2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize – Shortlist

Meet the 2022 shortlist! Read about the individual writers and their stories below. The regional winners have been selected from this year’s shortlist, find out more here. The overall winner will be announced at an award ceremony on 21 June 2022. RSVP your place to watch it online here.

‘Hot Chutney Mango Sauce’, Farah Ahamed (United Kingdom/Kenya)

‘Wonem Samting Kamap Long Mama?’ ‘What happened to Ma? ’, Baka Bina (translated from Tok Pisin by the author), (Papua New Guinea)

‘A Hat for Lemer’, Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St Vincent and the Grenadines)

‘Speaking in tongues’, Shelley Burne-Field (New Zealand)

‘A fast-growing refugee problem’, Sagnik Datta (India)

‘Something Happened Here’, Dera Duru (Nigeria)

‘Omolara’, J.S. Gomes (United Kingdom/Trinidad and Tobago)

‘Accidents are Prohibited’, Gitanjali Joshua (India)

‘Thandiwe’, Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Zambia)

‘The Kite’, Sophia Khan (Pakistan)

‘The No Sex Thing’, Eleanor Kirk (Australia)

‘and the earth drank deep’, Ntsika Kota (Eswatini)

‘Losing Count’, Alexandra Manglis (Cyprus)

‘The Last Diver on Earth’, Sofia Mariah Ma (Singapore)

‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’, Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

‘The Stone Bench’, David McIlwraith (Canada)

‘How to Operate the New Eco-Protect Five-in-One Climate Control Apparatus’, Charlie Muhumuza (Uganda)

‘A Landscape Memoir’, Jonathan Pizarro (Gibraltar)

‘Fault Lines’, Pritika Rao (India)

‘The Nightwatch’, Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)

‘What Men Live By’, Shagufta Sharmeen Tania (United Kingdom/Bangladesh)

‘Have Mercy’, Sharma Taylor (Jamaica)

‘No Man’s Land’, Alexia Tolas (Bahamas)

‘Lifestyle Guide for The Discerning Witch’, Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria)

‘Slake’, Sarah Walker (Australia)

‘The Scars and the Stars’, PR Woods (United Kingdom)

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. This year’s shortlist was chosen by the international judging panel from over 6700 entries from 52 Commonwealth countries, and includes, for the first time, stories from St Vincent and the Grenadines, Papua New Guinea, Gibraltar and eSwatini.

Chair of the Judges, Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar hailed a list of ‘memorable and urgent stories that captured the concerns of their respective communities’ and noted that ‘these writers achieved all this while they displayed an astute sense of the many forms of the story and its many long traditions on a continuum, from oral to scribal, from performance to contemplation [….] the result is a shortlist of stories that is aware of history, while never sacrificing story. These stories are as diverse as the world that they are drawn from and care about: they reflect a complex and afflicted planet; they answer the call of today’s multiple societal tensions by acts of reading that transform how the reader views that world.’

‘Hot Chutney Mango Sauce’, Farah Ahamed (United Kingdom/Kenya)

Five girls are homeless and live in the backyard of a shrine. The story is told in the first-person plural and from the point of view of the men who work in the kiosks in the shrine car park. The narrators use photographic evidence and a doctor’s report to corroborate their story of how the girls, after they were stopped from attending Meesha Shafi’s live music concert, started taking their lives.

‘It was only yesterday when the last girl, Maryam, took her turn with paracetamols and cheap alcohol. A few weeks earlier, Zainab, had done the same, but Laila, who had followed Hafsa, had slit her wrists. When the police took us in for questioning, we said we were ready to cooperate. We even offered to share our photographs. After all, who better than us could explain what happened to the girls?’

Farah Ahamed’s short stories and essays have been published in PloughsharesThe White Review, The Mechanics’ Institute Review and The Massachusetts Review, among others. She is working on a novel, Days without Sun, a story about friendship and survival in the backstreets of Lahore. She is the editor of the anthology Period Matters: Writing and Art on Menstruation Experiences in South Asia, published by Pan Macmillan India, 2022. Farah was born in Kenya and currently lives between London and Lahore. You can read more about her here: farahahamed.com.

