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Revisit the 2014 prize

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

2014

The 2014 prize winner

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Let’s Tell This Story Properly

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was announced as the Overall Winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize by the novelist and short story writer Romesh Gunesekera.

Jennifer Makumbi talking with the Chair of the 2014 judging panel, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey:

‘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’

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

‘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, has hugely expanded our understanding of the possibilities of the short story form.’

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Chair of the Judges

Watch the 2014 prize ceremony

Regional winners

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

Of the regional winners, Chair of the Judges, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, said:

‘Whilst recognising craft and excellence, the judges were equally impressed by stories which transported us in place and time and thrilled us with language that felt original. In the end, the stories that impressed us the most were those that took risks – in subject and style. From Australia, we chose an episodic and poetic exploration of a man surviving a troubled childhood; from Guyana, a fresh telling of the familiar story of diaspora and loss. A dazzlingly accomplished, yet understated story from Ireland focuses on one girl’s private anxieties during the Troubles; the lives of history’s forgotten victims are explored in a story from Singapore and from Uganda comes a bold, compact story about betrayal and the pull of tradition.’

  • Canada & Europe
    Killing Time
    Lucy Caldwell
    UK

    A young girl just turned thirteen tries to take her own life. She swallows down as many paracetamol and baby aspirin tablets as she can and goes downstairs to have dinner with her family. That evening, and in the days that follow, she waits for something to happen, caught between the equally terrifying possibilities that something might, and that nothing will at all.

    Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast. She is the author of three novels, several stage plays and radio dramas. Her writing has won numerous awards, including the George Devine Award, the Imison Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Her latest novel, All the Beggars Riding, was selected for Belfast’s and Derry-Londonderry’s One City One Book initiative in 2013. She is currently working on her fourth novel and her debut collection of short stories.

  • Africa
    Let’s Tell This Story Properly
    Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
    Uganda

    Nnameya is the grieving widow when she arrives at Entebbe Airport from Manchester with her husband Kayita’s coffin. But then events take such a dramatic turn that she must relinquish her widowhood and fight.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist, short story writer and poet. Jennifer has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and her doctoral novel, The Kintu Saga, won the Kwani Manuscript Project in 2013. The novel was published in 2014 under the title Kintu. Jennifer teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University and is currently working on her second novel, Nnambi.

    ‘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.’
    - Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  • Africa
    Sending for Chantal
    Maggie Harris
    Guyana

    The leaving of children with relatives whilst parents go abroad to seek employment is a familiar story, borne by promises of eventually being ‘sent for’. But what happens when a child never gets sent for? The central question remains, how do we measure achievement, and at what cost is economic migration to displaced and ‘broken’ families?

    Maggie Harris is a Guyanese-born author who migrated to the UK in 1971. She won the Guyana Prize for Literature in 2000 for her poetry collection, Limbolands (2004). Other collections include From Berbice to Broadstairs (2006), After a Visit to a Botanical Garden (2010) and Sixty Years of Loving (2014). She has written a number of short stories, including the collection Canterbury Tales on Cockcrow Morning (2013), and a memoir, Guyana Kiskadee Girl (2011).

  • Pacific
    The Dog and the Sea
    Lucy Treloar
    Australia

    An old man who lives by the sea is kept company by his dog, the fragmentary stories contained in his troubled past, and a small boy who visits each summer.

    Lucy Treloar is a writer, editor and creative writing teacher working in Australia and in Cambodia, where she has lived for a number of years. Her short fiction has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories 2013, Overland, Sleepers and Seizure. She is the recipient of an Asia link Writer’s Residency and the 2012 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Her novel Salt Creek – currently in development – was recently signed by Picador.

  • Asia
    A Day in the Death
    Sara Adam Ang
    Singapore

    A Day in the Death is a story about someone trying to tell a story. It includes a distressingly un-dramatic suicide, facts and knowledge about Singapore in the early 20th century and the workers who built the city.

    Sara Adam Ang is a recent graduate of the National University of Singapore, majoring in History. As an emerging writer keen to make her mark in the literary world, the shortlisting of A Day in the Death, one of her first stories, is a major milestone in her career. She is in the process of seeking out her next writing challenge.

