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2014 Overall Winner

Jennifer Makumbi; Short Story

Jennifer MakumbiJennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from Uganda, Regional Winner (Africa Region), is the Overall Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, 2014. 

The winning story was announced in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June, 2014 by the novelist and short story writer Romesh Gunesekera.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize unearths, identifies and develops original voices from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. This year unpublished stories were entered by nearly 4,000 writers from the five Commonwealth regions. The award was presented in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June by the novelist and short story writer Romesh Gunesekera.

The judges praised Jennifer’s short story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly, for its risk- taking, grace and breadth.

The winning story is about a grieving widow who arrives at Entebbe Airport from Manchester with her husband’s coffin, but events take such a dramatic turn that she must relinquish her widowhood and fight.

“This is a dream. For Uganda, once described as a literary desert, it shows how the country’s literary landscape is changing and I am proud to be a part of it. The Commonwealth Short story Prize will help bring attention to Ugandan writing at a global level,” said Jennifer Makumbi, who lives in Manchester, UK.

Listen to a BBC World Africa podcast featuring Jennifer here.

Watch the prize announcement and Jennifer’s acceptance speech:

Watch Jennifer talking to Chair of the judging panel, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey the morning after the announcement:

The judges represent the five regions of the Commonwealth: Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and the Pacific: Doreen Baingana, (Africa), Jeet Thayil (Asia), Courttia Newland (Canada and Europe), Marlon James (Caribbean) and Michelle de Kretser (Pacific).

cw-Ellah-Allfrey-judgeEllah Wakatama Allfrey, said: The winning stories from each region boasted craft, intelligence and ambition. Choosing one overall winner felt an impossible task.  In the end, we felt that the characterisation in Jennifer Makumbi’s Let’s Tell This Story Properly, with its bereaved widow living in London and gaggle of feisty ‘women of a certain age’ disrupting a funeral, and its narrative style that draws on a powerful national heritage of dramatic story-telling, significantly expanded our understanding of the possibilities of the short story form.”   

Lucy Hannah, Programme Manager, Commonwealth Writers, said: “This year the entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize almost doubled. The popularity of the short form is growing and Commonwealth Writers is proud to promote the strongest new voices from across the Commonwealth, such as Jennifer Makumbi.”

Commonwealth Writers has an association with the London-based literary and media agency Blake Friedmann, which will work with selected writers identified through the Prize.

Juliet Pickering, agent at Blake Friedmann, said: “It has been eye-opening, inspiring and wonderful to read the range of entries from these Commonwealth Short Story writers. British publishing should always be seeking new voices from around the world, and I feel very lucky to have glimpsed a selection of some of the finest writing talent from the Commonwealth countries, and look forward to working with these writers in the future.”

Commonwealth Writers has partnered with Granta magazine to give the Overall Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize the opportunity to be published by Granta online. You can read Jennifer’s winning story here.