2021 Awards

The 2021 New Welsh Writing Awards closed on 16 March. Thank you to everyone who entered and keep an eye on this page for news of the shortlist on 5 May. 

This year, the New Welsh Writing Awards champion works of 5,000 – 30,000 words in one category, the Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting, which was made possible thanks to the generous support of long-term subscriber Richard Powell. The prize closed on 16 March 2021.

About the New Welsh Writing Awards Awards

As well as a cash prize of £1,000 as an advance against an e-publishing deal, the winning writer will receive a positive critique from stellar literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown Literary Agency in London. Second prize is a four-night stay at Nant writers’ retreat cottage within the grounds of Literature Wales’ Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, and third prize is a two-night stay at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, north Wales. The three shortlisted and three highly commended authors will also receive a one-year subscription to New Welsh Review. In addition, New Welsh Review will publish extracts of the highly commended and shortlisted nominees for publication in the autumn and winter 2021 editions of its creative magazine New Welsh Reader with an associated fee. To read more about our partners and sponsors, visit this page.

What Judge Gwen Davies is looking for

This is my seventh year judging these Awards, for which I am sole judge this year. We are now open for entry and will award a prize of £1,000 to the winner. Our category this year is the Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting and I’d like to acknowledge the kind support of our long-term subscriber Richard Powell in order to run this writer development initiative.

The Awards champion short unpublished books (between 5,000 and 30,000 words) in English. Entries this year may vary across the categories, from short form Welsh-themed- or Welsh-set nonfiction (e.g. essay collections or books in nonfiction form from history, politics, satire, memoir through travel, nature or comedy writing) to a novella or short story collection set in Wales or with a Welsh theme. For both fiction and nonfiction entries, I would particularly welcome responses to history, for example (in fiction) imaginative responses to or indeed re-imaginings of historical events, including protest, or (in nonfiction), analysis of how such pivotal moments of resistance and change relate to Wales today. I would also be delighted to receive manuscripts inspired by the inanimate world, for example objects, artefacts or place.

The brief for this category nurtures a closer focus on homegrown subjects and settings (while of course these may wander into the ‘foreign country’ of the past as well as setting the past into dialogue with the present and future). We are once again promoting both nonfiction and the short story (as well as our everlasting favourite, the novella). The shorter length, just shy of book-length and perfect for the Kindle single format, will be once again embraced, as we continue to celebrate concision but throw our doors open to a vast range of writing forms and experiences.

This year’s competition follows successful prizes in previous years, which resulted in the publication of books including Peter Goulding’s Slatehead: The Ascent of Britain’s Slate-climbing Scene (Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature shortlist, 2020); Eluned Gramich’s Woman Who Brings the Rain (Wales Book of the Year shortlist, 2016); Bush Meat by Mandy Sutter (‘Triumphs, in its lean prose… humour… [and] evocation of a family divided by sexism and racism in 1960s Nigeria. Stitches together the threads of memory to create a moving tapestry of lost life, building bridges of understanding across time and place.’ Rory MacLean), Cath Barton’s The Plankton Collector, a magical haunting tale of family healing that Mavis Cheek found she ‘couldn’t put… down’, the poignant and rigorous memoir on anorexia, My Oxford, by Catherine Haines and Ed Garland’s genre-busting nonfiction debut, Earwitness: A Search for Sonic Understanding in Stories. Meanwhile, we will publish JL George’s dystopian novella The Word in 2021 and Susan Karen Burton’s longer work, based on her 2020 entry, in early 2022.

As sole judge, my own credits as as a literary translator: my titles include The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis, Honno, 2019, and Martha, Jack and Shanco, also by Caryl Lewis, Parthian, 2007, as well as short fiction by Mihangel Morgan and William Owen Roberts. I cross borders as a literary translator and as editor of New Welsh Review, bringing authors and artists from all corners of the world and their professions into creative exchange here in Wales. Since economy and precision are what journals are all about, it seems right that these awards, for unpublished books up to 30,000 words, endorse the shorter publication formats which the digital age has made possible. I’m certain that this competition will unveil a host of talent we can add to the stable of writers that have already found a home in our pages. As well as seeking novellas, we are open to considering a selection of short stories up to the maximum word length (and nonfiction, as noted above).

