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DWL Short Story Contest 2017

The DWL team thanks all the writers who participated in our sixth annual writing contest. The 2017 edition of the DWL Short Story Contest proved to be the biggest in the contest’s history. We received a record-breaking 750 entries for the competition over the months of August and September. Writers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the UK, Australia, the USA, Canada, Germany, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, and many other countries sent in their stories for the contest. We are indebted to their interest and support for our initiative.


We had originally promised to announce the results by the end of October, but even as the entries poured in on deadline we knew it was going to be a promise tough to keep. We apologize for the delay in releasing the results. As some of you already know, DWL is managed by a team of volunteers who work after hours to run this literary collective’s activities, including the publication of our bi-annual magazine Papercuts and the short story contest. We had to put in extra time and resources to go through each and every story diligently. We realized that to do justice to the overwhelming number of short stories, we needed more focus, time and energy. There were some unforeseen setbacks along the way, too. For example, our fact-checkers discovered that three stories in our original shortlist were already published elsewhere, which meant these stories had to be disqualified. It was a disappointing incident for us because our guidelines clearly state only unpublished writing will be accepted for the contest. We had to reconstitute the shortlist before resuming the judging process.


In the end, we took a month longer than expected to finish compiling the results. However, we sincerely believe that the stories selected as winners of the 2017 contest are examples of quality contemporary short fiction, and we hope that you will enjoy reading these stories as much as we did.


We also thank all the various contest listing websites and literary organizations that shared our contest’s call for entries with their networks. We feel this not only led to an increase in the number of stories we received but also helped enhance the diversity of voices and themes in the contest. This year, in addition to the general themes and genres we notice each year, we received dozens of stories on issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, LGBT identity, and depression. Reading the stories on these themes, mostly written by young and emerging writers from around the globe, made us pause for a moment and reflect on the challenges our societies face worldwide and the importance of writing about these issues. At DWL, we believe that fiction helps us make sense of our lives. Fiction can also often help raise voice against social injustice and inequality, encourage discussions, and offer alternatives to resolve the problems with which we struggle collectively. So, we are grateful to all the brave writers who picked up their pens to write about these important themes. We feel proud to be members of the global writing community alongside you, and we are honoured to have read your words.


We have also announced the winner of the 2017 Dastaan Award, which is a PKR 50,000 cash prize given annually to one of the three overall winners of the DWL Short Story Contest. Click here to read the Dastaan Award 2017 announcement.


Now without any further delay, here are the winners of the 2017 short story contest:



Mason Jars by Darlene P. Campos
Darlene P. Campos is also the recipient of the Dastaan Award for 2017.


Darlene P. Campos earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. She is from Guayaquil, Ecuador, but she currently lives in Houston, Texas, with an adorable pet rabbit named Jake. She is the author of Behind Mount Rushmore, published through Vital Narrative Press. She is working on her second forthcoming novel, Summer Camp is Cancelled, which features characters from her short story Mason Jars. Her website is www.darlenepcampos.com


Judges’ note: Mason Jars impressed the judges with its superb tonal equilibrium. Humour is one of the most challenging things for a writer, particularly in a storyline involving themes of grief or loss. It was rewarding to see Campos strike just the right balance between poignancy and hilarity in this tale about an eleven-year-old boy who must deal with the reality of his grandfather’s death while ensconced in the care of his over-protective, slightly dotty family. With well-developed characters and voices, good pacing, and wonderful depictions of familial interaction, Mason Jars is a very special coming-of-age story. Read Mason Jars.


Poongothai by Praveena Shivram

Praveena is a writer based in Chennai, India, and currently the Editor of Arts Illustrated, a pan-India arts and design based magazine. She has written for several national publications, including The Times of India, India Today, The Hindu Business Line, Culturama, and Biblio: A Review of Books. Her fiction has appeared in the Open Road Review, Jaggery Lit, Helter Skelter Volume 6, and she is the recipient of the Prof. Barbra Naidu Personal Essay Prize (Open Category), 2017. She holds a Masters in Writing for Performance and Publication from the University of Leeds, UK, and a PG Diploma in Social Communications Media from Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai.


Judges’ note: Through the experiences of the eponymous protagonist of this short story, Praveena Shivram captures the terrifying, essential unknowability of life. In Poongothai, the author gives us a memorable character who understands that as lives are uprooted, restarted and destroyed all over again, it is the fleeting moments of joy that thread together a tale of survival. Shivram’s writing had a fresh quality to it and showed an understanding of the workings of privilege, both of which the judges appreciated. Read Poongothai.


No Cake, No Candles by Sheela Jaywant


Sheela Jaywant, a humour-columnist and writer-at-large, lives in Goa, India. Her short stories have been published internationally and have found their way into anthologies such as She Writes, Vanilla Desires, City of the Gods, Carnival, Indian Voices, Shell Windows, Railonama and others. Her own collections are Quilted-stories of Middle-Class India, Liftman and Other Stories and Melting Moments. Her story After Seven Long Years was included in the South Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2009. Her short fiction has also won prizes on www.toasted-cheese.com and the Fundacao Oriente Competition. She has written two plays and translated (Marathi-English) several books.


Judges’ note: No Cake, No Candles caught the jury’s eye for its unusual spin on the clash between tradition and modernity. Sheela Jaywant uses the struggles of a teenage boy to paint a deeply troubling picture of the consequences – both deliberate and unintended – of parental conditioning. Read No Cake, No Candles.


Congratulations to the winners! The three writers receive $100 each for their stories.


Honourable Mentions:


Close Reading by Sumana Roy


After the Sunflowers by Angela Sherlock


The following stories were also on our 10-story shortlist:


Autobiography of a Girl from an Undiscovered Planet by Saudamini Deo

Coming of Age by Maggie Denton

Sita by Amrutha Dorai

Sweet Things by Mark Hibbett

Yateem by Tabinda Touseef


Please don’t forget to read the winning entries from previous editions of DWL’s annual writing contest.