Commonwealth Short Story Prize calls for submissions
2021 winner Roland Watson-Grant shares tipsSunday, September 05, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
A call has been issued for entries for the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Interested writers have until November 1 to submit their entries for the annual competition which is now into its second decade.
The organisers of the competition say they are looking for the best piece of unpublished short fiction which should be between 2000–5000 words. The prize is free to enter and open to citizens of all Commonwealth countries aged 18 and over. The overall winner will receive £5,000, whilst the five regional winners will receive £2,500 each. All finalists will also receive a free membership from The London Library and have their piece published in Granta magazine.
Jamaica has reaped success in recent years. Last year Dr Brian Heap dramaturge and retired resident tutor at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus was named winner for the Caribbean for his work Mafootoo, which emerged on top for the region, beating four other short-listed writers. The feat was repeated earlier this year as Jamaican Roland Watson-Grant took home the prize for the region for his story The Disappearance of Mumma Del.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer Watson-Grant said he will not be entering the 2022 round of the competition due to what he calls a bit of fatigue and just wanting to explore some of the opportunities presented to him having won the prize for the region in May this year.
“I'm trying to make those links work so for the next year I will be focussing on those links. For anybody entering Commonwealth I would say three things. One is make sure you observe the entry time, both the date and the clock. Understand that we are talking Greenwich Mean Time, don't think they are talking about Jamaican time. Check for the exact time. secondly when it comes on to expressing yourself re your story is concerned go for a human story, don't necessarily try to write a Caribbean story. I don't think judges care how Caribbean your story is ... remember that is is not a Caribbean competition, its the Commonwealth so its 50 countries worldwide so they are looking for real experiences from a very human story, stories that capture humanity in their weakness and their strength. Those ordinary people and their experiences especially if you are talking about overcoming extraordinary odds.”
“Yes, it can be set in the Caribbean but make it a human story first. You can look at all the examples of winners and you will see they are very human regardless of where they are set. The other thing is to check over and get your word count and also use beta readers, this is getting people who will give you good feedback on the story. This may feel destructive at times, but at least they are telling you where to improve. Also do some espionage. Spy on the judges. Find out who they are, what they've written, find out and read what they say they are looking for, and you will have a good sense of who it is that you are trying to impress.” Watson-Grant continued.
In 2017 Watson-Grant was also shortlisted for the coveted prize for his work Sketcher/Skid.
According to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the competition has been career changing for many writers as it showcases the work of writers to a global platform and connecting a network of talented writers and dedicated readers. The organisers note that the prize has been the springboard for 2017 winner Ingrid Persaud who published her début novel Love After Love to great acclaim in 2020, and 2020 winner Kritika Pandey who secured an agent and is now working on her first novel.
The prize has historically accepted pieces written in or translated to English, and written in other languages (Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil, and Turkish). There is a new addition for this year's prize: the Creole languages of the Commonwealth.