The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is a much anticipated competition. And this year, the 2016 edition attracted nearly 4000 entries from 47 countries. Twenty-six “fresh and unexpected” stories by writers from eleven countries make up the shortlist. In celebration of female writers and badass creatives, we decided to make a list of the women who made the shortlist.
These are the female writers that made it and the excerpts from their shortlisted stories.
Sophia Khan (Pakistan)
Born in Islamabad and spent her childhood mostly in Pakistan, before moving to the US. She studied English at Haverford College and received an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Islamabad with her husband. Her first novel, Yasmeen, has just been published.
Here’s the excerpt from her short story, Aabirah.
Aabirah had been dead for almost eighteen hours. She floated above the grave and wondered at the white bundle that had so recently been her. She’d spent the first hour of her death unnoticed under the lychee tree. The gardener, late as always, had discovered her at noon, at which time she had been transferred to an examination room at Shifa International Hospital by her frantic mother and resigned father. Her death had been an accident, though her mother, in her hysteria, had attributed it to a bud-dua on
the part of her sister-in-law.
Nova Gordon-Bell (Jamaica)
Nova is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, Mona, where she studied English Literature, Media and Communication. She has won several awards for her short stories and poetry. A lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, Nova lives in Jamaica with her sons, Benjamin and Joshua.
Her short story is titled Confluence.
Miss Evelyn doctor give her a prescription for blood sugar and it make her forget who she is and where she was. She walk out of her house into the street in her night gown and start talk to people who nobody can see. My employer, Miss Kaylie, go for Miss Evelyn, pack her and her grip in the back of the car and bring her back from country to the house in Kingston.
Miss Evelyn is Miss Kaylie grand-mother youngest sister and Miss Kaylie say she owe everything she have to Miss Evelyn. Miss Evelyn living with us now so Miss Kaylie can take care of her.
Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)
Oyinkan writes novels, short stories, scripts, poetry, articles and notes to herself. She has had work published in anthologies and has also self-published work. Her flash fiction story – ‘Eba. Efo Riro and a Serving of Tears’ was recently longlisted for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize. You can find her at Qamina.com
Read this excerpt from her short story, The Driver.
She is as they described her – a goddess with long powerful legs, skin the colour of corn and lips that would make sucking on an agbalumo look pornographic. She stands out – she is a head above most of the tired and grumbling travelers waiting for their luggage to be released by the willful conveyer belt. She scans the room, looking for – him. He remembers to raise the cardboard that has her name painted with thick black marker. Her mother had written it, convinced that he wouldn’t be able to write Aderisi correctly, revealing the flaws in the Nigerian public school system.
Jane Healey (United Kingdom)
Jane lives in London, holds degrees from the Universities of Warwick and Edinburgh, and studied on the MFA programme at CUNY Brooklyn College. Her stories have been published in Paper Darts, Banshee, Tin House Online and The Normal School; and she was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award 2014 and the Bristol Short Story Prize 2013.
Her short story, A Visitation has this interesting excerpt
He is like parsley, he is everywhere. Nosing around the backdoor of my kitchens and tripping on my heels at the market by the plum stand and the fish stall. Him and his tiny nose, his bad palate, that annoying heavy breathing looping around every corner. I buy a crate of wine – he buys two of the same. I introduce truffle meatballs – he introduces “truffle-infused rounds of pork.” Just so. Confit of duck, strozzapreti with lovage pesto, onion and beef stew. From the day he set up his restaurant two months ago he has mimicked every one of my recipes.
Tina Makereti (New Zealand)
Tina writes essays, novels and short stories. Her novel, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Vintage, 2014) has been longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and won the 2014 Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Book Award for Fiction.
Here’s the excerpt from her story, Black Milk.
The Birdwoman came into the world while no one was watching. It was her old people who sent her, the ones who hadn’t chosen to make the transition, who stayed in their feathered forms, beaks sharp enough to make any girl do what her elders told her.
“It’s time,” they said. “They’re ready.”
But was she?
There were things the people needed to know. But first she had to make her way into their world. She watched for a long time from her perch, trying to figure the way of them.
Jane Downing (Australia)
Jane was born in Australia but was taken to live on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, three weeks later. She has since lived in Tanzania, Ireland, Indonesia, the (then) USSR, China, the Marshall Islands and Guam, and now resides in Albury, Australia. She has short stories and poetry published widely. She has written two novels The Trickster (2003) and The Lost Tribe (2005)
Her short story, Charmed has this excerpt:
I overheard a resident say it as I walked through the recreation room. It’s been a charmed life. I walked more slowly as I looked across to the speaker, an old lady in a wheelchair. The manicurist sitting on a low stool in front of her had one of the woman’s claw-like hands in hers, stroking the bones and tendons into something a little straighter, unfurling the fingers from the palm so the nails could be cut, filed, buffed, probably painted too. The old woman’s back was as kinked from pain as her hands: it was a hunchback with a twist at the waist. But she was smiling, lopsidedly but decidedly, this woman waiting to die.
