NWR Issue r19

Call for Entries: New Welsh Writing Awards 2018 Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection


Call for Entries: New Welsh Writing Awards 2018 Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection from New Welsh Review on Vimeo.

Call for Entries: New Welsh Writing Awards 2018 Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection, presented by competition judge Gwen Davies and featuring examples of essay collections including books by Jenny Diski, David Sedaris, Annie Dillard, James Baldwin & Eula Biss. Research, script, picture research & presentation: Gwen Davies. Producer & additional presentation: Yalan Bao. Additional research: Ashley Owen, Caroline Stockford, Fo Orbell, George Sandifer-Smith & Ellen Bell. Director, audio recording & edit: Aled John. New Welsh Review's multimedia programme is sponsored by Aberystwyth University.


I’m Gwen Davies, editor of New Welsh Review. Once again I am judge of the New Welsh Writing Awards, 2018, which are now open for entries, and will award the winner the prize of £1000. This year’s category is for essays: the Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection.

The Awards champion short unpublished books in English. Entries this year may vary in their interpretation of the essay, but I am looking for work which is integrated across the pieces, rigorous and with literary depth rather than being academic, and which includes elements of personal voice and present docu-journalism. Something which Rebecca Solnit, the writer on nature and contemporary technology and corporate America, achieves with panache in collections such as A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Or the way Eula Biss slowly circles around images of telegraph poles, lynchings, Joan Didion and Little House on the Prairie to grab her subjects by the throat. These subjects, in Biss’s collection No Man’s Land (Fitzcarraldo), are diversity, privilege and racial identity The prize is open to both new and established writers in the UK and Ireland, as well as writers worldwide who were educated in Wales for a minimum of 6 months. Entries close at midnight, 1 February [updated to 2 February 2018 on publication of transcript].

Entries via, closing date midnight 1 Februrary [2 February 2018].

Here is my own recommendation for an exemplary essay collection:

Recommended by: Gwen Davies
Eula Biss, On Immunity: An Inoculation, published by Fitzcarraldo
About: Health, class, individual and social responsibility, and the need for a scientific approach to evidence when making both personal and policy decisions
Why: It is a mission statement for the essayist, who Biss calls ‘a citizen thinker’
Biss: ‘I have tried to heed Alice Walker’s lines “Be nobody’s darling: / Be an outcast.”

The 2018 Awards, having in the previous three years awarded prizes in the categories of nature writing, travel writing, memoir and the novella, this year returns to nonfiction. We continue to celebrate concision, and encourage and interpret a wide range of approaches, experiences and writing forms, as long as an integrated approach of theme and style is achieved across essays.

Next year’s competition follow’s 2017’s successful prizes, the categories for which were memoir and the novella. Catherine Haines, whose memoir ‘My Oxford’ was one of the winners, said that writing her essay aided in her recovery from anorexia; while the winner of the novella category last year, Cath Barton, explored, in her novella The Plankton Collector, her feelings about her own mother and other women of her generation who sacrificed personal ambition for their families.

Recommended by: Ashley Owen
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, published by HarperPerennial
About: Three days of life on a small island off Washington State where a plane crash badly burns a child’s face
Why: Looks at Free Will, philosophy, time and humanity in a voice which develops from treacle slow through hyper-observant to quiet contemplation turning sharp
Dillard: ‘We do need reminding not of what God can do, but of what he cannot do or will not, which is to catch time in its free fall and stick a nickel’s worth of cents into our days.’

I am the sole judge for the 2018 competition for an essay collection. I am the editor of New Welsh Review and a literary translator from Welsh to English, having translated two of Caryl Lewis’ bestselling novels. I’m also a writer’s mentor and freelance creative editor. My work involves making something whole out of potentially disparate elements, both as magazine editor, freelance book editor, publisher and translator. This making whole is what I hope entrants to this competition will achieve in the essays they submit. Since economy and precision is what journals champion, it seems right that these awards, for essays and books of up to 30,000 words, celebrate the shorter publishing formats which the digital age has made possible. I’m certain that this competition will unveil a host of talent we can add to the stable of writers that have already found a home at New Welsh Review.

