Twenty-one outstanding stories have been selected by an international judging panel out of almost 6000 entries from 49 Commonwealth countries. This was a record number of submissions, an increase of almost 50% from 2016. Now in its sixth year the Prize is for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English.
Chair of the judges, novelist Kamila Shamsie, said of this year’s shortlist:
“The extraordinary ability of the short story to plunge you into places, perspectives and emotions and inhabit them fully in the space of only a few pages is on dazzling display in this shortlist. The judges weren’t looking for particular themes or styles, but rather for stories that live and breathe. That they do so with such an impressive range of subject matter and tone has been a particular pleasure of re-reading the shortlisted stories. The geographic spread of the entries is, of course, in good part responsible for this range – all credit to Commonwealth Writers for structuring this prize so that its shortlists never seem parochial. ”
The Prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2017 judges are Zukiswa Wanner (Africa), Mahesh Rao (Asia), Jacqueline Baker (Canada and Europe), Jacob Ross (Caribbean) and Vilsoni Hereniko (Pacific).
An Enquiry into Morality, Tom Vowler (United Kingdom)
Tom Vowler is an award-winning novelist and short story writer living in south west England. His debut story collection, The Method, won the Scott Prize in 2010 and the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize in 2011, while his novel What Lies Within received critical acclaim. He is editor of the literary journal Short Fiction and an associate lecturer in creative writing at Plymouth University. His second novel, That Dark Remembered Day, was published in 2014. Represented by the Ed Victor Literary Agency, Tom’s second collection of stories, Dazzling the Gods, is forthcoming in 2017. Find out more here.
By Way of a Life Plot, Kelechi Njoku (Nigeria)
Kelechi Njoku is a former radio broadcaster, now an editor and ghost-writer. He was the West Africa Regional Prize winner of the 2014 Writivism Short Story Competition; he was shortlisted in Africa Book Club’s Short Reads (2014) and Naija Stories’ Best Short (2013), and he has also contributed fiction to the Kalahari Review, Nigerians Talk LitMag, Open Road Review, and Aerodrome. He lives in Lagos and Abuja.
Close to Home, Jinny Koh (Singapore)
Jinny Koh is the author of The Gods Will Hear Us Eventually (Ethos Books, forthcoming 2018), and her stories and essays have appeared in Kyoto Journal, Columbia Journal, Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume 2 (Epigram Books), Litro, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, among others. She received her Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California, where she was the Fiction Editor for The Southern California Review.
Cursing Mrs. Murphy, Roland Watson-Grant (Jamaica)
Roland Watson-Grant is a Jamaican advertising Creative Director who was a winner in the Lightship International Literary Prizes in Hull, England, in 2011. A London publisher from the audience thought his short story could become a full-length novel. Sketcher was published by Alma Books in 2013 to critical acclaim and was shortlisted for an Amazon Rising Star Award. The sequel: Skid, followed in 2014. Sketcher has been translated into Spanish and Turkish and reviewed by, or included on reading lists in The Times, GQ and others.
Drawing Lessons, Anushka Jasraj (India)
Anushka Jasraj is a fiction writer from Mumbai, India. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Women’s and Gender studies at the University of Texas-Austin, where she is writing a thesis project on Emily Dickinson. She was the Regional Winner for Asia, 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Echolocation, Sarah Jackson (United Kingdom)
Sarah Jackson is a poet and academic living in Nottingham, UK. Her poetry collection Pelt (Bloodaxe, 2012) won the Seamus Heaney Prize and was the readers’ nomination for the Guardian First Book Award. She is a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker and Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University.
Gauloises Blue, Ruth Lacey (Australia)
But Zoë didn’t want those things. She didn’t want suede patchwork hot pants like the other girls or white knee-high vinyl boots and boob tubes. At a very early age, she understood the words Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint-Laurent, and she only wanted things they made.
Ruth Lacey grew up in Sydney, earned her Arts-Law degree from the University of Melbourne, and an MPhil in Creative Writing from Glamorgan University, South Wales. Her stories appear or are forthcoming in Fish Anthology 2017, Litro Magazine, Carve and Overland, among others. Ruth currently lives in a small kibbutz in northern Israel. She is a volunteer editor with Kiva.org, and is working on a collection of her short fiction.
Gypsy in the Moonlight, Caroline Gill (Canada)
Caroline Gill is a British-born aspiring author. The daughter of Vincentian emigrants, she and her family moved to Toronto in the 1970s. A love of words sparked a public relations career. She is currently working on her debut novel. Caroline holds Creative Writing Certificates from the University of Toronto and Humber School for Writers. She received the 2015 Marina Nemet Award and was published in the top three of the 2015 Penguin Random House Canada Student Award for Fiction.
Harbour, Chloe Wilson (Australia)
‘Stop it, Tilly.’
She had bought a book called ‘What Snake Am I?’ and had been reading out excerpts for the entire journey. We needed books where we were going; no devices were allowed. The book showed, in loving glossy detail, the snakes which we might encounter: Taipan, Black Headed Python, King Brown.
Chloe Wilson is the author of two poetry collections, The Mermaid Problem and Not Fox Nor Axe, which was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. She was joint winner of the 2016 Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize, and has been awarded the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award and the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Hot Pot, Jasmine Sealy (Canada)
Jasmine Sealy is a Barbadian-Canadian writer of short fiction. In 2014 she was shortlisted for the CBC Quebec Writing Competition. She has been previously published in Salut King Kong: New English Writing from Quebec (2014) and the Emerge Anthology (2016). She lives in Vancouver and is a graduate of the The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University.
