When I received the news that I’d made the shortlist for the inaugural Kalemba Short Story Prize, my heart almost stopped. Tears welled up in my eyes. My daughter saw them and she gave me a hug because she thought I was upset. I wasn’t. I was delighted beyond belief. I entered the competition to take a chance on myself and my writing ability. It took a lot of courage to put myself on the page, but events in the months that followed built that courage and built the belief I had in myself that, “Okay, I’m not terrible at this.”

In the short weeks between announcing the shortlist and the award announcement, a lot happened – there were bios to be written, photo shoots, reviews and edits from the Editors & Judges, and life in general. The prospect of ‘winning’ didn’t matter to me – I had already ‘won.’ Four remarkable writers had acknowledged my story was good and I was among some upcoming writing talent. Day made.

When I received the news that I’d been awarded the prize, I was overwhelmed by one thing – so many people were reading this story!!

I hadn’t considered that. Sounds absurd, right? But, honestly, the reality of a ‘win’ had not settled with me at all. What was most overwhelming was the positivity of the reviews on the story – people enjoying it, commenting on how they reacted to it. Their words are so precious to me.

I’m truly thrilled and honoured at this award. And I’m so excited about what this means for other Zambian writers coming after me, because there will be many. This is a big deal for us – writing isn’t dead in this country, people yearn to do it and respond when reading great stories.

I’m grateful to the entire panel of judges (and incredibly humbled by their comments on my work): Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Ainehi Edoro, Namwali Serpell and Mulenga Kapwepwe. Ukusefya WORDS pulled this whole thing together – thank you for the opportunity.

Peter Nawa, Chanda Chongo, Andrew Nguvu, Sampa Musaba, and Mutinta Nanchengwa – I can’t wait to read your stories. I’m honoured to have been with you all on this shortlist.

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