New Welsh Writing Awards 2017: Aberystwyth University Prize for Memoir Shortlist

New Welsh Review in association with Aberystwyth University is delighted to announce the shortlist for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017: Aberystwyth University Prize for Memoir. 

The Memoir shortlist includes the true story of a Canadian hobo, an account of anorexia at Oxford University; and backpacking behind the iron curtain. The highly commended entries in the Memoir category feature a daughter’s American road-trip to help reconcile her father and grandmother, an all-boys care-home in South Africa whose residents included a baboon, and a true tale of family rifts and reconciliation.

New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies judged the category with help from students from Aberystwyth University. 

Congratulations to our shortlisted and highly commended writers below:


Catherine Haines (Charing, Kent) My Oxford

A young woman’s experience of anorexia while at Oxford University enriches a lively account of student life with literary, philosophical and existential questions. As the Cambridge Weight Plan spins out of control, a post-grad’s academic subject, ‘the mind-body problem’, goes through an existential phase to become ‘extraordinary morality’ rather than a mental health problem.

Catherine Haines is a dual English-Australian citizen. She studied Philosophy at the Australian National University and took her Masters Degree in English at the University of Oxford. Catherine currently lives in Hong Kong, and will shortly begin a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham. Her work has been published in Needle in the Hay, Cherwell and Woroni. Her debut novel, The Wicked and the Fair, is currently being circulated.

Mary Oliver (Newlyn, Cornwall) The Case

Jim, an emigrant from England to Canada, awaits release from a progressive mental hospital and reconciliation with his baby daughter. He is in turns hopeful migrant, stowaway, farmer, thief, hobo, rough poet and ever-loving brother. This story approaches its subject prismatically through different documentary sources, and is based on an historical character. Innovative, affecting, with depth of heart and breadth of research, this memoir rewards re-reading.

Mary Oliver was born in Clun, Shropshire and since then has lived mainly in Scotland and Cornwall. Having gained a BA and an MA in Fine Art from Reading and Falmouth Universities, she exhibited paintings and installations across the UK. Her work was collected by Carmen Callil and some were reproduced as book covers by Virago. To supplement income, she also taught for many years; from facilitating Art Workshops in Barlinnie Jail, Glasgow, to lecturing in Fine Art at Falmouth University. Mary has been writing full time since 2014 and has had a number of prize nominations for her work.

Adam Somerset (Aberaeron, Wales) People, Places, Things: A Life with the Cold War

This memoir paints a sweeping landscape of the Eastern Bloc as experienced through the eyes of a British backpacker. The account is coloured with frequent references to the historical hinterland and details of the author's encounters with the inhabitants of the world beyond the Iron Curtain - all these elements coming together to provide the reader with an immersion into the 'culture of apocalypse'. 

Adam Somerset has lived in Ceredigion for 23 years. His first piece of writing was a play Quay Pursuits produced at the Questors Theatre in Ealing. He wrote an article on national theatre in 2007 for Planet magazine. In the same year he began to write for Theatre Wales, a review site based in Aberystwyth. He is the author of 600 commentary articles and reviews of theatre books and productions. He has written 100 reviews and articles on art, photography, history and television for Wales Arts Review. His reviews of books on politics have featured on the website of the Institute of Welsh Affairs.


Maria Apichella (Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk) The Red Circle  

A daughter’s Pennsylvania road-trip with her Italian-American father is taken to help reconcile him with his mother. A red and black oil painting and the father’s hospital visit frame evocative settings of forest and former coalmines, while this memoir is warmed by delightful exchanges with a cast of far-flung relatives.

Maria Apichella completed her PhD in English and Creative Writing at The University of Aberystwyth, Wales. An award-winning poet, her book Psalmody was co-winner of Eyewear’s 2015 Melita Hume Prize. Paga was a winner of the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Competition in 2014. She teaches English with the University of Maryland, University College, Europe. Visit her blog:

Liz Jones (Aberystwyth, Wales) On Shifting Sands

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Another true tale of family rift and reconciliation. The author was estranged as a girl from her shallow, beautiful mother, the death of whose sister Ruth damages generations. The gap between brash Merthyr Gran and Nain of Newborough couldn’t be greater. Somehow, though, between these grandmothers and the healing powers of the beautiful Ynys Môn islands, beaches and warrens, identity is forged. Innovatively framed by a ‘historical’ journal of the town.

Following her writing debut, ‘The Naughty Dog’ (which won her a gold star at her Merthyr primary school), Liz Jones has gone on to write drama and creative non-fiction, reviews, short stories and journalism ranging from Take a Break to New Welsh Review. Along the way she has raised two daughters, tried (and failed) to change the world, worked in a café-cum-bookshop, a housing association, in community development and lifelong learning. She is now a Teaching Fellow at Aberystwyth University. Liz is now working on a biography of the incredible - but forgotten - bestselling novelist, scriptwriter, actor and theatre impresario known as Oliver Sandys or Countess Barcynska.

Amanda and Robert Oosthuizen (Eastleigh, Hampshire) Boystown S.A.

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Told by a husband to his writer-wife. Due to family rift and addiction, Robert Oosthuizen was brought up in South Africa by his grandmother, mother, foster homes and residential schools including the highly democratic Catholic Boystown, whose residents included a baboon. Action ranges from rugby matches, in which boots feature only occasionally, to a bizarrely set Eisteddfod, this memoir captures the presentness of childhood in which a survivor takes all in his stride.

Robert Oosthuizen moved from South Africa to the U.K. in 1977, and became a British National soon after. He is married to Amanda and they have three grown-up daughters. He has never returned to South Africa in spite of his daughters’ attempts to persuade him. He is a passionate photographer, and is thinking about joining a choir.

Amanda Oosthuizen’s stories and poems have been published in various forms, shown in galleries, in Winchester Cathedral and on the London Underground. Last year a series of ten poems was displayed in Oxfordshire as part of a collaboration with artist, Lucy Ash. Her latest online story is at 3:AM and prose and poetry is forthcoming in the U.K. with Paragram, and in the U.S. with Woven Tale Press and Prelude. She has an M.A. with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, where she won the Kate Betts Prize. A long time ago, she studied English and Music at Aberystwyth University and has combined both ever since. Amanda and Robert have been married for 38 years and live in Hampshire.