The Commonwealth Writers – Rewarding Excellence for Creative Literary Expression

Creative expression is important to healthy human relationships. Being able to express viewpoints and opinions is vital to a prosperous society. Personal expression plays a critical role in developing a bond between society and government especially.

The Commonwealth Foundation was established in the 1960s to help foster working relationships between professional societies and organized government. One initiative created by the Foundation was the Commonwealth Writers organization.

Through various projects and programs, the Commonwealth Writers strive to use written personal stories to fulfill this goal. To help foster growth and encourage participation in their projects, the Commonwealth Writers have given awards for written excellence.

Let’s explore the evolution of the Commonwealth Writers, including changes that have been made since it was first started over three decades ago. We’ll look at the impressive members of the 2020 regional winners’ class, plus look back at some grand prize winners from recent years.

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

In 1987, the Commonwealth Foundation created contests for writers. They presented literary awards for creativity and originality. The contests were open to any level, new writers or seasoned authors.

After a few years, interest in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize seemed to fade. The original format was discontinued for a short time. In 2011, a resurgence of interest started in the Commonwealth countries.

Organizers decided to re-launch the program. Some changes were made to the old format that had been coordinated through the Commonwealth Foundation. The biggest change was renaming the initiative the Commonwealth Writers.

The name change also included a wider array of projects. While it kept the awards for short stories, the competition was expanded. The Commonwealth Writers exemplified the ideas and beliefs that all society could be enhanced by a world of new fiction.

The Commonwealth Writers Awards

The changes made in 2011, triggered the Commonwealth Writers to add two new awards. There is now a monetary prize paid to a new, first-time published author who is over 18. The award is called the Commonwealth Book Prize.

Regional winners can win as much as £2,500. In addition to the regional awards, there will be a finalist selected as the grand prize winner. The first place book will win £10,000.

Short story writers were the original focus of the Commonwealth Writers. Despite the addition of a book category for newly published authors, there are still an array of awards presented to writers of short fiction pieces.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded to the best piece of non-published short fiction. Regional award winners earn a £1,000 prize for exceptional quality, plus qualify for the grand prize.

Not only does the grand prize winner receive £5,000, the notoriety of winning the Commonwealth Writers’ Short Story Prize bodes well for any literary aspirations. Each of these awards is deemed an impressive achievement in literature.

2020 Commonwealth Writers Regional Winners

The Chair of Judges announced five regional winners for the 2020 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize. Each winner represents a specific region of the world. Innocent Chizaram Ilo won the Africa region for his title When a Woman Denounces Motherhood.

The Asia regional representative is Kritika Pandey from India. Pandey wrote The Great Indian Tee and Snakes. There was a unified winner from Europe and Canada. Reyah Martin from the United Kingdom penned Wherever Mister Jensen Went.

Jamaican Brian Heap wrote Mafootoo, and will represent the Caribbean region. The fifth regional winner represents the Pacific region. Andrea MacLeod, who is from Australia, wrote the Art of Waving.

These regional winners’ will have their stories published online. All qualifying stories can be read in the literary magazine Granta. The grand prize winner for 2020 will be crowned on June 30.

The Commonwealth Foundation sponsors the final ceremony, and anyone can register to watch the ceremony and other special presentations via live stream. Let’s take a look at a few grand prize winners from previous years.

Commonwealth Writers Grand Prize Winners

Since 2011, the Commonwealth Writers have crowned an annual winner for the Short Story Prize. Here are the winners since the changes were made and the Commonwealth Writers contests were reformed nine years ago.

Death Customs, written by Constantia Soteriou, was the first entry that was a translation. Her short story was translated from Greek to English and won the 2019 grand prize. Kevin Jared Hosein was a regional winner from the Caribbean in 2015.

His short story Passage tookhome top honors in 2018.The Sweet Sop earned Ingrid Persaud from Trinidad top prize in 2017. In 2016, winner Parashar Kulkarni wrote a delightful title called Cow and Company.

Jonathon Tel won the 2015 grand prize for a short story portion of a full-length book. Each of the chapters in Tel’s fiction is an independent story. Chapter one, The Shoe King of Shanghai, won the grand prize.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, an accomplished author from Uganda won the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Canadian regional qualifier Eliza Robertson won in 2013 for her short story entitled, We Walked on Water.

In the inaugural year for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, Emma Martin took home the grand prize for her story, Two Girls in a Boat. This year, the Commonwealth Writers will name a new fiction short story author as grand prize winner.

Recent years have helped to rekindle the Commonwealth Writers contests. Each year an average of close to 5,000 aspiring authors vie for the grand prize. These accomplished writers come from all across the globe, hailing from nearly four dozen different countries.