Uganda’s Makumbi wins Club prize

Friday May 23 2014

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is among five women who have won the Commonwealth 2014 Short Story Prize. Photo/Correspondent

Ugandan author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is among five women who have won the regional Commonwealth 2014 Short Story prize. 

This is the first time that the prize, run by Commonwealth Writers, has an all-female list of regional winners. 

“The list is made up of genuinely less heard of voices. Thanks to our judges and partners, we are now working to develop and promote these writers across the world,” Commonwealth Writers, programme manager Lucy Hannah said.

Established in 2011, the Commonwealth Writers is an initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation, which unearths, develops and promotes the best new fiction from across the 53 Commonwealth countries. The prize provides a platform for writers from the five regions of the Commonwealth to inspire others by bringing compelling short stories to a wider audience.

Makumbi won the regional prize for Africa for her short story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly.

“I screamed when I heard the news! To win the Africa leg is a privilege. It will bring attention to my writing and to Ugandan writing at a global level. I am immensely grateful to Commonwealth Writers,” Makumbi said. 


Let’s Tell This Story Properly revolves around Nnameya, who struggles to survive after the death of her husband Kayita in England. She arrives at the Entebbe International Airport from Manchester with her husband’s coffin. But events take a dramatic turn and she is forced to “relinquish” her widowhood and fight. 

Regional winners

The other winners are: Sara Adam Ang from Singapore, who won the regional award for Asia for her story A Day in the Death; Lucy Caldwell (UK) won the regional prize for Canada and Europe for her story, Killing Time; Maggie Harris (Guyana) won the Caribbean award for her story Sending for Chantal; and the Pacific prize went to Lucy Treloar from Australia for her story, The Dog and the Sea.

The Chair of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Ellah Allfrey, said that the judges took into account craft and excellence, as well as stories that felt original and transported them in place and time, and thrilled them with language.

“In the end, the stories that impressed us the most were those that took risks in subject and style,” Allfrey said. 

The five regional winners will now compete with each other for the overall prize, which will be announced in Kampala on June 13.

Prize money

The Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000-5,000 words). Regional winners will receive £2,500 ($4,210) while the overall winner will receive £5,000 ($8,421).

Commonwealth Writers has partnered with Granta, the quarterly magazine of new writing, to give the winners an opportunity to be published online during the week starting June 9. 

Granta is thrilled to be collaborating with Commonwealth Writers for a third year, showcasing outstanding stories from around the world. Prizes like the Commonwealth Short Story are key to introducing readers to emerging voices; we’re proud to be one of the first to publish these new talents,” the editor of Granta, Sigrid Rausing, said. 

This year, Commonwealth Writers announced a new association with the London-based literary and media agency Blake Friedmann, which will work with selected writers identified through the prize. 

The competition attracted unpublished stories from nearly 4,000 writers. 

Building on nearly 30 years of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Commonwealth Book Prize for a best first book was awarded in 2012 and 2013.

The prize was open to writers who had their first novel (full length work of fiction) published the previous year. Regional winners received £2,500, while the overall winner received £10,000 ($16,842). 

The Book Prize was discontinued when Commonwealth Writers refocused its prizes to concentrate on new and emerging writers via the Short Story Prize in August 2013. 

Doreen Baingana from Uganda won the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, for best first book, Africa with her book, Tropical Fish.