Kritika Pandey (India)
Kritika grew up in Ranchi, Jharkhand and now lives in New Delhi. She is a Young India Fellow and a Charles Wallace India Trust Scholar for Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. In 2015, she was longlisted for Toto Funds the Arts Awards (English Creative Writing). Her works have appeared in the UCity Review, The Bombay Review and eFiction India.
Here’s the excerpt from her story, Dirty White Strings.
Every evening when the sun slips through the skies of New Delhi, I unbutton Lily’s dress. I slide it down her breasts with one hand and grab her neck with the other. I don’t pay attention to the men in the courtyard. Some of them breathe clouds of fire; others walk around on stilts. Neither do I mind the little children with their mouths full of puffed rice. They cheer on the fire-breathers and the stilt-walkers. They will grow up to be like their fathers, who have grown up to be like theirs. I just sit on the front steps with Lily’s umbrella dress at my feet.
Stefanie Seddon (United Kingdom)
Stefanie grew up on a farm in New Zealand and moved to the UK after completing a degree in English Literature at the University of Otago. Stefanie is currently studying the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. In 2015, Stefanie’s short story ‘Arrowtown’ appeared in the twelfth issue of the Mechanics’ Institute Review.
Her short story titled, Eel has this terrific excerpt.
Never try to pull your fingers out of an eel’s mouth, not a live one or a dead one. Not if you want to have any skin left to carry him home with, and especially not if it’s a twenty-pound silver-belly. It was Ted who saw him off with the slasher, and it took all of us to drag him home through the bush, but I swear it was me, and me alone, who got him caught that day. We’d gone down to the bridge to cut manuka for our eeling poles. I’d begged to tag along and Mother said I could if Ted watched out for me.
Miranda Luby (Australia)
Miranda lives on the Surf Coast of Australia and works as a freelance travel and lifestyle journalist. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Sean O’Faolain Prize at the Cork International Short Story Festival and the New Millennium Writings Competition and she placed second in the Daily Telegraph’s Summer Short Story Competition.
This engaging excerpt is from her short story, This Here Land.
The sound woke him. Too vulnerable to be a howling dingo, it was more like the solemn cry of an owl. Or, he thought, a ghost haunting the trees. If he’d been familiar with grief’s melody, if he’d known how much someone sobbing, someone in pain, could sound like wild dogs and nocturnal birds, he would have slid out of bed and gone to see what was wrong. But he was too young to know that. So, as he lay beneath the tangled web of shadows cast by ancient red gums, the rhythmic hymn of his mother’s heartbreak soothed him and sent him back to sleep.
Cat Hellisen (South Africa)
Cat is a fantasy author for adults and children who currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Her children’s book Beastkeeper, a play on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast, was released 3 February 2015. Her short stories have appeared in Tor.com, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Apex Magazine and more.
Her short story is titled, This is How We Burn.
CALL DOCTOR LOVEGOOD NOW. HEALER TRADITIONAL MEDICINE.
The ink was blue, fading across the flyer into what might have once been red but was now the pink of discarded Valentine’s cards. A rainbow wave of disquiet and superstition. An A5 job lot – 5000 flyers for seven hundred grimy South African rands. Lindela scanned the rest of the flyer, though it was nothing new. Just a distraction. Like the lulling rattle of the wheels against the track. A measure for passing time.
Bonnie Etherington (New Zealand)
Bonnie is from the South Island of New Zealand, and also spent much of her childhood in Indonesia and Australia. She currently lives in the USA while she studies towards a PhD in English Literature. She is also working on a novel, set in West Papua during the late 1990s.
Here’s the excerpt from her story titled, Where Mountains Weep.
When my poppa would hit me, with the back of his hand against my face, I used to imagine my neck as one of those steel ropes that support whole bridges above angry water. The wind makes those steel ropes move but they never break. This made me feel stronger than Poppa and feeling stronger than him made me laugh. Laughing made him hit me harder. At those times my name changed from Lara to Bitch. Bitch wouldn’t stop laughing, not even with tears all the way to my collar. Other people can’t win when you’re laughing. So Bitch always won.
The full list of the 2016 Commonwealth Shortlist is here.