Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) has received 41 entries for the K4.5 million Peer Gynt Award competition which this year has focused on children's stories.
The competition's deadline was extended to end February to give a chance to more writers to enter the contest which last year was running at the budget of K8 million and saw Lilongwe based writer Shadreck Chikoti come out the victor pocketing K500,000.
Mawu President Sambalikagwa Mvona said out of the 41 entries that they received; nine have been authored by women which is still a concern.
Last year Mvona also expressed concern with women participation which saw only one making it to the final round.
"Almost half of the entries bear rural settings. This I believe is the dream of the organisers of the contest although I wish we had more women as men have always dominated," said the Mawu president.
Mvona also revealed that three judges namely Jonathan Thathwe Mbuna, Gertrude Kabwazi and Leona Chilemba will scrutinise the 41 entries to come out with the best 12 manuscripts.
"March, April and May will be time for the three judges to sift through the manuscripts to find the best 12 scripts. When this is done, the best 12 scripts will be transferred to another three judges which we will name later to select the best six manuscripts," explained Mvona.
With Mawu celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Mvona said the prize presentation ceremony for the Peer Gynt Award will take place in September during the anniversary celebration.
"Let me take this opportunity to thank the Norwegian government for their continuous support to this lucrative literary Award. I would also like to thank the media for the support and publicity towards this contest," he said.
The winner this year is expected to walk away with K400,000 with the first and second runners up pocketing K250,000 and K150,000 respectively.
Mvona said history of story-telling in Malawi entails that after an evening communal meal many parents especially grandmothers used to gather children around a fire-place narrating their nostalgia stories of their heroic long travels seeking new settlement as well as folklore stories that talked highly of their culture and traditions.
He said with time, some of these great stories had been blended into songs sung at initiation ceremonies, harvest festivities, school drills commonly known as 'perete' as well as wedding ceremonies.
Mvona however, said unfortunately, none of these had been documented adding that some of "our great authors" such as Williams John Gwengwe have during their times tried to document some of the stories of the Sara and Timve episodes but these have not gone far enough.
He said the scarcity of such story books has attracted foreign materials that have polluted children with strange and foreign manners which talks volumes of "our cultural norms and practices."
"But as custodians of cultural and educational standards, Mawu believes that time has come when our old stories as well as folklore need to be given space to be documented in serious booklets so that our children should know where they are coming from and why they are called Malawians," said Mvona.
He then strongly condemned those who import foreign stories and plant them in the country's scenario and yet he noted these stories contain visible foreign cultures.
"We also urge those organisations that call themselves advocates of quality education not to narrow their focus at the mere infrastructure or the passing rate of pupils but to look at the bigger picture as to whether our children are learning enough of what will identify them as Malawians," he said.
He then hailed writers who have come forward to write children's manuscripts further assuring them that the process of sifting through and judging will be done in the most transparent and impartial manner