7 March 2018 13:56

A Lancaster University alumna has been awarded a life-changing prize for literature.

Dr Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has been awarded the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize in Fiction, which includes a grant of $165,000, or £119,000, to support her writing.

Jennifer, a Ugandan novelist and short story writer, will be honoured along with her fellow recipients in drama, poetry, fiction and nonfiction at a ceremony and literary festival at Yale in September.

Writers from around the world are nominated confidentially and judged anonymously for the prestigious award. The call that prize recipients receive from programme director Michael Kelleher is the first time they learn of their consideration.

Jennifer described being awarded the prize as a “dream come true”. She said: “Writing so far is a pleasure and fulfilling in many ways but not financially to me.

“This award means I don't have to worry about bills first and foremost. It also means that my writing will reach people I did not dream to reach. That is a dream come true.”

Jennifer’s debut novel, Kintu, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project Award in 2013, and was subsequently published by Transit Books and Oneworld Publications. Kintu tells the parallel stories of the fall of a cursed bloodline—the titular Kintu clan—and the rise of modern Uganda.

Jennifer studied at Lancaster University’s Department of English and Creative Writing from 2010 to 2013, where she also enjoyed being a lecturer until 2016. She has been writing full-time since then.

An international student, she came to Lancaster on an Overseas Research Student Award Scheme scholarship and was supervised by Professor Graham Mort and Dr Lindsey Moore. Jennifer now lives in Manchester.

Michael Kelleher said: “The day I make the call to notify award recipients is the highlight of the year, as each cycle I hear how much of a difference it will make for them.

“Six years on, we can now to see the impact the prizes have on these writers’ lives, careers, and their work. The feeling is magical.”

The Windham-Campbell Prize was established in 2013, and English language writers from anywhere in the world are eligible. This year’s recipients are: in drama, Lucas Hnath (US) and Suzan-Lori Parks (US); in nonfiction, Sarah Bakewell (UK) and Olivia Laing (UK); in fiction, John Keene (US) and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda/UK); and in poetry, Lorna Goodison (Jamaica) and Cathy Park Hong (US).