Books and poetry

Writing English in Wales

on 15 January 2011. Posted in Books and Poetry

Othniel Smith reports from a Guild event held at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, on 12th January 2011

This event, chaired by Guild vice-chair Roger Williams, was addressed by Belinda Bauer (author of Golden Dagger Award-winning Blacklands and new novel Darkside), Sally Spedding (Wringland, Cloven) and Matthew David Scott (Playing Mercy, The Dark Remembers).

Belinda discussed her journey from frustrated screenwriter to best-selling novelist, and the encouragement she received when an early draft of Blacklands was shortlisted for the Crime Writer’s Assocation’s Debut Dagger Award in 2008; she was also assisted by a grant from Academi (The Welsh Academy).

Porthcawl-born Sally spoke of her training as a sculptor, and being inspired by both Wales and the Pyrenees. As a crime mystery writer, she expressed (as did Belinda) some wariness about being boxed in as a genre novelist, and alluded to a number of bad experiences with agents.

Matthew, a Cardiff-based teacher, originally from Manchester, spoke of the distinct working styles inherent to the collaborative world of theatre (he is a founder-member of the Slung Low Theatre Company) and the “selfishness” of novel-writing. Having been published thus far by Cardigan-based Parthian Books, he is currently exploring options in respect of his third novel.

In terms of being a writer in Wales, all writers expressed gratitude for the help they’d received from Academi. The sense of community amongst writers was also noted, as was the relative abundance of small publishers – the downside of this being small print-runs and the difficulty of marketing and distributing one’s work outside Wales. There was some discussion of the extent to which Wales, as a setting for fiction, was deemed attractive or otherwise by London publishers. The general conclusion was that writers ought to write what they want to write, but that it is essential to approach big publishers outside Wales - the Welsh-language novelist Willam Owen Roberts (Pestilence, Petrograd), who was in attendance, spoke positively of the experience of having his work published in translation.

A good-natured, positive and inspiring session.