Blog post is slightly later this morning as I was helping a neighbour with some printing! And we had a nice natter — as you do.
So as some of you may know I did not get any further in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize — I found out at the end of last week but had to wait for the official announcement yesterday. I am still just THRILLED to have got this far. I managed to find 3 of the 5 regional winners on Twitter, one I had already connected with when I found myself on the short list so I sent my congratulations — and especially to the regional winner for Europe and Canada Eliza Roberston (from Canada) and she sent me a lovely message back. I also connected with the lovely Sharon Millar (Caribbean) and Michael Mendis (Asia). The other regional winners that I couldn’t find on Twitter were Julian Jackson (Africa) and Zoe Meager (Pacific) — very well done to all 🙂
And it just felt so nice to connect like that and it made me think about how social media sites allow the world to get smaller.
I attended the Commonwealth Prize-Giving and Winners Reception afterwards last year. It was strange how it happened as I had not entered the short story competition but Bridge House had submitted Laura Wilkinson’s debut novel BloodMining to the book prize. For that reason I was invited as the publisher/marketing person for Bridge House. I added Mary’s name to the list as she and I were in Hay and we found ourselves with the winners! And big publishers. It was amazing and I am sure I Blogged about it at the time. It was odd finding myself chatting to all these publicists and bigwigs at the likes of Penguin (not to mention these amazing writers) and them looking at me like “Bridge House who?” I felt like an imposter! I kind of liked it (cheeky grin).
But I also got to meet and hang out with the Canada and Europe regional winner Andrea Mullaney! In fact we are still friends and she follows this Blog! I also got to meet Emma Martin the overall winner as well as the winner of the book prize Shehan Karunatilaka and previous winner, the amazingly talented Nigerian author of Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Let’s just say I was in good company.
I never really thought my little story about an unlikely friendship on a London allotment — between a holocaust survivor and recent widower the Russian Georgy B, a middle-aged bipolar suffer Runner Bean Billy and a sixteen-year-old pregnant school girl Emma would get anywhere near the short list! The story was cut down from 6000 to 5000 words and had not really been submitted before so I wasn’t sure how it would be received! And it was rather British (the humour, and talked of football teams etc) but with a Russian flavour I guess with the slightly broken English of out narrator George. But someone liked it! It’s called Chutney — you’ll see why if you read it. Anyway I am thrilled, that after my decision to submit it and thinking it stood little chance, I am now part of the Commonwealth Prize. I did tell the organisers that I would be at the prize-giving at Hay (and I do have the tickets already!) The lovely guy there has said he’d make sure I am invited to the reception again and get to meet the winners! How exciting. And that includes the winner of the book prize. Oooohhhh!
I think what this competition does, apart from being global which is why I feel highly honoured to be amongst such talent, is about the connections. The organiser said in his email that I am part of the Commonwealth family now — like it or nor. What’s not to like? I still feel a bit like an imposter — this is little old me!
But delighted and strange to think where it all started last year!
You know of course it would have been mind-blowing to have won the region but even to be where I am with only one other UK writer and Eliza from Canada in the region — it’s hard to be too sad. I mean look at Eliza’s credentials! And I love connecting with the winners. I really do.
So I think what these guys are doing at the Commonwealth Writers @cwwriters (Tweeters do follow) is something really special. I see last year’s short story overall winner Emma Martin has a book out and the Commonwealth are supporting her, telling people about it through their Twitter and Facebook pages. It’s amazing.
People have asked if they can read my story. Only the regional winners’ stories will be published on the Granta site and I am reluctant to publish it on my Blog in case it might be submitted elsewhere, for a collection or another competition. Let me think about it.
But one thing for sure — while it feels as if the world just got smaller — my writing family just keeps getting bigger — and I love it.
Well done to all the winners (and other shortlistees of course!) and best of luck and — I look forward to meeting some of you!
(You never know — I might be able to entice some of the winners into the spotlight on my Blog!)
LINK to Regional Winners: Short Story Award
LINK to Regional Winners: Book Prize
Thanks for the opportunity Commonwealth Writers!