The winner of the 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize has been announced. Find out more.
Revisit the 2021 prize

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

2021

The 2021 prize winner

Kanya D’Almeida
I Cleaned The

Sri Lankan author Kanya D’Almeida won the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The Commonwealth Foundation announced D’Almeida’s win in an online award ceremony on 30 June which featured readings from Zambian author Mubanga Kalimamukwento, Sri Lankan actress Ranmali Mirchandani, British actress Lyndsey Marshal, Jamaican author Kei Miller and Australian actress Francesca Savige.

D’Almeida, from Colombo, Sri Lanka, was named the winner by British-Jamaican actress Dona Croll who presented the online ceremony. D’Almeida is the first Sri Lankan to win the overall prize and the second to win for the Asia region.

The 2021 prize was judged by an international panel of writers, each representing one of the five regions of the Commonwealth, and chaired by South African writer Zoë Wicomb. The other panellists are Nigerian writer A. Igoni Barrett; Bangladeshi writer, translator and editor Khademul Islam; British poet and fiction writer Keith Jarrett; Jamaican environmental activist, award-winning writer and 2012 Caribbean regional winner Diana McCaulay; and award-winning author and 2016 Pacific regional winner Tina Makereti from New Zealand.

 

‘Winning the Commonwealth Short Story prize during this moment of global upheaval feels like a tremendous honour and an equally tremendous responsibility. It makes me question what it means to be a writer in these times, times when the human imagination might offer us our best shot at survival. I’ve long felt that fiction is the last ‘free’ place on earth in which to fully envision (and execute!) radical alternatives to the often dismal systems that govern us. To have won the prize for a story about two destitute, ageing women in Sri Lanka digging through the debris of their lives in search of a little dignity is more than a blessing—it’s a firm order from the universe to keep inventing ways for the powerless to gather together, giggle together, and win.’

Kanya D’Almeida

‘Congratulations to Kanya D’Almeida, whose winning story captivated the judges from the outset. In “I Cleaned The–“ the short story form is fully exploited. Set in a Sanctuary for the Forsaken, “a place for people who have no people”, it brims with humanity, exploring the themes of love and death in an ingenious structure. In a frame narrative, Ishwan cares for a terminally ill fellow-inmate, and embedded within it is a story she tells her friend about her previous years of caring for a severely debilitated child. The narration is an accomplished interweaving of the two-time frames in which the stories artfully testify to love in its various forms. For all its scatology, its depiction of the unsavoury body in decline, “I Cleaned The-” deals in delicacy and the forbearance that love bestows. With a title that speaks of the unspoken and the unutterable, as well as attempts by the poor and overlooked to voice their feelings, D’Almeida appeals to both the heart and the mind of the reader in this portrayal of unspeakable injustice.’

Zoë Wicomb, Chair of the Judges

‘As we enter the second year of a pandemic marked by the heroism of invisible frontline workers, it seems fitting that the wonderful tale which has won the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize celebrates a member of this hidden army. Kanya D’Almeida’s story of love and humanity, in the face of loss and grief, is one that speaks to us all.’

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

Watch the 2021 prize ceremony

Regional winners

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

In its tenth year, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. This year’s regional winners were selected from a record 6423 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries.

Chair of the Judges, South African novelist Zoë Wicomb, said:

‘Rereading a smaller group of stories, looking at them once again in the fiercer, narrower light of competition, is a daunting step in the judging process. We celebrate difference and recoil from the idea of ranking works that are so diverse and encompass such a range of subjects, but that is what we agreed to do. We have come to know these stories intimately, thought about them more carefully after previous debates, and juggled them in our hearts. Thus we meet with fingers crossed and loins girded for agonistic discussion and argumentation. But we have also come to know and trust each other in this process, and so we arrive at our regional winners with their captivating stories of insight and compassion, stories that in their distinctive voices speak to our troubled times.’

The five regional winners’ stories were published online by the literary magazine Granta in the run-up to the announcement of the overall winner on 30 June. They are also published in a special print edition by Paper + Ink, available online and in bookshops from 30 June.

