About Nicholas Ochiel

Nicholas Ochiel is a floundering mathematician, perspiring scrivener, happy reader, dilettante, and gadabout. He can be found haunting Nairobi libraries and quoting things. He blogs here ~> />lifefiction.tumblr.com

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize short-list has been announced.1 I had a particular interest in the announcement of this short-list because I submitted a story to competition.2 My name was not on it but the winner for the Kenya region is a friend, and his story – a gritty tale about a woman retaining, reclaiming, and asserting her dignity despite the depredations in the Kakuma refugee camp – is worth reading.3

My expectations, when I write and submit anything, never really include the possibility that I will be published or that I will win a prize. I send and try to forget until reminded.

Literary competitions are often merely black boxes into which manuscripts are inserted.4 Some churning goes on within; we are not privy to the operations of the concealed, magical text-mangling machine. At the end of the process, winners are announced, funding dispensed, contracts signed, books and anthologies published, trips undertaken, careers launched or propelled, and so forth.

Literary prizes are also, unavoidably, political. It has been said of the Caine prize (as well as other prizes, and vital publishers such as Femrite) that it has fostered a certain style of writing, inculcated certain expectations of how African writing should look like, how an African voice should sound like, and how an African narrative should be read. An “African” writer seems expected to work as closely Continue reading