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Revisit the 2020 prize

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

2020

The 2020 prize winner

Kritika Pandey
The Great Indian Tee and Snakes

Kritika Pandey was announced as the overall winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ in June 2020. The award was presented by the Chair of the 2020 judging panel, acclaimed Ghanaian writer and editor, Nii Ayikwei Parkes in our first ever online ceremony, available to watch now. We were joined by all of the 2020 regional winners, five very special guest readers, and some familiar faces from previous years’ prizes.

The 2020 Prize attracted over 5000 entries from 49 countries. The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. Chaired by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, the 2020 panel comprised South African writer and musician Mohale Mashigo (Judge for Africa), Executive Director of the Singapore Books Council William Phuan (Asia), Canadian author Heather O’Neill (Canada and Europe), Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (Caribbean), and Australian writer and arts organiser Nic Low (Pacific).

Kritika Pandey’s winning story, ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’, tells of an unlikely friendship which reaches across religious divides, set against the background of a tea seller’s stall. She writes of two young people trying to solve an age-old riddle of human existence: how can love overcome the forces of hatred and prejudice? Pandey says, ‘I created a strong-willed character of a Hindu girl who chooses to love a Muslim boy, even though she knows that she is not “supposed to”.’ An extract from the story was read at the ceremony by award-winning Bollywood actress Swara Bhasker, and you can read ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ now on Granta.

‘I’ve experienced every possible emotion ever since I received the news. At times, I’m overwhelmed with joy, gratitude, and a sense of fulfillment or reeling with disbelief. At other times, I’m devastated by the fate of my fictional characters who seem all too real to me, a feeling compounded by the tragedies presently unfolding around us. However, more than anything else, this prize strengthens my will to write. It tells me that all those days when I lock myself in my room to stare into a computer screen, unsettled and unsure, might just be a worthwhile way of engaging with the world. It reminds me that I must, therefore, continue to inquire into the human condition, to make sense of existence, to listen carefully, to resist, and to hope.’

 

Kritika Pandey

‘The Great India Tee and Snakes is a gut-punch of a story, remarkable because, in spite of its fraught subject matter, it never neglects the beauty of the world in which the story unfolds. Kritika Pandey infuses the tale with empathy and balance, allowing the characters to inhabit themselves fully, while dragging the narrative to its inevitable end. It’s a story that asks important questions about identity, prejudice and nationhood, using metaphors with devastating effect, while still brimming with its author’s revelry in the possibilities of language. Its charged conclusion is all the more shocking given that most of it is set at a tea seller’s stall and its energy derives from a few looks between a boy and a girl. My fellow judges and I loved the story when we first read it, and love it more each time we read it. Congratulations to Kritika!’

Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Chair of the Judges

‘It is a delight and a privilege to head the agency that is responsible for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The Foundation exists to give voice to the 2.3 billion citizens of the Commonwealth and the Prize is central to that goal. The winning story weaves a glorious tapestry out of love and loss: reminding us that  human connection is, in the end, the truest measure of a life well-lived.’

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation

Watch the 2020 prize ceremony

Regional winners

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

The 2020 regional winners are: Africa winner Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria), Canada and Europe winner Reyah Martin (United Kingdom), Caribbean winner Brian S. Heap (Jamaica), and Pacific winner Andrea E. Macleod (Australia).

Commenting on the judging process, Chair of the Judges Nii Ayikwei Parkes said:

‘Picking the overall winner from the five regional winners is always the most difficult part of the judging process, because different judges like different stories. In our quest to convince each other, we exhort our fellow judges to reread a number of stories and that process of re-reading is always precious. In that span of time, we discover each story anew, often falling in love with stories that we didn’t love at first read. It was at this stage that this year’s winning story began to haunt us all. As I promised when we picked the regional winners, this is a story that will move people. I hope you enjoy it.’

In partnership with Commonwealth Writers, the literary magazine Granta publishes online all the regional winners of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes.’

We would like to thank all of our partners and all those involved in this year’s Prize – this year’s judging panel, readers, entrants, Paper + Ink and Granta.

