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11 October 2023

2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize Winners

We’re thrilled to announce the winners of the 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize in Poetry, Fiction, and Life Writing.

Open to new writers across the world who have yet to publish a full-length book, the competition awards winners with prizes of £1,000 and print publication, in addition to mentoring opportunities offered to all shortlisted writers in partnership with The Good Literary Agency and The Literary Consultancy.

'The 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize has indeed unearthed some outstanding literary talent,’ said Prize Chair Diana Evans, who also highlighted that the judges were ‘so impressed with the calibre and the emotional and political reach of the winners and shortlists - they have offered us new insights, ferocity, urgency, enrichment, and also a sense of wonder.'

The judges praised this year’s winners and shortlistees for their urgent topical weight, maturity, and technical skill. You can watch the prize-giving announcement, with readings from the shortlist, on our YouTube channel.

 

Introducing the Winners


FICTION

Sharika Nair for ‘That Which We Call A Rose’

 



 

‘Smartly dressed men and women start hovering in front of his stand with cameras and microphones. "Do you feel safe in India?" they ask him. Raheem doesn’t know about India; he has only lived in Brajgaon. Besides, he does not want his plates to be broken anymore. So, he stays silent.’


Fiction judge Leila Aboulela praised the piece for its ‘economy, control, humour and skill’ calling it a ‘deft story that tells us what is going on in the world, that goes behind the news headlines and highlights the lives of the marginalized. It is a story that is true to the Wasafiri tradition.’

Sharika Nair has written extensively for digital media platform YourStory, with a focus on women’s issues. Her feature stories were on entrepreneurs and women achievers. Her story ‘The Silver Anklet’ won third prize in Deccan Herald’s short story competition. She has authored a children's book titled Tara and the Quest for the Cursed Prince. Her short stories have appeared in Borderless Journal and Kitaab, and have also found their home in several anthologies, including The Best Asian Short Stories 2023. Sharika is currently pursuing her MA in English Literature. She lives in Bangalore.

 

LIFE WRITING

Nasia Sarwar-Skuse for ‘Absent Presence’

 



 

‘Here all that glitters is gold and rubies. The silk, the chintz, the brocade, the jewel encrusted tiger’s head, the hand inscribed book with Sufi verses by Hafiz, all this and more, is a boast of victory by the British. Yet, to me, the silenced objects caged behind glass, are reminiscent of a cemetery that is neglected of care, love and remembrance.’


The piece impressed the judges with its ‘gravitas’ and ‘vast landscape of history and heritage which merges intergenerational memory’. Life Writing judge Aanchal Malhotra said, ‘this piece does many things, it is ambitious in scope, yet precise in detail, it embroiders personal history to the legacy of colonialization by ruminating on the landscapes we leave behind as we migrate to different lands’ noting that while sometimes the piece is ‘heavy with grief and mourning’ it remains ‘tender and intimate’ throughout.

Nasia Sarwar-Skuse is a solicitor, writer and PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Swansea University researching colonialism, migration, and its intersections with gender, and material memory. She is the co-editor of Gathering, an essay anthology on nature by women of colour (forthcoming 2024 with 404 Ink).

 

POETRY

Swati Rana for ‘Mother, Earth—A Colloquy’

 



 

‘un-name this valley

 

of settlers and learn

 

             to move your

 

    tongue. What you

 

                 call White Mountains

 

                                                                were not

 

                always—these’


 

The poem ‘really resounded’ with the judges for its ‘structural conversation, imagery and style’. Poetry judge Caleb Femi described the poem as the work of a ‘poet who enlivens the imagination and stirs the soul’ adding that he ‘relishes the opportunity to read more of her work’.

Swati Rana is a poet and professor. Her writing has appeared in Asian American Literary Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Granta, The Paris Review, swamp pink, Wasafiri, and elsewhere. She teaches at U C Santa Barbara. Find her at swatirana.com.

 

Shortlisted pieces will be published on the Wasafiri website over the coming months, and the winning pieces will be published in the Spring 2024 issue of Wasafiri magazine. Subscribe now to be the first to read.

The 2024 prize will open in January. You can enter at www.wasafiri.org/new-writing-prize/

With press enquiries or to interview our winning writers, contact Elizabeth Robertson at elizabeth.robertson@qmul.ac.uk

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