Lola Olufemi, Sharma Taylor, and Joshua Idehen are on the shortlists for the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2020 announced on October 6, 2020.
Wasafiri, founded in 1984, is a UK-based magazine for international contemporary writing renowned for publishing some of the world’s most distinguished writers. The magazine’s Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize was launched to support new writers, with no limits on age, gender, nationality or background in 2009. It is handed out in the categories of fiction, poetry, and life writing. Some of the previous winners of the prize have been Deirdre Shanahan (2018), Ndinda Kioko (2017), and Niamh MacCabe (2016).
The 2020 edition of the prize is judged by renowned publisher and editor Kadija Sesay (Chair) alongside Penguin editor Simon Prosser (Fiction), Guardian journalist Aida Edemariam (Life Writing), and prize-winning poet Raymond Antrobus (Poetry). This panel announced the shortlists for the award and those with African/Black finalists are;
Fiction judged by Simon Prosser
- The Benevolence of a Raincoat, Veronique Bequin
- Red, Lola Olufemi
- Friends from Home, Aparna Surendra
- How you make Jamaican coconut oil, Sharma Taylor
- Holding On, Adam Zmith
Judge’s comments: ‘You’re just looking for something that hasn’t been said in that way. What I was looking for was that sense of surprise for the reader—when something is said in a new way or in a fresh voice, seen from a different perspective, or in a surprising light; when you feel a writer doing something special, with verve.’
Poetry judged by Raymond Antrobus
- Dear Sabrina, Rebecca Baird
- bone journey, Rupam Baoni
- Black Says, Joshua Idehen
- Cutting water, Emily Pritchard
- Conventional Wisdom, Yasmine Seale
Judge’s comments: ‘I was looking for quality of insight, and a quality of noticing; a feeling that I’ve never looked at something in quite that way, but it feels true.
These shortlisted pieces will be published on the Wasafiri website over the coming months, and every member of the shortlist will have a one-to-one meeting with Nikesh Shukla of The Good Literary Agency to discuss their work, their career progression, and how to get ready for submission to literary agencies.
The winners will be published in Wasafiri and receive a prize of £1,000 each, as well as be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility). The big announcement will be made on October 29, 2020.