I think rejection sucks. I have to write my brother an email, like any other participant and tell him that he did not emerge top three. This is for the 1st Edition of Chingano Short Story Prize 2019 and we have the list of winners who are all coincidentally from Pioneer Nova.
My brother asked me what he could write about when he learnt about the competition. And I said, I love African stories and can he please not write a soap opera to me with characters’ names like Juan Pablo and Rogelio? He laughed hard. Then he presented the story about cattle rustling in Pokot and Turkana and he was part of the rustlers. I was so proud his descriptions like: hunger and thirst accompanied me. The women looked at us longingly like a smoker looking at a cigarette after making a New Year resolution not to smoke. His face had a maze of wrinkles etc. I am proud of him. I am going to mentor him like crazy because I didn’t know he could write this much. I just know he loves engineering and tech. I am so happy that he reached top 5.
The stories we received were diverse and eye opening. We saw entries from across the country: from Central to Nairobi, Eastern, Coast, Nyanza to Western but none from North Eastern. They were about suicide, depression, academics, terminal illnesses and heart breaks. Tf? What happened to writing about collecting firewood and an ogre captures you? A good number heavily borrowed from soap operas and western movies like game of thrones.
I want to thank the team of readers who volunteered and gave commentaries. Without you, this project would not have been successful.
The judges were Gloria Mwaniga, Peter Ngila and Vera Omwocha who are widely read and accomplished. This is what they had to say about the winning entries:
“Most transparent is that all the three stories making the shortlist are tinged with pain. Which, given they’re written by high school students, could be a clear portrayal of the pain dogging our teenagers. Which is some sort of call for action. Notably the protagonists in the three stories are boys!”
The top three stories are as follows:
Winning entry: Beautiful Oblivion is written beautifully and explores a family on the brink of collapse following a devastating event. Great conversation and description. It begins with a kid waking up from a coma following a fall during a hike with his father. The narrator ends with this longing that it was better the coma than the reality of life after his accident. The writer is Jacinta Kabutha Gathia of Pioneer Nova Girls Tatu.
1st runners up: Bliss is a courageous exploration of what an identity crisis can do to a teenager. Beautiful description, especially the senses and setting. Rather slow at the middle and finishes off with a strong punch which could have been stronger with a little more suspense. It boldly begins with “Atwoki was fifteen when he attempted suicide.” Atwoki is a troubled boy and he says, “Believing that this was the end, thoughts started to dart back and forth. He searched for regrets he could mend, bonds he could restore; he wanted to live – just a bit more. Alas, it was too late, he thought. If only there was a grand audience. If only there was someone – anyone – to tell him what to do.” When he makes up his mind to jump to his death the second time, Atwoki concludes, “In this story, he was the hero.” This sentence has haunted me for many months. The author is Karani Imran Kasumba of Pioneer Nova Boys.
2nd runners up: Queen of Hearts explores betrayal and heart breaks among teenagers for the elusive quest to stardom. Sebastian is a hopeless romantic, worships Salma who does not reciprocate with the same ferocity. The author concludes with a broken boy, shattered and confused. Like we say, it always ends in tears. The author is Sepp Muema of Pioneer Nova Boys.