  • Pacific
    Fertile Soil
    Katerina Gibson
    Australia

    In a prestigious university town, a young woman grapples with a persistent sense of displacement. A night marked by an uncommon storm ushers in unexpected visitors—strangers who seem oddly familiar. These encounters stir an uncanny blend of déjà vu and longing.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘The strangeness of ‘Fertile Soil’ dawns slowly: the narrator has increasingly odd encounters until she meets someone who has, in fact, been slowly replacing her, just as invasive species of tree replace natives, just as the city and its monuments replace what was there before. The judges loved this story for its layers, the way it speaks of place and displacement, colonisation, invasion and grief, and yet does so with such a light touch that it is also simply a story about deja vu, or the stuff that makes up a life. Sharply told, darkly humorous, surreal and clever, ‘Fertile Soil’ represents the Pacific region well.’

    Tina Makereti, Judge, Pacific region

    Katerina Gibson is a writer living in Melbourne. Their short stories have won the VU Short Story Prize, been longlisted for the Peter Carey, and otherwise been published in Overland, The Lifted Brow, and Kill Your Darlings. Most recently, they have had a story anthologised in New Australian Fiction 2020. They are currently at work on their first collection ‘Women I Know’.

    ‘Being the Pacific regional winner, and getting published in Granta, feels like accomplishing one of those lofty, absurd dreams…it’s all so ridiculous and delightful.’

    - Katerina Gibson
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Africa
    Granddaughter of the Octopus
    Rémy Ngamije
    Namibia

    In ‘Granddaughter of the Octopus,’ a compelling family saga unfolds, narrated through the lens of a woman’s relationships with eight distinct men. Shaped by her grandmother’s fierce independence and guidance, the protagonist navigates love, heartache, and the legacy of her ancestors.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ”Granddaughter of the Octopus’ is a psychologically astute portrait of a larger-than-life character whose rollicking essence is distilled into the reader’s imagination through concise prose, yes, and poetic detail, yes again. But there’s also that extra magic of the writer who wields metaphor like a whip cracking at untamed life. The unforgettable matriarch of this bittersweet tale is audacious, indecorous, and unabashedly sensual, all of which, and much, much more—I must add hilarious—are captured in a voice both raw and tender as a welt. To quote the story’s narrator, ‘The past always wins.’ But the future, in the transfiguring writing of Rémy Ngamije, is winning this time.’

    Igoni Barrett, Judge, Africa region

    Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine.

    His debut novel The Eternal Audience of One is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Azure, Sultan’s Seal, Columbia Journal, Lolwe, and many other places. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website: remythequill.com

    ‘It is my hope this recognition encourages more writers from my home country, and those from less established literary traditions, to continue their writing journeys…’

    - Rémy Ngamije
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Asia
    I Cleaned The
    Kanya D’Almeida
    Sri Lanka

    ‘I Cleaned The—’, is a story about ‘dirty work’: domestic labour, abandonment, romantic encounters behind bathroom doors, and human waste.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘Congratulations to Kanya D’Almeida, whose winning story captivated the judges from the outset. In “I Cleaned The–“ the short story form is fully exploited. Set in a Sanctuary for the Forsaken, “a place for people who have no people”, it brims with humanity, exploring the themes of love and death in an ingenious structure. In a frame narrative, Ishwan cares for a terminally ill fellow-inmate, and embedded within it is a story she tells her friend about her previous years of caring for a severely debilitated child. The narration is an accomplished interweaving of the two-time frames in which the stories artfully testify to love in its various forms. For all its scatology, its depiction of the unsavoury body in decline, “I Cleaned The-” deals in delicacy and the forbearance that love bestows. With a title that speaks of the unspoken and the unutterable, as well as attempts by the poor and overlooked to voice their feelings, D’Almeida appeals to both the heart and the mind of the reader in this portrayal of unspeakable injustice.’

    Zoë Wicomb, Chair of the Judges

    Kanya D’Almeida is a Sri Lankan writer. Her fiction has appeared on Jaggery and The Bangalore Review. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and hosts The Darkest Light, a podcast exploring birth and motherhood in Sri Lanka.

    ‘Winning the Commonwealth Short Story prize during this moment of global upheaval feels like a tremendous honour and an equally tremendous responsibility. It makes me question what it means to be a writer in these times, times when the human imagination might offer us our best shot at survival. I’ve long felt that fiction is the last ‘free’ place on earth in which to fully envision (and execute!) radical alternatives to the often dismal systems that govern us. To have won the prize for a story about two destitute, ageing women in Sri Lanka digging through the debris of their lives in search of a little dignity is more than a blessing—it’s a firm order from the universe to keep inventing ways for the powerless to gather together, giggle together, and win.’

