2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Posted on 22/05/2017
By Commonwealth Foundation

Winner Announced

Commonwealth Writers is delighted to announce Ingrid Persaud from Trinidad and Tobago as the overall winner for this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The award was presented on 30 June at The Arts House, which was Singapore’s first Parliament House, by Singapore’s most prolific writer of English fiction, Ms Catherine Lim.

The ceremony was streamed through Facebook Live, click to watch here.

Read her winning story ‘The Sweet Sop’ on Granta.

2016 winner, Parashar Kulkarni and 2017 winner, Ingrid Persaud.

‘The Sweet Sop’ is Persaud’s first short story. Terminal illness and the recent deaths of close family members fed into the work as did the true story of an assassination engineered by regularly feeding the victim poisoned Belgian chocolates. Death, terminal illness, chocolate – it all melted into ‘The Sweet Sop’.

The Chair of the judging panel, novelist Kamila Shamsie, said that “the judges were very impressed by ‘The Sweet Sop’s’ originality, the strength of its characterisation, the control of voice, and its humour and emotional punch. It loses none of its effectiveness on a second or third or fourth re-reading, always the mark of a rich and layered story.”

The 2017 Prize is supported by the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature, The Arts House and Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay.

Regional Winners

Pacific Region

‘The Death of Margaret Roe’ by Nat Newman (Australia)

Havilah Brown lived on the outskirts of town, blessed with an abundance of land and a paucity of dependents. He came in only irregular, only to get his regular supplies from Evan Owens’ grocery store, and on each occasion he would cross my threshold, maybe once, maybe twice, cross my door with his thick-soled boots and darken my floor with his shadow that stretched across the whole room. A big man always was Havilah Brown.

Nat Newman is an Australian freelance writer, journalist and lover of beer. She enjoys writing about science, food security and public health. Her short fiction has appeared in several journals, and she has just completed her first full-length manuscript. Nat’s love of travel has seen her call numerous countries home, including China, New Zealand, the UK and, most recently, Croatia. She can often be found writing in a pub.

Asia Region

‘Drawing Lessons’ by Anushka Jasraj (India)

My husband has a mole on his left eyelid that looks like smudged kajal. Moles signify different things depending on the body part. I have one above my bellybutton, and I’m told it’s a sign of fertility, but this has proven untrue. A mole on or around the eyes could mean domestic trouble or bad luck with finances, Mr. Nayar the astrologer informs me. He wants a photograph of my husband’s mole, since my husband works all day, and could not accompany me for this consultation.

Anushka Jasraj is a fiction writer from Mumbai, India. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Women’s and Gender studies at the University of Texas-Austin, where she is writing a thesis project on Emily Dickinson. She was the Regional Winner for Asia, 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Africa Region

‘Who Is Like God’ by Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria)

My mother talked about God all the time, as if they were best friends, as if He was borrowing her mouth because maybe He trusted her that much or it was easier than burning bushes or He was just tired of thundering down from the skies and having no one listen to Him. I grew up thinking that He was folded into her body, very gently, like when she folded sifted icing sugar into beaten egg whites, those kinds of loving corners.

Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. She is a 2017 Global Arts Fund recipient, awarded by the Astraea Foundation for her video art, and her debut novel Freshwater is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic in Winter 2018. For more of her work, please see www.akwaeke.com

Canada and Europe Region

‘The Naming of Moths’ by Tracy Fells (United Kingdom)

‘He is my son, I created him.’ Miss Bethan’s words fall softly, like a blessing.
Sofia leans closer to hear the old lady, her long black hair falling against Miss Bethan’s nightdress. A noise scratches from inside the pleated shade of the bedside lamp, where a moth has become trapped. She cups it quickly within her palms, ignoring the heat of the bulb.
‘Let me see,’ Adam calls out. He has been sitting at his mother’s bedside since midday, never once leaving her. His eyes shine. He wants to name the moth.

Tracy Fells lives close to the South Downs in England. After a career in Clinical Research she now writes full-time, embracing her love of magical realism and folk lore. Her short stories have been widely published and shortlisted for competitions such as Fish, Willesden Herald and the Brighton Prize. Having graduated from Chichester University with an MA in Creative Writing she is seeking publication of her debut novel and short story collection.

Caribbean Regional Winner

‘The Sweet Sop’ by Ingrid Persaud (Trinidad and Tobago)

If is chocolate you looking for, and I talking real cheap, then you can’t beat Golden MegaMart Variety & Wholesale Ltd in Marabella. Think of a Costco boil down small small but choke up with goods from top to bottom. When me and Moms had that holiday in Miami by her brother we were always in Costco. But until they open a Costco in Trinidad go by Golden MegaMart. They does treat people good. As soon as I reach they know I want at least thirty jars of Nutella chocolate spread. And don’t play like you giving me anything else.