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‘Wonem Samting Kamap Long Mama?’ ‘What happened to Ma? ’, Baka Bina (translated from Tok Pisin by the author), (Papua New Guinea)

Yanpela Mangi and Tupela Susa Painim Mama.

A young boy and his sisters search for their mother.

‘Mi sanap antap long maunten na singaut isi igo down long baret. Ples igo daun na mi save olsem liklik nek bilong mahn i save ron igo daun na long wonem hap mama istap, em ken harim nek bilong mi.

Nogat bekim ikam bek antap long mi.’

‘I stood at the edge of break going down to the garden and called out softly. I knew that you just needed to call softly and the call would float down the gully to where mama would be and she could discern my voice.

There were no replies back up to me.’

Em igat sikis pela ten krismas na kam long Goroka, Isten Hailans Provins long Papua Niugini.  Baka Barakove Bina, o long sotim, Baka Bina i wok olsem kuskus long Waigani Nesinol Kot long Mosbi, bikples taun bilong Papua Niugini.  Oxford University Press ibin go pas na publisim nambawan stori buk bilong em na bihain long dispela nau, em yet go het long raitim na publisim sampela moa  buk wantaim Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Born in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea, Baka Barakove Bina, or Baka Bina for short, is 60 years old and works at the Waigani National Court in the capital city, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, as a Registry Officer. His first short story was published by Oxford University Press and he has self-published a number of works on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

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‘A Hat for Lemer’, Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St Vincent and the Grenadines)

The story of a woman who is faced with a dilemma after Emancipation. When an estate owner Noah Brisbane implores her to find a missing Methodist minister new to the island, she has to decide whether to accept the task. The fee could build a house for herself and one for her parents, but can she ignore who Brisbane is and what he represents?

‘August 1858. St Vincent

Rain pelt the whole night in the mountains. It silence the animals that love to break my sleep, it join the wind and lash my tiny wooden shack where the volcano ridge break for a bit of flat. Next morning the sun battle back so fierce the storm seem like a bad dream. After such a stormy night, the ground still slippery, strange to spot someone struggling up the slope to my home as I’m coconut-oiling my hair. Caribs and runaways hunting wild pigs I could understand, but a white man? And alone so deep in the mountains?’

Cecil Browne was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but has lived in the UK since his teens. A college lecturer in Maths for over 35 years, he loves cricket, writing and music. His short story, ‘Coming Off the Long Run’ was published in the So Many Islands anthology in 2018. He has just finished writing his debut novel.

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‘Speaking in tongues’, Shelley Burne-Field (New Zealand)

A story about loss of language, about community, and about being seen and heard.

‘It was Friday night at the ‘Fish Whare’. The windows wept onto towels scrunched along aluminium sills and people crammed onto tatty red leather stools or stood with their backs an inch off the painted ply. Two tamariki careened on and off customers’ thighs like pinballs before being cuffed by mums with shadowed eyes. One of the mums muzzled her tamahine into her side while she read notices on a large board. The other mum handed a mobile phone to her tama, then sat him on a stool. She draped fingertips across the back of his neck, daring him to escape.’

Shelley Burne-Field (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Rārua) is a fiction writer and graduate of both Te Papa Tupu and Master of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland. A finalist in the 2021 Voyager Media Awards, Shelley is a regular writer for E-Tangata. Her short fiction has appeared on Radio New Zealand, the Newsroom site and in various anthologies.

https://authory.com/ShelleyBurneField

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‘A fast-growing refugee problem’, Sagnik Datta (India)

At a refugee camp in eastern Punjab during Partition, a group of Hindu and Sikh refugees rescue a new-born baby, who grows up, very quickly, and starts resembling a Muslim man.

