2012 Prizewinners

Commenting on the winners, chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Bernardine Evaristo said, “The five regional winning stories this year rose to the top of a pool of 2200 entries and are the result of vigorous debate among the judges. We discussed not only the quality of the storytelling but the context of their respective literary cultures including notions of stereotypes and ‘the prize-winning formula’. Our final choices encompass range, depth, beauty, unpredictability and re-readability. These short stories will take you on a journey that spans cultures, eras, generations, and diverse ways of being and seeing. To read them is to inhabit other worlds.”

The overall winner of the prize was announced at the Hay Festival, in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, on 8th June 2012.

Commonwealth Writers has partnered with Granta magazine to give regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize the opportunity to be published by Granta online during June 2012.

Click on the titles below to read the stories.

Overall Winner and Regional Winner, Pacific

Two Girls in a Boat’’

Emma Martin (New Zealand)

“’I am more grateful than you can imagine to the Commonwealth Foundation and to the judges for selecting my story. It’s incredibly exciting to see my name alongside the winners from four other continents – to think about how the five of us, knowing nothing of the others, simultaneously worked away at our stories, writing and rewriting, doubting and hoping, and now find ourselves recognised together through this prize. I can’t wait to read the other winning stories, and am proud to have mine amongst them.’”

Emma Martin grew up in Dunedin. She studied philosophy at the University of Otago, later accepting a Commonwealth Scholarship to the UK. She started writing fiction in mid-life, completing an MA in Creative Writing at the Victoria University of Wellington in 2010. Her stories and essays have since been published in literary journals and anthologies in New Zealand and the UK. She lives in Wellington with her partner and two children, and is working on a collection of short stories.

“There were so many brilliant short stories on our shortlist but Two Girls in a Boat rose to the top as it fulfilled the judges’ brief that the winning entry have linguistic flair, originality, depth and daring. The story was chosen for its gorgeous, elegant and spare writing; its nuanced handling of time, place and relationships; its daring, provocative subject matter and clear-eyed exploration of the choice of heterosexual conformity in the face of sexual mutability. Until we had decided on our shortlist, all entries were anonymous. So it is also great that this prize, I think we can claim, has discovered Emma Martin, who has not yet published a book, and brought her to an international audience. With her considerable talent we hope to see more of her work in the future.” – Bernardine Evaristo, Chair, Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Click here to watch Emma Martin’s interview.

Regional Winner, AFRICA

Morrison Okoli (1955-2010)’’

Jekwu Anyaegbuna (Nigeria)

“There was a public bed situated at the centre of a market in a remote village in Africa. The bed could kill; yet every villager, male or female, fought like a lion to lay his/her back on this bed every year. Whoever succeeded in sleeping on this famous furniture overnight became a servant in the king’s mother’s fortress.  The Commonwealth competition is this bed, and I am immensely thrilled to have won for Africa. I strongly believe this prize will provide me with the hoes and shovels to serve my motherland, Africa, affording me the strength and opportunity to plough through the thick literary farmland across the world.”

Jekwu Anyaegbuna was raised and educated in Nigeria where he qualified as a chartered accountant. He was shortlisted by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the Farafina Trust International Creative Writers’ Programme. A graduate of the University of Ilorin, he writes both poetry and prose; and his work has been widely published, or will be published, in literary journals in the United States and the UK including Ambit, Orbis, Word Riot, Other Poetry, The Journal, Bow-Wow Shop, Eclectica Magazine, Atticus Review, Yuan Yang Journal, The Talon Magazine, Dark Lady Poetry, Asinine Poetry, Vox Poetica, Breadcrumb Scabs, Haggard and Halloo, New Black Magazine, Pattaya Poetry Review, Dcomp Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, Obsession, Black Heart Magazine and many other places. He hates mosquitoes and sometimes wonders whether they are domestic or wild animals. Jekwu lives, works and writes in Lagos where he has completed a manuscript of short stories. He is currently at work on his first novel.  

Click here to read Jekwu’s interview.

Regional Winner, ASIA

Radio Story’’

Anushka Jasraj (India)

“Trying to accurately describe what winning this prize means to me would probably take as long as it took to write the story itself. This is an incredible and overwhelming honour – as a writer, I couldn’t ask for more than to have someone read and appreciate my work.”

Anushka writes short stories that often explore questions of identity and inheritance. Her influences include Wong Kar Wai and Anna Akhmatova. She has a bachelor’s degree in film production from NYU, and has worked on various independent films. She currently lives in Bombay, and is working on a novella based on an apocryphal story about Franz Kafka.

Regional Winner, CARIBBEAN

The Dolphin Catcher’’

Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

“I’m thrilled to win the regional short story prize. It’s an honour to be in the company of such wonderful writers and I’m grateful to the Commonwealth Foundation for continuing to encourage and showcase emerging and established writers from all over the world.”

Diana McCaulay is a Jamaican writer and environmental activist; she is the founder and CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust.  She was six when her first writing was published – and reviewed in the West Indian Review.  At seven, she wrote a newspaper series for Children’s Own, published by the Gleaner.  When she was sixteen, one of her stories won third place in The Writer’s short story competition.  Marriage, motherhood and life then intervened and Diana wrote nothing for publication for twenty years. In 1991, her story, ‘The Mango, the Ackee and the Breadfruit’, won the Lifestyle Short Story competition and in 1994, she began writing a popular opinion column for the Gleaner. Her short fiction has been published by The Caribbean Writer and in 2008, her story, ‘The Blue Tarpaulin’, won The David Hough Literary Prize awarded by editorial board of The Caribbean Writer.  After two decades of writing books in secret, her first novel, Dog-Heart won a Gold Medal in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s National Creative Writing Competition in 2008 and was published by Peepal Tree Press in March 2010.    Her second novel, Huracan, will also be published by Peepal Tree Press in July 2012.  

Regional Winner, CANADE & EUROPE

The Ghost Marriage’’

Andrea Mullaney (Scotland)

“I love to write. But even more than that, I love to read. Stories, novels, newspapers, non-fiction books: anything that gives me a glimpse of another life, another world. In a book about something else entirely, I read a single sentence about the Chinese tradition of the ghost marriage and almost at once came the story of a woman who marries a dead man and then falls in love with him. I couldn’t leave those characters there, so I have been developing the idea into a novel, with many changes and much fascinating research. Winning this prize means a great deal to me, especially as it’s from an organisation which celebrates diversity and coming together across cultures – one of the themes of my story. It’s a fantastic encouragement to keep going and I hope it will help me bring the book to publication for everyone to read.”

Andrea Mullaney is a journalist, university tutor and writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. She has been the TV Critic of The Scotsman newspaper since 2006 and has written for many other publications, but has only been brave enough to show her fiction to anyone quite recently. She has had stories published in Gutter, Algebra (Tramway Theatre journal), Fractured West and A Thousand Cranes (anthology in aid of the Red Cross’ Japanese tsunami appeal), among others, and has performed her work in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paris. Since writing The Ghost Marriage, she has been working on developing it into a novel, which has involved much fascinating research into 19th Century Shanghai, sea voyages and the Opium Wars.