The Commonwealth Foundation has announced the judges for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The international panel, drawn from the five regions of the commonwealth, is chaired by South African novelist and critic Zoë Wicomb. The other judges are: Nigerian author A. Igoni Barrett (Africa), Bangladeshi writer and editor Khademul Islam (Asia), British poet and fiction writer Keith Jarrett (Canada and Europe), Jamaican environmental activist and author Diana McCaulay (Caribbean), and essayist and fiction writer Tina Makereti (Pacific).

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize, which is currently open for submissions, annually rewards the best piece of unpublished short story by a writer from a commonwealth Country. The prize is notable for spurring the career of literary stars Jennifer Makumbi, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Akwaeke Emezi and Innocent Ilo.

ABOUT THE JUDGES (biographies are culled from the Commonwealth website).


Zoë Wicomb is a South African writer who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, where she is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. Her Race, Nation, Translation: South African Essays was published in 2018. For her fictional works – You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town; David’s Story; Playing in the Light; The One That Got Away; and October – Wicomb received Yale’s inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize. Her novel Still Life is published in September 2020 by Penguin Random House, Cape Town and The New Press, New York. Wicomb has previously been a judge for the International Dublin Literary Award and has chaired the Caine Prize as well as the Windham-Campbell Prize judging panels.

On chairing the Commonwealth Prize judging panel, Wicomb said: “I’m delighted to be Chair of the judges for the 2021 Commnwealth Short Story Prize, one of the most renowned literary competitions in the world with a reputation for unearthing original and thought-provoking stories from across the Commonwealth. I’m very much looking forward to reading the stories and working with my fellow judges to identify the best ones, before introducing them and the writers to the wider global audience.”


A. Igoni Barrett was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and lives in Lagos. His fiction has been published in 14 countries. Love is Power, or Something Like That, his second short story collection, was selected by NPR as a best book of 2013. His first novel, Blackass, published in 2015, was nominated for the PEN Open Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, the Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award, and the Nommo Award for Best Novel. In 2016 Blackass was chosen by the Chinese Foreign Literature Society as a winner of its 21st Century Best Foreign Novel Award.


Khademul Islam is a writer, translator and editor based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was the literary editor of two dailies (Dhaka Tribune and Daily Star), where he promoted English-language translations and writing in Bangladesh. He has published two books of English translations of Bengali short fiction and poems. He was the Director of Bengal Lights Books publications, a board member of Dhaka Translation Centre, and the editor of the literary journal Bengal Lights from 2011 to 2019. His short stories have been included in anthologies, and he is a frequent contributor to national and international publications. He is currently working on a non-fiction book to be published by Bloomsbury UK.


Keith Jarrett lives and works in London. Poet and fiction writer, he is currently a PhD scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, where he is completing his first novel, exploring the migration of religion from the Caribbean to London. Keith is a former UK Poetry Slam Champion; he also won the International Slam Championship at FLUPP in Rio. His short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines, including Attitude and Tell Tales IV, with influences ranging from Caribbean trickster figures to Latin American surrealism. His play, Safest Spot in Town, was performed at the Old Vic and on BBC Four in 2017 as part of the Queers series. His book of poetry, Selah, was also published last year with Burning Eye.


Diana McCaulay is a Jamaican environmental activist and award-winning writer. She is the founder and Chair of the Jamaica Environment Trust and has published four novels – Dog-Heart, Huracan (Peepal Tree Press), Gone to Drift (Papillote Press and HarperCollins) and White Liver Gal (self published). Her forthcoming fifth novel, Daylight Come, is published by Peepal Tree Press in September 2020. Her short fiction and non fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Granta, Jamaica Journal, Adda Stories, Eleven Eleven, SCOOP the magazine, and the Griffith Review. Diana won the Hollick Arvon Prize for non fiction in 2014 for her work-in-progress, a creative non fiction book entitled Loving Jamaica. She is on the editorial board of the new Caribbean writing platform, PREE. She was the regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012, for her story ‘The Dolphin Catchers’.


Tina Makereti (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi) writes essays, novels and short fiction. She is author of The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings and Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa, and in 2017 she co-edited Black Marks on the White Page, an anthology that celebrates Māori and Pasifika writing, with Witi Ihimaera. In 2016 her story ‘Black Milk’ won the Pacific region Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize. Tina teaches creative writing and English at Victoria University of Wellington, and has recently completed a collection of personal essays, This Compulsion in Us.

The deadline for submissions is 1 November, 2020.

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