”Bapu,’ Preet said suddenly, ‘you have so many white hairs!’
I wasn’t wearing my turban then, you see. I had washed my hair some time back, and had left it open to dry.
Preet knelt behind me, and dug into my hair.
‘There are three right here …’
A man my age wasn’t supposed to have them. But many at the camp shared my condition. The past two weeks had aged all of us.’

Sagnik Datta lives in Bangalore, India, and is working on his first novel. His works have appeared in Granta, Cha, adda and elsewhere. He was the Asia regional winner of the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

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‘Something Happened Here’, Dera Duru (Nigeria)

After spending years on the run, a man goes back home to confront his past and his brother’s ghost.

‘And, after fifteen years, you hire a taxi and leave for Aba. It isn’t your preferred destination at this time, but the city owes you. The therapist you have been talking to believes that pieces of yourself are stuck in your old house, smothered in muck and bloodstained memory. Today, you will finally get to pick them up and move on.’

Dera Duru is a Nigerian writer and laboratory scientist. An alumnus of the Purple Hibiscus Workshop, his works appear or are forthcoming in Litro UK, Make-a-Dream, and elsewhere.

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‘Omolara’, J.S. Gomes (United Kingdom/Trinidad and Tobago)

The story of a girl’s attack that causes mental and physical changes. Her innocence now lost, leading her to travel and defend herself in a changing world.

‘I have been on this earth for a long time. I was a spirited child. I had a family most would dream of despite being fractured and imperfect. I felt the loss of that kind of love when it dies with them when they age, pass on and I am left. I didn’t age in the traditional way or die, so I contain the memories of them and a couple centuries after them.’

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, J.S. Gomes has lived in the US and UK for the last 27 years. He identifies as a Trinbagonian and is proud of his country’s diverse culture of food, music and of course the creative arts.  He is a graduate of the City University of New York, studying writing and literature. A professor’s echoing words ‘to continue writing’ encouraged him to be a first-time entrant to the competition in 2022.

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‘Accidents are Prohibited’, Gitanjali Joshua (India)

A story about a young woman named Kalai who is negotiating her relationship with her grandmother in whose home she has been stuck during the lockdown. Kalai is simultaneously dealing with a pregnancy scare and reflecting on the dynamics of her relationship with her more privileged boyfriend.

‘Kalai swirled the pieces of meat around in the water and tipped the water into the sink, using her other hand as a barrier over the mouth of the steel bowl. The water drained away, tinted a faint pink from the blood. A few small pieces escaped her hand and had to be picked out of the sink, rinsed and put back into the bowl. When Kalai was a child, her Amma had shown her how to rinse beef pieces before cooking them, using a smooth deft tilt to the bowl that Kalai was yet to master.’

Born in Chennai, India, Gitanjali Joshua is a perennial student, who enjoys crossing disciplines. She is currently exploring an intersection of law, religion, and gender in her doctoral thesis. Her short stories and poetry have been published on Reading Room Co., The Pine Cone Review and the Out of Print magazine blog as well as in Recipe for a Perfect Marriage: a Collection of Short Stories. You can find some of her work here:

https://linktr.ee/GitanjaliJ

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‘Thandiwe’, Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Zambia)

A story in fragments on the meaning of family through the eyes of a hurting daughter caring for her ailing mother.

‘The rhythm of our sisterhood is to call each other frequently enough that we never become strangers,

so far, our system is flawless,

every few months, we swap gossip for a few minutes; Have you heard auntie Lu’s third husband got their maid pregnant? Perfect cousin Mwape flunked out of law school and is calling himself a pastor! Enhe, yes, 10k Insta followers. His parents are telling everyone how pastor is higher than lawyer in the eyes of the Lord anyway.

Mubanga Kalimamukwento is a Zambian lawyer and artist. Her first novel, The Mourning Bird, won the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award in 2019. She has also won the Kalemba Short Story Prize and has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Scholarship, Nobrow and Bristol Short Story Prizes. Mubanga is an alumna of the Hubert H. Humphrey (Fulbright) Fellowship and a current Hawkinson Scholar. She’s also an MFA student at Hamline University, where she received the Writer of Color Merit Scholarship and was named a Deborah Keenan Poetry Scholar. She is the Fiction Editor for Doek!, Assistant Fiction Editor for the Water-Stone Review, and a mentor at the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.

