I have talked about this before but I do think it needs more of a mention. The organisation promotes new voices in the Commonwealth and since I was short listed in their prestigious prize I have connected with writers from all sorts of places. Well in fact my interest in them started last year when I met the Europe and Canada Regional Winner and Book Prize Winner at the Hay Festival.
As well as the Short Story and the Book Prize they promote these writers and encourage them, supporting careers in writing. As you know I did make contact with some of the writers, in particular the Regional Short Story and Book Prize Winners for this region — Eliza Robertson and Lisa O’ Donnell. I also made contact with Caribbean Regional Winner Sharon Millar and Asia’s Regional Winner Michael Mendis.
I had managed to read 4 of the 5 books and the short stories and I knew who I wanted to win from those I’d read — or at least, difficult as the choice must’ve been for the judges, I knew which ones I liked the best. So this year, in contrast to last, when I attended the Prize Giving at Hay with four of my friends, I really felt I was part of it. I had read the stories and I had been short listed so when they talked about the stories they chose and what they looked for, I was smiling quietly. And when the hush descended and they announced the winners I was so excited!
And I wasn’t disappointed to find Eliza Robertson from this region and Sharon Millar shared the Short Story Prize. Could not be more delighted — and the Book Prize Winner was also the Europe and Canada Region’s Lisa O’Donnell for The Death of Bees. HUGE congratulations!!! Wish I had some photos of the event to share. The novel prize was presented by John le Carre. I need to quote him and may return to this — he said “If you want to be a writer, leave the room now — if you want to write — stay.” What does this mean to you … post about this on Friday perhaps?
Because there was no reception this year I made my mad dash to the front when it was finished and congratulated each of them — and since we’d been communicating on Twitter at least they knew who I was! I also got my book signed by Lisa O’Donnell. They were all so lovely and I had hoped I could have spent more time talking to them — but at least we’re now in touch and I would like to invite them all as guests on my Blog.
I did get to meet the intern, Joe Byrde and we had a chat about the prize and what this organisation represents. I even gave him a copy of Wild n Free, because while not the Commonwealth, I do try to get children writing from all around the world — so I thought they might be interested!
I do think Commonwealth Writers is a great organisation so do please take a look at their website and follow them:
It does seem kind of apt to Blog about this when the Head of The Commonwealth celebrated, as she did yesterday, the 60th anniversary of the coronation. I have to say that I had never really thought about what it means to be part of the Commonwealth until the question was asked of the winners at the Prize Giving. I’m still pondering what I might have said. I guess it does feel as if the world is smaller when we’re all under one umbrella like this.
If you didn’t get the chance to read the winning short stories I suggest you take a look at the Granta website here: GRANTA
I was bowled over by the quality of the writing and while I am thrilled to find my story Chutney there amongst them in the short list, these are so good I didn’t feel worthy! Do read them. I love the diversity in place and culture they explore, and I guess in that sense my story did that as well as it was very British and it had humour that I know many stories tend to lack these days — still not sure what I intend to do with that story. It needs a home! But I love this cross-culture but one thing that is common to all — being human and exploring the human spirit. The same can be said of the novels — and that’s something we can all relate to.
As for The Death of Bees, I loved this novel and I did Blog about it last week. In fact I will invite Lisa O’Donnell to my Blog. Lisa lives in LA so maybe she even wants to attend my LA book launch next March! I do highly recommend this book!
I also recommend reading the other books on the list. I think we all need to diversify in our reading. That’s why I liked being in a book club. While we want to read the genre we write in, reading any well written books in other genres and literary fiction, which in essence is another genre, does impact and diversify our writing. I will be following this prize with great interest. I haven’t decided if I’ll submit a short story next year and I tend to think you can never replicate what happened this year but I will enter my début novel into the Book Prize — they are all débuts, because their mission is to discover new voices. So maybe next year one of them will be yours …