On Tuesday 8th September, at Marlborough House in London, the prize winning story (and writer) was announced for the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I was lucky enough to be invited, as I made the shortlist for UK and Canada region last year. The evening starts well with free-flowing wine as the international guests (from all over the Commonwealth) mingle and chat. I met up with the bubbly Debz Hobbs-Wyatt (shortlisted in 2013) to catch up on her writing news. Her debut novel 'While no-one was watching' (Parthian Books) is doing well and you can read all about Debz and her writing projects here.
There were short excepts from each story read beautifully by actress, Martina Laird. Then the winner was announced. I was right at the back of the room and being of reduced stature couldn't see anything of the winning writer, Jonathan Tel. Luckily, he stayed on for some time and I did get to congratulate him in person. His mesmerising story is 'The Human Phonograph' (you can read it here) and comes from a collection featuring other short stories set in China. He told me he's looking for an agent/publisher for the collection so hopefully this win will bring him the contacts he needs. His writing deserves to be published.
You can read all the 2015 regional winning stories from links on the Commonwealth Writers website here. My other favourite story is Light' by Nigerian writer, Lesley Nneka Arimah (African regional winner). I'm pleased Jonathan won overall, but for me it was a close call between the two stories. Read Lesley's entry here to see what you think.
After stuffing ourselves on the delicious canapes - sussing we were the veggies the servers continually brought us tasty platters of samosas, mini quiches and all things vegetarian - the party was thinning so we headed home. Picking up our goody-bags containing the new anthology of previous winning stories 'Let's tell this story properly' en-route. (Details here, I think you can get 20% off using the promotional code COMMONWEALTH)
The 2016 Short Story Prize is now open, full details of how to enter are here. Entry is free for a 2-5,000 word story. Overall winners receives £5,000 and the regional winners £2,500. To be in with a chance I think your story needs to have a strong sense of place and setting. My own shortlisted story was set in England but reflected the multi-cultural society we live in. It also had a lot of heart.
Though I had a pocketful of business cards and there were literary agents in the room I never seem to find the courage to just walk up and introduce myself. If anyone has a top tips on how to sidle up to agents and casually let them know you have a debut novel ready to go, then please share ...