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‘The Kite’, Sophia Khan (Pakistan)

When a young woman gets everything she imagined she wanted, she finds the ties that bind her to her new existence chafe in unexpected ways.

‘The basant party is the first event Khalida attends as a wife. As a mistress, daytime invitations were seldom extended to her. She dimly recalls the childhood legality of Lahore basants: rooftops and rainbow-coloured kites and, if she really concentrates, the faint memory of her mother’s cardamom-scented breath on her shredded fingers. She runs a finger down the noble ridge of Shahid’s profile imagining this is the first piece in the bright tapestry of the rest of their lives.’

Sophia Khan is the author of the novels Dear Yasmeen and The Flight of the Arconaut. Her short fiction has appeared in Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani Literature in English, The Aleph Review, Kestrel Magazine and Desi Delicacies: Food Writing from Muslim South Asia, among others. Born in Islamabad, Pakistan, she is a graduate of Haverford College and has an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and was previously shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2016.

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‘The No Sex Thing’, Eleanor Kirk (Australia)

The story follows the reminiscent thoughts of an unnamed protagonist about a love affair they once shared with the man whose wedding they are now attending, as they reflect on the early days of their relationship and how the boundaries of consent became muddied by their partner’s fundamentalist Christian, and thereby repressive, approach to sex.

‘There is laughter when the officiant makes the joke about kneeling. This is what the Catholics are like, good-natured in their self-deprecation, because you can’t laugh at someone who is already laughing at themselves. And of course, they are always benevolently welcoming, albeit with conditions’

Born and raised on unceded Gadigal land, Eleanor Kirk is a writer for both the page and the screen. Her non-fiction has been published in a range of national newspapers and her fiction has received such accolades as the Writing NSW Varuna Fellowship. She holds a Bachelor of Screenwriting from the University of Melbourne, and currently works in television as a development executive and screenwriter, in between writing her first novel.

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‘and the earth drank deep’, Ntsika Kota (Eswatini)

A tale from the distant past of our species; of a day when cold blood flowed for the first time, and the earth drank deep.

‘Cool morning air rushed into and out of the hunter’s lungs. The still dew-damp grass wet his legs to the thighs as he charged through it. His prey, a nyala, was fleeing right into the path of the rest of the party—downwind and invisible in the tall grass.’

Born in Mbabane, Eswatini, Ntsika Kota is a chemist by training. A self-taught writer, he was originally inspired by a high school writing assignment. Ntsika’s work is a reflection of his thoughts and feelings, and he enjoys creating that reflection.

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‘Losing Count’, Alexandra Manglis (Cyprus)

The story follows a family of three women fleeing a civil war into the unknown prospects of a borderland known as the Gutter.

‘I’m not sure if it was my daughter, my mother, or I who, one fall day after school, threw hollyhock seeds over the fence to see what would happen. By the spring, twenty-three hollyhocks had grown so high they had outgrown the fence itself, taller than us all; skinny pink skyscrapers in the flatness of the shrub.’

Alexandra Manglis is a Cypriot writer who has also worked extensively as a poetry editor.  She is a 2021 recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an enthusiastic alumna of the Clarion West class of 2017, holds a D.Phil in English from the University of Oxford, and is currently an MFA Candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has work published or forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed Magazine, Passages North, and the LARB.

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‘The Last Diver on Earth’, Sofia Mariah Ma (Singapore)

In a climate-ravaged future, a young free diver retraces her mother’s final dive off the coast of the Lesser Sunda Islands, hoping to discover the cause of her mother’s death.

‘When they finally found Ibu, she was laid out on the beach.

