New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing Longlist Announced

New Welsh Review, in association with the University of South Wales and the CADCentre, is delighted to announce the longlist of nine travel nonfiction essays for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing. Both new and established writers based in Wales, England and Ireland are in the running for the top prize including the award-winning travel writer John Harrison.

Co-judge and magazine editor Gwen Davies says: ‘This prize has gone from strength to strength in its second year with an increased number of entries and an excellent standard of writing. Branching out from our previous theme of nature, this year’s longlist of travel nonfiction sees a move towards the political. Such essays follow the progress of a pioneering school from its refugee-camp origins in Ghana; a Nigerian domestic scene where subtle and interdependent racial and class issues are seething under a tight lid; the rise and fall of the pre-Columbian city of Tiwanaku in Bolivia and the underground (and underwater) currents of Mayan culture in the Yucatan, Mexico. In gentler pastures, meanwhile, language, geography, history, culture, religion and philosophy are given room to reflect in pieces that champion the humble Thames-side lock-keeper, the etiquette of the Trans-Siberian station pitstop; silence and spirituality on a Pennsylvanian Quaker residency, and the highs and lows of the grand narrative on trek through the Pyrenees.’

Congratulations to our nine long listed writers below:

Virginia Astley: ‘Keeping the River’ 

Progressing via short trips from the source to the mouth of the Thames, the author and her companions in this book explore the mother-daughter dynamic, the folk meanings of ash, the dangers of weirs and the habits and pet hates of the resident lock-keeper.

Virginia Astley grew up in rural Oxfordshire but now lives in West Dorset. She has established herself as a musician and writer over an extensive career. She has produced five albums and worked with musicians ranging from Pete Townshend to Ryuichi Sakamoto. As winner of Munsterlit’s Fool for Poetry Competition, Southword Editions published her first poetry collection, The Curative Harp, last year. Virginia was also long listed for the Awards in 2015.


Evan Costigan: ‘West Under a Blue Sky’ 

Writing at a time of seismic change for Mongolia as she faces exploitation of her mineral resources, the author crosses impressive and rough terrain to discover myriad meanings of hospitality in yurts, sheds and brothels.

Evan Costigan’s travel articles have been published in international newspapers and magazines, including The Irish Times, Sunday Business Post, Get Lost! and Outsider. His fiction has appeared in journals and broadcast on RTÉ Radio. He also writes poetry. Awards include the Boyle Poetry Competition and Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Award. In 2014 his work was shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award. He is a first year student on the MPhil in Writing programme at the University of South Wales. When not travelling he lives and works in Dublin.

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. 

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 Times book 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. 

Gerald Hewitson: ‘Oh My America’

Hewitson’s deaf-mute father was a fan of Westerns, and this kindled the author’s love of America. Here he seeks a form of Eden in a Pennsylvanian Quaker residency and rediscovers the many meanings of silence. Unassuming, non-judgemental, gentle, spiritual writing about a place defined by people from all walks of life who have come to terms with their past. 

Originally from Yorkshire, and having lived and worked in a number of locations including Turkey, Gerald Hewitson has been settled on Anglesey for over a quarter of a century. He is married to a Welsh speaking wife and is the father of four adult bilingual children. For about half his life, Gerald has been a Quaker, and has had articles printed in various Quaker publications. He gave the Swarthmore Lecture in 2013, published as Journey into Life.  

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. 

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.jpg

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.  

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. 

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.jpg

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.