  • The Shortlist

    • Cowboy
      Helen Klonaris
      Bahamas

      Helen Klonaris is a Bahamian writer of Greek descent. She earned her BA in religion at Wesleyan University, and her MFA in Writing and Conciousness from New College of California. She is co-founder and co-director of the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute, and lives between the Bahamas and the Bay Area, California, where she teaches creative writing.

      She is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Writing the Walls Down, and published in numerous journals and anthologies, including SX SalonThe Caribbean WriterTongues of the OceanPouiProudFleshCalyx, and A Sudden and Violent Change. She is due to complete a collection of short stories, And The Bird Boy Sang.

    • Grandmother
      Yu-Mei Balasingamchow
      Singapore

      Yu-Mei Balasingamchow lives in Singapore and writes about history, travel and culture in Asia. She is the co-author of the award-winning non-fiction title, Singapore: A Biography, which received a gold prize at the Asia Pacific Publishers Association Awards in 2010. It was also named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in the same year. Her first published short story, Lighthouse, was selected for the inaugural Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories in 2013. She is working on her first novel, with funding from Singapore’s National Arts Council.

    • Household Gods
      Tracy Fells
      UK

      Tracy Fells was born in Devon and now lives in West Sussex. She is a full-time writer of fiction and drama. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published in national magazines and anthologies, both online and in print. Tracy’s fiction and drama has recently made shortlists for the HE Bates Short Story Prize 2013 and Hysteria 2013. She is currently planning a collection of short stories, working on a novel and studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University.

    • Hummingbird
      Daniel Anders
      Australia

      Daniel Anders was born in America, moving to Australia aged seven where he became naturalised in 2004. After university, Daniel embarked upon a writing course as well as securing a role at his local bookstore. As a new writer just entering the literary scene, this is the first writing competition Daniel has entered.

    • Ikanre
      Adelehin Ijasan
      Nigeria

      Adelehin Ijasan grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a medical doctor and ophthalmology resident. His first published work appeared in The Deepening. Subsequently, his short fiction has featured in magazines and websites  including Membra Disjecta, Everyday Fiction (The Best of Everyday Fiction)The Tiny GlobuleTakahe and On the Premises – where he came second in the short story competition in 2008.

       

    • Killing Time
      Lucy Caldwell
      UK

      A young girl just turned thirteen tries to take her own life. She swallows down as many paracetamol and baby aspirin tablets as she can and goes downstairs to have dinner with her family. That evening, and in the days that follow, she waits for something to happen, caught between the equally terrifying possibilities that something might, and that nothing will at all.

      Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast. She is the author of three novels, several stage plays and radio dramas. Her writing has won numerous awards, including the George Devine Award, the Imison Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Her latest novel, All the Beggars Riding, was selected for Belfast’s and Derry-Londonderry’s One City One Book initiative in 2013. She is currently working on her fourth novel and her debut collection of short stories.

    • Let’s Tell This Story Properly
      Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
      Uganda

      Nnameya is the grieving widow when she arrives at Entebbe Airport from Manchester with her husband Kayita’s coffin. But then events take such a dramatic turn that she must relinquish her widowhood and fight.

      Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist, short story writer and poet. Jennifer has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and her doctoral novel, The Kintu Saga, won the Kwani Manuscript Project in 2013. The novel was published in 2014 under the title Kintu. Jennifer teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University and is currently working on her second novel, Nnambi.

    • Miss Annie Cooks Fish
      Charmaine Rousseau
      Trinidad and Tobago

      Charmaine Rousseau is a Trinidad-born writer. She has previously worked as an English teacher, newspaper editor and reviewer. She is the author of two novels, Café au Lait and Give Me the Night, both published under the pen name Liane Spicer, and her short story Magic Island appeared in the July 2013 issue of St. Somewhere Literary Journal. Her works-in-progress span several genres, from a memoir on raising her own son, to a mystery series set in a fictitious Caribbean island, a historical novel, and a speculative short story.

