Jennifer Nansubuga to chair 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judging panel

Award winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Award winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.

Photo credit: Pool via Commonwealth Foundation

Award winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has been named chair for the panel of judges that will review entries for the 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The Ugandan-British writer was the overall prize winner in 2014, and is known for writing various novels and short stories including Kintu, The First Woman, Let’s Tell This Story Properly, A Girl Is A Body Of Water, Manchester Happened, and other literary works.

“The Commonwealth Short Story Prize brings much of the writing world together to celebrate the short story form. As chair, I can't wait to meet the talent the 2024 prize will unearth. I anticipate a diversity of worlds, a vast range of voices, some crazy tales, and the agony of making a choice. Bring it on,” she said.

Ms Makumbi will chair an international panel of judges with the other five members representing the five regions. They are: South African writer Keletso Mopai,representing the Africa region; Singaporean short story writer screenwriter and novelist O Thiam Chin(Asia); Canadian writer and editor Shashi Bhat(Canada/Europe); poet and author Richard Georges from the British Virgin Islands (Caribbean); and award-winningAustralian Bundjalung writerMelissa Lucashenko(Pacific).

Entries are initially assessed by a team of readers and a longlist of 200 entries is put before the international judging panel, comprising the chair and five judges, with all judges reading 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.

From the long list, the judging panel then selects a shortlist of around 20 stories from which the five regional winners are chosen. The overall winner is selected from among the five regional winners.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize will begin accepting entries for the 2024 award from September 1, 2023 and will close submissions on November 1, 2023. The competition is administered by the Commonwealth Foundation and is open to citizens of all Commonwealth countries aged 18 and over. It is free to enter. Now in its thirteenth year, the prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words). The five regional winners—Africa, Asia, Canada/Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific regions—will each receive £2,500, while the overall winner, selected from the five regional winners, will receive an additional £5,000.

In addition to English, submissions are accepted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, 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 story that wins (regional or overall) also receives prize money.

The five regional winning stories will be published online by the literary magazine Granta and in a special print collection from Paper + Ink, while all the shortlisted stories will be published in the Foundation’s online literary magazine adda.

For the 2023 award, Jamaican Kwame McPherson, the Caribbean regional winner, was named overall winner on June 27 in an online award ceremony, for his winning story Ocoee, which interweaves Caribbean folklore and stories from African American history.

“To be recognised for your writing is phenomenal, it is at once exciting and heart stopping. One of the major lessons I have learned as a writer is consistency and perseverance. Thus, never take no for an answer nor be discouraged if what you have written seemingly goes nowhere because, eventually, your writing and you will be recognised,” he said.

“You are a winner because you are taking part and you will grow from the experience. The prize is an immense opportunity, so enjoy it and feel empowered and motivated by the journey.”

McPherson’s story Ocoee focuses on an exhausted driver who is pulled over by the police on a lonely road outside Ocoee. As he hears about the terrible history of the town, he also rediscovers a connection with his own past.

Other 2023 regional winners are: South Africa’s Hana Gammon (Africa) for her story The Undertaker’s Apprentice; Singapore’s Agnes Chew (Asia) for her story Oceans Away From My Homeland; United Kingdom’s Rue Baldry (Canada/ Europe) for her story Lech, Prince and The Nice Things; and New Zealand’s Himali McInnes (Pacific) for her story Kilinochchi.