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22 September 2023

Announcing the Shortlist for the 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize

We are pleased to announce the shortlists for the 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize, judged by Leila Aboulela (Fiction), Aanchal Malhotra (Life Writing), and Caleb Femi (Poetry), and chaired by Diana Evans. Celebrating new writers, our international Prize in 2023 received entries from a remarkable 68 countries — 84% of the world. This year's shortlist was characterised by the judges as 'packed with bold and exciting voices', 'rich with potential', and characterised by honesty, tenderness, humour, urgency, and outstanding technical prowess.  

In the Fiction category, Leila Aboulela says the shortlist ‘ranges from the neighbourly nuisance of an avocado tree to the harassment and abuse faced by Muslims in India’, strongly showcasing ‘humour, competitiveness, and mature perceptions in a list rich with potential’.  

Aanchal Malhotra, judging Life Writing, was struck by ‘how many of this year’s submissions explored the fragility of life and the death of a loved one’ and was moved by the ‘honesty and tenderness with which this shortlist chronicled loss and its gentle transformation into everydayness’, while speaking ‘to the inheritance of family history, immigrant realities, and colonial legacies – drawing on shapes of homes present and absent – and how resolutely the body remains an archive of memory’. 

Meanwhile, Poetry judge Caleb Femi said the shortlist is 'packed with bold and exciting voices' and is thematically 'bolstered with intimate contemplations of home, religion, language, and community — the best of which are told through the lens of mundane observations'. Femi described the range of works as those 'that underpinned visceral sorrow with stealthy wit and were confidently ambitious'.


Finally, Chair of the Judges Diana Evans was struck by ‘the great promise and originality’ of entries this year, with the Life Writing shortlisted pieces ‘standing out for their maturity, emotional pull, and thematic relevance to our times’. She was also ‘especially impressed with the strength of entries in Poetry, some of which have been both unforgettable and haunting’, while the Fiction shortlist, she said, ‘contains stories equally commendable for their technical skill and urgent topical weight’.

The three winners, who will be announced on 11 October 2023, will receive prizes of £1,000 each and publication in Wasafiri magazine, while the remaining shortlistees will have their work published on Wasafiri.org. All shortlisted writers are awarded with ongoing mentoring and further career support from Wasafiri partners. 

Representing some of the most exciting new work from around the world today, the shortlisted writers for the 2023 Queen Mary New Writing Prize are:  

Fiction
judged by Leila Aboulela 

Andrea Gissdal for ‘Virgin Mobile’ 

Sharika Nair for ‘That Which We Call A Rose’ 

Eve Newstead for ‘Stupid Vegetarian Chicken’ 

Dushi Rasiah for ‘Ripening’ 

Shere Ross for ‘The Acre’  

Life Writing
judged by Aanchal Malhotra 

Madeleine Ballard for ‘She and I’ 

Kayte Ferris for ‘Listed for Sale’ 

Mica Gray for ‘In the ground of memory’ 

Nneoma Kenure for ‘Dad Died’ 

Nasia Sarwar-Skuse for ‘Absent Presence 

Poetry
judged by Caleb Femi 

Princess Arinola Adegbite for ‘Ariel (Little Mami Wata)’ 

Erin Brady for ‘Sylheti for Beginners, As Explained by Your White Girlfriend’ 

Laura Jane Lee for ‘on this earth we have no abiding home’ 

Swati Rana for ‘Mother, Earth—A Colloquy’ 

Jess Thayil for ‘Sing Up the Ruins’ 

In the words of Chair of the Judges Diana Evans, ‘given the scale and standard of entries to this year's Prize, all the shortlistees should be congratulated on a great achievement.’  

Shortlisted pieces will be published online over the coming months; follow @wasafirimag on Instagram or Twitter to be notified when each piece is out, and for the announcement of the winners on 11 October 2023. The winning pieces will be published in the Spring 2024 issue of Wasafiri. Subscribe now to be the first to read the winning works. 

The 2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize will open in January. 

For further information or to interview our shortlisted writers, contact Elizabeth Robertson at wasafirinewwritingprize@qmul.ac.uk 
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