       

    • Monkey Boy
      Janine Mikosza
      Australia

      Janine Mikosza grew up in various cities in Australia and England and now lives and writes fiction in Melbourne. Her stories have been published in literary journals and shortlisted for national and international awards, including the Fish and Bristol Short Story Prizes. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Queensland and has worked as a photomedia artist and academic. She is currently working on her debut novel, The Accident.

    • On The Other Side
      Idrissa Simmonds
      Canada

      Idrissa Simmonds grew up in Vancouver, Canada, in a Jamaican and Haitian household. She is a writer and organisational strategist with a focus on education, diversity, and human capital development.  She is the recipient of multiple fellowships and is the 2013 winner of the Crab Creek Review Poetry Award. In 2005, she founded and co-edited the anthology We Have a Voice: An Anthology of African and Caribbean Student Writing. Her writing has appeared in magazines and anthologies across British Columbia, Caribbean and West Africa. She is also the curator and chef of the literary and food salon, Brunch and Word.

    • Playing the Stringless Guitar
      Michael Hunt
      Australia

      Michael Hunt lives with a congenital vision impairment which fuels his love of language and music, and gives him a somewhat different perspective of the world. He writes short stories, articles and essays on widely divergent themes and topics, which explore the diversity of humanity. Many have been published, awarded prizes, or broadcast. He also composes music, plays double bass with his quartet ‘Innerstrings’, and runs a small recording studio where he produces soundtracks, demo’s and political satire.

    • Rhododendrons in Mist
      David Kerkt
      New Zealand

      David Herkt is a New Zealand-born writer who studied at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has had a varied career, working as a programme director for various Australian HIV/AIDS organisations before returning to New Zealand to work in television production. He has won two Qantas Film and Television/New Zealand Screen Awards for his work and his fiction, factual, and review work has been published in a number of Australian and New Zealand media outlets.

    • Sending for Chantal
      Maggie Harris
      Guyana

      The leaving of children with relatives whilst parents go abroad to seek employment is a familiar story, borne by promises of eventually being ‘sent for’. But what happens when a child never gets sent for? The central question remains, how do we measure achievement, and at what cost is economic migration to displaced and ‘broken’ families?

      Maggie Harris is a Guyanese-born author who migrated to the UK in 1971. She won the Guyana Prize for Literature in 2000 for her poetry collection, Limbolands (2004). Other collections include From Berbice to Broadstairs (2006), After a Visit to a Botanical Garden (2010) and Sixty Years of Loving (2014). She has written a number of short stories, including the collection Canterbury Tales on Cockcrow Morning (2013), and a memoir, Guyana Kiskadee Girl (2011).

    • Tenure
      Julian Novitz
      New Zealand

      Julian Novitz is a short story writer and novelist from New Zealand. He currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he is a Lecturer in writing at the Swinburne University of Technology.  His latest novel, Little Sister, was published by Random House in 2012. His first award-winning collection of short fiction, My Real Life and Other Stories, was followed 2006 by his first novel, Holocaust Tours. Julian won the 2008 Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award for his story Three Couples.

    • The Dog and the Sea
      Lucy Treloar
      Australia

      An old man who lives by the sea is kept company by his dog, the fragmentary stories contained in his troubled past, and a small boy who visits each summer.

      Lucy Treloar is a writer, editor and creative writing teacher working in Australia and in Cambodia, where she has lived for a number of years. Her short fiction has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories 2013, Overland, Sleepers and Seizure. She is the recipient of an Asia link Writer’s Residency and the 2012 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Her novel Salt Creek – currently in development – was recently signed by Picador.

    • The Night of Broken Glass
      Jack Wang
      Canada

      Jack Wang grew up in Vancouver, Canada. He earned a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Florida State University. His fiction has appeared in Joyland Magazine, and he and his twin brother are the creators of Cozy Classics, an internationally-acclaimed children’s board book series. Jack is the recipient of a 2014 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award. He is currently working as an Associate Professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, New York.

    • A Day in the Death
      Sara Adam Ang
      Singapore

      A Day in the Death is a story about someone trying to tell a story. It includes a distressingly un-dramatic suicide, facts and knowledge about Singapore in the early 20th century and the workers who built the city.

