Award-winning writer and filmmaker Shakirah Bourne is among the top 22 shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She is the first Barbadian to be selected for this impressive list and is extremely honoured to be considered.
It is an amazing accomplishment if you take into account that this NIFCA multi-awardee and 2015 recipient of the Governor General Award for Excellence in Literary Fiction, was chosen from a field of thousands of entries, 5081 to be exact from across 50 Commonwealth countries.
Shakirah has been entering the competition almost consistently since 2011 and she uses it as a deadline to write. Last year, perhaps indicative of what was to come, she made it to the long list with the top 200 short stories.
When asked to describe her reaction on receiving this year’s excellent news, she gleefully expressed a combination of complete shock, thankfulness and excitement all in one.
This particular story on the short list, ‘A Hurricane & the Price of Fish’, is one that she had previously written, but felt that it still needed that something she just could not pinpoint. It was the valuable feedback of a mentor Jacob Ross, whom she met at a Commonwealth Workshop where she was an invited attendee, that gave life to the story again and with his suggestions, she entered the piece at NIFCA 2018 walking away with gold. With a few re-edits and additions to the story she tried her luck at submitting it again, this time to the Commonwealth Short Story competition where it was shortlisted.
‘A Hurricane & the Price of Fish’ is a short story set during the hurricane season portraying the unlikely romance between a no-nonsense market vendor and a retired swindler and the dire consequences that their relationship had on the village in which the story was staged.
Her advice to other writers is to continue to submit to these competitions. Like the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, some of these competitions are free, you have nothing to lose and even though you may not win, you never know what exposure you will gain not only from the competition itself, but also from the judges or from other people reading your work. You never know whose eyes are on you. Who knows, it could open the door for an unexpected opportunity later down the road. Tastes are very subjective so your loss at the time does not mean failure…so keep submitting.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize competition now in its eighth year, annually awards the best unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. The regional winners will receive £2,500 and the overall winner £5,000. Hopefully Shakirah will be among the winners to be announced on May 9.