Woohoo! Celebrating a Win

I was at the Asian Writer Festival last year for the first time. I didn't even know they had a competition. I went to attend short story and poetry masterclasses at the festival, just because. I was still busy at my day job and I was travelling a lot. It was a nice break from routine on a weekend afternoon.

Little did I know my friends, other British Asian writers, who write short stories and novels had always known about this wonderful club of writers, who get together every year.

Come 2018, I had been writing short stories for a year, after a long break. I found the time to dabble in really short ones - under 1000 words, and occasionally under 50 words. That's what I love about this form - the challenge of portraying a story with the least amount of words. 

Although I had been writing short stories on and off over the year, it was only after July 2018, I started thinking about them in earnest. Where should I submit, what else is out there? I was going back to my favourite authors to read and absorb.

I was reading this book by Kiran Desai that inspired me to put down the book after 10 pages of exquisite prose and write my own story.

I wrote about 2000 words and got on with life. I kept coming back to it, adding details, finessing what I had already written. But I still didn't see how it was going to end. It needed to compost in my brain - so I left it there.

And an email dropped into my mailbox - The deadline to enter the Asian Writer Short Story competition. Was I going to enter? But was it ready? What was the ending?

So I took a whole day to finish the story. I found out what my protagonist wanted? Where was this going to end? And I wanted hope at the end of it. I liked my protagonist too much and I had already put her through too much hell. 

I asked a friend, an accomplished short story writer to read it for me. I asked her if the story had depth and layers and she was kind enough to read at short notice and give me her feedback.

A few more edits later, close to the deadline, I sent in my story and forgot all about it.

When I got a call from Farhana Sheikh, the publisher of Dahlia Publishing, I was at my sister's house, playing with the nephews. When she had told me the news, I was completely dumb-struck. 

Yes, Farhana told me that my story The Hope of a Lotus Bloom, had won the 1st prize in the Asian Short Story Prize. Later when she announced the prize to all entrants, she kindly wrote, 

"there was only really one story which displayed a strong technical ability along with a deeply satisfying story. My heartiest congratulations to C Iyengar, for her story, "The Hope of a Lotus Bloom", which I'm delighted to be publishing in our forthcoming anthology.  The winning story was written with a great deal of care, not only for the subject matter in hand, but for one's character. I can't wait for you all to read it."

You can read the story in the anthology published on 20th October 2018, at the festival, to celebrate a decade long support of British Asian Writers.