Draped in a shroud of slimy, rusted kelp, she looked like a giant glutinous rice dessert encased in steamed bamboo leaves. It wasn’t unusual that she was naked. Here, we dived naked. Off the coast of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Between the seas of Banda and Flores. But seeing her like this, I remembered Ibu’s promise.

She had told me she wanted to be the last freediver on Earth.’

Sofia Mariah Ma is a Singaporean writer. She recently placed second in the 2021 Golden Point Award and published her short story in the cli-fi anthology, And Lately, the Sun. She holds an MA in English Literature, examining the works of Kazuo Ishiguro and his experimentations with genre. Currently, she is working on a young adult novel inspired by her Javanese origins.

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‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’, Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

A story about the impacts of short term construction work by overseas crews on community life in Jamaica, illustrated by the wrenching choices a father must make between his ability to earn and his daughter’s health.

‘When since thunderstorm mean disaster? thought Roy. He waited to count the seconds between lightning and thunder, assessing how far away the storm was. Rain pounded on the zinc roof. Flash, flash; then a rolling boom which travelled from sky to earth and shook his bed. Six seconds. Not that close.’

Diana McCaulay is a Jamaican environmental activist and writer. She has written five novels – Dog-Heart, Huracan (Peepal Tree Press), Gone to Drift (Papillote Press and HarperCollins), White Liver Gal (self-published) and Daylight Come (Peepal Tree Press). She was the Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012, for ‘The Dolphin Catchers’. She is also on the editorial board of Pree, an online magazine for Caribbean writing.

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‘The Stone Bench’, David McIlwraith (Canada)

In a garden behind a hospital in Rome in 1936, political philosopher Antonio Gramsci spends his final days with his troubled fascist guard and his devoted sister-in-law.

‘Niccolo rolls twelve cigarettes one at time sitting astride the stone bench at the back of the garden. He lines them up in front of him like the palings of a picket fence. Next to them, half a dozen wooden matches. He has calculated that a dozen smokes will last the hour and a half the two men usually spend together in this most secluded part of the grounds.’

Canadian author and filmmaker David McIlwraith turned to fiction after writing and directing the award nominated documentary films, Celesta Found and The Lynching of Louie Sam, and the television series Harrowsmith Country Life. His recently published The Diary of Dukesang Wong: A Voice From Gold Mountain, was nominated for a British Columbia Book Award for non-fiction. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, and summers on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

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‘How to Operate the New Eco-Protect Five-in-One Climate Control Apparatus’, Charlie Muhumuza (Uganda)

In 2050, an attached user manual introduces the capabilities of a new home appliance with immediate application and consequences.

‘At Alpha to Omega, our vision is to restore the habitable earth to the original climatic zones. We operate under the Green Promise Accord as part of our continued commitment to the betterment of our planet. We seek to undertake innovative solutions to undo the harm and inactivity past centuries inflicted upon us. We believe in the courage to overcome the shortcomings of our ancestors before the Macroclimate Disaster and build a new world founded on kindness, love and tomorrow.’

Charlie Muhumuza is a Ugandan writer and lawyer. His short fiction has been featured in Jalada Africa, Isele Magazine and elsewhere. He was awarded third prize at the inaugural Kalahari Short Story Competition in 2020, and was longlisted for the 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prize. He lives in Kampala, Uganda.

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‘A Landscape Memoir’, Jonathan Pizarro (Gibraltar)

The narrator spends a summer back home in Gibraltar with their Abuelo, who spends his days drawing maps of London, based on his time there during World War II. Unwilling to accept the reality of the changing world around him as time passes, Abuelo retreats into the worn comfort of the past rather than confront the inevitable future.

‘Abuelo draws maps of London from memory. In the afternoons he comes home full of coffee and gossip, a copy of The Gibraltar Chronicle under his arm. He leaves the paper by the door, folded and unread, and makes his way up the stairs to the terrace with his desk waiting. The dog at his feet. A large stack of paper, fountain pen and a full bottle of ink.’

