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2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Regional Winners

Posted on 01/06/2020
By Commonwealth Foundation

We are pleased to announce this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize regional winners!

Chair of the judges, Ghanaian writer and editor Nii Ayikwei Parkes, said ‘I don’t believe there is a perfect story; there are great stories, but no perfect stories. What is amazing is what happens when a story encounters a ready reader or listener – that moment is magic. That connection is never the same for any two people or for any two moments and that’s why I love judging competitions: I get to talk about stories with other people who love stories, but it’s completely unpredictable. We now have a list of regional winning stories that are striking for their lateral leaps, their use of language, voice and subversion – and their sheer courage. I look forward to the discussions with my fellow judges to pick an overall winner. I guarantee that it will be a story that moves people, but I don’t know which one it will be.’

Joining Nii on the 2020 judging panel are: South African writer and musician Mohale Mashigo, Executive Director of the Singapore Books Council William Phuan, Canadian author Heather O’Neill, Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Australian writer and arts organiser Nic Low.

The five regional winners’ stories will be published online by the literary magazine Granta in the run-up to the announcement of the overall winner on 30 June. You can find out more about the ceremony’s special guests and register here to join us on 30 June.

Read on to hear more from the winners.


Press contact: Ruth Killick  publicity@ruthkillick.co.uk
Commonwealth Writers contact: writers@commonwealth.int


‘When a Woman Renounces Motherhood’, Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria)

A woman and her mother bond in the face of a sexist tradition.

'I still can't wrap my head around it. You know you always dream of this moment, how you'll scream from the rooftops and rent your clothes. Then it comes by sudden and the only thing you can do is call your mother and cry over the phone about how proud your father would have been if he was alive. This means so much to me. I feel grateful, honoured, proud, and humbled, at the same time. This is one of those moments that make me look back at all the late nights and piles of rejection emails and say, "Maybe, just maybe, this writing thing is worth it."'

Innocent Chizaram Ilo is an Igbo writer from Nigeria. Their works interrogate gender, class, memory, and sexuality and have been published in literary magazines across four continents. They are a finalist of the Gerald Kraak Award, Short Story Day Africa, and Wilbur Smith Author Of Tomorrow prizes. They have also won the Africa YMCA and Oxford Festival of the Arts short story contests. Their works have been published in Fireside MagazineOverlandStrange HorizonsCosmic Roots And Eldritch ShoresCast Of WondersTranscendent 4: Best Of The Year Transgender Speculative Fiction Anthology, Short Story Day ID Anthologyand Heart Of The Matter: Gerald Kraak Award Anthology.


Read ‘When a Woman Renounces Motherhood’ on Granta now

Watch Innocent talk about their regional winning story
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‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’, Kritika Pandey (India)

This is a story of two young people trying to solve the age-old riddle of human existence: how does one love in the era of hatred and prejudice?

'For the past several years, I've been reading the winning stories of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and am invariably struck by how much they are able to accomplish within a few thousand words. It is my absolute honour to have my short story included in that list. Moreover, getting published in a magazine like Granta would make my work available to thousands of readers from around the world, which is what every writer hopes for. I chose to submit to the CSSP because it is one of those few literary awards that value the unique context of the postcolonial writer. Besides, the international judging panel always consists of stellar writers and poets. To have the opportunity to share my work with them and to know that they would read it with care is a reward in itself.'

Kritika Pandey is a Pushcart-nominated Indian writer and a final year MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a recipient of a 2020 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her works are forthcoming or have appeared in GuernicaThe CommonThe Bombay Literary MagazineRaleigh Review, and UCity Review, among others. She has won the Harvey Swados Fiction Prize, the Cara Parravani Memorial Award, and the Charles Wallace Scholarship for Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. 


Read ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ on Granta now

Watch Kritika talk about her regional winning story
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C A N A D A   A N D   E U R O P E

‘Wherever Mister Jensen Went’, Reyah Martin (United Kingdom)

‘Wherever Mr Jensen Went’ is a story which explores the power of rumour and hysteria, for better or for worse. This story challenges society, calling for change before it’s too late…

'Being shortlisted for this prestigious competition is more than I could have imagined, and I still can’t quite believe that my story has been chosen. It is an incredible feeling to know that my writing has connected with so many, and to feel validated in my craft. I’ve been writing my whole life, and this recognition has given me that vital confidence to continue pursuing a career as an author. I am now more determined than ever to carry on creating. It feels like a dream. Thank you so much.'

Born in Scotland, Reyah Martin has featured in several online publications, and was a finalist in the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2018.  She is a member of the Scottish NYAAG (National Youth Arts Advisory Group), and an undergraduate of Journalism and Creative Writing at Strathclyde University.  When she is not writing, she tutors English and Creative Writing with a focus on encouraging young people. She is currently working on her debut novel. 



Read ‘Wherever Mister Jensen Went’ on Granta now

Watch Reyah talk about her regional winning story
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‘Mafootoo’, Brian S. Heap (Jamaica)

A Jamaican woman living in England confronts a crisis late in her life. She uses the occasion to reflect on her life and her marriage.

'Participating in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize competition for 2020 has been a completely positive experience for me. The story that I submitted had been in the back of my head for almost five years, but this competition finally provided me with the opportunity, motivation and all important deadline to complete the work. Being selected as one of the twenty shortlisted writers was amazing enough, but I am truly honoured and elated to have been selected as one of the five regional winners. This competition does so much to promote writing from so many countries and cultures worldwide and in so many different languages. Long may it continue!'

Brian S. Heap is the retired Senior Lecturer, Staff Tutor in Drama and Head of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. He has worked in Drama and Education in Jamaica for over forty years. With Pamela Bowell he co-authored Planning Process Drama: Enriching Teaching and Learning (2001, 2013) and Putting Process Drama into Action (2017) as well as several conference papers and articles for refereed journals. He served as Conference Director and Convener of the Fifth International Drama in Education Research Institute (2006) in Kingston, Jamaica. He was honoured with the Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in 2002. 


Read ‘Mafootoo’ on Granta now

Watch Brian talk about his regional winning story
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‘The Art of Waving’, Andrea E. Macleod (Australia)

As a child a woman is told by her older sister not to wave to people. She reflects on how this changed her and the connections she has been both able and unable to make as a result.

'Winning the regional prize is the highlight of my writing career so far. It validates the struggle to find the right words and to be recognized by the incredible judges, for having told a story that has spoken to them, is the greatest honour. One of my favourite anthologies is a now very much loved copy of Granta, The First Twenty-One Years. Since I first purchased that anthology, I have dreamed of being published by Granta. The generosity of the Commonwealth Writers in providing this incredible platform and opportunity for new writers is beyond words. And especially at this time, as so many parts of the world are in turmoil and grief, it feels as if we will need stories more than ever to help us come to terms with what is happening. I am so thrilled for the opportunity to be part of a project that celebrates story and its capacity to help us makes sense of each other and our world.'

Andrea E. Macleod is a Brisbane writer, poet and journalist. In her journalism she is passionate about issues of equality and justiceShe is studying literature, working on a collection of short stories and a novella. Most recently her work was shortlisted for the Newcastle Short Story Award and long-listed for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize.  




Read ‘The Art of Waving’ on Granta now

Watch Andrea talk about her regional winning story
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If you would like to enter the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, it 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.


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