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Short Story Competition 2015

Desi Writers’ Lounge (DWL) would like to thank all the writers who participated in DWL’s fourth annual short story contest. We are proud to report that this year’s competition was one of the biggest in the DWL’s history. We received just over 350 stories and although the 2013 edition of the competition can boast of receiving the most stories ever, this year we got more entries from international writers outside the South Asian region than ever before. Writers from countries including Canada, Australia, USA, the UK, Bulgaria, the Caribbean islands and several African states participated alongside writers from our home bases in the South Asian region and South Asian diaspora.


But we value quality more than quantity, and we are happy to note that the geographical diversity also translated into a diversity of themes addressed by the writers. We are extremely pleased that the quality of shortlisted stories for the 2015 competition surpassed all previous contests. The top 10 stories alone looked at issues concerning women empowerment, trauma, delusions, domestic abuse, sacrifice and loyalty, patriarchy, belonging, infant mortality, religious persecution, and, well, ghosts. This year also marks the first time a speculative fiction story made it into our top 10 list. The transformation of characters appears to have been an important aspect in the stories selected by this year’s jury, which comprised of DWL staff members and Papercuts magazine editors. We’d also like to thank our readers and jury members, who spent the summer screening, long-listing, shortlisting and finalising the winners for the contest.


We’re also announcing the winner of the 2015 Dastaan Award, which is a cash prize given annually to one of the three overall winners of DWL’s Short Story Competition. Click here to read the Dastaan Award 2015 announcement..


So without further delay, here are the winners of this year’s short story competition:



After a Hijacking by Deepa Anappara
Deepa Anappara is also the winner of the Dastaan Award for 2015.
Deepa Anappara is a freelance writer and editor from India currently based in the UK. Her short stories have been published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology (Volume 6), Once Upon a Time There was a Traveller: Asham Award-winning stories, Five Degrees: The Asian Short Story Prize 2012 Anthology and Beyond the Border. She is about to start her master’s degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.


Judges’ note: After a Hijacking deals cleverly with the human psyche as it is bent around by circumstances. The story’s exploration of the roles life experiences thrust upon us and the we respond is intelligent and insightful. Anappara’s tone and style, and the voice of her precocious child protagonist create a powerful impact that does justice to the equally powerful transformations occurring in the characters’ lives. Read After a Hijacking


Clutched by the Hair by Cindy Matthews

Cindy Matthews has worked as a chamber maid, potato peeler, data entry operator, teacher, and vice-principal. She writes, paints, and instructs online courses for teachers in her studio-office in Ontario, Canada. Her fiction has appeared in Canada, South Africa, USA, UK, and Australia. ‘Nothing by Mouth’ was shortlisted in the 2014 Event Creative Non-Fiction Contest. ‘Ringo’ was awarded third in the 2015 NOWW Creative Non-Fiction Contest. Learn more at her Facebook page or @Matthec1957.


Judges’ note: In Clutched by the Hair, a woman remembers the life she has lived just as she is about to revisit her family home and an abusive father many years after she had escaped from both. But the protagonist is vulnerable in a new way that only serves to remind her strongly of the past. Matthews’s strength lies in the descriptions she uses to build the world to be escaped and the world to escape to. Her characters come to life through these rich details and their actions turn into haunting memories. At the heart of the story is a struggle for freedom, equality and love. Read Clutched by the Hair


Elephant Maximus by Anushka Jasraj

Anushka Jasraj is a writer from Bombay. She holds a BFA in Film Production from NYU, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New Writers Project at the University of Texas-Austin. She was a regional winner of the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Asia, and her work has appeared in Granta online, Internazionale, and Four Quarters Magazine. She is a 2015-16 writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.


Judges’ note: Elephant Maximus is one of those stories that leaves the reader wondering what’s real and what’s not. The author is able to spin a realistic tale while at the same time making it sound impossible with the truth being somewhere in between. The narrative activates the readers’ imagination, just as vividly as the imagination the characters are contending with, creating a riveting story that will have you reading it till the end. Read Elephant Maximus


Congratulations to the winners! Deepa Anappara receives the PKR 50,000 Dastaan Award while Cindy Matthews and Anushka Jasraj receive PKR 15,000 cash prizes each. They all receive a copy of Aamer Hussein’s 37 Bridges and Other Stories.


Honourable Mentions:


Stinkfisher’s Daughter by Keyan Bowes – This fantasy tale of loyalty and sacrifice came ever so close to the top three positions. Bowes deserves appreciation for putting together a complete story, excellently paced and with some incredible magic.


When Apsaras Bite by Natasha Joshi – Joshi takes the readers inside the typical urban patriarchal mindset. But the story takes a turn when a woman challenges a man for harassment in a public place, launching a series of events that lead to a very real end.


Don’t forget to read winning entries from previous competitions.