Jonathan Pizarro is a Gibraltarian writer living in London. He studied Creative Writing at Brunel University, where he was mentored by Bernardine Evaristo. His short fiction has featured in Popshot, Litro, & Untitled: Voices, among others. He writes ‘Chasing Nelson’, an arts & culture column for The Gibraltar Chronicle. His short story ‘Luz in Nueva York (1992)’ was shortlisted for the 2021 Aurora Prize, and he has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is working on his first novel.

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‘Fault Lines’, Pritika Rao (India)

As suppressed feelings and forcefully-stopped rivers resurface, a mother and daughter are forced to confront their frayed relationship while they also deal with the consequences of a crumbling ecosystem around them.

‘The day Amma left for the land of temporary workers, my bones splintered to pieces.

My therapist asks me to start right at the beginning so I begin with this day. My first real memory of life – Amma hugging me goodbye, the smell of sandalwood powder and the rose in her hair, pressing my pink, snot-filled nose to the dusty mosquito mesh door’

Pritika Rao is an economist and freelance writer from Bangalore, India. She has a master’s degree in economics from the University of Warwick and has worked in the areas of analytics, behavioural economics, and healthcare. She is the editor of Rewrite Mag – a repository of rejected writing. In 2018, she won second prize in the Sunday Herald short story competition. Her work has also appeared in The Times of India, The Bangalore Review, The Soup Magazine, The Swaddle, and The Alipore Post, among others.

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‘The Nightwatch’, Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)

A story about the plight of ordinary people within the machinations of capitalism and Christian fundamentalism and how these influence indigenous peoples and their responses to national and global events, as well as a story about unlikely sources of compassion. It features the coming together of a group of unrelated individuals through a series of events involving mining, marginal employment, sex work, and the baking of bread against the backdrop of a coup and the rise of a Christian prophetess.

‘Years later, Poasa recounted the miracle of the bauxite mine – how this hole in the ground lifted him from poor cassava-farming villager to owner of a Toshiba washing machine, a green twelve-wick kerosene stove, and a tin house at Nanuku Settlement in Suva.’

Mary Rokonadravu is a Fijian writer of mixed indigenous Fijian, indentured Indian, and settler European heritage. She won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Pacific region in 2015 and was shortlisted in 2017. Her short stories have been published by Granta, and adda, and included in anthologies by the University of London Press, and Penguin Random House New Zealand (Vintage).

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‘What Men Live By’, Shagufta Sharmeen Tania (United Kingdom/Bangladesh)

As cities grow and sprawl endlessly, they create a number of misfits, some home-grown, some migrant. Sometimes the only way nature can fight back is by supersizing, for better or worse, which is what connects a Flemish Giant Rabbit and a huge Mahua tree in a fast-developing city in Bangladesh.

‘The soil in the garden, which had been rotting all winter, was now dried up. I fell into a hole covered by grass in the morning and sprained my right foot. Where had this hole come from? Was it a fox’s den? Or a hedgehog’s? Little hedgehogs frequented this garden, they made sounds like baby’s rattles. We had one recurring visitor who we named Pincushion. Thinking about the hole, I came indoors, groaning in pain. What a day to twist one’s ankle!’

Born in Bangladesh and initially trained as an architect, Shagufta Sharmeen Tania has authored nine books. She translated Susan Fletcher’s Eve Green and Antonio Skarmeta’s Burning Patience, from English to Bengali. Her work has appeared in Wasafiri, Asia Literary Review, City Press and Speaking Volumes Anthology. Shagufta received the Bangla Academy Syed Waliullah Award (2018) for outstanding contribution in Bangla literature. Her short story ‘Sincerely Yours’ was long listed for the BBC Short Story Award 2021.

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‘Have Mercy’, Sharma Taylor (Jamaica)

A single mother, Esme, not only has to deal with the strained relationship with her young daughter’s father, but also the constantly crying baby next door. Esme suspects her new neighbour may be abusing the child but when she decides to confront her neighbour about the baby, Mercy, Esme is challenged about her own idea of motherhood.

