African compass – New writing from southern Africa 2005 is the first title in a three–year series of the US $10 000 HSBC/SA PEN Literary award. The award is targeted at young writers who are citizens of any country in the SADC (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The chosen genre for the series is a short story and this volume contains a selection of the best from 373 entries. The upper age limit of writers was 40, and their work had to be original, previously unpublished and written in English. The selection process maintained author anonymity; initial readers, members of the editorial board and award judge, Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee, did not know the identity of authors throughout the process. When Antonio, apprentice to Michelangelo, asked how he might emulate the master he was told: ‘Draw, Antonio Draw!’ We say to young people of our region: ‘Write Africa Write!’ There must be future ‘masters’ of the written word in southern Africa and this series is intended to search them out and encourage them in the early days of their careers. Some of the stories still bore the marks of the school classroom, others were obviously by seasoned hands. Some were sophisticated in style, drawing confidently on the extravagances of contemporary postcolonial fiction, others were still fully faithful to the example of Somerset Maugham.