    - Kanya D’Almeida
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Caribbean
    The Disappearance of Mumma Dell
    Roland Watson-Grant
    Jamaica

    In a rural Jamaican district, the somber proceedings of a matriarch’s funeral take an unexpected turn as her body mysteriously vanishes, plunging the community into chaos. Meanwhile, the district itself faces an existential threat of vanishing from the map, adding a sense of urgency to their predicament.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘A wiseass, pitch-perfect teenager tells the story of a pear tree near to the rail tracks of a bauxite train in a rural Jamaican district – no one will eat from this particular tree – but why? “The Disappearance of Mumma Dell” teems with lightly but perfectly sketched and familiar characters – a hellfire preacher, a scammer, community elders and shadowy politicians. Promises are broken, warnings are ignored, and the now power of social media supersedes the then magic of obeah. Rich, funny and deeply rooted in the Jamaican countryside, this story reverberates with the drumbeats of the ancestors and delivers an incisive commentary on what gets protected, by whom and why. ’

    Diana McCaulay, Judge, Caribbean region

    Roland Watson-Grant is a Jamaican novelist, screenwriter and travel writer. His first novel Sketcher (2013) was published by Alma Books (UK) and has been translated into Turkish and Spanish. Roland was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He is a 2018 recipient of a Musgrave Award for Literature in his home country and his non-fiction work has been archived by the Smithsonian Libraries.

    ‘I entered the Commonwealth Short Story Prize because I write in the spaces where cultures have conversations…I couldn’t ignore a platform that is dedicated to the very same thing.’

    - Roland Watson-Grant
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Canada & Europe
    Turnstones
    Carol Farrelly
    United Kingdom

    Amidst the beauty of a prestigious university, a young woman wrestles with the haunting notion of not truly belonging. As the night descends, a storm unleashes a troupe of unusual trespassers, forever altering her perception of herself and the world around her.

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ”Turnstones’ is a story I’ve been compelled to revisit multiple times for its ideas, its spirit, the crescendo and surprise of its denouement and, of course, the triumphant trills. It is a story that lingers in the imagination, one that challenges the long shadow of power and of gatekeeping, of institutions and received wisdom, and brings us to a reckoning in today’s world. These complex ideas present simply, in the exchange between Jo and the porter, while the eponymous turnstones assert their presence. The writer is deft in the creation of an unsettling atmosphere inside a claustrophobic setting. ‘Turnstones’ handles humour, the too-familiar frustrations of being obstructed by inflexibility, the inevitable redressing of the balance, the power of storytelling, and so much more. Most crucially, it is a challenge to our perspectives, a wholly transformative piece.’

    Keith Jarrett, Judge, Canada and Europe

    Carol Farrelly is a fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Her short stories have been widely published, broadcast on radio, and shortlisted for awards. Last year, she was shortlisted for The Society of Authors’ Tom-Gallon Award. She is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.

    ‘It’s an honour to have my story chosen this year…The [award] does so much to celebrate and share short stories from across the globe: it reminds us that storytelling…is an instinct and need that can connect us all.’

    - Carol Farrelly
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • The Shortlist

    • Carved
      Tim Saunders
      New Zealand

      ‘Carved’ follows the life of a girl that is changed forever. She blames the only thing that could have saved her from the empty darkness that eventually consumes her. In a seaside town, the girl navigates teenage friendships and emotions. The story explores themes of manipulation, betrayal, and self-discovery against a backdrop of coastal beauty.

      ‘Sam ran over and scooped up the ball; his chiselled legs flashed in the sun. A smattering of applause rippled around the other boys. I imagined my skin as red leather, his fingers gently scooping.’

      Tim Saunders farms sheep and beef near Palmerston North in New Zealand. He has had poetry and short stories published in Turbine|Kapohau, takahē, Landfall, Poetry NZ Yearbook and Flash Frontier. He won the 2018 Mindfood Magazine Short Story Competition, and placed third in the 2019 and 2020 New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day Awards. His book, This Farming Life, was published by Allen & Unwin in August, 2020.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Class Struggle
      Ian Stewart
      Canada

      Unlock the pages of a hilariously absurd yet oddly captivating journey in ‘Class Struggle’. The story dives into the mind-bending narrative that blurs the lines between fiction and academia.  Discover a tale that veers from the mundane to the utterly bizarre, questioning the essence of writing and creativity itself.

      ‘I wake up. I cry some. I get dressed. Go to school. Try to, anyway. Car won’t start. Take the bus. Step in urine. Pool of it. On bus floor. I cry more. No one cares. I look around. Everyone looks away.’

