2020 Winner

SUSAN KAREN BURTON is the Winner of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2020: Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting 

New Welsh Review is delighted to announce the winner of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2020 Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting, run in association with Aberystwyth University, which was made possible thanks to the generous support of long-term subscriber Richard Powell.

Norwich’s Susan Karen Burton won this year’s annual Awards with The Transplantable Roots of Catharine Huws Nagashima. Susan wins a cheque for £1,000 as an advance against e-publication under the New Welsh Rarebyte imprint in 2021, a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown and a year-long subscription to New Welsh Review.

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. You can watch Karen reading a short extract from her award-winning entry here:

COSTA Award winner Jonathan Edwards came second with Some News from the Teaching Profession, a wry and satirical collection of stories about teaching, bureaucracy and avoiding responsibility; Jonathan wins a week-long retreat or course at Literature Wales’ Ty Newydd. Meanwhile, Cardiff’s Ruby D. Jones came third with An Anatomy of Shame, an essay which combines research, memoir, psychology, neuroscience and literature against an authentically Welsh backdrop and looks at the phenomenon of trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder). Ruby wins a two-night stay at Gladstone’s Library and both runners-up will also receive a year-long subscription to New Welsh Review and excerpts of their winning pieces will appear in the Autumn 2020 edition of the print magazine, the New Welsh Reader. 

New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies once again judged the Awards for the sixth year in a row. Gwen’s adjudication of Susan Karen Burton’s piece is: “This is absolutely beautiful writing. Its subject – Catharine, the daughter of Welsh architect Richard Huws and artist and poet Edrica – is presented as being utterly at one with her surroundings, as is the author in her Japanese setting. So superb is this essay’s visualisation of physical space and loving detail lavished on objects and the places we call home that I assumed she must be a professional writer on architecture. The interiority of her strikingly female style (though this was judged anonymously) hits the perfect register between cool fact, analysis, compelling narrative arc, cultural hinterland of historical detail, perception of character in a celebration of a mid-century matriarch, and personal voice. These are the merits of great nonfiction writing. The links between north Wales and Japan are kept flowing, while a keen focus is kept on Catharine in her Japanese home and milieu. This is no traditional account of a dusty corner of the Welsh diaspora. Catharine and her new home are metropolitan and international, as is the author’s outlook. This is a superlative exploration of national identity and the possibility (or not) of hybrid identity. I am delighted that Susan joins Eluned Gramich, our first Awards winner in 2015, in presenting the intricacy of Japan to a Welsh and UK readership.”

Sponsor RS Powell says: “I am proud to have sponsored the Rheidol Prize for the second year. I was immensely impressed by both the quality and range of the entries. This shows that writing from and about Wales and the Welsh has a great deal to offer. The Prize aims to help make it accessible to a wider public and I hope the writers will reach the readership they deserve.”

The Awards were set up in 2015 to champion the best short-form writing (under 30,000 words) and were open to all writers based in the UK and Ireland plus those who live overseas who have been educated in Wales. Last year, the winner of the Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting was Peter Goulding for Slatehead: The Ascent of Britain’s Slate-climbing Scene which New Welsh Review will publish in e-book format on 4 June 2020 and in paperback on 29 October 2020. JL George won the Dystopian Novella category with The Word which will be published in e-book format on 29 October 2020.