Malaysian Short Story Writing Competition announces this year’s winners

Malaysian Short Story Writing Competition announces this year’s winners

Judges of the event say winning entries reveal ‘deeper truths about what it means to be Malaysian’

THE vibrancy of the Malaysian short story in the English language was certainly evident as a total of 175 short stories were submitted for the 2022 Malaysian Short Story Writing Competition, sponsored by the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) in collaboration with Maya Press.

The competition was open to Malaysian writers 18 years of age and above, to showcase their original unpublished stories that are between 2,000 and 3,000 words in length.

Dr Jason Pandya-Wood, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNM, expressed his enthusiasm for projects that supported the advancement of literature in Malaysia.

“I am really pleased that this is another successful national level competition. I am also glad to see alumni from the University of Nottingham Malaysia making a strong presence among the winners. The School of English at University of Nottingham Malaysia is actively involved in promoting creative writing through its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes,” he said.

Tapping on local talent

The 2022 Malaysian Short Story Writing Competition provided an opportunity for novice and published writers to showcase their work.

Chair of the organising committee and UNM Emeritus Professor, Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani, shared, “The short story is a very popular literary genre in Malaysian writing in English. Still, there aren’t many avenues for writers to submit their work. This open-themed competition provided an opportunity for writers to submit work on topics that they were interested in and we received a wide variety of stories.”

First prize winner, Sharmilla Ganesan poses with Prof Sarah Metcalfe, Provost, University of Nottingham and Emeritus Professor Malachi Edwin Vethamani. – Courtesy of University of Nottingham
A landmark competition

The 2022 Malaysian Short Story Writing Competition culminated in a prize giving ceremony held at the UNM Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre (KLTC) on December 15. Professor Sarah Metcalfe, Provost, University of Nottingham Malaysia gave away the prizes.

Sharmilla Ganesan took the top prize for ‘A Chance Encounter at Sungai Chiling.’ Lam Kok Liang took second place for his story titled, ‘The Festival,’ while Sumitra Selvaraj and Miriam Samuel shared third place, Sumitra for ‘Such A Pretty Girl’ and Miriam for ‘The Things You Weep For.’

The winners took home a cash prizes of RM1,000, RM750 and RM500, respectively, and a certificate of recognition. Shortlisted and longlisted finalists also received a certificate of recognition as well as RM200 and RM100, respectively.

The shortlisted writers and their stories are Hoo Sze Ling for ’The First’; Lim Wan Phing for ‘Four’; Fong Min Hun for ‘An Afternoon at the Bank’; Joshua Lim Jia Sheng for ‘Generation Game Night’; ‘Yeoh Jun Ee for ‘The Washerwoman’ and Poh Tun Min for ‘The Girl Who Remembered’.

The longlisted writers and their stories are Wong Xiu Wei for ‘Just a Cat’; Joshua Lim Jia Sheng for ‘The Gambling Man’; Ethan John Matisa for ‘The Great Sleep Reset’; Loshni Nair for ‘It Runs in the Family’; Tan Hee Jin for ‘Threshold’; Chloe Hor Yin Yee ‘Red-eye Flight’; Zulfikri Bin Ahmad for ‘The Khutbah Staff’ and Mohd Hafidz Bin Mahpar for ‘Green-Eyed Monster’.

Judges’ feedback

The esteemed panel of judges for the competition comprised Sharon Bakar, a well-known editor, writer, publisher and curator of the long-running monthly literary event, Readings@Seksan in Kuala Lumpur, and three award-winning writers, Saras Manickam, Shi-Li Kow and Terence Toh.

Speaking on behalf of the judges Bakar said, “The judges wanted plots that drew us in completely from the first page and were fresh and surprising; characters we could believe in and care for; and strong writing that flowed beautifully. Stories that gave us pleasure.

“It was a bonus to find deeper truths about what it means to be Malaysian revealing itself through the storytelling. We found all these things in the stories written by the finalists.”

Group photo of all the winners present at the prize-giving ceremony. – Courtesy of University of Nottingham
The winners’ voices

The winners of the competition also had some important things to say about their work.

Ganesan said her story “started with simply wanting to capture a conversation between two rather lost beings. But as it developed, I realised that this feeling of being ‘lost’ or ‘lonely’ can often be a by-product of feeling like you don’t belong. Which is what the story eventually became.”

Lam said, “Writing this story has been a real pleasure and eye opener. Ordinary people in everyday situations sometimes give us unexpected glimpses into the human condition. Perhaps over the ages, some these insights may have crept into myths and ritual. It was also interesting (and a bit spooky) that fictional characters can sometimes take on a life of their own; they tell us what they want to say, they might even shape and drive the story. If only we let them.”

Miriam mentioned that ‘The Things You Weep For’ is based on the realities of being a victim-survivor of sexual violence in Malaysia and said that “writing it gave me a form of healing I didn’t expect to experience. It made me realise the power of words, not only to convey meaning, but to create change and make things happen.”

She added, “to be one of the winners is an acknowledgement that stories like this are valid and important. Above all, it tells me that our stories are worth being written and talked about; that our voices matter too.” 

Sumitra said her story idea came from the countless instances of sexual harassment that children are subject to, often from family members or people who are known to them. She added, “it’s rarely addressed; excuses are made for the offending behaviour and the event is swept under the carpet. It’s decided that it’s better not to deal with the shame and stigma, for fear of rocking close relationships.

“But the ripple effects, even from just one seemingly small incident, scars children in ways that they cannot yet express. I hope the story makes people think about the potential monsters that may lurk in their own homes and social circles.”

Maya Press, the co-sponsor of the competition, will be publishing a compilation of the winning stories in the first quarter of 2023.

source – The Vibes

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