      Ian Stewart is a writer and artist in Montreal. He co-founded the Institute for the Calibration of Reality (realitycalibration.com) with artist Indigo Esmonde. He has a Masters in Mathematics from McGill (Montreal) and a PhD in music from City University (London). His sonic artwork has been presented in concerts and galleries worldwide. His story ‘Comparative Literature’ was longlisted for the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Downpour
      SJ Finn
      Australia

      Midway through a deluge, Reg and Cynthia open their front door to a stranger who will change their lives forever. Or perhaps their lives had already been changing for quite
      some time and this visitor, who they welcome inside, is just the lynchpin they
      needed to see it.

      ‘And that’s where we’re at, the hatches battened down while the deluge hammers against the house when the doorbell goes, when a third party really does show up.’

      SJ Finn, who goes by the name Finn, is an Australian writer. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in a wide range of Australian literary magazines and newspapers
      over the last decade including Overland, Kill Your Darlings, Island, Rabbit, Cordite, and in both The Australian and The Age newspapers. Her latest novel is Down to the River. She can be found at sjfinn.com.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • English at the End of Time
      Rawiya Hosein
      Trinidad and Tobago

      ‘English at the End of Time’ unfolds in a rural Trinidadian village during WW2’s apocalyptic upheaval. Amidst societal norms and personal trials, a determined woman, covertly embarks on mastering English literacy, guided by a self-taught teacher. The story unearths her losses, resilience, and the transformative power of language. Against historical turmoil, the narrative echoes themes of hope, autonomy, and human connection.

      ‘Mrs. Narine erased her answer, paused then rewrote her chosen verb. Ramdeen read the struggle on her face in the intensity of her eyes. They were always dark.’

      Rawiya Hosein is a Trinidadian author currently residing in Canada. She holds a BA in Literatures in English with Linguistics from the University of the West Indies and is awaiting examination of her MFA Creative Writing thesis.

      Rawiya is the winner of the John Steinbeck Award for Fiction (2021) and the Bocas Lit Fest Youth Writer of the Year Award (2022). She has been shortlisted twice for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2019, 2021) and longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize (2021) as well as the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Prize (2021). She was a finalist for the BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean (2020). Rawiya’s fiction has appeared in Adda and Reed Magazine.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Fertile Soil
      Katerina Gibson
      Australia

      In a prestigious university town, a young woman grapples with a persistent sense of displacement. A night marked by an uncommon storm ushers in unexpected visitors—strangers who seem oddly familiar. These encounters stir an uncanny blend of déjà vu and longing.

      ‘Summer had come and with it some strange encounters around the city. At work, or at conferences, on the train, in the corridors before my night class, strangers would greet me, asking after me like a long lost cousin.’

      Katerina Gibson is a writer living in Melbourne. Their short stories have won the VU Short Story Prize, been longlisted for the Peter Carey, and otherwise been published in Overland, The Lifted Brow, and Kill Your Darlings. Most recently, they have had a story anthologised in New Australian Fiction 2020. They are currently at work on their first collection ‘Women I Know’.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Genuine Human Hair
      Sharma Taylor
      Jamaica

      Spanning continents, two women navigate the complex realm of beauty through their hair. This tale delves into their unique struggles, unraveling a concealed link that binds them. Amidst their journeys, they unearth newfound strength, interlacing their lives in unexpected ways.

      ‘Me name Petal. That’s mi nickname ‘cause the man dem say mi pretty like flowers…like the one we have in Jamaica name ‘hibiscus.’ Well, mi pretty except fi mi picky-picky hair. Mi nah tell nuh lie. Mi head tough.’

      Sharma Taylor is a Jamaican writer and lawyer living in Barbados. She has been the recipient of the 2020 Wasafiri Queen Mary New Writing Prize, the 2020 Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award and the 2019 Bocas Lit Fest’s Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize.  She was previously shortlisted for the CSSP in 2018 and 2020.  Her debut novel What A Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You is scheduled to be published by Virago (part of Little Brown) in the UK in summer 2022.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Granddaughter of the Octopus
      Rémy Ngamije
      Namibia

      In ‘Granddaughter of the Octopus,’ a compelling family saga unfolds, narrated through the lens of a woman’s relationships with eight distinct men. Shaped by her grandmother’s fierce independence and guidance, the protagonist navigates love, heartache, and the legacy of her ancestors.

