Caribbean writers singled out in Commonwealth Short Story competition

Winners of the 2011 Commonwealth Short Story competition have been announced and there are two Caribbean-ers among them. The first is Barbara Jenkins of Trinidad and Tobago: Regional Winner from the Caribbean for her story Head Not Made For Hat Alone. “I wrote the story,” she’s quoted as saying, “after a particularly dystopian  morning on the road. Everything in the story is real – culled from a  number of experiences and observations. So perhaps the writing was a  sort of catharsis?”

I should note that I first came across Jenkins’ name recently when flipping through Volume 24 of the Caribbean Writer: on the page announcing the year’s prize winners her head-thrown-back-in-full-laugh picture as the Winner of the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for Short Fiction was two slots above the picture announcing me as the Winner of the David Hough Literary Prize for a Writer Living in the Caribbean. Kind of cool to be two degrees of (no not Kevin Bacon but) separation away from a winner of the highly competitive Commownwealth Short Story Competition. I can think of only two Antiguans and Barbudans who made the cut in recent years, Hazra Medica, whose story, the Banana Stains, was among those Highly Commended in 2008 and Mary Geo Quinn  whose story, Joe, was similarly Highly Commended in 2002 Commonwealth Short Story Winners 2002.

Winning is kind of a big deal given the international scope of the competition as noted by the other Caribbean notable of 2011, Diane Brown, a Jamaican whose story, The Happiness Dress, won a Special Prize as a Story for Children. She said, “Winning this special prize for a short story for  children is a singular honour. This acknowledgement of the work of a  local writer of children’s fiction gives that writing an international  platform.”

Per a release from the Commonwealth, “a panel of international judges made the choices from over 2000 entries”. Overall 2011 winner was Philip Nash of the UK with his story Rejoinder. Best regional entries, in addition to Jenkins, were Martha by Basett Buyukah of Kenya, The Maoist by Nikesh Murali of India, and Ginger Beer by Sarah Bainbridge, New Zealand.

The winning stories – all 26 of them – will also be available in audio format. In fact, it may interest you, dear reader, to note that when I was formulating the structure for the Wadadli Pen competition back in 2003, I did a little piggy backing in terms of the word limit on the Commonwealth Short Story competition because like that competition I wanted entries to be a good and compact length for radio broadcast. So, audio recordings and distribution to media outlets of the winning entries have been part of our mission and action from day one. In fact, if you visit, Anansesem* – the Caribbean Children’s e-zine – you’ll hear some of the recordings that came out of our competition in the early years in  their special Wadadli Pen issue. If I could figure out how to do it, I’d post them here, too; and soon as I can figure out funding, we’ll do more of the same. Point is though rather than reinventing the wheel, I did take some cues re structure from the Commonwealth contest, adapting it, of course, to be its own thing relevant to our context in Antigua and Barbuda (and the Caribbean).

Anyway, that’s enough rambling. Congratulations to winners from the region, past and present, and, since the competition is an annual exercise, dare we say, future. Deadline for the next round of submissions is November 30th; details re eligibility will be posted at www.commonwealthwriters.org by October 18th according to this release posted to the Caribbean Literary Salon.

For the full list of winners and their stories, as well as back editions, go to http://www.commonwealthfoundation.com/Howwedeliver/Prizes/CommonwealthShortStoryCompetition/2011winners

THIS JUST IN: Commendation also went to Kathyann Husbands and Edwina Griffiths of Barbados, and Sonja Dumas of Trinidad and Tobago; for Love Honour and Obey, White Shoes, and Letting Cockroaches Live, respectfully.

*Please note Anansesem is currently in the process of being re-located to here.

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