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Wales Book of the Year Ceremony - the New Welsh Review Blog

BLOG Gwen Davies

NWR Issue 100

Wales Book of the Year Ceremony

Snapshots from 2013’s Ceremony

Rhian Edwards, Winner of Wales Book of the Year 2013, English category

* English overall winner Rhian Edwards practically running up to the stage at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, despite being full-term and in a maxi dress. She was collecting her third prize of the evening for her debut collection Clueless Dogs. Earlier in the evening, she had bagged the Roland Mathias Prize for the English poetry category, and the People’s Choice Award (English category), voted by readers. Last summer, her collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection.

* A whole row of Talybont’s Gruffudd family beaming and flashing iphones at the stage as Welsh overall winner Heini Gruffudd collected his (clunky) bookmark-ornament (which could double up as cookery-book keeper opener). His book, Yr Erlid is a memoir of his German mother Kathe Bosse-Griffiths and her immediate family’s persecution during WWII. I don’t believe for a minute, as Heini joked, that his brother Robat, director-founder of Y Lolfa, turned down his book but was expected to publish it after the Welsh Books Council’s thumbs up. But where was Robat last night?

* Seren’s Amy Wack ordering a bottle of champagne to celebrate Rhian, Seren’s darling of the night, and comfort Deryn Rees-Jones, whose Burying the Wren must have troubled the judges' conscience a good while. Amy must have locked Mick with his cashbook in the toilets before approaching the bar.

* A row of louche Parthianites whooping when the creative nonfiction category winner was announced: John Harrison’s Forgotten Footprints

* Alun Gibbard getting all controversial in his Welsh nonfiction adjudication. He made a plea for the inclusion of the sports biography category. He’s a ghost sports biographer so of course that’s what he thinks. He also cocked a sly snook at academic titles (this is the party line at Y Lolfa, though, where an academic is something of a bête noire, perhaps because Robat famously, politically, didn’t collect his degree?) Alun also made a joke involving beermats and a former Welsh Arts Council boss’ face.

* Being surprised by the judgement of the fiction category, James Smythe dystopian thriller The Testimony (here’s an author to read up on). Commiserations to Gee Williams and Matthew Francis for what must have been competing near misses as winners in this category.

* A table’s worth of John Harrison’s lookalike male relatives, toasting his success. John sat meanwhile in his gorgeous shirt on a slimmed-down figure. Heard that his doctor had given him the all-clear (post cancer treatment) to make a 400-mile trek across the Americas to pursue his next travel writing project. Delighted that a piece John suggested, for the magazine as part of his Islands on the Edge series, has morphed into 20,000 bed-ridden words on his cancer experience, centred on the notion of his sickbed as an island.

* Wondering how Ffion Hague kept her gravitas in those heels; watching contender Gee Williams’ husband eye Ffion up (his wife tells me he’s a thing for blondes, apparently even Tory ones), guessing beyond Ffion’s acute diplomacy that aside from the shortlisted titles, 2012 was a poor one for creative nonfiction. Wondering, in that case, why they didn’t consider some strong eligible academic titles.

* Being reunited with the glamorous Caryl Lewis, shod in silver Dorothy of Kansas shoes, about to do the prize commentary for S4C show Pethe. Being amazed at how long Caryl’s and Gee’s husbands kept up a conversation on sheep dogs.

* Have series editor & Arts Council of Wales Chair Dai Smith spell out the contemporary writers in The Library of Wales Short Story Anthology, Volume One & Two, published in November, and realising how many Parthian early-day authors were in Short Story Anthology Two, plus other greats – Jo Mazelis, Rachel Trezise, Gee Williams and Glenda Beagan

* Wondering whether Dai’s inclusion of three of Gee’s stories in his double collection might nearly make up for her second disappointment at Wales Book of the Year, as Blood etc by Gee was shortlisted in 2009 but didn't win overall. No such comfort for fellow contender Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch: her Not in These Shoes hadn’t made it either that same year.

* It being hot enough to sit on the concrete outside the RWMD building nursing my vodka and tonic, ignoring the smokers, the posers, the techies loading up vans, the sweaty suits; waiting for my lift home.

Interview with Rhian Edwards by Kittie Belltree

Clueless Dogs by Rhian Edwards


previous blog: Two Events with Rhian Edwards
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