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Revisit the 2022 prize

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

2022

The 2022 prize winner

Ntsika Kota
and the earth drank deep

Eswatini chemist and writer Ntsika Kota won the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The Commonwealth Foundation announced Ntsika Kota’s win in an online award ceremony on 21 June, hosted by spoken word poet Mr Gee and featuring 2022 Chair of the judges Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, this year’s international judging panel, the five regional winners, and 2021 #CWprize winner Kanya D’Almeida. Music for the ceremony was provided by Zambian musician and activist pilAto.

Ntsika, from Mbabane, Eswatini, was announced as the winner by Mr Gee in the online ceremony, and he is the first person from Eswatini to take the prize.

Ntsika Kota’s winning story, ‘and the earth drank deep’, is a tale from the distant past of our species; of a day when cold blood flowed for the first time, and the earth drank deep. Louise Umutoni-Bower, judge for the Africa region, found ‘and the earth drank deep’ to be ‘a universal story. One that reaches across cultures and generations. A story that uses African folktale in a way that remains true to form but is also accessible. It is a reminder of a time when storytelling had a prized place in social gatherings. I was personally transported back to the floor by my mother’s feet where I quietly listened to tales of Rwandan folk heroes and villains. The judges felt that in this story we could see ourselves; what it means to be human. The willingness of the writer to put ‘evil’ on display without interrogation or judgement was commended.’

You can hear Ntsika read an extract from his story in the ceremony, and you can read ‘and the earth drank deep’ now on Granta.

‘There are not many literature prizes more global in scale or inclusive in scope than the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I submitted my story more out of pride than expectation. I was aware of the calibre of writing and adjudication, so I was under no illusions about my chances. However, against all odds, my story was shortlisted. It was just the endorsement I had hoped for. It meant that the pride I felt in what I had put to page was justified. It was everything I had hoped for. I expected no more. Although, that being said, I couldn’t help but daydream about winning the Prize. I never let myself actually hope to win, though, let alone expect to. After all, that would be ridiculous! A rank amateur? In such distinguished company? Fantasise if you will, I told myself, but for goodness sake, be realistic. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got that call.’

Ntsika Kota

‘This year’s winner is an instant classic: a linear narrative in the tradition of the realist short story. The events unfold around a central ethical conceit with tension that accumulates, and a surprise ending leaves the reader with many questions and in a state of provocation. The deceitfully simple and straightforward style rubs against an artful orchestration of tension. The writer controls elements of character and plot to captivate the most sceptical of readers. The reader inherits a host of hot topics for discussion at the end of the story all of which shine back at the reader’s world. Like the best parables the result is an interplay between story and reality, invention and the quotidian, the writer’s imagination and the world of the reader.’

Fred D’Aguiar, Chair of the Judges

‘Ntsika’s wonderful success is a reminder of what makes the Prize unique. It is an opportunity for writers from across the Commonwealth to express themselves, regardless of where they live or their previous writing experience. How fitting that Ntsika – a self-taught writer, hailing from one of the smaller eligible states – should triumph. His success is a reminder of the universality of writing and storytelling. We all have that special power for storytelling within us, if we can only find a platform to unleash it. The Prize also has an uncanny ability to unearth new talent that then takes the world by storm. After reading ‘and the earth drank deep’, I am sure that trend will continue.’

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

Watch the 2022 prize ceremony

Regional winners

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

This year’s regional winners were selected and risen to the top from over 6700 entries, from across 52 Commonwealth countries.

Chair of the Judges, Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, said:

‘This year’s regional winners offer a cornucopia of riches for readers globally from sources located around the world. These stories testify to the varied tones of fiction, from the oblique to the direct reference, with moments of character illumination to those associated with an imperiled planet. If a reader harboured any doubt about whether fiction is relevant to today’s world these stories answer with a riposte that resonates beyond a resounding ‘yes.’  These stories fulfill a higher function as exemplars of the short story form: vibrant, memorable and indispensable.’

