BLOG Gwen Davies

NWR Issue 104

Seeking a new Rachel Carson!

My summer reading has gone au naturel. I’ve weened myself off my usually favoured voice-heavy teenagers and a spate of uncharacteristic historical travel essays and pared my reading down to what’s essential in life: air, water, land.

At Booth’s Bookshop at Hay in May I bought sports commentator and naturalist Simon Barnes’ My Natural History: The Animal Kingdom and How It Shaped Me, a funny, unworthy and unpretentious combination of student tales of a Clifton bedsit with view through dope smoke to an overgrown garden. The author’s anecdote of missing cricketer Ian Botham’s famous two fingers to the press box because his binoculars were trained towards a passing rare bird is alone worth the cover price. Billed as the new Gerald Durrell, it did indeed succeed in combining the gregarious, human aspects of attachment, that Durrell does so effortlessly, with the values of independence, silence and the solitary which nature writing traditionally champions. For me a successful book about the environment must keep sight of all these elements since past and present human impact on the environment is inescapable and empathy is an essential part of a rich reading experience, whatever the subject.

I’ll be keeping you apprised in coming weeks about what other books in this category the postman has been tucking into my woodbox recently. But now to why nature has featured so heavily in my reading list. I will be co-judging such writing in our newly minted New Welsh Writing Awards, and you can see me offering examples here of the type of writing the judges like (look out for the well-loved sponsors’ hessian bag!).

New Welsh Review today launches brand new writing awards which will set the agenda for future writing in all those categories that a literary journal excels in. Our first, for 2015 is for writing on nature and the environment. I'm delighted to pronounce entries open today for this nonfiction category, in a prize sponsored by WWF Cymru. Since economy and precision is what journals champion, it’s right that these awards celebrate the shorter publishing formats that our digital age has made possible: writing between 8,000 and 30,000 words. When fellow judge, prizewinning environmental author Mark Cocker and myself make our adjudication next spring, I’m sure we will unveil a host of talent to add to the stable of writers on nature that have already found a home in the pages of the magazine. Silent Spring inspired the environmental movement in 1962. We hope we may find a Rachel Carson for 2015. Our awards in any case should transform our literary landscape from 2015 onwards.



Gwen Davies is editor of New Welsh Review
#welshwish #newwelshawards #dymuniadcymru New Welsh Writing Awards




       


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