I will always cherish the words of the best-selling writer Patricia Cornwell, who responded to a tweet in which I asked why writing fiction always left me exhausted, with the following statement: “Because you’re channeling“.
Writing fiction is not easy. I view stories as portals; gateways to infinite realities and mirrors to our own, which is why I was excited to speak with the writers shortlisted for the 2022 edition of the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I was internally fan-girling half the time as I communicated with representatives from the prize and the shortlisted writers.
The writers I interviewed are brilliant. I was impressed by the passion and thought patterns behind their writing processes, and I admire the worthy causes they support outside of their writing.
This series includes some of the warmest, funniest and most insightful conversations on the art of storytelling I have had in a long time. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed curating them.
The writers’ shortlisted and winning stories were simply mind-blowing. The subject matter included a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by climate change, tales of murder and complex family dynamics, oppressive cultural norms, love and grief. Each story was crafted with a mastery of language and imagery, and I believe that these interviews carry the same range.
From discussions on witchcraft and feminism to the recollection of family memories and the dissection of queerphobic violence in conservative societies, these interviews delve into issues affecting us all.
Wherever we live on the continent or in the African Diaspora, the topics discussed in this series are universal. I am truly looking forward to sharing these five conversations with you all, a day at a time, from the 12th to the 16th of September 2022.
Below are the titles of the shortlisted stories as well as the names of the writers and their nationalities:
‘Something Happened Here’ — Dera Duru (Nigeria).
‘How to Operate the New Eco-Protect Five-in-One Climate Control Apparatus’ — Charlie Muhumuza (Uganda).
‘Thandiwe’ — Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Zambia).
‘Lifestyle Guide for The Discerning Witch’ — Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria).
‘and the earth drank deep’ — Ntsika Kota (Eswatini) — 2022 regional and global winner.
More information about the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the shortlisted writers and winner can be found here.
Aisha Kabiru Mohammed is a Law student, poet and freelance writer and journalist from Kaduna State, Nigeria. Her poems, essays and curated interviews have been published in Document Women, Africa in Dialogue, Agbowó, Muslim Girl, Aster Lit and others. In 2019 she won the inaugural Andrew Nok Poetry Prize, awarded by YELF. In 2020, she was one of the judges for the same award. When she isn’t studying and writing, you can find her drinking tea, reading, stroking cats, watering plants, reading about Sufism and working to spread mental health awareness as Head of Administration at the FAM Initiative. Aisha currently writes for Document Women’s Arewa Voices column. She hosts two podcasts, namely the Poet Box Series and Story ER.