Ingrid Persaud is a Trinidadian writer and artist who calls Barbados home. She came to writing and fine art having first pursued a successful legal career that included teaching and scholarship at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, in the United States and King’s College London. Her creative work has been widely exhibited and her writing featured in several magazines. Her debut novel, If I Never Went Home (2014) was highly praised.


“The extraordinary ability of the short story to plunge you into places, perspectives and emotions and inhabit them fully in the space of only a few pages is on dazzling display in this shortlist. The judges weren’t looking for particular themes or styles, but rather for stories that live and breathe. That they do so with such an impressive range of subject matter and tone has been a particular pleasure of re-reading the shortlisted stories. The geographic spread of the entries is, of course, in good part responsible for this range – all credit to Commonwealth Writers for structuring this prize so that its shortlists never seem parochial. ”
Kamila Shamsie, Chair, 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize


An Enquiry into Morality, Tom Vowler (United Kingdom)

By Way of a Lifeplot, Kelechi Njoku (Nigeria)

Close to Home, Jinny Koh (Singapore)

Cursing Ms. Murphy, Roland Watson-Grant (Jamaica)

Drawing Lessons, Anushka Jasraj (India)

Echolocation, Sarah Jackson (United Kingdom)

Gauloises Blue, Ruth Lacey (Australia)

Gypsy in the Moonlight, Caroline Gill (Canada)

Harbour, Chloe Wilson (Australia)

Hot Pot, Jasmine Sealy (Canada)

Immunity, Damon Chua (Singapore)

Nagmaal, Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)

Numb, Myfanwy McDonald (Australia)

Shopping, Jon Lewis-Katz (Trinidad and Tobago)

Swimmer of Yangtze, Yiming Ma (Canada)

The Brief, Insignificant History of Peter Abraham Stanhope, Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)

The Death of Margaret Roe, Nat Newman (Australia)

The Dying Wish, Caroline Mackenzie (Trinidad and Tobago)

The Naming of Moths, Tracy Fells (UK)

The Sweet Sop, Ingrid Persaud (Trinidad and Tobago)

Who is Like God, Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria)



Chair: Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie is the author of six novels, including Burnt Shadows, which has been translated into more than twenty languages and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and A God in Every Stone which was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Three of her other novels (In the City by the Sea, Kartography, Broken Verses) have received awards from the Pakistan Academy of Letters.  A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and one of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’, she grew up in Karachi, and now lives in London.

Twitter: @kamilashamsie

Zukiswa Wanner is the 2015 winner of South African Literary Award’s  K. Sello Duiker Award for her fourth novel, London Cape Town Joburg. Her third novel, Men of the South, was shortlisted for Commonwealth Best Book (Africa region) and the Herman Charles Bosman Awards.  Wanner was one of the three judges of the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Fiction, sits on the board of the pan-African literary initiative Writivism and is on the Advisory Board of the Ake Literary Festival. She has facilitated writing workshops in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya , Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Germany. She is a columnist for the continental publication New African, and Saturday Nation in Kenya and has guest-hosted the monthly BBC Africa Book Club with Audrey Brown.

Mahesh Rao is a novelist and short story writer. His short fiction has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, The Baffler, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. His debut novel, The Smoke Is Rising, won the Tata First Book Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Crossword Prize. One Point Two Billion, his collection of short stories, was published to critical acclaim in October 2015.

Twitter: @mraozing

Jacqueline Baker is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. She is the author of The Horseman’s Graves and A Hard Witching and Other Stories, which won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the City of Edmonton Book Prize, and the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction. It was also a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Her most recent novel, The Broken Hours, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award. Jacqueline is Assistant Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at MacEwan University.

Twitter @jakerback

Jacob Ross is a writer and editor from Grenada. His first novel Pynter Bender was published in September 2008 to much critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Regional Prize and chosen as one of the British Authors Club’s top three Best First Novels (2009). His second book, The Bone Readers, a crime thriller, was published earlier this year.  He is also the author of the acclaimed short story collections, Song for Simone and A Way to Catch the Dust.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been a judge of the V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize, the Olive Cook, Scott Moncrieff and Tom-Gallon Literary Awards.

Twitter: @rosswriterj

Vilsoni Hereniko was born and raised on Rotuma in the South Pacific for the first sixteen years of his life. The youngest of eleven children, his father was a great storyteller who fired his imagination every night by recounting the oral tales of his isolated island, about 300 miles north of Fiji. These stories sustained and made him aware at a very early age of the transformative power of story. He is now an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker and professor at the University of Hawaii. He has also written children’s books, short stories, poetry, and numerous scholarly articles and several books on Pacific art, film, literature, and culture. A stage and film director as well, he has a M.Ed. from the University of Newcastle-upon Tyne and a Ph.D from the University of the South Pacific.