      ‘As Ariel surrenders her voice I watch Ursula cackle with victory. The sight scares my sons. I smile, looking at this illustrated woman who so reminds me of my grandmother, the woman who had eight sons from eight different men.’

      Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine.

      His debut novel The Eternal Audience of One is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Azure, Sultan’s Seal, Columbia Journal, Lolwe, and many other places. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website: remythequill.com

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Hunger
      Andre Bagoo
      Trinidad and Tobago

      Three months after a breakup, a lonely chef finds the perfect way to reignite his appetite for life: a tall, handsome, Venezuelan man. But what this new stranger has to offer might be too much to swallow.

      ‘You’d spent the day in bed crying, listening to Taylor Swift’s Folklore album like it was going out of style. You’d tried everything to regain your bearings after the breakup.’

      Andre Bagoo is a Trinidadian writer and poet, the author of an essay collection on literature and art, The Undiscovered Country, as well as several volumes of poetry. In 2020, he was shortlisted for The Ernest Hemingway Foundation’s annual short fiction prize and longlisted for the Bristol Prize.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • I Cleaned The
      Kanya D’Almeida
      Sri Lanka

      ‘I Cleaned The—’, is a story about ‘dirty work’: domestic labour, abandonment, romantic encounters behind bathroom doors, and human waste.

      ‘She doesn’t actually have tuberculosis. The TB stands for tobacco; she says she became addicted to the stuff while wrapping beedis for a living when she was thirteen years old, and now her lungs are like the kitchen sponge, full of holes and black fungus.’

      Kanya D’Almeida is a Sri Lankan writer. Her fiction has appeared on Jaggery and The Bangalore Review. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and hosts The Darkest Light, a podcast exploring birth and motherhood in Sri Lanka.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • It Ends with a Kiss
      Riddhi Dastidar
      India

      In a secluded world under an unyielding dome, a girl discovers a love that defies their surveillance-bound existence. She navigates the dichotomy of loss and newfound love.

      ‘The skylight room was where she met the girl. It was on the top floor, cordoned off from a side of the dome-top terrace where the adults had their high teas and celebrations.’

      Riddhi Dastidar is a neuroqueer journalist and researcher in Delhi. They work on disability justice, public health, climate and culture. They hold an M.A in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi. In 2020 they won the TFA Award for Creative Writing for their poetry. Riddhi is working on their first book — a work of climate fiction with queer and speculative elements. Their work has appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine, The Fuller Project, Himal Southasian, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Rattle Magazine, IndiaSpend, and elsewhere.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Mass Effect
      Joshua Wales
      Canada

      This poignant story follows Eddie and Ivan’s journey as they grapple with Ivan’s illness. Themes of love, intimacy, mortality, and the unpredictability of life are explored. Their playful interactions, emotional struggles, and moments of connection paint a vivid portrait of their relationship against the backdrop of impending tragedy. The story delves into the fragility of existence and the profound impact of love in the face of adversity.

      ‘Eddie starts counting when he notices the familiar hoarseness and irregularity of Ivan’s breathing. The doctor said they should find a hospital if the seizures last for more than two minutes.’

      Joshua Wales is a Toronto-based palliative care physician and writer, with recent work in Contemporary Verse 2, Plenitudes, Grain, The New Quarterly, the Globe and Mail, the New England Journal of Medicine, and on the CBC. He won the 2020 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, and his work has been short-listed for PRISM international’s Jacob Zilber Short Fiction Prize, and CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize. He is an MFA student at University of British Columbia.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Ogbuefi
      Vincent Anioke
      Nigeria

      A young boy confronts the weight of tradition and the intensity of transformation. As he approaches manhood, he faces the daunting prospect of becoming an Ogbuefi, a rite that involves sacrifice and deep symbolism.

      ‘When Papa returns home in the evening, I am curled up on the lemongrass carpet by the TV, watching cartoons. Red-tailed mice shuffle in widening circles, their arms interlocked, and Papa says, over their lilting chorus, ‘Chibuike, it is time. This weekend you will become an Ogbuefi.’’

      Vincent Anioke was born and raised in Nigeria, studied Computer Science at MIT in the United States, and now lives in Canada. By day, he is a software engineer. By night, he voraciously reads and writes short stories. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals such as Carve, Split Lip Magazine, Pithead Chapel, and Callaloo, among others. He is currently working on his debut anthology.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Rabbit
      Samantha Lane Murphy
      Australia

      Dive into a world of sisters, where balance and survival are paramount. Promise contemplates the complexity of goodness and evil in a society built upon harmony, physical excellence, and balance. The story explores the tension between human instincts, survival, and the boundaries of morality in a unique and intricate society.

