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10 major writing contests to look out for in 2020

There are many literary awards open to Nigerians and Africans. Bookshelf gives you a list.   The Booker Prize Each year, this prize is awarded…

There are many literary awards open to Nigerians and Africans. Bookshelf gives you a list.


The Booker Prize

Each year, this prize is awarded to what the judges consider the best novel of that year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. The winner receives £50,000 while the six shortlisted get £2,500 each. Nigerian-Brit Bernardine Evaristo was 2019 joint winner (for ‘Girl, Woman, Other’) alongside Margaret Atwood (‘The Testaments’). Ben Okri was the first Nigerian to win the prize in 1991.

The 2020 longlist will be announced on July 28, shortlist September 15, and the winner revealed on October 27 of the same year.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature

Solely open for Nigerians, this award, famously known as The NLNG Prize for Literature is sponsored by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company. It rotates every year around children’s literature, drama, prose and poetry. Last year’s winner was Jude Idada for ‘Boom Boom’ in the children’s literature category. As always, the winner goes home with $100,000.

Brunel International African Poetry Prize

Interestingly, this poetry prize was founded in 2012 by Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize. It’s open to African poets who have not yet had a full-length poetry book published with the exemption of those self-published, chapbooks and pamphlets. Each entrant submits 10 poems.

So far, Nigerians who have won this prize include Romeo Oriogun in 2017, and Gbenga Adesina and Chekwube O. Danladi, joint 2016 winners.

The 2020 prize opened for entries from November 4 and closed on November 30 2019. The shortlist will be announced in March and the winner in May 4 2020.

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

This prize is awarded for the best unpublished short fiction to five regional writers of the Commonwealth which includes Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, Caribbean and Pacific. Regional winners receive £2,500 each and the overall winner £5,000. Nigeria’s Akwaeke Emezi was 2017 winner for her story ‘Who is Like God.’ In 2015, Lesley Nneka Arimah also won for ‘Light.’

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is currently closed for submissions. It was open for entries from September 1 to November 1 2019.

Hugo Awards

Categories for this award include Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Series, Best Related Work, and several more.

Nigeria’s Nnedi Okorafor won in the Best Novella category in 2016 for ‘Binti.’ First presented in 1953 and presented annually since 1955, the Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), which is also responsible for administering them.

The nominating period for the 2020 Hugo Awards and 1945 Retrospective Hugo Awards is now open.

Nommo Awards

These awards are administered by the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) and must be nominated by its members. As written on its website, the ASFS is an organisation of African writers, editors, comic and graphic artists, and filmmakers in the fields of speculative fiction such as fantasy, science fiction, stories that draw on traditions, horror and philosophical fiction.

In 2019, Akwaeke Emezi won in the Best Novel category for ‘Freshwater,’ Nerine Dorman (Best Novella) for ‘The Fire Bird,’ Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald (Best Short Story) for ‘The Witching Hour,’ and Nnedi Okorafor (Best Comic or Graphic Novel) for ‘Shuri.’

Nomination is presently ongoing for the 2020 Nommo Awards.

Quramo Writers’ Prize

This prize is an African Award for new and emerging writers. According to what is written on its website, QWP aims to encourage and stimulate a new community of talented writers, providing an opportunity for otherwise unexposed talent to achieve publishing recognition and encouragement.

Writers are asked to submit original, unpublished work of fiction. In 2019 the Prize raised its stakes and invited unpublished authors to submit a novella manuscript, with a minimum word count of 30,000 words. Vivian Ibe won with her entry, ‘What Dreams are Made of.’ She got a cash prize of one million naira, and the possibility of a book publishing deal with Quramo Publishing.

Writivism Prizes

The Writivism Short Story and Koffi Addo Creative Nonfiction Prizes are also annual contests. Winners in both categories get a reward of $500. The winner is entitled to a one-month residency at Stellenbosch University to complete a manuscript for their debut novel, novella, or short story collection, to be published in a Writivism Series. All shortlisted writers travel to Kampala for the annual Writivism Festival and receive $100. All longlisted stories are published in the annual writivism anthology.

Last year, Nigeria’s Frances Ogamba won the Koffi Addo Creative Nonfiction Prize for ‘The Valley of Memories’ and South Africa’s Resoketswe Manenzhe in the Writivism Short Story Prize for ‘Maserumo.’

Ako Caine Prize for African Writing

Until recently, this prize was known as the Caine Prize for African Writing. It’s awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. Submissions are made directly by publishers and the winner goes away with £10,000. Last year’ winner was Nigeria’s Lesley Nneka Arimah for ‘Skinned.’

The deadline to enter the 2020 Prize closed on January 31.

African Writers Awards

Categories in this award include children’s literature, flash fiction, poetry, and short stories. Winners of the African Writers Awards 2019 were announced at the African Writers Conference which brings together writers of African descent. The first edition of the African Writers Development Trust event was hosted in Abuja, Nigeria in 2018 and the second in Nairobi, Kenya.



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