OPINION Hayley Long

NWR Issue r18

A Love Letter to Wales

The Nearest Faraway Place is a story about grief. Super massive grief. The type that takes hold of the heart and the brain and freezes them both. But it’s also a story about love, and I couldn’t have completed it otherwise. Before I’d even finished writing Chapter One, I was feeling so bad about what I was doing to Dylan and Griff and for everything that I was still to put them through that I needed to balance the mood a little. So I poured in a load of things that I love. I shared with them my favourite music – Aretha Franklin and Nirvana and the Beach Boys. I offered them comfort in a neighbourhood of Brooklyn that I really like. I steered them towards the poet Dylan Thomas. And most importantly of all, I sent them to Aberystwyth, a remote town on the very western edge of Wales.

Aberystwyth is a special place. I first went there, aged eighteen, to study English at the university. The location had appealed to me because it was so very, very far away from my hometown of Felixstowe. It took me nine hours to get there by train and the last two hours of the journey were always weird. The train got emptier and emptier, and the daylight outside grew dimmer and dimmer until those of us travelling to the end of the line were rushing forwards through pitch darkness. There were no passing street lights or house lights because there were no passing streets or houses. We could have been hurtling through outer space. And then, finally, the train would slow and signs of life and light reappeared. And I’d look upwards out of the window and the first thing I’d see, in full floodlit glory, was the National Library of Wales waiting to meet me. Croeso i Gymru, it seemed to be saying. Welcome to Wales, Hayley. And every single time, it made my heart and my spirits rocket up. It still does. There is no place on this planet that has such a strong emotional effect on me as Aber. It is my special place and my happy place and, now, I will always think of it as my nearest faraway place too.

Hayley Long’s latest book for children is The Nearest Faraway Place which was published on 13 July by Hot Key Books. She began writing teen fiction while working as an English teacher in Whitchurch, Cardiff. Her first teen novel, Lottie Biggs is Not Mad, was awarded the White Raven label for outstanding children’s literature by the International Youth Library. Hayley has been a winner of the Essex Book Award, and has twice been shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. She was also a Queen of Teen nominee. Hayley has now published two books with Hot Key Books, Sophie Someone and her first non-fiction title, Being a Girl in 2014. www.facebook.com/HayleyLongAuthor

Our audio review, by Fo Orbell, of The Nearest Faraway Place, is also published in this edition.


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