Isele Magazine

The Best of New Literature and Art

The Isele Short Story Prize

Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo Wins the Isele Short Story Prize for “The Year of the Sun”

Okonkwo’s exceptional short story explores the difficult conversations we have about how we love, our culture and traditions, and the relationship we have with our history. Her language pulses and her structure is controlled. This is a masterfully crafted story, which immerses you in the setting as she builds this world with mathematical precision, such that a reader, even if they aren’t familiar with the period and the culture, sees themselves in her characters. This story stays with you.

Read “The Year of the Sun.”

Announcing the Shortlist

The Year of the Sun” by Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo

Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She’s currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. A 2021 recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, her fiction has appeared in Isele Magazine, Guernica, and Catapult. She is at work on her debut novel. 

Right” by Rilla Askew

Rilla Askew received a 2009 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the author of five novels, a book of stories, and a collection of creative nonfiction, Most American: Notes from a Wounded Place. Askew is a PEN/Faulkner finalist and two-time recipient of the Western Heritage Award. Her novel about the Tulsa Race Massacre, Fire in Beulah, received the American Book Award in 2002. Askew’s essays and short fiction have appeared in Isele, AGNITin HouseWorld Literature Today, and elsewhere. Her novel about the Early Modern writer and martyr Anne Askew, Prize for the Fire, will be published by OU Press in 2022. She teaches creative writing at the University of Oklahoma. 

Sunset Dreams” by Troy Onyango

Troy Onyango is a writer and editor from Kisumu. His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Doek!, Wasafiri, Isele Magazine, Johannesburg Review of Books, AFREADA, Nairobi Noir, Dgëku Magazine, and Transition among others. The winner of the inaugural Nyanza Literary Festival Prize and first runner-up in the Black Letter Media Competition, he has also been shortlisted for the Caine Prize, the Short Story Day Africa Prize, the Brittle Paper Awards, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. An alumnus of the Caine Prize Workshop, Miles Morland Workshop, Jalada Workshop, Goethe Workshop and the Kwani?-SLS Workshop, he has also been a writer-in-residence at the Ebedi Writers Residency in Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Laws degree and completed his MA in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of East Anglia, where he was a recipient of the Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship. He is currently studying towards an MA in African Studies at SOAS University of London. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of LolweHis collection of short stories FOR WHAT ARE BUTTERFLIES WITHOUT THEIR WINGS is forthcoming in 2022.

Souvenir” by Roseline Mgbodichinma

Roseline Mgbodichinma is a Nigerian writer, blogger, and poet who is passionate about documenting women’s stories. Her works have appeared in The Hellebore Press, Serotonin Poetry, Illino media, Down River Road, Blue Marble Review, Kalahari Review, X-ray Lit Mag, Native Skin and elsewhere. She is a poetry mentor & Alumna at SprinNG, an NF2W scholar in poetry, and a fiction contributing editor for Barren magazine. Roseline won the audience favourite award for the Union Bank Campus Writing Challenge – Okada books. She is the third prize winner for the PIN food poetry contest. You can reach her on her blog:

The Children of No 39 Faulks Street” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo

Innocent Chizaram Ilo is Igbo. They are the winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (African Region) and the 2021 Nommo Award for Best African Speculative Short Story. They are also a finalist of the Gerald Kraak, Short Story Africa, Ignyte, and Author of Tomorrow prizes. Their works have appeared in Isele, Lolwe, Granta, Catapult, BBC Culture, The Guardian UK, Strange Horizons, Fireside, F&SF Magazine, and elsewhere. They live in Lagos and write to make sense of the world around them.

The Only One I Have Not Lost” by Dennis Mugaa

Dennis Mugaa is a writer from Meru, Kenya. He was longlisted for the Afritondo Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jalada, Lolwe, Isele and Washington Square Review. He is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia where he is a Miles Morland Scholar.

Announcing the Longlist

We are delighted to announce the longlist for the inaugural edition of The Isele Short Story Prize.

Narrowing down the short stories was challenging because the works that we publish at Isele Magazine are brilliant, defiant, and poignantly explore themes that challenge conventional expectations. Publishing them was such a joy. These exceptional writers remind us of the transformative power of stories and the beauty of language.

The works that appear in this longlist encapsulate our mission: to provide a platform for writers who hold a mirror to our society.

On that note, see the longlist in no particular order:

The Year of the Sun” by Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo

Today She Will” by Saratu Abiola

Right” by Rilla Askew

Sunset Dreams” by Troy Onyango

Witch Hazel” by Gabriela Denise Frank

Souvenir” by Roseline Mgbodichinma

The Newlyweds Window” by Husnah Mad-hy 

The Children of No 39 Faulks Street” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo

The Only One I Have Not Lost” by Dennis Mugaa

Deliverance” by Jadesola Ajao

About the Prize

The prize is for a short story (including flash fiction) published in Isele Magazine in the past year. 

The judges will publish the longlist of ten stories in February, and a shortlist of five or six stories in March. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony at the end of April.

Important Dates

  • Longlist Announced: February 21, 2022

  • Shortlist Announced: March 21, 2022

  • Winner Announced: April 26, 2022


We will occasionally update this page with the most recent news about the prize, including the longlist, the shortlist, the winner, the interviews with our writers, and details about the award ceremony.

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