  • Pacific
    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.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    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.  

     

    ‘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
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Caribbean
    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.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    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. 

    ‘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
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Canada & Europe
    Wherever Mister Jensen Went
    Reyah Martin
    Scotland

    ‘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…

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    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. 

    ‘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.’

    - Reyah Martin
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Africa
    When a Woman Renounces Motherhood
    Innocent Chizaram Ilo
    Nigeria

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

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    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.

     

    ‘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
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Asia
    The Great Indian Tee and Snakes
    Kritika Pandey
    India

    ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ tells of an unlikely friendship which reaches across religious divides, set against the background of a tea seller’s stall. She writes of two young people trying to solve an age-old riddle of human existence: how can love overcome the forces of hatred and prejudice?

    Read their story on Granta (external)
    ‘The Great India Tee and Snakes is a gut-punch of a story, remarkable because, in spite of its fraught subject matter, it never neglects the beauty of the world in which the story unfolds. Kritika Pandey infuses the tale with empathy and balance, allowing the characters to inhabit themselves fully, while dragging the narrative to its inevitable end. It’s a story that asks important questions about identity, prejudice and nationhood, using metaphors with devastating effect, while still brimming with its author’s revelry in the possibilities of language. Its charged conclusion is all the more shocking given that most of it is set at a tea seller’s stall and its energy derives from a few looks between a boy and a girl. My fellow judges and I loved the story when we first read it, and love it more each time we read it. Congratulations to Kritika!’
    Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Chair of the Judges

    Kritika Pandey is a Pushcart-nominated Indian writer and a final year candidate for a Master of Fine Arts 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.

    ‘I created a strong-willed character of a Hindu girl who chooses to love a Muslim boy, even though she knows that she is not “supposed to”.’

    - Kritika Pandey
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • The Shortlist

    • The Eternally Obvious is Not Obvious to Me
      Marcia Walker
      Canada

      In ‘The Eternally Obvious is Not Obvious to Me’ a woman, unable to cope after the death of her girlfriend, seeks out “Jesus”, an alternative healer, while also tracking down the source of the anonymous graphic sexual texts she repeatedly receives. 

      ‘On the second anniversary of Margot’s death I met Jesus. He was holed up in one of those furnished condos on Bolton Avenue that attract newly divorced dads and low-level executives staying in the city for less than three months. The kind of place where each door has dampeners fixed to its hinges, making them impossible to slam. That alone prevents me from living in a place like that.’

      Marcia Walker’swriting has appeared in The New QuarterlyFiddleheadThe New York TimesPRISM international, RoomEVENTAntigonish ReviewUniversity of Toronto Magazine, This Magazine, The Globe and MailCBC radio and The Broken Social Scene Story ProjectShe has been shortlisted for PRISM’s fiction and non-fiction prize, the Writers’ Union of Canada short prose competition. She lives in Toronto. 

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Cash and Carry
      Sharma Taylor
      Jamaica

      ‘Cash and Carry’ is about a Jamaican adolescent girl’s search for identity and acceptance, which ultimately leads her to face the truth about the father she doesn’t know but longs for, her unstable mother, those around her whom she loves and, most importantly, herself.

      ‘Is the first time I going to Kingston and is ‘cause I going to find my Daddy. I don’t know what my Daddy look like and him don’t know me.

      Granny and me squeeze into a jam-packed country bus. The sun hot like it beating you skin with a rubber strap. The whole load of we in a giant cake-tin hotter than Granny’s oven. The old bus creaking and shuddering every time it drop down a pothole.’

      A lawyer by profession, a writer by passion, Sharma Taylor was the inaugural winner of the 2019 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize (for fiction) for emerging writers, administered by the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago and Arvon in the UK. She was also the winner of the 22nd annual Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award in 2020, sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados. Her work has been previously shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and longlisted in Mslexia’s 2019 Women’s Flash Fiction Competition.  She won the gold medal three times in Barbados’ annual National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) Literary Competitions as well as the Best Adult Short Story Writer award in 2019 in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s (JCDC) Jamaica Creative Writing CompetitionSharma’s stories have been published in a number of anthologies and journals, including The Caribbean Writer and The Jamaica Journal.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • A Breath, a Bunk, a Land, a Sky
      Fiona Sussman
      New Zealand

      young Syrian asylum seeker navigates a new life in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

      ‘I stop. Look up. This sky is crammed with clouds and a taunt of blue.

