Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Still Booming After All These Years?

Is the boom still on? Things might be slowing down out there in the wider world but among the publishers of Wales things appear to be as vibrant as ever. Wales’ Book of the Year has just considered its largest ever raft of eligible titles. 2008 was a bumper time for Welsh creatives. The publishing revolution of the past decade has hit us full on. Award judges working in English have considered 200 new works. Their predecessors five years ago considered less than half that number. And all this without resorting to eBooks and other downloadable inventions. West Wales publisher Y Lolfa have just announced the launch of a series available from their website and other presses are expected to follow suit. Will we all be greener than green and live without paper at all in 2010? Will books cease to be and novels start to exist only as digital words in their air? We shall see.

For now, however, books remain resolutely hard copy. The annual Wales Book of the Year Award offers £10,000 twice – once to the best book written in English and again for the best in Welsh. Competition is fierce. The shoal of possibles is cut down to a long list of ten during April. Judges Mike Parker, John Barnie, and Tiffany Atkinson working on the English list and Luned Emyr, Gwyn Thomas and Derec Llwyd Morgan in Welsh will reveal their selections on Wednesday 22nd April, 6 pm, at The Management Centre in Bangor. If you’d like to find out who is on the list tickets are free. Call 02920472266 for yours.

Who could be in the running? The year was an exceptional one for poetry so expect some bards. Gillian Clarke, Robert Minhinnick, Sheenagh Pugh, Mererid Hopwood, or Iwan Llwyd maybe. Newcomer Meirion Jordan or old red Mike Jenkins perhaps. Or even Patrick Jones’ eminently controversial Darkness is Where the Stars Are.

Among the fictioneers we’ve had some of the best reads for decades – Fflur Dafydd’s brilliant Twenty Thousand Saints. Lloyd Robson’s half-autobiographical, half-creative travelogue Oh Dad! Meic Stephens’ young generation masterpiece Yeah, Dai Dando. Or even one of the funniest man in Wales, James Hawes’, three books out last year, two on Kafka and one not.

Failing those then it’s bound to be Joe Dunthorne’ s startling debut, Submarine, Gee Williams’ Blood Etc, or even Dai Smith’s Raymond Williams blockbuster, A Warrior’s Tale. The Welsh world is spoiled for choice.

Getting onto the long list ensures exposure and a few shop windows full of your stuff but no cash. That only starts arriving if you make the short list. Three titles in each language will be revealed at the Hay Festival at the end of May. Have the judges actually decided who these lucky authors are yet? They’re not saying.

This post adapted from The Insider in the Western Mail


Anthony Brockway said...

2008 was a vintage year for Welsh writing in English, well novels and biographies anyway. For me the winner would have to be Joe Dunthorne (Submarine); Tristan Hughes (Revenant); or John Williams's (Michael X). The smart money will be on Dai Smith, I guess. If the prize amounts to an exercise in status-raising then his Raymond Williams biog would be as good a choice as any.

Who's going to be reading out the winning name this year? And have they been to the optician's recently?

Sheenagh Pugh said...

I think the year I was one of the judges might have been the first of the longlist, and FWIW, we certainly did not know, at the time when we made the longlist, what would be on the shortlist, let alone what would win. If it had been up to me alone, there'd have been at least two different names on the shortlist and I suspect that's true of the two other judges. In the end it came down to horse-trading. There was a novel one judge wanted on, but the two others really didn't rate, and a poetry collection I loved but couldn't persuade another judge about - though I think that later turned out to be ineligible for some reason.