This year’s judging panel was chaired by Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar. On the panel were Rwandan publisher Louise Umutoni-Bower; Indian writer Jahnavi Barua; Cypriot-born poet and translator Stephanos Stephanides; award-winning writer Kevin Jared Hosein from Trinidad and Tobago; and Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic from Australia, Jeanine Leane.

In partnership with Commonwealth Writers, the literary magazine Granta has published all of the regional winning stories of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including ‘and the earth drank deep’.

All five regional winning stories will also be available in a special print collection from Paper + Ink. Please visit their website for further details.

  • Pacific
    The Nightwatch
    Mary Rokonadravu
    Fiji

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

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘The Nightwatch’ is a wry and poignant satire. The current environmental crisis in the Pacific region is cleverly juxtaposed against the backdrop of a political coup in extended metaphor that destabilises and unsettles Eurocentric values, such as meritocracy, classism, consumerism, and Christianity. Characters come to life through quirky dialogue using local language, as an embodied sense of place threads through the fragmented chaos of a country ravaged by extraction colonialism.’

    Jeanine Leane, Judge Pacific region

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

    ‘ ‘The Nightwatch’ is about the confluence of several unrelated people on a single day in Fiji – how the lives of ordinary people play out in a national crisis, particularly, how lives are influenced by religious fundamentalism or extremism, in this case, Christian fundamentalism. It is about capitalism and structural poverty; how religion is used to become a vehicle for polarisation and hate in a crumbling world. For me, this win is affirmation that stories are evermore important. Stories are bridges to connect us with each other, especially when we disagree or are different – stories allow us to walk in each other’s complexities and gain understanding of the familiar. Facts don’t do that. I don’t have to leave the islands of the Pacific in order to be heard. I chose to remain in Fiji, to remain in the Pacific, and to tell stories from here. It was a difficult choice early on because there is no literary and publishing infrastructure in Fiji and this win is reaffirming.’

    - Mary Rokonadravu
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Caribbean
    Bridge over the Yallahs River
    Diana McCaulay
    Jamaica

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

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’ is the story of a storm-struck bridge and the various people tasked to re-build it. It transports the reader to the small riverside village of Back To. Modern political powers have kept it in a sort of post-colonial Sisyphean stasis. The new bridge seems to be the catalyst for something hopeful. Long-needed repair. As the bridge progresses, the residents and the Chinese construction workers form an unconventional symbiotic bond – only for their actions at the end to announce that more than a physical bridge had been broken. A tale of simultaneous triumph and botchery; loss and reclamation; comedy and tragedy.’

    Kevin Jared Hosein, Judge Caribbean region

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

    ‘What an absolute thrill to learn that my story, ‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’, has won the regional prize for the Caribbean in the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story prize. I wanted to write about the conflict I saw so frequently during my environmental life – the heavy costs of what we call ‘development’, who pays those costs, the painful choices people must make between their livelihoods and their lives and the many ways in which they fight back.’

    - Diana McCaulay
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Canada & Europe
    A Hat for Lemer
    Cecil Browne
    United Kingdom / St Vincent and the Grenadines

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

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘A striking and original story set in mid-19th century post-Emancipation St. Vincent. The spunky narrator’s voice speaks with verve in the island’s vernacular and is the driving force that carries the narrative. As a child of runaway slaves, the protagonist grew up in the island’s difficult and volcanic hinterland and knows how to navigate the lay of the land and the diversity of the people who inhabit it: Whites, Blacks, Mulattos, Caribs. One day, an estate owner unexpectedly arrives at her mountain shack, where she makes a living as a herbalist, to hire her services to find a missing ‘school inspector’ who came from England. Her search for the mysterious ‘school inspector’ takes us on a journey that surprises at every turn; the mystery unfolds as Lemer takes us along her quest from school to brothel, through trade depots and Estates, encountering drunken sailors whose red lips are repellent even to flies, courtesans with breasts like firm sweet mangoes, stable boys and Carib boatmen. In the compressed space of a short story, we are left with a visceral understanding of a culture at a crucial point of social and historical transition, seen through the vision and voice of an empathetic protagonist coming into her own.’

