BLOG Gwen Davies

NWR Issue 98

Aberaeron author Cynan Jones is £30,000 short story prize nominee

Today I’ve been quietly celebrating the news that Cynan Jones, NWR contributor, Aberaeron(ish) resident and a longterm favourite author of mine, has been longlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award, keeping company on a list of sixteen with names such as Graham Swift, Sarah Hall and Ali Smith. The prize is £30,000 for a single story so is not to be sniffed at. His story, ‘The Dig’, is about badgers, among other themes, an extremely politically divisive topic (second only to windfarms, I know not why) in rural Wales, although Cynan’s brocks are being baited rather than exterminated by decree. Earlier this month, Philip Gwyn Jones of Granta bought world-English rights to Cynan Jones' novel The Dig (as part of a two-book deal) for publication in 2014, commenting, 'The Dig crackles with compressed energy and it swells to fill more space than at first glance it occupies.'

I don’t mean to brag, but our record of backing nominees to this prize has been more than half-decent, since Roshi Fernando, longlisted in 2011 for 'The Fluorescent Jacket', was featured in NWR 92 with her novel extract, The Elephant’s Child, forthcoming from Bloomsbury. And last year, regular contributor Robert Minnhinnick was also in the running for his story featured in NWR 90, ‘El Aziz: Some Pages From His Notebooks’.

The announcement of Cynan Jones’ nomination ties in nicely with our decision to include Cynan in our summer showcase of authors treated to online interview. This will dovetail with a review by Cathryn Charnell-White of his Mabinogi novella Bird, Blood, Snow. And also a new micro-story of his to sit alongside other flash fiction by Rhian Edwards and Lloyd Robson in our summer edition. As Cynan is a master of economy together with acute emotional perception, lyricism and authentically violent natural scenes, I can think of no better writer to lead Issue 100 in our celebration of the brief and beautiful.

Sarah Waters is a judge on the Sunday Times prize. Cynan’s chances look strong for the shortlisting on 24 March since Sarah chose Cynan’s novella The Long Dry in 2009 for a [Guardian] selection of best coastal fiction, noting the similarity of Ceredigion’s landscape to her native Pembrokeshire and enthusing, ‘Jones’ sense of place is acute, and his passion for the landscape – for its colours, its creatures, its textures, its scents – is absolutely magnetic.’ The overall winner will be announced on 22 March at Oxford Literary Festival.

Since I’d yesterday got into a bit of a tailspin, it was great to get good news. My headache was in trying to confirm reviews for our hundredth issue this summer, not ‘mainly because it’s a challenge’, to quote another West-Walian, Geraint Pillock, but mainly because certain Welsh publishers are being a tad unreliable when it comes to supplying us with promised advance proofs of summer titles. Without these, because of our production cycle and lead-in time, books can be reviewed up to seven months following publication, which is not ideal for the writer, publisher, critic or potential reader. Having a change of strategy, though, meant a visit to the lovely ladies at the Bacofoil Honno offices behind Aberystwyth Arts Centre to pick up an alternative review plan in the shape of the perfect Valentine (or late Santes Dwynwen) present, My Heart on My Sleeve, Fourteen Stories of Love from Wales. Here are fourteen stories, all new except for two classics by Catherine Merriman and Sian James; the sweet pair of nuts (grubby pun intended) at its centre is a couple of stories translated for the first time from Welsh.

I’m aiming for a strong mix of nonfiction, poetry, fiction and criticism with a shortlist of the following titles for review. There’s a strong critical bent which will do well to offset a prominent creative strand in Issue 100, including Argentine fiction, memoir and poetry in translation by Richard Gwyn, flash stories, plus fiction by Joao Morais, Francesca Rhydderch and Rachel Trezise. Now all I have to do is pick twelve titles out of this list, and somehow I think Bird, Blood, Snow by Cynan Jones is going to be a dead cert.

Bird, Blood, Snow, Cynan Jones
Sean Tyrone, A Symphony of Horrors, Mark Ryan
All the Souls, Mary-Ann Constantine
Kith, The Riddle of the Childscape, Jay Griffiths
My Heart on My Sleeve, Fourteen Stories of Love from Wales, ed Janet Thomas
Welsh Periodicals in English, Malcolm Ballin
David Jones in the Great War, Thomas Dilworth
RS Thomas, Serial Obsessive, M Wynn Thomas
Snowdon, The Story of a Welsh Mountain, Jim Perrin
A Welsh Witch, Allen Raine, ed Jane Aaron
The Museum of Disappearing Sounds, Zoë Skoulding
Baader-Meinhof and the Novel, Julian Preece
The Scattering, Jaki McCarrick
Red Devon, Hilary Menos

NWR editor Gwen Davies will be in conversation at Hay Festival on 28 May with Cynan Jones (Bird, Blood, Snow) and Lloyd Jones (See How They Run). They will be talking about their latest Mabinogi novellas with shared themes of rugby heroes, mental breakdown and male identity.



previous blog: Second Annual Flash Fiction Day, Swansea
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