      ‘Later, when I talk to Mother, and I speak both of the rabbit killing and my feelings of admiration, she will explain: to quicken the suffering between death and life is good. I admire her because I am drawn to goodness.’

      Samantha Lane Murphy is an Australian-born New Zealand-based writer, with a love for both literature, science fiction, and the spaces in which they meet. She has been published in Monsters in the Garden: An Anthology of Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Elizabeth Knox and David Larsen, and literary New Zealand journals such as Headland and Turbine.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • some words ending in a sentence
      phill doran
      United Kingdom

      The story relates the unresolved thoughts and memories of a man, traumatized as a small child by a family tragedy. The story delves into themes of language, family, violence, memory, and the complexities of human nature. Follow a family’s struggles, marked by domestic discord. The concept of parabola symbolizes the unexpected trajectories of life.

      ‘Parabolas are always described. When she threw the scissors at him, they described a parabola. As I say, I was small and could not articulate this. Not like that.’

      phill doran was born in Liverpool, England, but has lived the past 40 years in South Africa, where he runs a training business. Married with three children, he has written for personal pleasure, with varying degrees of success (and of pleasure) for many years. He lives, works and writes under his given name, but prefers it expressed in lower case (phill doran) whenever possible.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Starry Night
      Cara Marks
      Canada

      ‘Starry Night’ unveils a narrative is a symphony of emotions, entwining youthful romance, existential contemplation, and the fragility of human connections against the backdrop of grief. Embark on a captivating exploration of life’s complexities and the bonds that carry us through its tumultuous currents.

      ‘When we smoke the weed, I think about Dad and death and sex and bunnies and poems. I wonder what this all has to do with philosophy, and if it’ll come up in Saint Augustine next week.’

      Cara Marks is a writer from Vancouver Island, Canada. She writes intimate, darkly comic stories that have been long-listed for the 2020 Journey Prize, the 2019 CVC Short Fiction Competition, the 2016 Mogford Food and Drink Writing Prize, and others. As part of her PhD on food, empathy, and literature, she is writing her first novel, Milkflower, which was short-listed for the 2020 Grindstone Novel Prize.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Submission
      Nur Kahn
      Pakistan

      A boy in boarding school has feelings for a senior and this physical intimacy, and the feelings that come from it, fly in the face of the boy’s faith. These competing devotions take a toll on this boy’s life and psyche.

      ‘His willingness to indulge me has taken a dive. There’s a menacing edge to his voice, all business.’

      Nur Kahn holds a degree in psychology from Columbia University and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop. Their work has been a finalist for the Dastaan Award and the Salam Award and they are currently working on their first novel.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Tetra Hydro Cannabinol
      Moso Sematlane
      Lesotho

      In a small village in Lesotho, a young boy grapples with the arrival of a medical marijuana company. The story reflects themes of economic disparity, environmental impact, and personal frustration.

      ”You might have seen big trucks and men with helmets moving around here these past few months,’ the white man says. ‘That’s because we have built Lesotho’s first ever operational cannabis cultivation facility!”

      Moso Sematlane is a writer and filmmaker based between Maseru, Lesotho, and Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been published in Nat Brut and is an assistant editor at Lolwe magazine.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Current Climate
      Aravind Jayan
      India

      In the midst of his new role, Mr. Chandru finds himself caught in a thought-provoking struggle with an unexpected element. In this narrative, the clash between tradition and modernity, personal beliefs and professional obligations unfolds.

      ‘The new branch manager, Mr. Chandru, noticed the idol as soon as he entered the bank. It stood on a white pedestal in the centre of the foyer, was about two feet tall and depicted Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha sitting together.’

      Aravind Jayan is a writer based in Kerala. His work has been published in Out of Print, The Bombay Literary Magazine and Helter Skelter among others. He is the 2017 Toto Funds the Arts winner for Fiction in English.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Disappearance of Mumma Dell
      Roland Watson-Grant
      Jamaica

      In a rural Jamaican district, the somber proceedings of a matriarch’s funeral take an unexpected turn as her body mysteriously vanishes, plunging the community into chaos. Meanwhile, the district itself faces an existential threat of vanishing from the map, adding a sense of urgency to their predicament.

      ‘Well, same time Brother Anthony jump into a taxi and leave me wonderin’ how a little name could frighten a big man so. Well he wasn’t the only one. When I look ‘round for somebody else to ask ‘bout Mumma Dell, people just start evaporate like morning dew.’

