The Commonwealth Short Story Prize Announces Its Regional Winners

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An all-female group of five geographical regional winners are named today (May 9 ) in this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize program.

Image – iStockphoto: Stephan Walochnik

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

The Overall Prize Is Announced in July
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually to a work of unpublished short fiction between 2,000 and 5,000 words long, from the British Commonwealth.

Entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Short stories translated into English from other languages are also eligible.

In a prepared statement, author Caryl Phillips, who chairs the jury, is quoted, saying, “The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse and neglect.

“What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognize, universal emotions of pain and loss.”

Phillips is accompanied on the jury this year by:

  • Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize overall winner, representing Africa
  • Mohammed Hanif, the Booker-longlisted Pakistani writer and journalist, representing Asia
  • Karen Lord, speculative fiction writer, representing the Caribbean
  • Chris Power, UK short story writer, representing Europe and Canada
  • Courtney Sina Meredith,  a poet, playwright, fiction writer from New Zealand, representing the Pacific

Its five geographical regional winners, announced today (May 9) all are women.

2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Shortlists
  • Africa: Mbozi Haimbe, who was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia, and now lives in Norfolk, England, wins for “Madam’s Sister.” 
  • Asia: Saras Manickam is a Malaysian freelance writer, language and creative writing teacher, and she wins for her story “My Mother Pattu.” 
  • Canada and Europe: Constantia Soteriou, a Cypriot, wins for her story “Death Customs.” 
  • Caribbean: Alexia Tolas, from the Bahamas, wins for “Granma’s Porch.” 
  • Pacific: New Zealand’s Harley Hern wins for “Screaming.”

The program is run by Commonwealth Writers, a program of the Commonwealth Foundation, which describes itself as “the Commonwealth’s agency for civil society” which “seeks to ensure that policy and government institutions are more effective contributors to development through the influence of civic voices.”

Regional winners receive £2,500 (US$3,253) and the overall winner receives £5,000 (US$6,506).

All shortlisted stories are to be published in the online magazine of Commonwealth Writers, Adda.

The winning writings of these five regional winners are to be published online by the literary magazine Granta.

In another prepared comment, Vijay Krishnarayan, director-general of the Commonwealth Foundation, is quoted, saying, “This year’s regional winners demonstrate the richness of new writing and it is striking that they are all women.

“In a world where men still dominate the literary landscape you can see the value of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in bringing less heard experiences to the fore. The stories touch on the gamut of human emotions and speak to each of us. Not only is this the world’s most global prize, it’s the world’s most relevant prize.”

The overall winner is to be named in Québec City on July 9.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and literature awards programs is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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