Write the story you want, the way you want, in a voice only you have

November 27, 2022 – We caught up with Rhodasi’ Dhasi’ Mwale, winner of the 2020 Kalemba Prize, for

her short story, ‘If it Aren’t Broke.’

We wanted to know what she has been up to and her advice to writers entering the 2023 Kalemba Prize.

Q: What have you been up to since winning KSSP 2020?

I have been doing my best to keep writing, slowly but surely.

I have published two Zambian romance novels with Love Africa Press – www.loveafricapress.com – Note Worthy, a contemporary romance – https://dhasimwale.wordpress.com/…/27/note-worthy-is-out/

The second one and recently out, Damned If I Love You, a paranormal/fantasy romance, available here: https://tinyurl.com/Damned-If-I-Love-You

I haven’t gone full fledge romance writer, though. I share my serialized stories on my Page: https://web.facebook.com/dhasimwale and Blog: www.dhasimwale.wordpress.com/

On the short story front, my story, Bet On Me, set during N’cwala, was featured in an African Festivities Anthology: https://tinyurl.com/Love-At-A-Festival.

My other sci-fi-fantasy short story, One Part Us Two Part Ghost, got an honorable mention in the 2021 Q3 L Ron Hubbard Writers of The Future Contest.

You can read it here https://tinyurl.com/One-Part-Us.

Q: What advice do you have for the writers entering the 2023 KSSP

Don’t aim for relevance or groundbreaking work; aim for honesty.

A thesaurus is great but beware of using words just for the beauty of it. Obviously, edit, and get honest feedback (not from loved ones). Most important of all, SUBMIT it. Remember, you miss all the shots you don’t take — all the best to the entrants.


2023 Kalemba is open for submissions until 10 December 2022.

Mali shares writing tips and what she’s been up to

OCTOBER 27, 2022 – We caught up with Mali Kambandu, winner of the inaugural 2018 Kalemba Prize (A hand to Hold).

We wanted to know what she has been up to and her advice to writers entering the 2023 Kalemba Prize.

What have you been up to since winning the 2018 KSSP?

Winning the Kalemba gave me the confidence to continue writing. After Kalemba, I was shortlisted for the Writivism Short Story Prize, a regional prize; this was quite an accomplishment for me.

In 2020, I took some writing classes through Lolwe and the Nairobi Fiction Writing Workshop (NaiWa), which helped me develop further and introduced me to incredible networks of writers — a very valuable resource for me and any writer, actually.

Since 2018, I’ve had a number of my pieces published in several literary platforms (some of my work is available to read here). In January 2022, my novel (in-progress) was longlisted, along with 9 other first-time novelists, for the Island Prize. I was thrilled, but didn’t make the shortlist. It was still really encouraging for me. 

This year, Lolwe asked me to guest edit Issue 5 of their literary magazine. This was such an honour for me but the most work I’ve done in ages! Making a selection from so many well-crafted, beautiful stories was very hard. I am grateful for that opportunity.

And also in 2022, one of my stories gained me the honour of being selected Brittle Paper Writer of the Month June 2022. It was so exciting and I’m so touched that my work stood out on such an incredible platform.

I’m still submitting stories and my novel to various platforms, hoping for as many “yeses” as I can get! Lol!

What tips would you share with 2023 Kalemba writers?

In the words of Namwali Serpell, “Read, read, and then read some more.” Meaning you cannot read too much! Read anything, especially in the form you want to be successful in — short fiction, in this case. Reading a variety of works helps you learn and grow as a writer.

Make sure you actually have a story — a beginning, middle, and end. A short story isn’t a few beautifully written paragraphs. If someone else read your story, would they be able to see the narrative arc?

Give yourself time to edit and rewrite your first draft. Don’t submit your first draft. Editing and rewriting will make your draft stronger.

Trust your instincts as a storyteller but don’t be afraid to butcher your story if it isn’t the best way to tell it or the best part of the story to tell.