      I steal a breath. It carries the weight of water and smells of rain. Rain.

      ‘Thank you for flying with us.’

      The woman is like Hollywood. I do not know what to do with her smile.

      I climb down the stairs. Yellow lights flash. Trucks beep. A man in a fluorescent jacket waves small round bats in the air. Planes wait in line like obedient dogs.’

      Fiona Sussman is an award-winning novelist and shortstory writer, who was born in South Africa and moved to New Zealand in 1989. She worked as a family doctor before hanging up her stethoscope to pursue another long-held dream – to write. When not writing or mentoring creative writing students, she helps manage the charitable surgical service she and her husband established in Auckland.

      www.fionasussman.co.nz 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Faraway Things
      Alboricah Tokologo Rathupetsane
      South Africa

      This story is a journey of life through Lesedi’s eyes, a young boy whose mental limitations have prevented him from accepting a tragic event in his life.  

      ‘Lesedi knew he wasn’t right in the head. He heard someone say it at least once every day. ‘There goes Mokgadi’s son,’ they would always mutter, ‘don’t mind him, he’s not right in the head.’ Not that he understood why his head wasn’t right. Everyone said it, but no one had ever bothered to explain their reasons for thinking it. Although he was sometimes curious about it, he never asked because that would require talking – which he preferred to avoid.’

      Alboricah Tokologo Rathupetsane is a 28 year old writer from South Africa whose passions are writing and art which she uses to express her feelings and ideas. Alboricah grew up in a rural village in the Province of Limpopo, South Africa, and currently lives and works in Port Elizabeth. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Finger, Spinster, Serial Killer
      Brandon Mc Ivor
      Trinidad and Tobago

      The conversation of two Alphabet City bar-goers twists and turns until it settles in morbid territory: a serial killer from one of their pasts.

      ‘“How did you lose it?” she asked.

      I rubbed my fingers against my glass and turned to face her. It was a cheap bar, but she’d dressed expensive: red satin dress; loud, really well done makeup, a Coach clutch on the counter beside her.

      “You know, there are some people who would consider a question like that quite rude,” I said. […]

      “Did you think I was quite rude just now?” she asked.

      “You’re lucky I didn’t. Actually, it’s a story I quite like telling”.’

      Brandon Mc Ivor was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. He received his B.Sc in English Literature at New York University, and currently works as an English teacher in Ehime, Japan.  His work has been published in a number of magazines and online, including The Caribbean Writer and Akashic Books’ flash fiction series. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Το χρέος (The Debt)
      Nikolas Kyriacou
      Cyprus

      Translated from Greek into English by Lina Protopapa (Cyprus).

      ‘The Debt’ is a story about the agonising effect that enforced disappearance has on human beings, and the impasses facing humanity due to conflict.

      ‘Σε αυτή τη χώρα, έχουμε όλοι ονόματα πεθαμένων. Αυτόν που χάθηκε και που δεν ξέρουμε πού είναι, πώς θα τον μνημονεύουμε τώρα; Σαν ζωντανό ή σαν νεκρό; Να τον ξεχάσουμε ή να τον καρτερούμε; Κανένας μας δεν είναι από μόνος του φτιαγμένος. Μόνο απ’ των προγόνων του τα ιερά οστά κι απ’ του Θεού τη χάρη είναι πλασμένος.

      Απέτυχα. Έχασα τον άνθρωπο μέσα από χέρια μου, η ατολμία και η δειλία μού έπνιξαν τη φωνή, παρέλυσαν την κάθε πράξη.’

       

      ‘In this country, our names are dead people’s names. But what of the one who has gone missing? How will we refer to him? As a living person or as a dead person? Should we forget him or wait for him? None of us creates his own self. We are all created out of the holy bones of our ancestors and by God’s grace.