      Sara Adam Ang is a recent graduate of the National University of Singapore, majoring in History. As an emerging writer keen to make her mark in the literary world, the shortlisting of A Day in the Death, one of her first stories, is a major milestone in her career. She is in the process of seeking out her next writing challenge.

    • Agnes Agnes Agnes
      Luiza Sauma
      UK

      Luiza Sauma was born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in London from the age of four. After studying English at the University of Leeds, she worked as a journalist at the Independent on Sunday for several years; she has also written for the Guardian, the Independent and Dazed & Confused. She completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, where she won the Pat Kavanagh Award, and is currently working on her first novel, Bethlehem, which is set between Rio de Janeiro, London and the Amazon.

    • All Them Savages
      Michelle Sacks
      South Africa

      Michelle Sacks is a South African-born writer who has lived in Cape Town, Dublin and Frankfurt. She holds a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Cape Town, and has been shortlisted twice for the PEN Prize for Southern African Fiction. Her short stories have been published in the 2007 and 2011 editions of the JM Coetzee-judged anthology, African Pens, as well as in New Contrast and Akashic Books. In summer 2014, she will take part in the Takt A.I.R. Artist’s Residency in Berlin, where she will work on completing a collection of short stories, and beginning her first novel.

    This year’s judging panel

    • Danielle Silva

      Ellah Allfrey

      Chair

      Ellah Wakatama Allfrey is an editor, critic and broadcaster. The former deputy editor of Granta magazine, she is series editor for the Kwani? Manuscript Prize, the deputy Chair of the Caine Prize for African Writing, and patron of the Etisalat Literature Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Allfrey was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the publishing industry. Twitter:

      @epwa66

    • Jerry Riley

      Doreen Baingana

      Judge

      Doreen Baingana is the author of Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe (2005), which won the Commonwealth Prize for First Book, Africa region in 2006. She has published two children’s books, Gamba the Gecko wants to Drum (2010) and My Fingers are Stuck (2010), as well as fiction and essays in many anthologies, journals and newspapers. Doreen has worked for Voice of America and Storymoja publishing house in Kenya, she has been Chairperson of FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writers Association, and taught creative writing in the US, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. Twitter: @dbaing01

    • Michelle De Kretser

      Judge

      Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. She has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the author of The Rose Grower, and the award-winning novels The Hamilton Case, which won a regional Commonwealth Prize, The Lost Dog (2012), and Questions of Travel (2012), winner of the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction and the ALS Gold Medal. She lives in Sydney.

    • Marlon James

      Judge

      Marlon James was born in Jamaica. He is the author of the award-winning novels, John Crow’s Devi (2005), which was a Commonwealth Regional winner, and The Book of Night Women (2009). His short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in journals and anthologies including Esquire Magazine, Granta, and the Caribbean Review of Books. James teaches Literature and Creative Writing at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, is currently editing an anthology of Caribbean fiction for McSweeneys and completing his third novel. Twitter: @MarlonJames5

    • Courttia Newland

      Judge

      Courttia Newland’s first novel, The Scholar, was published in 1997. Further critically acclaimed work includes Society Within (1999) and Snakeskin (2002), The Dying Wish (2006), Music for the Off-Key (2006), and A Book of Blues (2011). He is co-editor of IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000). A novel, The Gospel According to Cane, was published in February 2013. He is an associate lecturer in creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London. Twitter: @courttianewland

    • Jeet Thayil

      Judge

      Jeet Thayil is an Indian poet, novelist, librettist and musician. His four poetry collections include English and These Errors Are Correct (2008), which won the Indian Academy of Letters 2013 award for poetry in English. He is the editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (2008). As a musician and librettist, he is one half of the contemporary music project Sridhar/Thayil. Jeet’s debut novel Narcopolis won the 2012 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Twitter: @jeetthayil

    Frequently asked questions

    • Who is eligible to submit?

      The prize is open to all Commonwealth citizens aged 18 and over –  please see the full list of Commonwealth countries here.

    • What do the winning writers receive?

      The regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives a total of £5,000. The winning stories are published online by Granta and in a special print collection by Paper + Ink. The shortlisted stories are published in adda, the online literary magazine of the Commonwealth Foundation.

    • What is the word limit?

      The story must be between 2,000 and 5,000 words.