‘The baby next door crying again.
What kinda careless girl live next door though, Lord? Calling herself “mother” when she don’t know nothing ‘bout taking care of a baby!
All this gal know to do is spread her legs and take money for it. I lose count of the number of men I see coming and going from that house. Lucky for her, pum-pum is something that can’t run out.’

Sharma Taylor has won the Bocas Lit Fest’s Johnson and Amoy Achong Writers’ Prize, the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award and the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. She has been shortlisted four times for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022). Her 2018 shortlisted story ‘Son Son’s Birthday’ developed into her debut novel, What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You, to be published in July 2022 in the UK by Virago.

 

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‘No Man’s Land’, Alexia Tolas (Bahamas)

A desperate hotel developer journeys into the forest to reclaim his paradise, and discovers that he may not be the predator but the prey. Told partially in resurrected Taino, ‘No Man’s Land’ asks, what if nature could fight back?

‘I kill the foreman last night.

He did look up at me from the coppice floor, and I did slip me tongue into he soul. Taste foul. I only ever take the foul ones.

You’d like the flavour if you could taste men as I do. Sweet rot. Jan-jan, butikako, you know the flavour. Like the little yellow stones at the back of your throat.’

Alexia Tolas is a Bahamian writer whose stories explore small-island life and local mythology to convey realities silenced by tradition and trauma. Her writing has been featured in Womanspeak, Granta, Windrush, adda, and The Caribbean Writer. In 2019, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Caribbean region and was shortlisted for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. She is working on her first novel.

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‘Lifestyle Guide for The Discerning Witch’, Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria)

A story about the effects of cultural gender bias on the development of a girl and how her defiance shapes the woman she becomes.

‘You will be your mother’s only child. On holidays at your maternal home, you will hear your grandmother’s prayers for God to give her daughter a son. But after you, your mother will not conceive again and your father’s family will accuse her of giving her womb to her coven to feast on. When you hear the accusations for the first time, your childish mind will imagine a group of women surrounding a large dinner table with a large saucer at its centre.’

Franklyn Usouwa is a Nigerian storyteller presently studying for an undergraduate degree in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Lagos. He is interested in storytelling in all its possible forms but has a particularly soft spot for short stories. Franklyn was shortlisted for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and his short stories have been published in The Kalahari Review and Writer’s Space Africa.

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‘Slake’, Sarah Walker (Australia)

Set in the aftermath of apocalypse, where preppers and gardeners come together to try to survive, the story considers the tensions between individualism and community in the wake of large-scale disaster, and how we find resilience when things keep going wrong.

‘The best ones were the ones who just got on with it. They were the ones who dispensed with all of the posturing and posing. The worst ones, after the worst was over, were the folks armed with guns, each of whom could reliably be found standing on any piece of earth higher than ground level and trying to look solitary.’

Sarah Walker is an Australian writer and artist who writes about anxiety, control, and intimacy. Her debut essay collection, The First Time I Thought I Was Dying, won the 2021 Quentin Bryce Award. Her work has been recognised in the Calibre Essay Prize, the ABR Rising Star award, the Walkley Awards, the Nillumbik Prize and the Disquiet Literary Contest. She is currently working on a collection of apocalyptic metafiction.

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‘The Scars and the Stars’, PR Woods (United Kingdom)

The birth of a child is a significant moment for the people involved, leaving psychological and often physical scars, but amid the breadth of space it means nothing at all. This story explores the fractured identity of a new mother as she begins to piece herself back together again.

‘There is an object on the floor. I am not sure what to do with it. I would like to tidy it away, in a box perhaps, lined with blankets. I would like to know it is secure, and safe, but I would like not to have to see it.

There are processes which were once familiar to me that I can’t now remember how
to complete.’

PR Woods writes short and flash fiction. Her work has been published by the Manchester Review, Litro, Mslexia, East of the Web, and Reflex Press. She lives in London.

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Five regional winners of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize have been selected from the shortlist, read about them here. The overall winner will be announced on 21 June 2022.