    Stephanos Stephanides, Judge Canada and Europe region

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

    ‘Discovering that I was the regional winner filled me with a private joy, but this quickly turned into the kind of joy I experience when the family is together for some function, all three generations, along with our close friends. ‘A Hat for Lemer’ portrays early Vincentian society, and the dilemma Lemer faces as she seeks to define a role for herself within that society. The story is dear to me. Within it are people with energy and drive, optimists negotiating a world both restricting and modern.’

    - Cecil Browne
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Asia
    The Last Diver on Earth
    Sofia Mariah Ma
    Singapore

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

    Read their story on Granta (external)
    ‘The Last Diver on Earth’ is a story that had me thinking about it long after I finished reading it. Set in a coastal community of Indonesia and rooted very deeply in the local, the issues explored – of love, of family, of threats to our environment – are nevertheless fiercely universal. This remarkable story is also set in the future but it feels as if it could be set in the present time, a testimony to the skill of the writer. The language is lyrical and immensely evocative; from the first scene I felt as if I was at the centre of the narrative, swimming in the depths of the mysterious ocean alongside the protagonist. As the story explores the bond between mother and child – the mother is dead and we watch the child mourning this great loss – it also simultaneously excavates the enormous threat our planet faces as our environment is relentlessly plundered. Without losing tension until the very end, the author manages to hold our attention and focus our gaze on this urgent need of the hour: the need to do something for our dying planet. A story that is disturbing but oddly satisfying at the same time, ‘The Last Diver on Earth’ tells an important tale.’
    Jahnavi Barua, Judge Asia region

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

    ‘In these trying times when division and conflict seem more dire than ever, spaces where we can strive for unity seem too few and far between. Fortunately, the Commonwealth resembles one such community, and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, one of its champions. Coming from a small island-nation, it is a great honour to have my story chosen to speak on behalf of the stunningly diverse, polyphonic Asian region, and by such an outstanding and exacting panel of judges, no less. In my story, I envision a future that has only managed to skim the surface of possible climate change solutions. Yet humanity does not dare lose hope. Today, as we further endeavour to overcome the various climate challenges that come our way, I hope that even the quietest, smallest voices can be heard so as to protect the future of all our children.’

    - Sofia Mariah Ma
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • Africa
    and the earth drank deep
    Ntsika Kota
    Eswatini

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

    Read their story on Granta (external)

    ‘This year’s winner is an instant classic: a linear narrative in the tradition of the realist short story. The events unfold around a central ethical conceit with tension that accumulates, and a surprise ending leaves the reader with many questions and in a state of provocation. The deceitfully simple and straightforward style rubs against an artful orchestration of tension. The writer controls elements of character and plot to captivate the most sceptical of readers. The reader inherits a host of hot topics for discussion at the end of the story all of which shine back at the reader’s world. Like the best parables the result is an interplay between story and reality, invention and the quotidian, the writer’s imagination and the world of the reader.’

    Fred D’Aguiar, Chair of the Judges

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

    ‘There are not many literature prizes more global in scale or inclusive in scope than the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I submitted my story more out of pride than expectation. I was aware of the calibre of writing and adjudication, so I was under no illusions about my chances. However, against all odds, my story was shortlisted. It was just the endorsement I had hoped for. It meant that the pride I felt in what I had put to page was justified. It was everything I had hoped for. I expected no more. Although, that being said, I couldn’t help but daydream about winning the Prize. I never let myself actually hope to win, though, let alone expect to. After all, that would be ridiculous! A rank amateur? In such distinguished company? Fantasise if you will, I told myself, but for goodness sake, be realistic. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got that call.’

    - Ntsika Kota
    Listen to the author talk about their submission
  • The Shortlist

    Meet the 2022 shortlist! Read about the individual writers and their stories below.

    • The Scars and the Stars
      PR Woods
      United Kingdom

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

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Slake
      Sarah Walker
      Australia

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • No Man’s Land
      Alexia Tolas
      Bahamas

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

      ‘I kill the foreman last night.

