Literary quote of the week

Okay, so that’s not a thing but I just love that last year’s Commonweath Short Story winners (and wouldn’t most of us writers love to be on that list) got a chance to talk a year later about how winning the award affected their life and their writing. My favourite response came from Jekwu Anyaegbuna of Nigeria, winner from the Africa Region who said:

“Being selected has gathered stones and stars, and heaped them around my mind, to let me discover that one literary success is enough to compensate for hundreds of literary obstacles. I’ve got to know that rejection is the inevitable price to pay for the happiness of acceptance. Being edited by Granta also made me realise that the comma is the sexiest and most dangerous punctuation necklace that sentences could wear, so one should be very careful with its deployment. Winning means validation, that someone else appreciates your craft. It has brought some attention to my writing. The Guardian, as part its fiction project this year, recently commissioned and published my new story “The Swimming Pool.” Writers, by default, are always working on something: at the moment, I am plucking unwanted feathers out of my first novel – which I completed recently – praying and hoping that a literary agent will scoop it and build an everlasting home for it. And I am also peeping under the miniskirts of my new short stories, straightening them out to make them more fashionable. O dikwa egwu!”

There’s the beautiful language in her entire response; but also we writers all know the sting of rejection and she puts it into perspective with this line: “I’ve got to know that rejection is the inevitable price to pay for the happiness of acceptance.”

The 2012 Caribbean region winner Diana McCaulay (author of Dog-Heart and Huracan, copies of which she contributed to the 2013 Wadadli Pen prize package) said:

“You know how it is: you write stuff, you send it out, it gets rejected; or you send it to a competition, it doesn’t get longlisted or shortlisted or an honourable mentioned or anything – you wonder if they even received it, and then you start telling yourself you’re talentless and should stick to writing grant proposals. So to win a well respected prize is to vanquish those thoughts, at least for awhile.”

Rejection is a writer’s yolk and it can shake you off your game if you let it; I appreciate their reminders not to let it.

Read the responses from all the writers, here.


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