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3 NZ Writers Shortlisted For Commonwealth Short Story Prize

  • 3 New Zealanders feature on a Pacific shortlist of four: 31-year-old Anna Woods from Auckland, 46-year-old Pip Robertson from Christ Church and 31-year-old M Donato a New Zealander of Filipino heritage, from Wellington
  • World’s most global literature prize shortlists 23 writers from 13 countries - all but one of whom are shortlisted for the first time
  • Judges hail ‘a dream list’ which will leave readers ‘startled and shocked, heartbroken and humbled in equal measure’
  • Stories range from romances and speculative fiction, to family dramas and coming of age tales, and address a range of topics from motherhood and bereavement to mental illness and forbidden love

An international judging panel has shortlisted twenty-three outstanding stories for the world’s most global literature prize. The shortlisted writers hail from 13 countries across the Commonwealth and their ambitious stories span continents and decades. Many of the stories are told through the eyes of children—tales of parents splitting up, of school, and of the sometimes baffling behaviour of adults around them. Older characters also appear—sometimes destructive, sometimes inspiring. Five of the stories reflect on motherhood in very different ways. Others tell of forbidden love in a hostile world. Topics range from music, football, art, film, the impact of electricity arriving in a village, and even one woman’s passion for tea. While romance and thrillers feature prominently, nearly a quarter of the shortlisted stories are speculative fiction.

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The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 56 Member States. It is the most accessible and international of all writing competitions: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Maltese, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions. This year, 414 entries were submitted in languages other than English.

The stories on the 2024 shortlist were selected from a total of 7,359 entries from 53 Commonwealth countries—a ten per cent increase as compared to 2023. Three small Commonwealth countries—Mauritius, Rwanda and St Kitts and Nevis have authors on the shortlist for the first time. The shortlisted writers—6 men, 15 women and 2 who identify as non-binary—range in age from 26 to 70. And all but one have never been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize before.

Chair of the Judges, Ugandan-British novelist and short story writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi says: ‘This is a dream list for lovers of the short story form—readers who wish to read around the world, writers who wish to hone their skills, agents looking for talent and content creators who relish the challenge of predicting regional winners and the overall winner. Whether reading stories from Africa and Asia, through Europe and Canada to the Caribbean Islands and the Pacific, you’ll be amazed and thrilled, startled and shocked, and heartbroken and humbled in equal measure by the skill and talent, imagination and creativity, by the flexibility of the form and what it is capable of, and by what the world is doing with the English language. For the judging panel, it has been an incredible literary journey.’

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, commended everyone who entered stories in 2024, adding: ‘The Short Story Prize is legendary for unearthing and nurturing the rich creative talent of our Commonwealth. This year is no exception and I have been overwhelmed by the depth and reach of the 2024 shortlist. My congratulations to the 23 writers whose stories will now secure a truly global audience. And I offer my warmest encouragement to the remaining 7,336 entrants to keep on writing. Today, perhaps more than ever, it is storytelling that will help inspire the love, compassion and understanding that our world so desperately needs.’

The 2024 shortlist in full:

‘Fadi’ by Azags Agandaa (Ghana)
‘Dite’ by Reena (Mauritius)
‘House No. 49’ by Olajide Omojarabi (Nigeria)
‘The Goat’ by Jean Pierre Nikuze (Rwanda)
‘A Song Sung in Secret’ by Jayne Bauling (South Africa)


‘Mother May I’ by Ajay Patri (India)
‘Thambi, Thambi’ by Bharath Kumar (India)
‘Aishwarya Rai’ by Sanjana Thakur (India)
‘The Woman Upstairs’ by Audrey Tan (Singapore)


‘When Things End by ‘Sarah Balakrishnan (Canada)
‘What Burns’ by Julie Bouchard (Canada) (translated by Arielle Aaronson from the French, Ce Qui Brûle)
‘Your Own Dear, Obedient Daughters’ by F.E. Choe (Canada)
‘Milk’ by Eaton Hamilton (Canada)
‘Sookie Woodrow Goes to Heaven’ by Ceilidh Michelle (Canada)


‘You Had Me at Aloe’ by Ark Ramsay (Barbados)
‘The Marriage Proposal’ by Heather Archibald (Saint Kitts and Nevis)
‘Wrinkle Release’ by Stefan Bindley-Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago)
‘Terre Brulée’ by Celeste Mohammed (Trinidad and Tobago)
‘The Devil's Son’ by Portia Subran (Trinidad and Tobago)


‘Nobody Owns a Fire’ by Jennifer Severn (Australia)
‘Mananangal’ by M Donato (New Zealand)
‘A River Then the Road’ by Pip Robertson (New Zealand)
‘So Clean’ by Anna Woods (New Zealand)

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