      I failed. I let the man slip through my hands, pusillanimity and cowardice drowned my voice, they paralysed my every move.’

      Nikolas Kyriacou was born in Kavala (Greece) and grew up in Cyprus. He holds a Ph.D. in law. After working as lawyer in Cyprus, he moved to Luxembourg where he is currently working at the Court of Justice of the EU. He is the author of 10+1 μύθοι για το Κυπριακό (10+1 Myths for the Cyprus Problem), published by Psifides in 2020He used to play the saxophone and probably suffers from bibliomania. He has two children with Marianna Bonellou. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Fatou vs. the Dictator
      ML Kejera
      The Gambia

      Fatou, a young woman raised in The G’s diaspora, is in an airport awaiting her flight home. She comes across her recently ousted dictator and debates whether she should confront him. 

      ‘He wore a white boubou and blue jeans. Official press releases had given him an ineffable supremacy that reality shattered. Without the propaganda to smoothen him out, he was an ugly man. Wrinkles lined his pitch black face and he carried a globular stomach. But, whenever he shifted in his seat, Fatou saw the sinewy remnants of the 31 year old general—more lean muscle than man—who had overthrown The G’s first democratically elected president.’

      ML Kejera is a Chicagobased author from The Gambia. Though born in Bakau, he left the country with his family in 1999. He has lived in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the US. He speaks English and French and can understand Mandinka. His work has been published in riverSedgeThe Cafe IrrealSleaze MagStrange Horizons, Riddled With ArrowsPopulaPanelxPanel, and The OutlineHe is currently working on a short story collection about The G, for which he is seeking representation. 

      Twitter: @KejeraL

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Provenance
      Jason Jobin
      Canada

      Provenance is the story of two friends on the road, one a drifter, the other a living crash test dummy, and they’re being followed. 

      ‘A fine quest. Roar of AC. Shirt long since bonded to the seat- back. Sun so hot it looked to be spinning. Carl sat with his beige polymer left leg hitched up on the dashboard, head to the side, a very teen-girl posture. Whether he even got hot, I wasn’t sure. Carl in loose tan shorts and a billowing Hawaiian shirt of crimson lotus petals. The oversize joints of his fingers looked like vertebrae. He said he didn’t mind when I stared at him. When I gaped or examined. That these things took time and only made sense gradually. That as long I drove him to The City, we were all good.’

      Jason Jobin was born and raised in the Yukon, northwest Canada. He completed a BA and MFA in writing at the University of Victoria, British Colombia. His stories have won a National Magazine Award and been anthologised in the 2018 and 2019 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. His stories have also been published in The Malahat Review and Event MagazineIn 2018, Jason was longlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize. He currently lives in Victoria and is at work on a novel and a collection of stories.  

      Twitter/Instagram @jobinjason

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • An Instruction Manual: How to Find Your Vagina
      Maham Javaid
      Pakistan

      Self help books typically instruct readers how to improve their lives. This short story turns that concept on its head as it attempts to walk readers through a life that is unravelling

      ‘Allow yourself to feel overwhelmed. You could release yourself from the stirrups, thank everyone in the room, grab your sweatshirt from the thermometer-shaped hook behind the door and go to school. If you left now, you’d be just in time for Media Law. You could also go to the apartment you share with your Colombian classmate, borrow the mirror she uses to pop zits, place it between your legs and search for the truth.’

      Maham Javaid is a journalist from Karachi, Pakistan. She reports on politics surrounding ethnic, religious, and gender minorities, and the stories she can’t tell in black and white are translated into fiction. She is the inaugural winner of the Zeenat Haroon Rashid Writing Prize for Women 2019.  Her winning story was published by Eos Magazine at Dawn.com.  Her journalistic stories have been published in The Nation, Al Jazeera EnglishAl Jazeera AmericaDawn, The News on SundayThe Diplomatand Refinery29Maham is currently a Finberg Fellow at Human Rights Watch in New York City. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Shedding
      Nafisa A. Iqbal
      Bangladesh

      The saree binds a man to his mother, while prejudice threatens to tear them apart. What will he do when forced to choose between acceptance and family, love and motherland? 

