2023 Shortlist – Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting
The New Welsh Writing Awards 2023 Shortlist
New Welsh Review is delighted to announce the shortlisted and highly commended entries for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2023: Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting. It was a year of genuinely high quality entries which made judging all the more difficult for the Rheidol Prize, a writer development opportunity made possible thanks to the generous support of long-term subscriber Richard Powell.
The three shortlisted writers Mark Blayney, Elizabeth Griffiths and Sam Lewis hail (respectively) from Cardiff, Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth.
Invisibility by Mark Blayney is a fictionalised account of the life of Sir Thomas Picton; British army officer, colonialist, slave trader and torturer. The story asks how those in positions of power are able repeatedly to evade scrutiny and accountability. It considers how narratives are created and justified by vested interests, and how the likelihood of justice is loaded against the voiceless.
In My Father’s House by Elizabeth Griffiths is a memoir of a father’s life structured around the places and houses he lived in from first to last – a way of conveying both the broad arc of a life and also the character of a man in constant search of an ideal home, as he struggles to keep alcoholism at bay. Taking in his south Wales mining background, his work as a parish priest and a journalist, and his final days in exile from Wales, it’s also the story of a daughter in search of a father and the struggle to fill the gaps between people and memory.
The Signature of Gates by Sam Lewis follows naturalist and idealist George, who seeks a simple and beautiful rural life. As reality obstructs her efforts, George realises that if she ignores ownership, convention and the new rules imposed on the uplands, she may be able to keep the illusion if not the dream. Taking more and more risks in a contested terrain, George’s precarious and approximate dream-life brings her into mortal confrontation with the politics of land.
The Visitor Centre by Pete Barker is a work of fiction featuring a couple who leave their young children alone to visit a dying father, a pair of lost soldiers on exercise, a snowstorm, an isolated Welsh visitor centre. And a centre manager. It is not a normal story.
The King of Swansea by Katherine Cleaver is a piece of creative nonfiction about Thomas Rees, or as he was preferred to be known, The King of Swansea. On the 13th March 1846 he was admitted to Vernon House insane asylum for monomania, age 25, and put to gruelling work. Thomas’s story has a fairy-tale like quality that makes it hard to believe he existed in real life, yet he did.
MEET THE WRITERS
Mark Blayney won the Somerset Maugham Award for his story collection, Two Kinds of Silence. He has published several further books including Conversations with Magic Stones, Doppelgangers and poetry collection Loud Music Makes You Drive Faster with Parthian, as well as The View From My Shed with Dreich Chapbooks. Mark 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. He is currently the Royal Literary Fellow at Swansea University and lives in Cardiff with his partner and son.
Elizabeth Griffiths lives in Pembrokeshire, where she grew up. She studied at St David’s University College, Lampeter, and trained as a journalist on the Barry and District News in South Glamorgan. Several of her short stories have appeared in Welsh publications, including Parthian Books’ anthology of New Welsh Fiction, ‘Mama’s Baby (Papa’s Maybe)’. She worked for many years in the visual arts, which involved writing about and assisting with painting exhibitions and sculpture installations. In 2018 she completed a Creative Writing MA at Swansea University.
Sam Lewis lives and works in Aberystwyth. They are an educator and started creative writing during the recent lockdown. They focus on the local landscape and the political and sociological tensions that exist there.
Pete Barker grew up in the Seventies in a small Dorset village and, in 1994, produced the history booklet, East Lulworth Through the Ages. His first published work were poems in anthologies by Poetry Now in 1990 and 1991 and by Arrival Press in 1992. Since then he has written blogs for Greenpeace and self published the novel System Error: Invitation to Revolution, followed by the non-fiction title, Grumpy Guide to Building Your Own Off Grid Home. Pete is a Greenpeace volunteer and with his wife, lives off-grid in mid Wales.
Katherine Cleaver is a disabled autistic Anglo-Indian writer who is currently finishing her PhD with Swansea University. She is predominately a creative nonfiction writer who specialises in history, especially within Wales. For her PhD she is looking into the lives of ordinary people who found themselves incarcerated in the Briton Ferry Insane Asylum, Vernon House. She has had a memoir piece published by Parthian in Just So You Know, and with Honno in Painting the Beauty Queens Orange.
The three shortlisted writers are now in the running for the top prize of £1,000 – an advance against e-publication by New Welsh Review – and a positive critique by literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown. Two writers have made the highly commended list.
The awards were set up in 2015 to champion the best short-form writing (under 30,000 words). Last year, the winner of the Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting was Tim Cooke with River. 2021 winner Jasmine Donahaye won with Reading the Signs, an expanded version of which was published on our Rarebyte book imprint in January 2023.
This year’s winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Hay Festival on May 27th, hosted by New Welsh Review chair Andrew Green and NWR editor and NWWA sole-judge Gwen Davies. Everyone is welcome to attend.
The Awards are open to all writers based in the UK and Ireland, including those who live overseas, who have been educated in Wales.
The 2023 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.