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

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

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

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Have Mercy
      Sharma Taylor
      Jamaica

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • What Men Live By
      Shagufta Sharmeen Tania
      United Kingdom/Bangladesh

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • A Landscape Memoir
      Jonathan Pizarro
      Gibraltar

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Stone Bench
      David McIlwraith
      Canada

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Losing Count
      Alexandra Manglis
      Cyprus

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The No Sex Thing
      Eleanor Kirk
      Australia

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Kite
      Sophia Khan
      Pakistan

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

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

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

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Fault Lines
      Pritika Rao
      India

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

      ‘It was the early 90s, I couldn’t see her, smell her, hold her, or show her my school projects. There was no tangible evidence that she was in fact, my mother.’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Thandiwe
      Mubanga Kalimamukwento
      Zambia

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

      ‘…so, this murmured bad, I take as a rapid unwinding of Thandiwe’s mind, a sudden revelation of her rotten core, and a siren blares red in my head…’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • How to Operate the New Eco-Protect Five-in-One Climate Control Apparatus
      Charles Muhumuza
      Uganda

      Mr. Kituma acquires the New Eco-Protect Five-In-One Climate-Control Apparatus v2050. As Mr. Kituma navigates the instructions, a series of interruptions highlight complexities, potential risks, and ethical considerations, revealing the intricate implications of technology-driven climate control and its impact on personal choices and family dynamics.

      ‘Welcome, Mr Kituma. Thank you for the acquisition. You can call me Wendy, your user manual on how to operate the New Eco-Protect Five-In-One Climate-Control Apparatus v2050.’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Lifestyle Guide for The Discerning Witch
      Franklyn Usouwa
      Nigeria

      The story encapsulates a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and breaking societal molds. In a tale spanning generations, a girl grows up in a family marked by rumors and superstition. Can she find fulfilment despite adversity?

      ‘They will call your mother barren like your existence is irrelevant. Your father needs more children. They will say ‘more children’ but it is obvious they mean ‘a son.”

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Accidents are Prohibited
      Gitanjali Joshua
      India

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

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

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

      https://linktr.ee/GitanjaliJ

       

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Omolara
      J.S. Gomes
      United Kingdom/Trinidad and Tobago

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

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

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

    • Something Happened Here
      Dera Duru
      Nigeria

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • A fast-growing refugee problem
      Sagnik Datta
      India

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Speaking in tongues
      Shelley Burne-Field
      New Zealand

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

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

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

      https://authory.com/ShelleyBurneField

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Wonem Samting Kamap Long Mama? ‘What happened to Ma?'
      Baka Bina (translated from Tok Pisin by the author)
      Papua New Guinea

      Yanpela Mangi and Tupela Susa Painim Mama.

      A young boy and his sisters search for their mother.

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

      Nogat bekim ikam bek antap long mi.’

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

      There were no replies back up to me.’

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

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

    • Hot Chutney Mango Sauce
      Farah Ahamed
      United Kingdom/Kenya

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Nightwatch
      Mary Rokonadravu
      Fiji

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

      ‘He never forgot how soft, how like silk it was, slipping out of his grasp.’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • Bridge over the Yallahs River
      Diana McCaulay
      Jamaica

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

      ‘When since thunderstorm mean disaster? thought Roy. He waited to count the seconds between lightning and thunder, assessing how far away the storm was.’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • A Hat for Lemer
      Cecil Browne
      United Kingdom / St Vincent and the Grenadines

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

      ‘Rain pelt the whole night in the mountains. It silence the animals that love to break my sleep, it join the wind and lash my tiny wooden shack where the volcano ridge break for a bit of flat. Next morning the sun battle back so fierce the storm seem like a bad dream.’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • The Last Diver on Earth
      Sofia Mariah Ma
      Singapore

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

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

      She forbade me from going into the water – the water we both love. But who ever really listens to their own mother?’

