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Winners of Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2019 announced

The winners of the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2019 were announced at the British Library on 9 November.

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The Wasafiri New Writing Prize champions new writers
The Wasafiri New Writing Prize champions new writers

Judges Louise Doughty (Fiction), Nikesh Shukla (Life Writing), and Malachi McIntosh on behalf of Warsan Shire (Poetry) presented the winners with their prizes of £1,000 and read from the winning works.

Based at Queen Mary University of London, Wasafiri is the UK’s leading magazine for international contemporary writing.

In its 10th anniversary year, the 2019 prize attracted record-breaking number of entries from 46 countries. The shortlist featured writers from nine countries across five continents. The winners will be published in Wasafiri and offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy.

The winners of the 2019 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize are:

  • Fiction: Alicia Mietus ‘Third Person Female’

The fraught intricacies of a mother-daughter relationship form the core of this story, woven from the fabric of day-to-day life, shared cooking, childhood memories–and the differences of age and culture that flare up in the face of a new and unexpected relationship. Nikesh Shukla commented that, ‘This is a hugely engaging story. The complexity of the relationship between the mother and the daughter really sings.’

  • Life Writing:Ruby D. Jones ‘Natural Causes’

‘Natural Causes’ deftly narrates two parallel stories: of the narrator’s discovery of a dead blue tit in her garden, and her reflections on the death of a close friend, whose death—of natural causes or by suicide?—is an unresolved presence in her life. ‘“Natural Causes” is a really brilliant piece of writing which doesn’t go where you expect, but moves seamlessly to and fro’, said Chair of Judges Susheila Nasta.

  • Poetry: Desirée Seebaran ‘Picong’

‘Picong’ is a Trinidadian word for taunting, and this poem addresses the experiences of colourism and cruelty that are so insidious and ubiquitous, not only culturally but within families. Written in tight, controlled, and rhythmic verse, Warsan Shire called ‘Picong’ ‘a beautifully written and important poem, honest and striking.’

The following writers were also commended:

Erica Sugo Anyadike ‘How to Marry an African President’ (Fiction)

E.S. Batchelor ‘Human Resources’ (Life Writing)

Joanna Johnson ‘Pantoum of Soldiers’ (Poetry)

The judging panel praised the high quality, maturity, and beauty of the longlisted pieces.

Fiction judge Louise Doughty said: “The shortlisted works of fiction are all notable for their verve, their confidence and their command of imagery and language.  Each of these writers is not only accomplished - they have something to say.”

Chair of Judges Susheila Nasta said: “Once again we have had a range of distinctive new writing. The shortlist in all genres was not only engaging, diverse and ambitious but speaks to the times.”

Wasafiri has continued to champion new writing, celebrating both the full diversity of Britain’s literary voices and those from across the world.

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