2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judges

Posted on 02/09/2019
By Commonwealth Foundation


The 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judging panel is chaired by Ghanaian writer and editor, Nii Ayikwei Parkes.

Nii is joined on the international judging panel by a judge from each of the five Commonwealth regions: Mohale Mashigo (Africa), William Phuan (Asia) Heather O’Neill (Canada and Europe), Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (the Caribbean) and Nic Low (the Pacific).

Each year the judges select five winning writers who share a total prize money of £15,000. The overall winner receives £5,000, one of the highest amounts for an international prize for unpublished short stories. Regional winners each receive £2,500. If the winning story is a translation, the translator receives additional prize money.

The 2020 Shortlist and five regional winners have been announced. This year’s overall winner will be announced during a special award ceremony which will be broadcast online on 30 June 2020. You can find out more about the ceremony’s special guests and register here to join us on 30 June.

The 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize will open for submissions on 1 September and close for submissions on 1 November 2020. Please find the entry rules and guidelines here: 2021 rules and guidelines.


CHAIR | Nii Ayikwei Parkes 

Credit: Elikem Akpalu

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian writer and editor who has won acclaim as a children’s author, poet, broadcaster and novelist. Winner of multiple international awards including Ghana’s ACRAG award, his novel Tail of the Blue Bird won France’s two major prizes for translated fiction – Prix Baudelaire and Prix Laure Bataillon – in 2014. He was the founding director of the Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing in Accra and is the founder of flipped eye publishing, a leading small press. Nii Ayikwei serves on the boards of World Literature Today and the Caine Prize, and is the current Producer of Literature and Talks at Brighton Festival.


AFRICA | Mohale Mashigo 

Mohale Mashigo is the author of the widely acclaimed and best-selling novel, The Yearning, which won the University of Johannesburg 2016 Debut Prize for South African Writing in English. Her latest offering is Intruders: a collection of (speculative fiction) short stories that explore how it feels not to belong. Mashigo is also a comic book writer and an award-winning singer, songwriter.



ASIA | William Phuan 

William Phuan is the Executive Director of the Singapore Book Council, a nonprofit dedicated to developing and promoting Singapore’s books and writers. Established in 1968, the Book Council organises literary festivals, workshops and talks, and gives out book awards. William was formerly the director of The Arts House, and Programme Director of the New York Asian American International Film Festival. He also lectures part-time on arts management.




Credit: J Artacho

CANADA AND EUROPE | Heather O’Neill 

Heather O’Neill is a novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Her work, which includes Lullabies for Little Criminals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Daydreams of Angels, has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, The Orange Prize for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize in two consecutive years, and has won CBC Canada Reads, The Paragraphe MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the Danuta Gleed Award. Her latest novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel, which was long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, was published in February 2017. Born and Raised in Montreal, O’Neill lives there today.


CARIBBEAN | Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw 

Credit: Naomi Howard

Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw was born in Trinidad and is professor of French literature and creative writing at the University of the West Indies. She has co-edited several works, including Border Crossings: A Trilingual Anthology of Caribbean Women WritersMethods in Caribbean Research: Literature, Discourse, Culture; Echoes of the Haitian Revolution 1804-2004; and Reinterpreting the Haitian Revolution and its Cultural Aftershocks. Apart from her scholarly essays and articles, she has also published creative works. Four Taxis Facing North, her first collection of short stories, was considered one of the best works of 2007 by the Caribbean Review of Books. Her first novel, Mrs. B, was short listed for ‘Best Book of Fiction’ in the Guyana Prize for Literature in 2014. Her short stories have been widely translated and anthologised.


PACIFIC | Nic Low 

Nic Low is a writer and arts organiser of Ngāi Tahu Māori and European descent, born in Christchurch and now Melbourne-based. He’s published widely on wilderness, technology, history and race, kick-started by a shortlisting in the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. His first book, Arms Race, was shortlisted for the Readings Prize and Queensland Literary Awards. Nic is also a former director of the National Young Writers Festival, curatorial adviser to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, and manager of the International Writing Program at the University of Melbourne’s Asialink Institute, devising literary collaborations such as Bookwallah, a roving festival which crossed India and Australia by train. He’s currently vice-chair of the Ngāi Tahu ki Victoria taurahere, organising culture programs for Melbourne members of his tribe, and finishing his second book, a Māori history of New Zealand’s Southern Alps told through walking journeys, out with Text Publishing next year.