Hotel Africa: The 2018 Short Story day Africa Prize Longlist

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[Originally announced exclusively on The Johannesburg Review of Books]

The longlist for the Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction has been announced.

The prize was founded in 2013, and is open to any African citizen or African person living in the diaspora.

SSDA awards prize money of US$800 (about R11,000) for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place. The previous winners of the prize are Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor, Sibongile Fisher, Cat Hellisen, Diane Awerbuck and Okwiri Oduor.

This year’s prize theme is ‘Hotel Africa’ .

The resulting anthology from the longlisted entries, Hotel Africa: New Short Fiction from Africa, will be edited by Helen Moffett, who will select three editing fellows to work alongside her as part of the SSDA/Worldreader Editing Mentorship, now in its third year.

‘This year’s longlist was particularly difficult to decide’, SSDA Executive Editor Rachel Zadok says. ‘Like last year, the slushpile was read by a team of professional editors with an eye on development, so that no talent, no matter how raw, was overlooked. Instead of looking simply to the most polished stories to make up the list, we looked at the originality of the story. We looked for that sparkle in a writer’s voice that’s almost impossible to define, but when you see it, it creates a buzz in your brain. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no polished writers on the list, just that the playing field was more equal. The stories on the longlist each explore the theme in unique and fascinating ways.

‘We’re pleased to see that quite a few stories come from writers who attended the Flow Workshops, and that writers who have previously been longlisted and have participated in Flow Workshops and the Development Editing Process, like Harriet Anena and Lester Walbrugh, have come so far in their storytelling. They’ve gone from “good” to ‘”wow, fantastic!”

‘We’re also seeing a greater number of stories from previously under-represented countries. It’s wonderful to be publishing writers like Adam El Shalakany from Egypt, who has entered the SSDA Prize in the past but has never been placed. His story “Happy City Hotel” was one of the unanimous decisions, of which there were only six out of the twenty-one. After months of reading, which culminated in three and a half hours of deliberation, arguing and tears, each of us walked away a little heartbroken for the favourites we had to sacrifice. So to the writers who didn’t make the list this year: don’t give up. We’ve got our eyes on you.

‘We want to extend express thanks to our sponsors, the Goethe-Institut, the Miles Morland Foundation, Worldreader and the Beit Trust, and our publishing partner New Internationalist.’

Congratulations to the twenty-one long listed writers!

The 2018 Short Story Day Africa longlist

  • ‘The Satans Inside My Jimmy’ by Harriet Anena (Uganda)

  • ‘The Jollof Cook-off’ by Nkiacha Atemnkeng (Cameroon)

  • ‘The Last Resident’ by Jayne Bauling (South Africa)

  • ‘Mr Thompson’ by Noel Cheruto (Kenya)

  • ‘The Layover’ by Anna Degenaar (South Africa)

  • ‘A Miracle In Valhalla’ by Nnamdi Fred (Nigeria)

  • ‘Of Birds and Bees’ by Davina Kawuma (Uganda)

  • ‘Maintenance Check’ by Alinafe Malonje (Malawi)

  • ‘Why Don’t You Live in the North?’ by Wamuwi Mbao (South Africa)

  • ‘Slow Road to the Winburg Hotel’ by Paul Morris (South Africa)

  • ‘The Snore Monitor’ by Chido Muchemwa (Zimbabwe)

  • ‘Outside Riad Dahab’ by Chourouq Nasri (Morocco)

  • ‘Broken English’ by Adorah Nworah (Nigeria)

  • ‘Queens’ Children’s Little Feet’ by Godwin Oghenero Estella (Nigeria)

  • ‘Door of No Return’ by Natasha Omokhodion-Banda (Zambia)

  • ‘An Abundance of Lies’ by Faith Oneya (Kenya)

  • ‘The Match’ by Troy Onyango (Kenya)

  • ‘Supping at the Fountain of Lethe’ by Bryony Rheam (Zimbabwe)

  • ‘Happy City Hotel’ by Adam El Shalakany (Egypt)

  • ‘The Space(s) Between Us’ by Lester Walbrugh (South Africa)

  • ‘Shithole’ by Michael Yee (South Africa)

Meet the 2019 SSDA Editing Fellows!

