NEW WELSH WRITING AWARDS 2021 #NewWelshAwards WINNER ANNOUNCED
Jasmine Donahaye accepted her prize at an online ceremony on Friday 28 May 2021 streamed on the New Welsh Review Youtube channel for her memoir Reading the Signs. Jasmine, from Lledrod, wins a £1,000 advance against a general publication deal under the New Welsh Rarebyte imprint, a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown, and a year-long subscription to New Welsh Review.
Reading the Signs is a collection of five interlinked essays exploring the constraints and boundaries placed upon women’s experience of the natural world. Based in the author’s milltir sgwâr in rural Ceredigion, the piece also includes landscapes in Scotland and England. The essays touch on the lasting legacy of domestic violence, the ways in which female identity is diminished in natural history, and the social and literary expectations that direct and limit how women may experience wildness.
Jasmine Donahaye’s publications include narrative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and cultural criticism. Her memoir Losing Israel (2015) won the non-fiction category of the Wales Book of the Year, and her story ‘Theft’ was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize in 2016. Her books include a biography of Lily Tobias, The Greatest Need (2015); a cultural study, Whose People? Wales, Israel, Palestine (2012); and two poetry collections: Self-Portrait as Ruth (2009), which was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year, and Misappropriations (2006), which was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. Her work has appeared in literary journals, and in the New York Times and the Guardian.She was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2017.
Cardiff’s João Morais came second with Festival of the Ghost, a compelling, diverse, pacey, Cardiff-based, high-concept, time-warp crime novella. It is humorous and tightly plotted, with a superb sense of urban space and life and death. The novella explores themes of religion, violence, OCD, grief and ritual. João wins a four-night stay at the Nant Writers’ Retreat, at Literature Wales’ Tŷ Newydd. Meanwhile, Jack Harris from London came third with The Rebeccas and wins a two-night stay at Gladstone’s Library. 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 2021 edition of the print magazine, the New Welsh Reader.
Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting – winners
1st place Jasmine Donahaye (Lledrod, Wales) Reading the Signs (nonfiction, memoir)
2nd place João Morais (Cardiff, Wales) Festival of the Ghost (crime novella)
3rd place Jack Harris (London, England) The Rebeccas (queer memoir)
New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies judged the awards for the seventh year in a row and her adjudication of Jasmine Donahaye’s piece is as follows: “Reading the Signs is funny, tragic, diverse, honest and angry, and has a proud sense of the writer’s own place within the exclusive world of nature literature. It treads that zipwire across a woman’s inner and outer landscapes and flips the bird at those men who have mocked women writers in this field. This non-fiction blended memoir has heaps of hinterland, research and analysis, but presents trends in nature writing in an accessible way, tracing in particular how women’s voices in the field have been excluded. Reading the Signs makes the feminist case against self-annihilation in nature and in nature writing (or anywhere else), and plots, in very personal ways, how women experience self-erasure every day. The death of a much-loved sister frames the piece, pushing it into a highly compelling story. And it is the sisters’ mutual love of birds, together with tightly observed explorations of body and flesh and superlatively written scenes championing neglected landscapes such as Cors Caron near Tregaron, which coalesce to create a body of writing that is rich and highly rewarding. Here is an unflinching gaze into shame, disgust, curiosity, domestic abuse, love, empathy and loss.”
Sponsor RS Powell says: “This is the third year I have sponsored the Rheidol prize and I continue to be impressed by the quality, range and immediacy of the entries. Writing from and about Wales has a great deal to offer and the Prize exists to encourage it and bring it to a wider public. I hope the writers will reach the readers 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. The winner of the Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting in 2019 was Peter Goulding’s Slatehead: The Ascent of Britain’s Slate-climbing Scene, which was published in September 2020 and shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature the same week. JL George, who won the Dystopian Novella category with The Word, will be published by New Welsh Review on 28 October 2021. Meanwhile, Susan Karen Burton’s winning piece The Transplantable Roots of Catharine Huws Nagashima will be published in 2022.
The 2021 awards are sponsored by subscriber Richard Powell and are run in partnership with Curtis Brown, Gladstone’s Library and Literature Wales’ Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre. New Welsh Review is supported through core funding by the Books Council of Wales and is hosted by Aberystwyth University.
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