Helen Simpson Writer authorBorn in Bristol, Helen Simpson lived in Wealdstone until she was seven and then in a suburb of Croydon, where she went to school.  First from her family to go to university, she read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford and gained a M.Litt. for her thesis on Restoration farce.

After university she lived in south London, working as a staff writer on Vogue magazine for five years before going freelance, contributing short stories (which she always regarded as her real work) and features to newspapers and magazines, and publishing two cookery books.  In 2000 she moved north of the river with her husband and two children, which at the time felt like moving abroad.

Her first short story collection, Four Bare Legs in a Bed, appeared in 1990 and since then she has published a new collection every five years; the latest, Cockfosters (2015), is the sixth.

“In novels you expand, you elaborate; you explain when, where, how things are happening; you go on and on.  You don’t need to do any of that, really, with a short story.  You can just skip all the gossipy stuff and go for the jugular.  It’s direct and intimate and it doesn’t waste time. Maybe the short story writer lacks the novelist’s courage to be boring.”


Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
2011 | PEN/O.Henry Prize for Diary of an Interesting Year
2002 | E.M.Forster Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters
2001 | Hawthornden Prize
1993 | Best of Young British Novelists, Granta
1991 | Somerset Maugham Award
1991 | Young Writer of the Year, Sunday Times