sams has won the seventeenth BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA) with ‘Blue 4eva’, a story about sexual identity, agency, power and class, taken from her debut collection, Send Nudes.

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