In the seventh instalment of our Creative Personalities series, we pay a visit to author Saba Sams at the home she shares with her young family in London.
Saba has just scooped up the BBC National Short Story Award, taken from her debut collection of short stories, Send Nudes. Judges called her winning story, Blue 4eva, a ‘masterful telling of complex family dynamics’. Elizabeth Day, chair of the judges, went on to say, ‘I loved this story from the moment I read it and can’t stop thinking about it even now’. Written when Saba was a 19-year-old creative writing student, Blue 4eva tells the story of a blended family’s holiday on a Balearic island.
Making waves with her instinctive storytelling, she deftly weaves complex character dynamics into compelling narratives about girls and young women. Her characters and stories are utterly absorbing. Saba, now 26-years-old, is busy working on a new creative writing project as well as raising a toddler and new baby with her partner.
On the day we popped in, we drank tea in the garden, and spoke about writing from bed, reading her work aloud, and how she writes shocking scenes to keep herself entertained.
How did you get into writing?
We did a fiction module in my A Level English Literature class. I’d always loved reading but had never considered I might be able to write. It seemed like an impossible thing.
What inspired you to write Send Nudes?
It really happened by accident. I had about half the stories before I realised that I was writing a collection. Before that I was just writing to write. All my stories have a cast of complex, contradictory young women, and it was exploring characters like them which inspired me from there.
Where are your favourite spots to write?
I used to love cafés or parks – anywhere loud and bustling – but I had a baby three months ago, so these days I mostly write from my bed or the sofa. Sometimes I read aloud to him, to see how the scenes are flowing.
Send Nudes consists of 10 short stories - Do you have a favourite? Or one that you feel particularly close with?
I think Tinderloin, the first story, is my favourite. It was shortlisted for The White Review prize back in 2019, and though it’s silly to let prizes change your relationship with your work, that was the first moment I thought that I could be onto something.
Is there a character from Send Nudes that you love or resonate with?
All of them! I spent such a long time with them before the book came out that they started to feel very real to me. Some of them walk around in my head even now.
You have just won the BBC National Short Story award ...What do you think the judges and readers connect with in particular?
Blue 4eva is a human story, as its heart, which seemed to be a theme with this year’s shortlist. Even though so many of the characters in Blue 4eva have this hard shell of an ego that they put up for other people, the story is about revealing the cracks.
Your work has been described as raw and gut punching, does this come to you naturally?
I get bored a lot when I’m writing, and sick of my own voice. I think that’s the reason I often lean into shocking scenes: to keep myself entertained.
Any words of wisdom for other writers?
I think it goes back to my previous answer. Please yourself with your work, and worry about what other people think later.
Explore Saba's Autumn Winter Edit