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Jamaicans shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers prize

Published:Sunday | April 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Commonwealth Writers has announced shortlists for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and three writers from Jamaica are among the lot. Olive Senior, noted Jamaican writer has also been shortlisted, but for Canada where she now resides.

The three other Jamaican writers are Alecia McKenzie, Hazel Campbell and Diana McCaulay. McKenzie has been shortlisted for the book prize for Sweetheart (Peepal Tree Press), while Campbell and McCaulay are up for the short story award. Campbell's story is titled 'Devil Star', while McCaulay's is titled 'The Dolphin Catcher'.

Writers from around the world have been shortlisted for each prize in anticipation of becoming a regional winner on May 22 and ultimately competing for overall winner which will be announced at the Hay Festival in England on June 8.

Commonwealth Writers is a new cultural programme within the Commonwealth Foundation which develops, connects and inspires writers. By awarding prizes and running on-the-ground activities, it works in partnership with international literary organisations, the wider cultural industries and civil society to help writers develop their craft in the 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

A regional winner for each prize will be awarded in five regions: Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and the Pacific.

Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Bernardine Evaristo, said, "The high quality and variety of international stories on this shortlist is fantastic. To read them is to be immersed in a wide range of cultures and situations, and to be persuaded by superbly crafted narrative voices, different ways of seeing and being, suspenseful dilemmas and intensely rendered emotional experiences."

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2011, the Commonwealth Foundation relaunched its prizes to form part of Commonwealth Writers. The prizes act as catalysts to target and identify talented writers from different regions who will go on to inspire and inform their local communities.

McCaulay expressed her joy in being shortlisted for the award.

"I feel very honoured to be in the company of the other writers. I am also pleased to see the strong showing by Caribbean writers, both in the short story list and the book list - there are three Jamaicans. Plus, Olive Senior, although entering from Canada - well, she's a Jamaican as far as I am concerned!"

Her story is about a young man confronting the potential loss of his beloved grandfather, who is a fisherman missing at sea, and discovering painful truths about his own parents.

Her first novel, Dog-Heart, was released in March, 2010.

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