New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing Shortlist Announced
New Welsh Review, in association with the University of South Wales and CADCentre, are delighted to announce the shortlist for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing, which was announced at an event at the Hay Festival on 1 June.
Two professional writers, John Harrison and Mandy Sutter and PhD student Nathan Llywelyn Munday are now in the running for the top prize, which will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff on 7 July 2016.
The shortlist comprises two books and a long-form essay in uplifting prose set in Europe, Africa and South America. In Mandy Sutter’s ‘Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me’, a Nigerian domestic scene unfolds, where subtle and interdependent racial and class issues are seething under a tight lid. John Harrison’s book tracks the rise and fall of the pre-Columbian city of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, highest city in the ancient world and the hub of a trading empire stretching from Chile to Peru. And European creation myths are the theme in Nathan Llywelyn Munday’s map of the highs and lows of the grand narrative as he treks with his father through the Pyrenees.
The standard this year was once again so high that a further three, highly commended entries from Hannah Garrard ('No Situation is Permanent'), Julie Owen Moylan ('Anxiety and Wet Wipes on Train Number Four') and Karen Philips ('Stranger Shores') were awarded. These, along with the three shortlisted pieces, will be published in extract form in the autumn edition of New Welsh Reader (112), New Welsh Review’s creative magazine, publishing on 1 September. Entrants will receive a standard fee of £170 for publication. These highly commended pieces, two long-form essays and a prose book, range from a Trans-Siberian train voyage, through explorations of home, exile and return in Ghana and Liberia, and a love story to underground springs of Mayan culture in tourist-riven Yucatan.
Congratulations to our three shortlisted and three highly commended writers:
JOHN HARRISON: ‘THE RAINS OF TITIKAKA’
Tiwanaku, in Bolivia, is a Pre-Columbian city, highest in the ancient world, its population greater than Saxon London and once the hub of a trading empire that stretched from Chile to Peru. This book looks at how such a centre thrived against the odds of altitude and climate until its fall to drought. Above all it looks at the idea of ‘memorial’, from pyramids through fêted monuments to a humble Tiwanaku head-shaped pot.
John Harrison is a traveller and writer. His books have won the 2011 Wales Book of the Year, the 2013 non-fiction prize at the same awards, the Alexander Cordell Travel Writing Prize twice, while Where the Earth Ends was a Sunday Timesbook of the week. In his most recent book, 1519 A Journey to the End of Time, for four months John followed the route of Hernán Cortés across Mexico. A resident of Cardiff for most of his life, John currently lives with his partner at a place equidistant from the British Museum, British Library and the Royal Geographical Society, of which he is a fellow.
NATHAN LLYWELYN MUNDAY: ‘SEVEN DAYS, A PYRENEAN TREK’
Deceptively simple story of a youth’s hike with his father, written with all the humour and enthusiasm that youth bestows, this short book, without straining, creates its own ‘grand narrative’, taking in the Arc, European creation myths, the Mabinogi, virginal experiences, ascension and the dreams of a Hemingway lookalike with a tragic backstory. Engaging, upbeat, restorative.
Nathan Llywelyn Munday is originally from a small village in Carmarthenshire but now lives near the Gabalfa interchange, Cardiff. Having just started his PhD, he still tries to escape to the mountains whenever he can. He recently won the M. Wynn Thomas Prize (New Scholars Category) for an essay based on his MA work.
MANDY SUTTER: ‘BUSH MEAT: AS MY MOTHER TOLD ME’
Written in lemon juice as zesty as a latter-day Martha Gelhorn, this act of ventriloquism gives voice to the author’s mother’s expat life in Nigeria and her own child’s-eye take on its complications. With striking images including a Barbary duck with a ‘melted face’, and an economy of style of the stiff-upper-lip variety, this travel memoir presents a world where animal, child, bushman, black servant and white employee know his or her place and may seethe in it, or attempt to wriggle around it.
Mandy Sutter grew up in Kent but now lives in Yorkshire with her partner and a large black dog called Fable. ‘Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me’ explores the time her family spent in Nigeria when she was a child. She has co-written two books about the lives of Somali women, published in 2006 and 2007 and her first novel Stretching It was published in 2013. She has also published three poetry pamphlets with independent presses.
HANNAH GARRARD: ‘NO SITUATION IS PERMANENT’
Tracking a pioneering school’s origins in a camp in Ghana for refugees, to its return to homeland in Liberia, this explores the subtle differences between refugee and exile status, and varying notions of, and loyalties to, ‘home’. In this long-form travel essay, the most important journey is not that of the schoolteacher-narrator to Africa, but the journeys within Africa by the refugees themselves.
Hannah Garrard grew up in Suffolk and now lives in Norwich, where she studied for a BA in Literature in 2005. She has worked as a teacher in West Africa and South Korea, returning to UEA in 2013 to study for an MA in Biography and Creative Nonfiction. She currently works for a young person's charity and writes for journals, anthologies and news sites. Her writing has been published online and in print in places such as Newfound, Going Down Swinging and Words and Women. In 2015 Hannah won the Flipside New Writing Prize for an essay about dementia and our connections to the places we live.
JULIE OWEN MOYLAN: ‘ANXIETY AND WET WIPES ON TRAIN NUMBER FOUR’
Train Number Four goes from Moscow to Beijing. Along it you will find snow, bureaucracy, nasty toilets and station pitstops with minutes to buy essentials through gesture and barter. Armed only with Bryn Thomas’ Trans-Siberian bible, author and husband push themselves out of their comfort zone, despite the fact that ‘We don’t do adventure and we don’t do snow.’
Julie Owen Moylan was born and raised in Cardiff where she now lives with her husband Sean after a long and exciting flirtation with the rest of the world. Travelling is an enormous passion of hers and she recently circumnavigated the globe on a train, only stopping to fly over the wet bits. Since completing a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Cardiff Met University she has had several short stories published and has recently completed her debut novel; The Honest Woman which is out on submission with literary agents.
KAREN PHIlLIPS ‘STRANGER SHORES’
This book-length trip to the Yucatan, Mexico, was designed to heal and restore the author. On it she overcomes her reserve, dives among limestone sinkholes, moves along stages of a Mayan voyage to the underworld, compares Welsh and Mayan survival myths, flees from a town in thrall to the cruise-ship coin, makes a novel proposal for rehoming ancient gods pushed out by tourist crowds, and moves closer to love.
Karen Phillips is a writer recently returned to her homeland of Pembrokeshire after a decade abroad in Turkey and Mexico. She writes fiction with a magical realism twist and narrative non-fiction on travel, women’s health and life off the beaten track. She has recently completed her first novel.