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Strathclyde student wins regional heat in global short story prize

Woman's hand on computer mouse

University of Strathclyde student Reyah Martin has won the regional heat for Canada and Europe  for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The Glasgow-based author beat off competition from a strong field of shortlisted entrants including Cypriot author Nikolas Kyriacou, for her for fiction piece, ‘Wherever Mister Jensen Went.’

Second year French and Journalism and Creative Writing student Reyah will now go through to the final round of judging, with the overall winner announced on 30 June.

Head shot of female student

Reyah has previously been a finalist in the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2018 but this is her first successful entry into an adult contest, and she said: “It is an incredible feeling to know that my writing has connected with so many, and to feel validated in my craft. 

“I’ve been writing my whole life, and this recognition has given me that vital confidence to continue pursuing a career as an author. 

“I’m now more determined than ever to carry on creating.   It feels like a dream.”

UK nominee

Reyah, who is also working on her debut novel about women in the First World War, was the only nominee from the UK to make it onto the shortlist.

Her story explores the power of rumour and hysteria, for better or for worse, and challenges society, calling for change before it’s too late

Heather O’Neill, the judge representing Canada and Europe, said: The lyricism of ‘Wherever Mr Jensen Went’ captures the way every member of a community creates their own personal mythology which affects the consciousness and world view of people around them. “

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. This year’s shortlist was selected from more than 5,000 entries from 49 Commonwealth countries.

 It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish.  

Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000 and the five regional winners’ stories will be published online by the literary magazine Granta.