The Nigerian novelist Ukamaka Olisakwe always believed in rewarding writers for their work. In 2020, she launched the magazine Isele. For a year, she paid its contributors from her student stipend. Last year, she was profiled on Open Country Mag. “I don’t ever want to stop paying writers,” she said. “Even if it means not eating. I hope we get the money to pay these writers and pay them well.”
Now Isele has introduced The Isele Prizes, a new initiative that seeks to reward their contributors. Split into three categories—for short stories, poetry, and nonfiction—each winner will receive $200 at a ceremony in April 2022.
It is the second time that an African publication has launched prizes, after the Brittle Paper Awards (2017-19), created and run by the platform’s then deputy editor Otosirieze Obi-Young, who later founded Open Country Mag.
Isele’s first issue was released in July 2020. Currently, the team includes Megan Ross as poetry editor, Tracy Haught as fiction editor, Rebecca Jamieson as nonfiction editor, and Olisakwe as editor-in-chief. While its focus is African literature, the magazine also accepts writing from around the world, with the goal of featuring work from as many as 50 countries.
“This initiative gives us the opportunity to appreciate the writers who continue to give us some of the best works you’ll find in a Nigerian-owned magazine in recent years,” Olisakwe told us. “Working with them has been an honour.”