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission
    • and the earth drank deep
      Ntsika Kota
      Eswatini

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

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

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

      Listen to the author talk about their submission

    This year’s judging panel

    • Fred D’Aguiar

      Chair

      Fred D’Aguiar’s sixth novel, Children of Paradise (Granta, 2015), is inspired by the events at Jonestown, Guyana. Carcanet published his eighth poetry collection, Letters to America, in 2020 along with his first nonfiction book in 2021, Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020. Born in London of Guyanese parents and brought up in Guyana, he returned to the UK for his secondary and tertiary education. Currently, he teaches in the Department of English at UCLA in the United States.

    • Louise Umutoni-Bower

      Judge, African Region

      Louise Umutoni-Bower is the founder of Huza Press, a Rwandan-based publishing press devoted to supporting African literary craftsmanship. It has published writers such as Yolande Mukagasana, Billy Kahora and many emerging writers from across the continent. Huza Press runs the only prize for fiction in Rwanda and has launched some of the growing number of writers from Rwanda. Louise started her career as a journalist and worked as a regular reporter and contributor for several Newspapers and Magazines. She has also written academically on National Liberation Movements in Africa and women’s political inclusion. Her work was selected for the Winihin-Jemide grant at the University of Oxford. 

    • Jahnavi Barua

      Judge, Asian Region

      Jahnavi Barua is an Indian writer based in Bangalore.Next Door (Penguin India, 2008), her debut collection of short stories was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her next, a novel called Rebirth(Penguin India, 2010), was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. The third, Undertow, a novel, was published by Penguin Random House India (Viking Books) in February 2020 and was longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature 2020 and the BLF Atta Galatta Book Prize 2020. It won the Best Fiction Prize in the Auther Award 2021.  Her short fiction has been widely anthologized and her work is part of several university syllabi. Jahnavi was born in Guwahati and raised between Assam, Meghalaya, Delhi and Manchester. 

    • Stephanos Stephanides

      Judge, Canada and Europe Region

      Stephanos Stephanides is a Cypriot-born poet, essayist, memoirist, translator, ethnographer, documentary filmmaker, and former Professor of Comparative Literature. He left Cyprus as a child in 1957, returning to live there in 1991.  His experience of Caribbean life and culture while teaching at the University of Guyana (1978-85) significantly shaped his life and creative vision, and led to a lifelong engagement with India. He is an honorary Writing Fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and Emeritus Fellow of the English Association (UK). Representative publications include Translating Kali’s Feast: the Goddess in Indo-Caribbean Ritual and Fiction (2000),Blue Moon in Rajasthan and other poems (2005), and The Wind Under My Lips(2018).   Films include Hail Mother Kali(Guyana, 1988), Kali in the Americas(New York, 2003), and Poets in No Man’s Land(Nicosia, 2012).    

    • Photo/Mark Lyndersay

      Kevin Jared Hosein

      Judge, Caribbean Region

      Kevin Jared Hosein is an award-winning writer from Trinidad and Tobago. He was named overall winner of the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story, Passage, and was the Caribbean regional winner in 2015. He has published three books: The Repenters(longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award), The Beast of Kukuyo(second-place winner of the 2017 CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature) and Littletown Secrets. His writings have been published in numerous anthologies and outlets including Lightspeed Magazine, Moko and adda. His next novel is being published by Bloomsbury (UK/Commonwealth) and Ecco (USA/Canada) in 2022. 

    • Jeanine Leane

      Judge, Pacific Region

      Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic from southwest New South Wales, Australia. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, The Journal for the Association European Studies of Australia, Australian Poetry Journal, Antipodes, Overland and theAustralian Book Review. She has published widely in the area of Aboriginal literature, writing otherness and creative non-fiction.  Jeanine was the recipient of the University of Canberra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Poetry Prize, and she has won the Oodgeroo Noonucal Prize for Poetry twice. She teaches Creative Writing and Aboriginal Literature at the University of Melbourne. In 2020 Jeanine edited Guwayu – for all times – a collection of First Nations Poetry commissioned by Red Room Poetry and published by Magabala Books. 

    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.