Commonwealth Short Story winner to be announced June 27
One of the five regional winners of the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize will be announced overall winner in a special online ceremony on Tuesday, June 27.
Nigeria-born H.B. Asari has lost out of the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Asari is a student at the University of Lagos. Arboretum, her work that made the shortlist, is a short story that interrogates grief both collective and personal, and asks, ‘How do we pick ourselves up and keep going in the face of overwhelming tragedy.’
The five regional winners are Hana Gammon, Agnes Chew, Rue Baldry, Kwame McPherson and Himali McInnes. They captivated an expert international judging panel with their powerful stories.
Bilal Tanweer, Chair of the Judges, had this to say: “The winning stories demonstrated impressive ambition, an intimate understanding of place and a real mastery of the craft. The judges were unanimous in their admiration of these stories and how they sought to tackle difficult questions.”
The writers — each representing a region of the Commonwealth — shared these reflections on the challenge of writing, the importance of the prize and the power of storytelling.
Gammon, who won the Africa region prize with The Undertaker’s Apprentice, said: “I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard that my story had been selected as the regional winner. I wasn’t expecting it to get so far in the competition, especially since I’m an unpublished writer.”
For Agnes Chew, who got the Asia prize with Oceans Away from my Homeland: “Writing is often a solitary journey, one that compels you to venture to places dark and unknown; and so, this news arrived like a luminous orb of joy and affirmation.”
Rue Baldry’s Lech, Prince, and the Nice Things, was the winner for Canada and Europe region. She had this to say: “It is pleasing beyond words that a character who for months existed only inside my mind, has been experienced by such esteemed, knowledgeable judges, and is now going to be shared with so many more readers.”
According to Kwame McPherson: “Stories make up the tapestry of our everyday lives. They manifest in how individuals, families, communities and the wider society interact and relate. And then, like a pot of delicious manish water soup, they are mixed into the entire world’s own story to be read, uplifted and absorbed.”
McPherson’s won the Caribbean region with his Ocoee.
While Himali McInnes, the Pacific region winner, said: “It is a huge honour to be counted alongside such rich, varied stories from around the world, written by people who bring so much of their particular place, time and patois to their work.”
Kilinochchi won the Pacific region for McInnes.
Twenty-eight writers were shortlisted from 19 countries across the Commonwealth. The international judging panel selected them from over 6,642 writers who submitted their stories.
The shortlist this year was filled with emerging talent as well as more experienced writers. All but one of the writers are new to the prize shortlist and a quarter are still in their 20s.
Their stories explore diverse and fascinating themes, like family secrets, growing up gay in hostile world, bittersweet friendships and making one’s way in the world of work. They embody the passion for storytelling that thrives in the Commonwealth.
Tanweer, while commending the shortlisted stories, said: “These stories brim with the energy and urgency of the present moment— read them to experience the beat and pulse of contemporary storytelling.”
The 2024 prize will open for submissions on September 1, 2023. The Short Story Prize is awarded yearly for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. Regional winners each receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000.