      Roland Watson-Grant is a Jamaican novelist, screenwriter and travel writer. His first novel Sketcher (2013) was published by Alma Books (UK) and has been translated into Turkish and Spanish. Roland was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He is a 2018 recipient of a Musgrave Award for Literature in his home country and his non-fiction work has been archived by the Smithsonian Libraries.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Woman; or Euryale
      A. N. King
      Australia

      Follow a story in a coastal village marked by tradition. A girl’s journey to womanhood takes on an uncanny twist. She comes to grips with her village’s ancient and terrible rites for attaining womanhood. Her transformation affects her physically and emotionally, while the village changes around her.

      ‘Young brides were still expected to sport a set of white and blue bracelets on the occasion in order to conjure the natural association between their ascension and the sun traversing the morning sky.’

      A.N. King is a Thai-Australian writer and international lawyer. She graduated with first class honours in law from the University of Cambridge and on the Dean’s List at Georgetown University Law Center. She was the youth winner of the Somerset National Novella Writing Competition and the Boroondara Literary Award. She currently resides in Geneva, where she works as a dispute settlement lawyer in the WTO Secretariat.

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    • Tourism is our Business
      Heather Barker
      Barbados

      A middle-aged Barbadian teacher hosts long-stay guests in her coastal oasis as part of a national welcome scheme launched after a pandemic. When she meets a nightmare guest, she goes to extreme lengths to deal with him.

      ‘We did caught between a rock and a hard place. Not that that was unusual for a place bandied ‘bout by colonial forces. And the schemers spent more than the regular tourists.’

      Born in the UK, Heather Barker writes fiction about girls and women in the Caribbean and the African Diaspora while exploring the legacies of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Her short story, African Burial Ground was shortlisted for the 2016 Small Axe Literary Competition while her collection manuscript, “The Plundering”, was the top entry in the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment (2017). Heather was shortlisted for the 2019 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. She runs a communications consultancy in Barbados.

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    • Turnstones
      Carol Farrelly
      United Kingdom

      Amidst the beauty of a prestigious university, a young woman wrestles with the haunting notion of not truly belonging. As the night descends, a storm unleashes a troupe of unusual trespassers, forever altering her perception of herself and the world around her.

      ‘A sliver of night sky glinted. A finger of rain fell on the flagstones. A mottled brown bird darted past her and ducked beneath the turnstile, then hopped, all twiggy orange feet, onto the staircase. A turnstone, she thought.’

      Carol Farrelly is a fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Her short stories have been widely published, broadcast on radio, and shortlisted for awards. Last year, she was shortlisted for The Society of Authors’ Tom-Gallon Award. She is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.

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    • Weeds
      Ling Low
      Malaysia

      Amid a pandemic lockdown, Wee Boon Ho’s life changes. Despite confinement, he discovers an unconventional source of solace.  His covert encounters provide him with a sense of purpose and connection.

      ‘As the days went by, they spoke less and less. It didn’t matter. Wee didn’t expect much from anyone, family or otherwise. Since the divorce, he’d come to accept that his children belonged more to their mother.’

      Ling Low is a writer, journalist and filmmaker whose short stories have appeared in various anthologies of fiction. She has written on arts and culture for the Guardian, South China Morning Post and Esquire Malaysia, among other publications. Her short films have screened at international festivals and her comedy sketches have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She was a runner-up for Malaysia’s DK Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence in 2016.

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    • A for Abortion
      Franklyn Usouwa
      Nigeria

      A pregnant teenager is forced to have an abortion by the abuser she believes she is in love with. She struggling to wrestle with her emotions of fear woven around her. The story sheds light on the complexities of power dynamics and the emotional turmoil that accompanies such situations.

      ‘I suspect Madu rented the Peugeot to disguise the true nature of our outing. He does not want one of Aunty Ugochi’s friends to spot his car parked outside Nne’s house. There is only one reason a married man visits Nne.’

      Franklyn Usouwa is a Nigerian of the Igbo ethnic group who was born and raised in Lagos. He is presently studying for an undergraduate degree in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Lagos. He is greatly interested in storytelling in all its possible forms but has a particularly soft spot for short stories. His short stories have been published in The Kalahari Review and Writer’s Space Africa. 

