Ugandan writer shortlisted for Commonwealth prize

Friday June 08 2018

Harriet Anena, a Ugandan poet and short story writer. PHOTO | COURTESY TWITTER


Harriet Anena, a Ugandan poet and short story writer, is among 24 finalists on the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist.

Anena was shortlisted for her short story Dancing with Ma. She is the author of the poetry collection A Nation in Labour.

“I kept wondering if I was dreaming. I remember jumping off the couch and screaming, then I just knelt and kept muttering ‘Thank you God, Thank you God’.

It feels more than great. It’s humbling too, and gives me hope that my writing is not in vain,” Anena said.

Dancing with Ma addresses issues that are important to me; central to which is sexual violence against women. In the story, the women are more than victims. They are strong women; they fight back and are not apologetic about digressing from the norm. Women have long been painted as victims, which is disempowering.”

Now in its seventh year, the prestigious prize recognises unpublished short fiction written in English.


The 2018 shortlist was announced on May 23. Regional winners will be announced on June 20, and the overall winner will be announced at a ceremony in Cyprus on July 25.

The United Kingdom dominates the 2018 shortlist with four stories: Ghillie’s Mum, by Lynda Clark; Goat, by Sally Craythorne; After the Fall, by James Smart; and Berlin Lends a Hand, by Jonathan Tel.

“The versatility and power of the short story is abundantly clear in this shortlist. With such a range of subject, style, language and imagination, it is clear what a culturally important and relevant form it is, facilitating many different creative approaches, many voices and versions of life,” chair of the judges Sarah Hall said.

“With a panel of judges spanning the globe there was a sense of depth and breadth to the selection process, and each Commonwealth region shows the very best of its traditions, adaptations, and contemporary approaches,” said Hall, a novelist and short story writer.

The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth.

The 2018 judges are Damon Galgut (Africa), Sunila Galappatti (Asia), Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Canada and Europe), Mark McWatt (Caribbean) and Paula Morris (Pacific).