The prize for second place is a four-night stay at Literature Wales’ Nant Writers’ Retreat Cottage, located within the grounds of Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd within the grounds of the beautiful former home of Lloyd George.

Third prize for the runner-up is a two-night stay at Gladstone’s residential library in Flintshire, north Wales, another gorgeous peaceful venue, also connected with a former Liberal Prime Minister, and voted ‘Top Wellbeing Retreat’ by Guardian readers in 2015.

Each prizewinner will also receive a one-year subscription to New Welsh Review. In addition, the six entries ranking highest in the competition will be considered for publication in our creative print magazine, New Welsh Reader, with our standard fee. For the first time this year, one nominated entry, by a writer between 18 and 25 years of age, will also be considered for publication by New Welsh Review, either online or in our print edition. Since part of the prize is book publication, longer pieces will inevitably make more satisfying books, and this should be taken into account by entrants. Please visit our terms and conditions page for full details, including word limits.

If you want to write to write a short collection of stories with the power of Eley Williams’ ‘To Plot, Plan, Redress’ (reimagining the Rebecca Riots) or Anna Lewis’ ‘Before Dawn’ (reimagining the Merthyr Rising), a nonfiction title with a Welsh theme such as Richard Gwyn’s The Vagabond’s Breakfast, or a novella with a Welsh setting, such as Lloyd Markham’s weird and wonderful Bad Ideas\Chemicals, I want to hear from you.

Best of luck!


Gwen Davies has been editor of New Welsh Review since 2011. She has worked as creative editor at publishers including Parthian, and founded the imprints Alcemi and New Welsh Rarebyte. As a literary translator, her titles include Robin Llywelyn’s White Star (Seren Wen) and two of bestseller Caryl Lewis’ novels, Martha, Jack & Shanco (Martha, Jac a Sianco, Parthian, 2007) and The Jeweller (Y Gemydd, Honno, 2019). She has also been a Literature Officer at the Arts Council of Wales, a member and Chair of Literature Wales’ Writers’ Bursaries Panel for seven years, represented literature for the Arts Council of Wales’ Creative Wales Awards and has been a writers’ mentor, both privately and for Literature Wales. She has been co-judge for the New Welsh Writing Awards since its inauguration in 2015. She grew up in a Welsh-speaking family in West Yorkshire and now lives in Aberystwyth with her family. Gwen is acting as sole judge of the Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting in 2021.

History of the Awards

The Awards were set up in 2015 to champion the best short-form writing. A cheque for £1,000 was presented to Norfolk’s Susan Karen Burton in May for her winning non-fiction piece The Transplantable Roots of Catharine Huw Nagashima about which literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes wrote “What you manage to do in twenty pages is neatly capture so much about Japanese culture, about the experience of a newcomer, an alien who has decided to wear a new coat but keep the old one to remind her of where she has come from… I really think you could be an incredible nature writer, biographer or narrative non-fiction writer.”

Gwen says of the 2021 Awards: “While we welcome writers from UK, Ireland and around the world, in recent years, in apparently limiting our theme to a Welsh theme or setting, we have in fact opened it up to exploring universal themes shared by all humans who have experienced what it’s like to thrive outside the mainstream. Great literature offers insight into the outsider experience, which is, is fact, the majority experience.”

Sponsor RS Powell says: “I am glad to be sponsoring the Rheidol Prize for a third year. I have been impressed by the high standard of entries in previous competitions, and also by how widely they have ranged and how varied they have been. There is no template for success, other than great Welsh-themed writing that grabs the reader’s attention. The Awards aim not just to recognise achievement, but to foster it, helping writers to develop their skills and bring their work to a wider readership. I was delighted to learn that the 2019 winner, Peter Goulding, had been shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature, and am proud that the Rheidol Prize helped him towards that. I look forward to more great things to come.”


Closing Date: 16 March 2021

Shortlist Announcement: 5 May 2021

Winner Ceremony: 6pm – 7pm Friday 28 May 2021

The New Welsh Writing Awards 2021 are sponsored by Richard Powell. The Awards are run in partnership with Curtis Brown Literary Agency, Gladstone’s Library and Literature Wales. New Welsh Review is supported through core funding by the Books Council of Wales and the magazine is hosted by Aberystwyth University.


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