Jamaican Self Published Author in the running for £10,000 Commonwealth Book Prize

E.E. Sule (Nigeria), Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka), Lisa O’Donnell (UK) and Michael Sala (Australia), four of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize regional winners (Image credit; Commonwealth Writers.org)

E.E. Sule (Nigeria), Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka), Lisa O’Donnell (UK) and Michael Sala (Australia), four of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize regional winners (Image credit; Commonwealth Writers.org)

Self-published Jamaican writer, Ezekel Alan is savouring the sweet taste of victory after being declared the regional winner for the Caribbean for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. He takes home £2,500 for his novel, Disposable People and will go on to compete with the other regional victors to become the overall winner of £10,000. The final winner will be announced at the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Wales on May 31.

Commenting on his win, Alan said, “When I started writing Disposable People the story came out with such violence that I thought of it as therapy and catharsis rather than art. I knew from the outset that the novel was unorthodox; because of this, and the fact that it was self-published, I worried about whether it would be accepted by a mainstream audience. I am so encouraged by this recognition.”

disposable-peopleAlan stands out for his virtual anonymity as much as for his impressive win. According to Commonwealth Writers, the official Commonwealth Foundation portal that promotes the Commonwealth Book Prize, “he currently lives with his wife and kids in an architecturally noteworthy house in Asia.”

To date not a single photo of Alan has popped up on the internet. You can’t even find one on the Commonwealth Writers website.

A recent article in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper citing his success in making it unto the Commonwealth Book Prize shortlist has no photo of him. Alan is a Jamaican.

Aside from his Goodreads page, precious little biographical information about Alan can be found elsewhere on the internet. His book is available online via Booktopia but it doesn’t seem to be on sale at any of the major online booksellers, not even Amazon.com.

Unlike many Caribbean writers, Alan doesn’t seem to make use of online social networks like Facebook. Moreover, it seems safe to assume that he’s yet to gain the attention of the Caribbean literati, at least outside of Jamaica. Given that he’s self published, lives all the way in Asia, and access to his book is limited, this will take some doing. Alan himself has admitted that he worried about the acceptance  his novel would receive due to its being self-published. Not having a publisher or agent to bat for him and help boost his image could well be one of the factors contributing to his seemingly low profile.

For what it’s worth, the prestigious American business magazine, Forbes and the Bookseller, a leading book-publishing industry newsmagazine have spotlighted him and highlighted his success in winning one of the Commonwealth Book Prize regional awards.

Sharon-MillarMeanwhile, Sharon Miller from Trinidad & Tobago has captured the Regional Prize for the Caribbean for the 2013 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Competition with her story The Whale House. Miller who has been hailed as one of the Caribbean’s latest emerging writers of talet, told Commonwealth Writers.org that she is thrilled by her win.

Writing is such an intensely solitary and private practice. It’s difficult to explain to people what you do and how you do it. Winning a regional leg of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is thrilling (really thrilling!). It’s a powerful experience to realise  that your work can go out into the world ahead of you and hold its own,” said Miller. 

The Commonwealth Book Prize is awarded for the best first novel, and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the best piece of unpublished short fiction.

The Regional winners represent Africa, Asia, Canada & Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific regions. 

Commonwealth Book Prize 

Regional Winner, Africa
Sterile Sky, E.E. Sule (Nigeria), Pearson Education

Regional Winner, Asia
Island of a Thousand Mirrors, Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka), Perera-Hussein Publishing House

Regional Winner, Canada & Europe
The Death of Bees, Lisa O’Donnell (United Kingdom), William Heinemann

Regional Winner, Caribbean
Disposable People, Ezekel Alan (Jamaica), self-published

Regional Winner, Pacific
The Last Thread, Michael Sala (Australia), Affirm Press

Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Regional Winner, Africa
The New Customers, Julian Jackson (South Africa)

Regional Winner, Asia
The Sarong-Man in the Old House, and an Incubus for a Rainy Night, Michael Mendis (Sri Lanka)

Regional Winner, Canada & Europe
We Walked On Water, Eliza Robertson (Canada)

Regional Winner, Caribbean
The Whale House, Sharon Millar (Trinidad and Tobago)

Regional Winner, Pacific
Things with Faces, Zoë Meager (New Zealand)

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