The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022: an interview with Franklyn Osouwa

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Picture of Franklyn Osouwa: provided

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 54 member states. It is the most accessible and international of all writing competitions: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil and Turkish. Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions. In 2022, 408 entries were in languages other than English. The stories on the 2022 shortlist were selected from a total of 6 730 entries from 52 Commonwealth countries.

Naomi Meyer conducted interviews with the shortlisted authors from Africa. Below is an interview with Franklyn Osouwa.

Congratulations on your short story, nominated for this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize! Please would you tell me what your story is about and what inspired you to write your story?

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My story is titled Lifestyle guide for the discerning witch and is about cultural gender bias in African domestic settings, and its effects on the development of a girl into a woman while she seeks to resist it.
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My story is titled Lifestyle guide for the discerning witch and is about cultural gender bias in African domestic settings, and its effects on the development of a girl into a woman while she seeks to resist it. I was inspired by an article in the Boston Review, “All the witches they could not burn” by Jessie Kindig, and a short story, “How to marry an African president” by Erica Sugo Anyadike, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

It was possible to take part in this competition in languages other than English. Tell me about the language you used for your entry. Did you write in your home language? If you wrote in English, do you think the language you speak at home was reflected in the English that you used? Speak to me about the language you used as tool for your writing. 

I wrote my story in English, not my home language, which is Igbo. It is unlikely that Igbo was reflected in the English used, as Igbo is my first language. The story is written almost entirely in the future tense; it was my first attempt writing in such a manner, and was an interesting experiment for me in the use of English in storytelling. I found it challenging, and spent much longer than I normally do rephrasing and sometimes completely rewriting passages of the story. It was definitely interesting to write.

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The story is written almost entirely in the future tense; it was my first attempt writing in such a manner, and was an interesting experiment for me in the use of English in storytelling. I found it challenging, and spent much longer than I normally do rephrasing and sometimes completely rewriting passages of the story. It was definitely interesting to write.
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What did this nomination mean to you, and what are your writing dreams for the future?

This is my second consecutive shortlisting, so it means a lot to me. It’s exciting and validating. My dream is to continue writing and telling stories, and hopefully to improve as I do so.

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I want to write stories that do not just connect with people, but also make them feel connected to others.
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I want to write stories that do not just connect with people, but also make them feel connected to others.

Also read:

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022: an interview with Ntsika Kota

Press release – 2022 Commonwealth short story prize: shortlist announced

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022: an interview with Charlie Muhumuza

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