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    • An Analysis of a Fragile Affair
      Ola W. Halim
      Nigeria

      A delicate affair between a boy and a man unfolds. A young man battles the contradictions that his lover resents. He cloaks certain aspects of himself to maintain acceptance. Yet, the poignant question remains: how long can this delicate balance endure?

      ‘In the very beginning, the stage was empty. Only lights flickered and curtains swirled. Then a boy appeared, closely followed by a man, and it happened that they were having an affair or something close to that.’

      Ola W. Halim writes fiction and poetry and also teaches English Language and Literature in Edo State, Nigeria. He seeks to tell stories not frequently told, themes rarely explored. As a teacher, he has been shortlisted for the TFCN Teacher’s Prize for Literature 2019. He edits prose for ARTmosterrific, a literary platform publishing young African writers, especially undergraduates. Halim is interested in research on sexuality, albinism, inclusive education and feminism.

      Listen to the author talk about their submission

    This year’s judging panel

    • Zoë Wicomb

      Chair

      Zoë Wicomb is a South African writer who lives in Glasgow, Scotland where she is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. Her Race, Nation, Translation: South African Essays was published in 2018.  For her fictional works –– You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town; David’s Story; Playing in the Light; The One That Got Away; and October ––Wicomb received Yale’s inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize. Her novel Still Life will be published in September 2020 by Penguin Random House, Cape Town and The New Press, New York. 

      Wicomb has previously been a judge for the International Dublin Literary Award and has chaired the Caine Prize as well as the Windham-Campbell Prize judging panels. 

    • Photo by Femke van Zeijl

      A. Igoni Barrett

      Judge, African Region

      A. Igoni Barrett was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and lives in Lagos. His fiction has been published in 14 countries. Love is Power, or Something Like That, his second short story collection, was selected by NPR as a best book of 2013. His first novel, Blackass, published in 2015, was nominated for the PEN Open Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards, the Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award, and the Nommo Award for Best Novel. In 2016 Blackass was chosen by the Chinese Foreign Literature Society as a winner of its 21st Century Best Foreign Novel Award.  

    • Khademul Islam

      Judge, Asia Region

      Khademul Islam is a writer, translator and editor based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was the literary editor of two dailies (Dhaka Tribune and Daily Star), where he encouraged English translations in Bangladesh. He is the Director of Bengal Lights Books publications, a board member of Dhaka Translation Centre, and the editor of the literary journal Bengal Lights. He has published two books of English translations of Bengali short fiction and poems. His short stories have been included in anthologies, and he is a frequent contributor to national and international publications. He is currently working on a non-fiction book to be published by Bloomsbury UK. 

    • Keith Jarrett

      Judge, Canada and Europe Region

      Keith Jarrett lives and works in London. Poet and fiction writer, he is currently a PhD scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, where he is completing his first novel, exploring the migration of religion from the Caribbean to London. Keith is a former UK Poetry Slam Champion; he also won the International Slam Championship at FLUPP in Rio. His short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines, including Attitude and Tell Tales IV, with influences ranging from Caribbean trickster figures to Latin American surrealism. His play, Safest Spot in Town, was performed at the Old Vic and on BBC Four in 2017 as part of the Queers series. His book of poetry, Selah, was also published last year with Burning Eye.  

       

    • Diana McCaulay

      Judge, Carribean Region

      Diana McCaulay is a Jamaican environmental activist and award-winning writer. She is the founder and Chair of the Jamaica Environment Trust and has published four novels – Dog-Heart, Huracan (Peepal Tree Press), Gone to Drift (Papillote Press and HarperCollins) and White Liver Gal (self published). Her forthcoming fifth novel, Daylight Come, is published by Peepal Tree Press in September 2020. Her short fiction and non fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Granta, Jamaica Journal, Adda Stories, Eleven Eleven, SCOOP the magazine, and the Griffith Review. She won the Hollick Arvon Prize for non fiction in 2014 for her work-in-progress, a creative non fiction book entitled Loving Jamaica. She was the regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012, for her story The Dolphin Catchers 

    • Tina Makereti (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi)

      Judge, Pacific Region

      Tina Makereti (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi) writes essays, novels and short fiction. She is author of The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings and Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa, and in 2017 she co-edited Black Marks on the White Page, an anthology that celebrates Māori and Pasifika writing, with Witi Ihimaera. In 2016 her story ‘Black Milk’ won the Pacific region Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize. Tina teaches creative writing and English at Victoria University of Wellington, and has recently completed a collection of personal essays, This Compulsion in Us. 

    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.