      ‘He lay back in the hot water, thinking of his boyhood summers back home in Dhaka; how on the hottest of days, his mother would freeze the milk jelly hearts of the ​taal​ fruit, cut fresh from palm trees in a bucket of ice. When the sun had beat him down to a pulp, he would run back home, dig into the ice and find the cooled ​taal i​n his palm like a giant pearl.’

      Nafisa A. Iqbal was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As a storyteller, her choice of mediums include visual art, animation, and writing. Through her writing, Nafisa aims to highlight strands of personal experience in the greater tapestry of the Bangladeshi narrative, one that has been obscured time and time again by dominant cultural dogmas. In 2015, she moved to New York City in the US, where she graduated from The New School. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Teeth on the Bus Go Round and Round
      Dinesh Devarajan
      India

      A grieving widow and her adolescent son go in search of a pair of lost dentures while being teased by her dead husband.

      ‘About a week after he died, Appa sauntered towards Amma’s closed second floor window and whistled loudly with his fingers in his mouth. Still whistling he clambered up the ladder, leapt lightly into her dreams and immediately began to do improbable things.’

      Dinesh Devarajan is a 37 year old project manager in an IT services firm in India. His short stories have been published in the Times of India’s Write India Stories, Season 1, and the short story collections Two is Company and City of Gods (both UNISUN Publishers). His story ‘Dead Heat’ won the Sunday Herald short story competition 2015. He lives in Bangalore with his wife Nandini and five year old daughter Avantika who constantly challenges him to come  up with a new story every night.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Attention
      Catherine Chidgey
      New Zealand

      Aaron’s career as a child star is cut short when he takes on his most challenging role – one that will never quite leave him. 

      ‘I was on the news again – the first time in more than a decade. My girlfriend and I were eating dinner on our laps (macaroni cheese from the freezer; we’d left the honeymoon phase far behind) and there I was, the lead story. The footage was twenty-six years old and Jacinta did not recognise me.’

      Catherine Chidgey is an award-winning New Zealand writer whose five novels have attracted international acclaim, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (South East Asia and South Pacific)She has won the Katherine Mansfield Award, the Betty Trask Awardthe Janet Frame Fiction Prize and the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize – New Zealand’s most prestigious literary award. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Waikato. Her new novel, Remote Sympathy, is released in October 2020. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Dawning
      Aba Amissah Asibon
      Ghana

      A housekeeper works to balance the mourning of her beloved employer with carrying out her domestic duties, the most challenging of which is the nurturing of her dejected madam. 

      ‘The shrine itself is modest, an old coffee table covered in about a yard of scalloped Chantilly lace. On the table sits a thirty-by-twenty-four-inch portrait of Mr Atta wearing his signature pensive expression, flanked by a vase of fresh flowers and a brass holder filled with incense sticks. The shrine is Mansa’s handiwork, a befitting memorial for a good man.’

      Aba Amissah Asibonwas born and raised in Ghana. Her short fiction has been published in GuernicaThe University of Chester’s Flash Magazine and The Johannesburg Review of Books. She was also longlisted for the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction and featured in the prize’s anthology Migrations. Aba currently lives in Malawi and is working on her debut novel.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Ouroboros, Ouroboros
      Sharmini Aphrodite
      Malaysia

      A young woman goes back to her ancestral village, where – years after the last one was seen – she is terrorised by a tiger. 

      ‘When she saw the tiger the world had been wet with colour. Trembling on the edge of evening, everything either as thick as blood or as delicate as water. Her skin was soft and gleaming from her well bath; walking along the pathway she felt protected, shrouded in a skin stitched with light.’

