Ta O’reva, a science fiction short story by a young Malawian writer, Muthi Nhlema, has won the third position of the long short story contest by online publishers, freeditorial.com international.
While the grand prize was $15 000 (about K6.7 million), Ta O’reva has received $2 000 (about K900 000) for being the third in garnering more downloads which translates into votes after Queen of Catskills by Heather Rolland and Appetite for Sin by Joe La-Dowdy on first and second position, respectively.
Reads a post on the website: “Ta O’reva by Muthi Nhlema, won the third prize of Freeditorial Long-Short Story Contest of July 4 2015. This story achieved the third position on the ranking of unique downloads, becoming the third most read submission in the duration of this contest.”
Apart from hitting more downloads from the publisher’s website, the contest winners were also judged based on literary quality, according to the writer.
“There were 113 other stories that were competing from around the world. The contest was very innovative because literary merit was not the only measure of success. It also involved downloads of the submission from an online website. The more downloads a submission got, the more chances that a submission would win.
“So, I got 5 175 downloads which was the third highest; hence, my winning. I feel humbled by this win because it wasn’t just my effort, but the support of many. Of course, I am excited, but this is not just my success, but a testament to what Malawi can do when we work together and support each other. I believe there is so much Malawi can do better,” said Nhlema in an interview.
He is not worried about missing out on the jackpot as, he said, the opportunity has launched his career.
Said Nhlema: “Honestly, I would have loved to win. The money is just too much to help someone achieve their dreams. However, I am not disappointed considering where I am coming from where Internet is a problem and the fact that I am an up-and-coming writer. I stayed on number one for about 32 says and the winner is someone more established and exposes as she has published three novels.
“Moving forward, I will write another book. I will see what inspires me. In the meantime, I just don’t know what it will be about.”
The story is science fiction about the return of Nelson Mandela to a future South Africa which has been destroyed by xenophobia and a genetically engineered virus.
To understand the meaning of the Ta O’reva which is derived from Xhosa language, one needs to fully read the short story.
Nhlema’s local exploits include being the runner-up for the 2014 Dede Kamkondo Short Story Award for the story Legacy.