Entries to the Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection must be at least 5000 words, and they must comprise at least two essays, since the idea is to engage with themes that integrate and create an artful form. There is no bar to subject, but I should repeat that we are not seeking purely academic essays, although we do encourage academic and/or literary rigour. The maximum wordlength is 30,000.

Recommended by: Caroline Stockford
James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, published by Vintage International
About: The US black American civil war movement of the Forties and Fifites, told from a gay man’s perspective
Why: Describes, in elegant and graceful prose, the difference between learning to live with circumstances, and accepting them
Baldwin: ‘A few hours after my father’s funeral, while he lay in state at the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem.’

The first-placed winner will receive £1000 in cash as an advance for an ebook deal published by New Welsh Review under the New Welsh Rarebyte imprint. Leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown will also give the winner a positive critique of their entry and meet with them for lunch in London. We are currently in production for publishing the winner of 2016’s Awards, Bush Meat, later this autumn.

Recommended by: Fo Orbell
David Sedaris, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, published by Abacus
About: Painful and very funny moments from a childhood growing up secretly gay in 1960s North Carolina
Why: Absurdity, endearing voice, social commentary and wit that will make you guffaw on the floor
Sedaris: ‘It would occur to me that one of us would have to lose: that I could do that favour for these people.’

The prize for second place is a one-week residential course at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, north Wales, the beautiful former home of Lloyd George. Third prize is a weekend stay at Gladstone’s residential library in Flintshire, north-east Wales, another gorgeous, peaceful venue, also connected with a former Liberal Prime Minister.

Each prizewinner will also receive a one-year subscription to New Welsh Review. In addition, up to six entries ranking highest in the competition will be considered for publication in our creative print magazine New Welsh Reader, with our standard fee of at least £100. To date, all highly commended, shortlisted and winning entries in the Awards have been accepted for publication or published in the magazine.

We are also once again running a Readers’ Poll, while entries are open for the writing prize. Last year’s Poll titles were won by Persepolis in the memoir category, while Grief is the Thing with Feathers won the novella category. The poll in 2018 is for the best collection of essays ever, published in English across the world and through history, including translations but excluding purely academic essays. Nominations can be made via Twitter and Facebook
[FB] New Welsh Review [Twitter] @newwelshreview #newwelshawards
These nominations might include a number of classics from Wales and abroad. You might, for example, propose John Barnie’s prizewinning The King of Ashes, on writing, art and climate change. Or Stephen Jay Gould’s volume on mass extinction, evolution and the history of nature, Wonderful Life. Maybe Caribbean poet Ian McDonald’s essays on world politics, poetry, cricket, social issues, A Cloud of Witnesses. Looking back a couple of centuries, perhaps, William Hazlitt’s Selected Essays. Or Chinua Achebe’s Morning Yet on Creation Day: Essays, concerning African literature.
With the help of students at Aberystwyth University, we’ll be whittling down your nominations for best ever essay collections via popular vote to produce a longlist, shortlist and winner to mirror the writing prize itself.

Recommended by: Ellen Bell
Jenny Diski, A View from the Bed & Other Observations, published by Virago
About: Misogyny, masturbation, Richard Branson & Lillie Langtry
Why: Bestselling memoirist and renowned travel writer writes in acerbic, iconoclastic prose about why bed is best
Diski: ‘What’s the point of verticality, or… experience? I’ve had a bellyful of that… Time for a rest.’

Entries to the writing prize will be longlisted at the start of April [updated in transcript to 3 April], and the shortlist will be made public around the 1st of May [updated in transcript: 3 May]. The winner will be announced at the Hay Festival at a glittering ceremony at the start of June [updated in transcript: 1 June], with film screenings including a trailer of the winning entry.

Since part of the prize is book publication, longer pieces will inevitably make more satisfying books, and this should be taken into account by entrants. Please go to

for our full Terms and Conditions. I look forward to reading your work. Best of luck! @NewWelshReview @newwelshawards


New Welsh Review’s multimedia programme is sponsored by Aberystwyth University.



previous multi-media: Book trailer animation: winner of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017 Americymru Prize for Memoir. Video by Emily Roberts
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