Don’t think rejection is the end. A ‘no’ is not the end. Keep writing.

Frequently Asked Questions for Kalemba Prize 2023

1. What will the winning writer receive?

The winner will receive $1500 while the two run ups will receive $500 each. It will be the first time that the run ups will be awarded.

2. What will the judges be looking for?

Original, compelling, and unforgettable story telling.

3. Who can submit?

Any Zambian home and away. There is no age limit.

4. Can I enter a story I have previously submitted or published elsewhere?

No. we only accept original unpublished short fiction between 2000 and 5000 words.

5. Is there a theme?

No. Your imagination is the limit.

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Monitor our website for full eligibility guidelines which will be published soon.

Kalemba Prize increases amount for Short Story Prize 2022


LUSAKA, JULY 27 – Kalemba Prize announced today that it is increasing the amount for the Kalemba Short Story Prize 2022 to $2500.

The Kalemba Prize celebrates contemporary Zambian short fiction. Established in 2017, the prize is awarded for the best unpublished short fiction by a Zambian writer.

The award increase is an important step to expanding the prestige and reach of the KSSP.

“We hope to increase the prize in value and prestige to other international prizes” says founder, Sampa Kangwa-Wilkie.

The winner will receive $1500 from $1000 while the two run ups will receive $500 each. It will be the first time that the run ups will be awarded.

“I look forward to supporting this important project” said Justin Chinyanta, who has partnered with Kalemba to grow and expand the prize incrementally.

Following a review process in 2021, the selection process for KSSP2022 has also been changed.

Long listed writers will have the opportunity to participate in a masterclass and to resubmit their stories for further shortlisting. Six stories will be shortlisted. The winning story and two special mentions will be awarded at a special ceremony in Lusaka in 2023.

In addition, the Kalemba Prize website will be relaunched with a new design to improve user experience.

In 2023, Kalemba will launch a Poetry Prize and an online literary magazine.

The 2022 Kalemba Short-Story Prize will be open for submissions from October 10 to December 10, 2022.

Past winning stories; A Hand to Hold (2018), Inswa (2019), and If it Aren’t Broke (2020), is just a small example of the abundant writing talent that Zambia has. There was no prize in 2021.

Kambandu and Kalimamunkweto have since soared to greater heights including being shortlisted, winning prizes and or publishing novels.

Zambia has some of the most talented storytellers on the continent, many of them young, with no prior training in fiction writing.

“With some exposure and skills in writing fiction, Zambian writers are just as capable as their peers on the continent and elsewhere,” adds Kangwa-Wilkie.

Submissions for the 2022 AKO Caine open till 31 January


The submissions window will remain open from Monday 6th December 2021 to Monday 31st January 2022 at midnight (GMT).

Please note that we have now moved to an online submissions process. See our website for full Rules of Entry and instructions on how to submit for the Prize

Please find the link to the entry form here

Rhodasi Mwale Wins 2020 Kalemba Short-Story Prize

Rhodasi Mwale

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Rhodasi Mwale has been announced as the winner of the 2020 Kalemba Short Story Prize for her short story, described as “quirky” by Judges.
The USD1000 award is for the best work of original and unpublished short fiction written in English.

Mwale won for If It Ain’t Broke. The story revolves around a protagonist struggling with depression and mental problems.

“Dr Theo assured me, in a stern, noncommittal tone, that the world wasn’t out to get me and that my children weren’t monsters sent to torment me,” she writes. “He scribbled a prescription and shuffled me out of his offices as fast as he could that I felt rejected. Had it come to this? Even a man I paid to listen wasn’t interested anymore. It was time to find a new doctor.”

A Biomedical Scientist and student of infectious diseases at the University of Zambia, Mwale, 31, remembers fondly “curling up on a bean bag in the library, in Grade 3, reading illustrated volumes of the Adventures of Tintin. In Grade 5, I read Eleanor Hoffman’s Mischief in Fez, and it has stayed with me since.”

