Monday, 19 July 2010

MS: In Prizes, In Yurts, In Chapters.

The Mslexia Blog

Tyler Keevil
Tyler Keevil
Terry Hetherington Awards
I returned to Swansea from my travels around the South West just in time to attend the third memorial evening for the late Neath writer Terry Hetherington on Wednesday 7 July. The evening, hosted by the Dylan Thomas Centre, saw readings and tributes from his friends, and doubled as the award night for the second Terry Hetherington Bursary to a promising young writer from Wales.
I went along to support my fellow Bright Young Thing Tyler Keevil (mid-Wales) who was granted Joint Second Place for his short story alongside the poetry of Anna Lewis (Cardiff). Team Parthian Books were all absent on their summer holidays, so it seemed only fair. Plus I really enjoy Tyler’s readings and it was a shame to have to wrap up the night early, all winners at the mercy of train timetables.
The judges, led by Terry’s long-time partner Aida Birch, were impressed by the quantity and quality of the entries. Jonathan Edwards of Newport took the First Prize of £1,000 for his quirky poems, while Ben James of Llanelli was Highly Commended. All winners performed their work in the second half, and were joined by last year’s winner, Rose Widlake, who spoke of how the bursary had helped her both with her confidence as a writer and with furthering her studies at university, and in funding a publishing course she planned to take after completing her degree.
The evening also saw the launch of the accompanying publication Cheval 3 featuring the bursary winners and other selected writing by and about Terry.
Oxfam Cymru Readathon 2010
One week later it was my turn to take to the stage. I had been asked to perform at the Oxfam Cymru Readathon in Milgi Lounge, Cardiff and I was happy to support their cause. This happiness gave way to intimidation and nerves when I saw the running order. It went like this:
6.30pm Philip Gross AKA this year’s winner of both the TS Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year
6.45pm Susie Wild
7.00pm Peter Finch, Head of Academi
The amazing line-up continued until 11pm without any breaks. It was immense. After seeing the line-up I opted to read prose instead of poetry. Philip gave a great performance reading from a selection of his work, including the two winning titles. He donated a pamphlet, a first edition of his first printed poems, and was every bit as down-to-earth as before his accolades. One of his students from Glamorgan University confided ‘he’s exactly the same performing as he is in class, he’s completely himself.’ It calmed my nerves unlike the bank of cameras and journalists lined up in front of the microphone. My turn. I read a couple of extracts of stories from The Art of Contraception as well as a piece of microfiction I’d written for the current issue of Buzz Magazine (page 50) based on Couvade Syndrome. It seemed to go down well. Peter Finch later commented on my FaceBook: ‘Susie Wild sounded like she knew what she was doing to me. An excellent performance.’ Thanking you.
The stellar cast of the evening also name-checked these wonders: Jo Verity, Patrick Jones, Alexandra Claire, David E. Oprava, Jon Gower, Deborah Kay Davies, Rhys Thomas, Matthew Scott, John Williams, Sule Rimi, and Rachel Trezise. After our performances we were all led up the garden shed, one-by-one to sit in the dark and be interviewed for Radio Cardiff, helping to illuminate the journalist’s questions by pressing the button on her mobile intermittently to make the light shine. See, such glamorous lives we lead.
Highlights of the night for me including performances by and chats with up-and-coming talent Alexandra Claire and my favourite woman writer in Wales, the ever stylish Deborah Kay Davies. A former contemporary dancer and choreographer, Alexandra began writing about five years ago and Parthian published her first, and then only, story. She discussed the difficulties of finding writing time as a working parent, as well as her first publishing accolades: ‘I’ve now had four short stories for adults published. I received an Academi New Writer’s Bursary award in 2007 and am now trying to get the urban science fiction novel I’ve written published – Random Walk.’ If the reading she gave from it is any indication, it shouldn’t be long before the novel is snapped up. Deborah Kay Davies immediately began a bubbly chat with me before realising she was soon due to take her turn, ushered into the Yurt by the Oxfam Bookfest crew. I followed, excited to hear the first extract from her new Canongate novel,True Things About Me. It was wonderful and I can’t wait for my copy of the book to arrive, Deborah assures me I won’t be waiting long. All-in-all a delightful evening.
In Chapters: Beaches
The next evening it was my turn to relax and enjoy other people’s performances at the fourth instalment of In Chapters, the music and spoken word collaborative evening hosted at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff by the writer John Williams and musician Richard James. Joined by my lovely creative writer tutor friend Briony, we were lucky enough to get seats, unlike the standing many, and be entertained by top Welsh talent, with all creative work thematically linked to the seaside.
As with all previous instalments, the standard of performance was high, but the number of women artists was low. A point of contention amidst the later bar chatters of many of the women writers in attendance in the audience. Still writer and folk musician Charlotte Greig performed a song, and Lindsey Leven also offered us some psychedelic pop in which she played seashells and was accompanied by a very beardy Guto Pryce (Super Furry Animals).
The rest of the evening was dominated by the male. Top Welsh-noir writer Rob Lewis reading from his second novel Swansea Terminal (on the eve of publication of his third and final in the crime trilogy, The Bank of the Black Sheep). Surfer Tom Anderson read about his experiences of waves at Cape Cod as documented in his bookChasing Dean, and John Williams read his own surf-themed extract featuring Porthcawl from his novel Cardiff Dead.
Others were more imaginative, writing new work fitting the theme specifically for the event, well done to the crazy dreams of Des Barry and the fantastic poetry and music collaborative performance between Richard James and ace Cardiff poet David E. Oprava.
Other than niggles about gender balance In Chapters utterly charmed Briony and I once again. More please.

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