Abiola Oni was shocked when she wonÂ last yearâ€™s Guardian and 4th Estate BAME short story competition for her wondrous story â€œ75â€. She had submitted her entry close to deadline and felt this would affect her chances. â€œBut I was confident in what I had to say,â€ she says. â€œI was confident that only I could say it. I was confident thatÂ Iâ€™d made my story the best it couldÂ ever be. Many amazing things have happened since IÂ won the prize but it all started with the confidence that it could be me.â€
Open to black, Asian and minorityÂ ethnic writers, the BAME short story prize is just one of several new attempts across the UK publishing industry to address its diversity problem. As Oniâ€™s story highlights, it is not a shortage of talent and confidence among the UKâ€™s BAMEÂ writers that is preventing their work from making it to ourÂ bookshelves.
Now in its second year, the BAME short story prize opens forÂ entries today from UK and Ireland residents who are 18Â orÂ over. My fellow judges â€“ author Niven Govinden, Elle UK literary editor and talent scout Sharmaine Lovegrove, 4thÂ Estate commissioning editor Anna Kelly andÂ Emma Paterson, literary agent atÂ Rogers, Coleridge & White â€“ and I areÂ looking for fresh, compelling and original stories of no more thanÂ 6,000 words, to be submitted byÂ 2Â April.
A shortlist of six will be announced on 5 June, with a winner picked on 13Â July. The winner will receive Â£1,000, a one-day workshop with 4th Estateâ€™s editorial, publicity and marketing teams, and their story will be published on the Guardian website.
Jhumpa Lahiriâ€™s A Temporary Matter, George Saundersâ€™s Tenth ofÂ December, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichieâ€™s Cell One, Junot DÃazâ€™s The Cheaterâ€™s Guide to Love: the best short stories are little sucker punches to the soul and can contain allÂ the weight andÂ fury of a 900-page behemoth. AsÂ aÂ judge, I am very pleased to be involved â€“ and as a reader and lover ofÂ short stories, I am selfishly excited to read what is submitted. SendÂ your stories to www.4thEstate.co.uk/PRIZE