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2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judges

Posted on 09/10/2018
By Commonwealth Foundation

The 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judging panel was chaired by Kittitian-British novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips.

“The short story offers a writer the opportunity to delve into character, explore difficult subject-matter, and be adventurous with form; in short, the writer can do all the things that they might do in a novel, but do so concisely. The Commonwealth Short Story Prize attracts entries which address a wide range of human experience in this complex multi-cultural and multi-racial world, and the prize is open to original stories written in English, or in a variety of other languages representing the diversity of the cultures which make up the Commonwealth”.
Caryl Phillips, 2019 Chair of Judges

Caryl was joined on the international judging panel by a judge from each of the five Commonwealth regions – Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific. 2019’s judging panel were: Ugandan novelist and short story writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Pakistani writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, Barbados’s Karen Lord, British short story writer Chris Power, and New Zealander poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician Courtney Sina Meredith.

Each year the judges select five winning writers who share a total prize money of £15,000. The overall winner receives £5,000, one of the highest amounts for an international prize for unpublished short stories. Regional winners receive £2,500.

CHAIR | Caryl Phillips | (Saint Kitts and Nevis/United Kingdom)

Caryl Phillips was born in Saint Kitts and brought up in England. He is the author of numerous books of non-fiction and fiction. Dancing in the Dark won the 2006 PEN Open Book Award, and A Distant Shore won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize. His other awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Lannan Literary Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Crossing the River, which was also short-listed for the Booker Prize. He has written for the stage, television, and film, and is a contributor to newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities. He has taught at universities in Britain, Singapore, Ghana, Sweden and Barbados and is currently Professor of English at Yale University. His latest novel, A View of the Empire at Sunset was published in 2018.


AFRICA | Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi | (Uganda)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a Ugandan novelist and short story writer, has a PhD from Lancaster University. Her first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013 and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014. Her short story Let’s Tell This Story Properly won the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and will be included in her first collection of stories, Manchester Happened,  to be published by Oneworld in 2019. In 2018, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction to support her writing. She lives in Manchester with her husband, Damian, and her son, Jordan, and teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.


ASIA | Mohammed Hanif | (Pakistan)

Mohammed Hanif was born in Okara, Pakistan. He Graduated from Pakistan Air Force Academy as Pilot Officer but subsequently left to pursue a career in journalism. His first novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best first novel. His second novel, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, was shortlisted for the 2012 Wellcome Prize. He has written the libretto for a new opera, Bhutto. He writes regularly for The New York Times, BBC Urdu, and BBC Punjabi.



CANADA AND EUROPE | Chris Power | (United Kingdom)

Chris Power’s short story collection Mothers was published in 2018. His column, A Brief Survey of the Short Story, has appeared in The Guardian since 2007. He has written for the BBC, The New York Times, and the New Statesman. His fiction has been published in Granta, The Stinging Fly, The Dublin Review, and The White Review, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. He has acted as a judge for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. He lives with his family in London.


CARIBBEAN | Karen Lord | (Barbados)

Barbadian author and research consultant Karen Lord is known for her debut novel Redemption in Indigo, which won the 2008 Frank Collymore Literary Award, the 2010 Carl Brandon Parallax Award, the 2011 William L. Crawford Award, the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the 2012 Kitschies Golden Tentacle (Best Debut), and was nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. She is the author of the science fiction duology The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game, and the editor of the anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean.


Credit: Thomas Langdon

PACIFIC | Courtney Sina Meredith | (New Zealand)

Courtney Sina Meredith is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician. She is also the Director of Tautai, New Zealand’s contemporary Pacific arts trust. Courtney describes her writing as an ‘ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique.’ She launched her first book of poetry, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick (Beatnik), at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since published a short story collection, Tail of the Taniwha (Beatnik 2016) to critical acclaim. Her play Rushing Dolls (2010) won a number of awards and was published by Playmarket in 2012. She has been selected for a number of international writers’ residencies including the prestigious Fall Residency at the University of Iowa where she is an Honorary Fellow in Writing, the Island Institute Residency in Sitka, Alaska, and the Bleibtreu Berlin Writers’ Residency in Charlottenburg, Berlin. In 2018 Courtney launched her first children’s book Secret World of Butterflies with Allen & Unwin and Auckland Museum. She has forthcoming titles for 2019. Courtney is of Samoan, Mangaian and Irish descent.


For information about the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and how to enter, please click here.