2020 Shortlist – Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting

New Welsh Writing Awards 2020: Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting Shortlist

New Welsh Review is delighted to announce the shortlist for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2020 Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting, made possible with the support of longterm subscriber Richard Powell, and run in association with Aberystwyth University. New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies judged the prize this year, for the fifth year.

The winner will receive £1,000 cash as advance against e-publication by New Welsh Review under theirNew Welsh Rarebyte imprint and a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown. Second prize is a week-long residential course at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, north Wales, and third prize is a two-night stay at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, north Wales. The top six shortlisted authors will also receive a one-year subscription to New Welsh Review. In addition, New Welsh Review will publish the highly commended and shortlisted nominees for publication in the Autumn 2020 edition of its creative magazine New Welsh Reader with an associated standard fee.

The varied shortlist includes a superb non-fiction exploration of national identity and the possibility of hybrid identity set in Wales and Japan by Susan Burton, a writer from Norfolk; a wry and satirical collection of stories about teaching, bureaucracy and avoiding responsibility, by COSTA Award winner Jonathan Edwards, while Cardiff’s Ruby D. Jones offers up an essay which combines research, memoir, psychology, neuroscience and literature against an authentically Welsh backdrop.

In the Highly Commended category, we present fiction by Cardiff’s Mark Blayney about a middle-class couple dealing with sudden change in circumstances; a nonfiction piece about neglected west Wales landscapes and the ebb and flow of industry, nature and the tourist trade in Wales by Angela Evans, and the work of Janice Jones, whose humorous novella is told in monologue form, pastiching Music Hall and set in Porthcawl, Llandudno and London.

The shortlist was announced online on 13 May 2020. The overall winner will be announced online here on Friday 22 May.

Congratulations to our three shortlisted and three highly commended authors below:

Shortlist

Susan Karen Burton (Norwich, England) - The Transplantable Roots of Catharine Huws Nagashima (nonfiction)

The Transplantable Roots of Catharine Huws Nagashima is a piece of biographical non-fiction describing a meeting with a Welsh migrant to Japan. It is excerpted from a longer work- in-progress tentatively entitled ‘Hiraeth in Japan’ which tells the life stories of several Welsh settlers in the archipelago from the nineteenth century to the present day. It also examines the influence of Welsh culture on the Japanese nation, from a growing Japanese fanbase for the Welsh rugby team to the efforts of one enthusiastic Japanese professor to teach the Welsh language to a class of Tokyo undergraduates. ‘Hiraeth in Japan’ is a short, descriptive work of non-fiction incorporating social history, biography and travel.

As an oral historian and non-fiction writer, Susan Karen Burton spent over a decade in Japan collecting the life stories of British migrants. The author holds a DPhil in history from the University of Sussex and a second doctorate in creative and critical writing from the University of East Anglia. Susan’s work has appeared in Times Higher Education, The Telegraph, The Manchester Review, Words and Women, Hinterland and Going Down Swinging. Susan is also the co-author of two books in Japanese. Her ongoing project Gaijin: Modern Japan Through Western Eyes was shortlisted by the Biographers’ Club for the Tony Lothian Prize in 2018. 

Jonathan Edwards (Crosskeys, Wales) - Some News From the Teaching Profession (short stories)

This is a collection of inter-linked comic stories set in an independent girls’ school in South Wales, focusing on the teachers and pupils, the characters and craziness, there. It aims to place itself in the tradition of comic writing about teaching, exemplified by works like Alan Bennett’s The History Boys and Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim. From a pupil who produces the best work in the school despite the fact that she doesn’t, apparently, seem to exist, to a rebellious pupil who burns her school bible, from a school cleaner with interesting taste in tattoos to a supply teacher who is the English teacher’s doppelgänger, the collection explores a range of characters and scenarios to celebrate the joyous chaos of what it is to work in education today.

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection of poems, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014), received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His second collection, Gen (Seren, 2018), also received the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award, and in 2019 his poem about Newport Bridge was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. He has read his poems on BBC radio and television and at festivals around the world, recorded them for the Poetry Archive and led workshops in schools, universities and prisons. Jonathan is the editor of Poetry Wales, a Literature Wales mentor of emerging poets, and a Gladstone’s Library Writer-in-Residence for 2020. He lives in Crosskeys, South Wales. This is his first work of fiction. 