They are:

From left: Agazit Abate, Anne Moraa and Ope Adedeji.

From left: Agazit Abate, Anne Moraa and Ope Adedeji.

Agazit Abate (Ethiopia) is the daughter of immigrants and storytellers. She was raised in Los Angeles. She writes and lives in Addis Ababa.  

Anne Moraa (Kenya) is a storyteller. A writer, performer, and editor, she most recently she co-wrote, produced and performed in the critically acclaimed, "Too Early For Birds: The Brazen Edition", a stage play that uninvisibled invisible women in Kenya's history, as part of the LAM Sisterhood. Her writing has been published in Meridians, Jalada, The Wide Margin, and in Short Story Day Africa’s anthology Migrations. A founding member of Jalada Africa, she is an Amplify Fellow and Mawazo Novel Writing Fellow. She is currently at work on her debut novel. Find her on Twitter @tweetmoraa.

Ope Adedeji (Nigeria) is a lawyer, editor and writer. She dreams about bridging the gender equality gap and destroying the patriarchy. Her work has appeared on Arts and Africa, Afreada, and Catapult. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and is an Artist Managers and Literary Activists fellow. She is an alumni of the 2018 Purple Hibiscus Trust Creative Writing Workshop. She currently works at Ouida Books, where she is the Managing Editor. If you do not find her reading, you’ll find her writing. Find her on Twitter @opeeee_.

Congratulations and we look forward to working with you!

We were overwhelmed by the response to our call for applications for the SSDA editing mentorship programme, a part-time opportunity to edit the annual SSDA anthology under the tutelage of the the Editing Mentor, Helen Moffett. FIFTY-SEVEN applications came pouring in. We were so impressed by the enthusiasm and talent that showed up in our inboxes that in the end we created an extra position, which is made possible by the addition of an extra mentor, Karen Jennings (introduced below). 

We wish there was some way to take everyone – every single applicant had something to offer. They came from all over Africa, and from people in a wide variety of interesting jobs: from medical doctors to environmental waste engineers to rugby coaches. A significant number of the applicants were impressively over-qualified, which isn’t intended to sound at all patronising, but is testament to the fact that so many share SSDA’s vision that editing in Africa needs support and development, and that this needs to be provided right here at home. One thing everyone had in common was a passion for African literature in all forms, and all were avid readers and writers.

Choosing the Fellows was immensely difficult. Our brief is to develop editing abilities and capacities on the continent. So in the end we chose candidates who already have some experience in or are currently working in anglophone African indie publishing, and have the potential to make a full-time and long-term contribution to the art and craft of fiction publishing in Africa. And even that was an impossible task, as many met these criteria.

We hope that this experience will enlarge our pool of volunteers, a small but valiant group who offer everything from reading, admin tasks and proofreading, to advice and encouragement.  

It’s also clear that there is a great need for a series of online continent-wide fiction editing courses. However, this will involve additional fundraising efforts in an extremely pinched funding environment (simply keeping our core function going is an ongoing challenge), and will take some time to set up. But we have plans, and will keep you posted. 

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Karen Jennings (South Africa/Brazil) is a long-standing friend, and we are delighted that she has offered to come on board to support Helen and share her insights with the editing team. Her story, “Keeping”, was published in Migrations, and she edited the first SSDA anthology, Feast, Famine and Potluck, which went on to produce two Caine Prize shortlistees, including the ultimate winner. She has edited for indie South African publishers and imprints, including the acclaimed Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips, for Modjaji, and Nkosinathi Sithole's Hunger Eats a Man, which won the Barry Ronge Sunday Times fiction prize. She is no slouch as a writer, either: her debut novel, Finding Soutbek, was shortlisted for inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Fiction. In 2014 her short story collection, Away from the Dead, was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International short story competition. She holds Masters degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, as well as a PhD in English Literature from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Strangely enough (or perhaps not), when first starting out as an editor, she was mentored by Helen, so this feels like closing the circle.