BLOG Gwen Davies

NWR Issue 106

Judge announces New Welsh Writing Awards longlist

The process of choosing the longlist for the New Welsh Writing Awards has been unexpectedly delightful. It was a tall order, with an early summer launch, to expect enough high calibre entries by a deadline four months away. To further require pieces of considerable length, at least 8000 words, upped the ante, as did the limited theme: writing on nature and the environment. But we did manage to find enough great pieces to fill a longlist of 9 among an excellent crop of entries submitted at the beginning of last month. And rather than stifle writers' imagination, they have run with themes and ideas, taking our Terms & Conditions and making them their own.

Among the works considered were those by authors resident in Wales, as we expected, and those as far flung as South Africa and East Anglia. Among the subjects of those essays that came close to making the longlist were an exuberant sea voyage to the Gulf of Mexico in the teeth of El Norte, 'one of the more truculent members of the meteorological family'; finding a sense of place and politics in post-industrial northern England; a Fall from Eden for a family reluctantly relinquishing a wardenship at a seventeenth-century mansion house in North Yorkshire; an essay with a lovely opening, that chimed with a piece I was editing for the winter edition, on Kenfig Burrows; a well-written, elegant piece seeking the landscapes of the author's family and also the spirits of Edward Thomas and Richard Jeffries (unfortunately this one felt too much like part of an academic thesis rather than a piece integral to itself). I was also impressed by the passion of an argument-driven essay with architecture at its heart, and a lyrical essay about Romanticism, toxic relationships and the Irish and the Baltic Seas. Finally, I was engaged by the humour and sheer good fun of a protagonist who got into an evangelical Scottish Christian youth club for the football and into hiking the Perthshire hills because of the Scottish Crusaders (this one, however, as with some other early entries rejected early on, made the mistake of stringing too many hikes together).

My co-judge Mark Cocker joins the process now to hone the list down to a further three, to be announced at Gladstone's Library's Hearth spring festival on 6 February, with myself and a mystery guest from the shortlist. And the winner will be announced on 25 February at Aberystwyth's Old College.

Full Details of Longlist, announced yesterday.

Details of prizes here.


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