Ruby D. Jones (Cardiff, Wales) - An Anatomy of Shame (nonfiction)

An Anatomy of Shame is a longform essay chronicling the author’s experience of living with trichotillomania – a chronic psychiatric disorder characterised by an uncontrollable urge to pull out one’s own hair. It weaves together scenes from her own life – from being shamed by schoolkids and doctors for her increasingly difficult-to-hide bald patches to wearing wigs, getting on with her life and, with the help of her first love, finally accepting her illness – with theories from medicine, myth, history and literature as to why some people pull out their own hair. Along the way, it challenges psychiatry and its endless classifications, illustrates the devastating long-term impacts of bodily shame on women, questions what ‘recovery’ means in the context of a chronic illness, and explores both the difficulty and the power of self-acceptance. The story is set in South Wales during the 1990s and 2000s. 

Ruby D. Jones writes essays about addiction, desire and the body. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines, including Mslexia, Wasafiri, The Mechanics’ Institute ReviewHippocampus and The Real Story. In 2019, she was awarded an Arts Council grant and the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize (Life Writing Category, judged by Nikesh Shukla). Ruby signed with literary agent David Godwin this year, and is currently working on her first essay collection. She lives in Cardiff.

Highly commended

Mark Blayney (Cardiff, Wales) - The Confidence of Water (novella)

Having lost their home to village floods, a couple with a baby try to get their lives back on track. Something very odd happens in the caravan they find themselves staying in – perhaps a ghostly intruder, perhaps hallucinations. As the pressure of water continues to build around them, they try to make the best of their unusual situation and discover that neither is quite the person they thought they were. This novella makes us ask questions of ourselves: how do we react and respond to society, how do we see ourselves in the context of our significant others, and how do we contort and change when under pressure?

Mark Blayney is a fiction writer, poet and journalist living in Cardiff. He won the Somerset Maugham Prize for his story collection Two Kinds of Silence and has published two further collections Conversations with Magic Stones and Doppelgangers. This and poetry Loud music makes you drive faster are published by Parthian. He was an inaugural Hay Festival Writer at Work, has been longlisted for the National Poetry Competition and won a Wales Media Award for his journalism. www.markblayney.weebly.com

Angela Evans (Burry Port, Wales) - Tidelands: Tales from the Unsung Welsh Coast (non-fiction)

Tidelands sings the praises of the unsung stretches of the Welsh coast. Those places by-passed by tourism because they don’t tick the necessary aesthetic boxes. We gravitate towards the coast of our imaginations – the cliff enclosed coves, sandy beaches, windswept headlands and colourful harbours.

So irresistible is the pull of these iconic landscapes that we are blind to what the rest of the Welsh coast has to offer. We file along well-trodden paths, queue at stiles and compete for the most photogenic perspectives. Whilst the rest of the Welsh coast, those diverse, haphazard places that are the consequence of jostling natural and human forces go almost entirely unexplored. We are missing so much. These overlooked places have a shy natural beauty, their unkemptness attracts wildlife, and their landscapes speak of the history – the tensions and tolerances – of hundreds of years of natural/human interaction. Tidelands combines the natural, social and industrial histories, and present realities, of an area of the Carmarthenshire coast. It is a stand-alone piece, but also hopefully the start of a collection of tales from our unsung coast to coincide with the All-wales coastal path’s tenth anniversary.

Angela Evans moved to Burry Port, Carmarthenshire two years ago and tramps its unsung tidelands whenever she gets the opportunity. She worked for years in social policy research before swapping the meeting room for the archives and studying for a history PhD at Cardiff University. Her writing combines her interests in interests in nature, landscape, walking and social history.

Janice Jones (Bangor, Wales) - Scenes from a Life (novella)

This novella involves the memories of a performer. The performer (Arthur) has just rediscovered Victor, his ventriloquist’s dummy, who has been lost for years, whilst attempting to clear a loft in order to put a property on the market to cover his brother-in-law’s nursing home fees. The many items stored in the loft lead Arthur and Victor to relive old times, good and bad, and Arthur considers whether he has lived a fulfilling life.

Since coming late to higher education, after many years of caring for a family, Janice Jones has written extensively in Welsh and published two novels – Pin-yp and I Brynu Gwasgod Goch, as well as devising, co-ordinating and co-writing a collaborative novel, Nerth Bôn Braich. The author has also contributed to various magazines, journals and online portals and has recently completed a volume documenting the history of Cwmni Theatr Cymru. This is Janice’s first fiction piece in English for some time.