      Sharmini Aphrodite was born in Borneo. She was raised in, and still lives between, the cities of Johor Bahru and Singapore. Her short fiction has been published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (2015); Smokelong Quarterly (2015); this is how you walk on the moon: an anthology of anti-realist fiction (Ethos Books, 2016); Australian Book Review Jolley Prize, Second (2018); and Golden Point Awards, Silver (2017). Her art essay was runner-up for Frieze Magazine’s Art Writing Prize, (2017). 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Rites Evasion Maneuvers
      Caleb Ozovehe Ajinomoh
      Nigeria

      Three brothers turn tricks at their father’s funeral. 

      ‘Funerals are expensive, because the living have made dying an industry. Brother One, a grief consultant, knows this better than anyone. In fact, those words can be found on the bottom of the slim leaflets he distributes at Rites Evasion Maneuvers…’

      Caleb Ozovehe Ajinomoh was awarded a residency at Ledig House, Art Omi, New York in 2018. He has won the W. Morgan and Lou Claire Rose award, as well as the L.D Clark and LaVerne Harrell Clark Award. His work appears in QZThe OffingNecessary Fiction, Catapultadda, AFREADACircleShowAWP Writers’ Chronicle, and the Goethe Institute anthology, Limbe to Lagos. He is a fiction candidate at Texas State University in the United States

      www.calebajinomoh.com

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • 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.

      ‘I was seven when my sister taught me you did not have to wave at people just because they waved at you. I asked her if she meant like when we were standing in the bank line with our dead mother’s boyfriend. It was just after she had died and the guard sitting at the door winked and waved.’

      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.  

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • 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.

      ‘The people at Number 24 are lovely. They’re Jamaican. Which is not unusual in itself given what’s happened to immigration in this country since the War. But they are lovely. They have fitted in so well. On this road at any rate. We did have our concerns at first. But they are very quiet.’

      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. 

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    • Wherever Mister Jensen Went
      Reyah Martin
      Scotland

      ‘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…

      ‘Mister Jensen lives outside of town. He lives where the killin’s happen, the shootin’s an’ all the most mysterious things.’

      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. 

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • When a Woman Renounces Motherhood
      Innocent Chizaram Ilo
      Nigeria

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

      Read this between clenched teeth, a taut smirk plastered on your face. Try to taste each word as if it will escape from your mouth, like air.’

      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.

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Great Indian Tee and Snakes
      Kritika Pandey
      India

      ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ tells of an unlikely friendship which reaches across religious divides, set against the background of a tea seller’s stall. She writes of two young people trying to solve an age-old riddle of human existence: how can love overcome the forces of hatred and prejudice?

      ‘The girl with the black bindi knows that she is not supposed to glance at the boy in the white skull cap but she does.’

      Kritika Pandey is a Pushcart-nominated Indian writer and a final year candidate for a Master of Fine Arts 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.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission

    This year’s judging panel

    • Photo by Elikem Akpalu

      Nii Ayikwei Parkes

      Chair

      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. 

    • Mohale Mashigo

      Judge, African Region

      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. 

    • William Phuan

      Judge, Asian Region

      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. 

    • Heather O’Neill 

      Judge, Canada and Europe Region

      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. 

    • Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw

      Judge, Carribean Region

      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 Writers; Methods 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. 

    • Nic Low

      Judge, Pacific Region

      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. 

    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.

    • Is there any required theme or genre?

      The prize is only open to short fiction, but it can be in any fiction genre–science fiction, speculative fiction, historical fiction, crime, romance, literary fiction–and you may write about any subject you wish.

    • In what languages do you accept entries?

      Submissions are accepted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, English, French, Greek, Malay, Maltese, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Stories that have been translated into English from any language are also accepted and the translator of any winning story receives additional prize money.

    • Can the story be published?

      Your submission must be unpublished in any print or online publication, with the exception of personal websites.

    • How is the prize judged?

      Entries are initially assessed by a team of readers and a longlist of 200 entries is put before the international judging panel, comprising a chair and five judges, one from each of the Commonwealth regions – Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. All judges read entries from all regions.

      Entries in other languages are assessed by relevant language readers and the best submissions are selected for translation into English to be considered for inclusion on the longlist.

      The judging panel select a shortlist of around twenty stories, from which five regional winners are chosen, one of which is chosen as the overall winner.