Immunity, Damon Chua (Singapore)
We would never have met but for the recruit known to everyone as Measles Boy. The location was Tekong, that swampy mosquito-infested isle off the Singapore mainland, and we were undergoing our three-month Basic Military Training.
Measles Boy, according to reports that would come to light later, contracted the disease prior to enlistment. But he showed signs only on arrival at the camp. It was too late. Other recruits had been exposed during the critical incubation period.
Damon Chua is a writer, playwright and filmmaker. Born and raised in Singapore, he now calls New York home. His short story ‘Mango’ was included in Silverfish Book’s Twenty-Two New Asian Short Stories, published in 2016. ‘Saiful and the Pink Edward VII’ was part of the Singapore Noir anthology, published by Akashic Books. Other stories have been published by Nordland Publishing, Tall Tale Press, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. Find out more about Damon here.
Nagmaal, Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)
Diane Awerbuck is a writer, reviewer and teacher, based in Cape Town. Her short stories are collected in Cabin Fever, and her latest highbrow-horror novel is Home Remedies. She is currently co-writing a frontier-fiction series with Alex Latimer, under the pen name Frank Owen. South is out now and North is coming soon: southvsnorth.com. Diane’s poetry and interviews can be found here.
Photo: Justin Youens
Numb, Myfanwy McDonald (Australia)
At the counter, a woman wearing large, thick-lensed glasses flicks through a pile of envelopes packed tightly in a box. “Yes?” she says, without looking up.
“I need a passport photo,” I say.
“Well you’ll have to wait,” she sighs, nodding at a chair in the corner. I look at myself in the mirror behind her. That face is not mine.
Myfanwy McDonald writes fiction. She lives in Melbourne, on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people. Her stories have been published in The Big Issue, Going Down Swinging and the Boston-based zine Infinite Scroll. In 2015 she was a resident at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland. She is currently writing a novel about a series of unusual events on a ship travelling to Australia in the mid nineteenth-century.
Shopping, Jon Lewis-Katz (Trinidad and Tobago)
Jon Lewis-Katz lives in the Bronx, New York. His writing has appeared in publications such as Fiction, New Walk, and the Trinidad Guardian. He has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Charles Pick Fellowship from the University of East Anglia. He teaches writing at CUNY and is working on a collection of short stories about West Indians and West Indian-Americans in New York City.
Swimmer of Yangtze, Yiming Ma (Canada)
Yiming Ma is a Chinese-Canadian writer at Stanford University. Previously, he lived in London where he helped set up schools for low-income children throughout Africa and Southeast Asia. His writing has appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review, Huffington Post and Ricepaper Magazine, and has been shortlisted by literary journals such as Glimmer Train and Geist. His story ‘Love | Ramen’ was named a Finalist for the 2016 Penguin Random House Canada Student Award for Fiction.
The Brief, Insignificant History of Peter Abraham Stanhope, Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)
Mary Rokonadravu is based in Suva, Fiji. She has been writing since she was a child and believes in the transformative powers of stories and storytelling at personal, community, and national levels. Mary has run a seven-prison writing programme and edited the Pacific’s first anthology of writing from prisons. She won the 2015 Regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She has been published in Granta and has two short stories coming out in an anthology by Penguin Random House in 2017.
The Death of Margaret Roe, Nat Newman (Australia)
Nat Newman is an Australian freelance writer, journalist and lover of beer. She enjoys writing about science, food security and public health. Her short fiction has appeared in several journals, and she has just completed her first full-length manuscript. Nat’s love of travel has seen her call numerous countries home, including China, New Zealand, the UK and, most recently, Croatia. She can often be found writing in a pub.
The Dying Wish, Caroline Mackenzie (Trinidad and Tobago)
Caroline Mackenzie is a Trinidadian writer whose short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines around the world. A former national scholar, she speaks four languages and holds a Masters in technical translation from Imperial College London. She presently works as a freelance medical and legal translator in Trinidad, where she lives with her husband Stephen and their menagerie of pets.
The Naming of Moths, Tracy Fells (United Kingdom)
Sofia leans closer to hear the old lady, her long black hair falling against Miss Bethan’s nightdress. A noise scratches from inside the pleated shade of the bedside lamp, where a moth has become trapped. She cups it quickly within her palms, ignoring the heat of the bulb.
‘Let me see,’ Adam calls out. He has been sitting at his mother’s bedside since midday, never once leaving her. His eyes shine. He wants to name the moth.
Tracy Fells lives close to the South Downs in England. After a career in Clinical Research she now writes full-time, embracing her love of magical realism and folk lore. Her short stories have been widely published and shortlisted for competitions such as Fish, Willesden Herald and the Brighton Prize. Having graduated from Chichester University with an MA in Creative Writing she is seeking publication of her debut novel and short story collection.
The Sweet Sop, Ingrid Persaud (Trinidad and Tobago)
Ingrid Persaud is a Trinidadian writer and artist who calls Barbados home. She came to writing and fine art having first pursued a successful legal career that included teaching and scholarship at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, in the United States and King’s College London. Her creative work has been widely exhibited and her writing featured in several magazines. Her debut novel, If I Never Went Home (2014) was highly praised.
Who Is Like God, Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria)
Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. She is a 2017 Global Arts Fund recipient, awarded by the Astraea Foundation for her video art, and her debut novel Freshwater is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic in Winter 2018.