On winning the prize, “just being shortlisted is everything because it means that I do belong on the African market. There is such a profundity to African literature that I’ve always felt that my voice is a tad too informal, my prose too simplistic for the market.”
A native of Kabwe Town, Mwale will be presented with the award at a special ceremony to be held in Lusaka in October.

Her story beat five others to win the prize including, Chowa Chikumbi, A Silent Cry; Vanessa Nakayange, I’ll Keep You Safe; Samuel Zimba, Junta or Divorce; Mukuka Nkunde, Daze and Otensia Kapinga’s After the Storm.

A total of 231 stories competed for the 2020 Kalemba Prize, now in its third edition.

The judging panel, chaired by acclaimed and award-winning Zambian novelist (Patchwork), Ellen Banda-Aaku observed that the stories that ended up in the top six were heartbreaking and poignant in different ways; a disgruntled housewife takes the opportunity to go back and change her life; a drunk husband opts to stay with a cheating wife as an excuse to stay drunk; a young woman’s father sides with her after she commits murder; a woman finds the courage to stand up to an abusive husband; rain churns up painful memories, and a mother covers up her daughters’ abuse to save the family.

“These top six stood apart in that they showed something more; a flair in writing, a fresh voice, emotiveness, an unusual twist,” said Banda-Aaku.

If It Ain’t Broke was a clear winner. In this quirky written story, the narrator draws the reader in from the start with a fresh, honest voice about the state of their mind and life,” said the judges. “The mentally depressed protagonist is in a situation we have all been in at some point – the state of being discontented with our lives. The moral of the story is one most of us are aware of but perhaps need a reminder.”

Banda was joined on the panel by award-winning South African writer, Masande Ntshanga (Triangulum, The Reactive) – winner of the 2013 PEN International New Voices Award and a finalist for the 2015 Caine Prize; the youthful Rwandan-Namibian author, Remey Nagmidje, (The Eternal Voice of One) and Mali Kambandu, winner of the inaugural 2018 Kalemba Prize for her story, A hand to hold 

Mwale, who also writes under the name, Dhasi Mwale, has several fictions coming up including her debut novel, Note Worthy by Belonging Books. Other works are scheduled to appear in The Scarlet Leaf Review and Bewildering Stories.

An alumnus of Highbridge Secondary School, Kabwe, Mwale names Paul Cohelo as one of her major literary influences.

The Kalemba Prize is a home-grown initiative celebrating Zambian writing. It is funded and administered by Ukusefya WORDS, publishers of the national bestselling book, Insoselo na Mapinda.

The 2021 Kalemba Prize will open later in the year.

Kalemba Prize shortlist dominated by female writers, again

Six Zambian writers are competing for the 2020 Kalemba Short-Story Prize.

At USD1000 for the winning story, Kalemba is the top literary prize in Zambia. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 7.

The 2020 prize is largely dominated by women, five out of six finalists. The 2019 prize, which was won by writer and lawyer, Mubanga Kalimamukwento was also dominated by women.

Chair of the judging panel, Ellen Banda-Aaku, described the six short-listed stories as “poignant, emotive and fresh with unusual twists.”

The short-list was decided by a panel of judges, who included Masande Ntshanga (South Africa), Remey Nagmidje (Rwanda-Namibia) and Mali Kambandu, the winner of the inaugural 2018 Kalemba Prize.

Previous judges include some of Africa’s literary leading names; Namwali Serpell, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Mulenga Kapwepwe, Ainehi Edoro, Kayo Chingoyi and Austin Kaluba.

Kalemba Prize has announced a poetry prize which will start in 2021, also at $1000 for the winner. Kalemba Prize is a Zambian initiative and wholly run and funded by Zambians.

Our top six stories out of more than 230 entries are:

A silent cry – Chowa Chikumbi
Junta or Divorce – Samuel Zimba
I’ll keep you safe – Vanessa Nakayange
Daze – Mukuka Nkunde
If it ain’t broke – Rhodasi Mwale
After the storm – Otensia Kapinga