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Sharon Millar Cops Regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Sharon Millar’s ‘The Whale House’ has copped the Regional Prize for the Caribbean for the 2013 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Competition. The recently announced slate of winning short stories comprise Julian Jackson’s ‘The New Customers’ (Africa), Michael Mendis’ ‘The Sarong-Man in the Old House, and an Incubus for a Rainy Night’ (Asia), Eliza Robertson’s ‘We Walked on Water’ (Canada and Europe) and Zoe Meager’s ‘Things With Faces’ (The Pacific).
Millar, a Trinidadian writer who had also been shortlisted for the 2012 regional prize, and was included in the 2012 Bocas Lit Fest as a part of their emerging writers showcase. in a response cited on the Commonwealth Writers website, noted that she was thrilled, by the commonwealth win.
“Winning a regional leg of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is thrilling (really thrilling!),” she said. “It’s a powerful experience to realise that your work can go out into the world ahead of you and hold its own.”
Millar also pointed to the solitary state of the writer. “Writing is such an intensely solitary and private practice. It’s difficult to explain to people what you do and how you do it,” she said. ‘The Whale House’ surrounds a woman recovering from a miscarriage and has been described as a tale of marriage and secrets.
Nineteen writers from across the commonwealth were shortlisted for the prize, from which the five regional winners representing Africa, Asia, The Caribbean, Canada and Europe and the Pacific are selected.
“I am excited and encouraged by the recognition the judges have given to my story, it is emboldening,” said South African writer Julian Jackson. Jackson’s ‘The New Customers’ is set in South Africa during Apartheid.
Jackson noted that along with the encouragement brought by the validation, the regional win and the platform that it provides also brings with it a challenge to continue his writing. “I must do it justice and use it well,” he said, “that means giving room to my writing.”
Sri Lankan Michael Mendis described his writing as a distillation of “private thoughts and private confusions”. He noted that the winning the well-respected literary prize brings a validity that resonates for him as well as his wider society.
“[T]his Prize implies that the end product resonates with the world outside,” Mendis said. “Validation is important; it reaffirms the possibility of my having a voice, and adds to the chorus of Asian voices that profess our continent’s vibrant diversity.”
The win should be a particularly gratifying coup for Mendis who up to the win remained an unpublished writer.
For Canadian writer Eliza Robertson, the win seems to be akin to the title of her short story, ‘We Walked on Water’, as she believes it must have been a miracle.
“To be the regional winner feels nothing short of miraculous,” she said. Robertson confessed to feeling some intimidation at the list of writers shortlisted, even though she has three national fiction prizes under her belt.
“I have to admit— I laughed when I saw Canada and Europe listed as one “region.” And when I saw the others on the shortlist, I felt incredibly daunted,” Robertson said.
“I’m so lucky to be included in the shortlist for such a well-respected competition, and it’s incredibly fortifying to win the Pacific regional prize,” said Zoe Meager. The New Zealand author of the story ‘Things With Faces’ recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Aukland.
“It’s a thrill to think that Things With Faces is contributing to this unique collection of imaginative works from all around the world,” she said, echoing the sentiments of her fellow regional winners.