Hay Festival 2019 – Myths, Heritage, Landscapes, Stories & Maps

Hay Festival signI’m writing this from the sanctuary of my own home, after what has been an incredible yet exhausting few days at Hay. The sun did come out yesterday afternoon, and I did enjoy sitting in a deckchair, reading for a bit, but this year’s festival has been more of a challenge than in previous years, due to my lack of energy and a general lack of sunshine, and I am grateful for some much-needed rest.

There were two events that I found particularly fascinating over the last couple of days, both relating to the historical landscape, the way in which we ‘read’ and interpret the past, and the importance of maps and stories…   Continue reading

#Unafraid: Mental Health in Words

Christina Thatcher reading her poemsPoetry is not just for ‘arty’ types, it’s for everyone, so it’s good to see scientists and creatives working together. Last week I attended an event organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to celebrate their work with Patrick Jones, their current artist in residence. The event also showcased the work of other poets who have written about mental health issues, as well as patients who’ve benefitted from the therapeutic aspects of writing, but its main focus was as a starting point, a bringing together of psychiatrists and poets in the same space, to enable discussion and debate about what more can be done…   Continue reading

Poems from Cardiff, Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire and The Borders

Poetry from Cardiff, Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire and The Borders

These four slim poetry anthologies are beautifully produced, each containing a selection of poems centred around a specific area of Wales, collated by Seren’s editor, Amy Wack. Many poems are taken from recent collections, but there are also several new poems, and each pamphlet has a distinct feel to it. To begin with, in Poems from Pembrokeshire there is a sense of time standing still in a landscape rooted to the past.

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Book Review: Dignity by Alys Conran

Book - Dignity by Alys ConranI was mesmerised by Alys Conran’s debut novel Pigeon, and her second novel, Dignity, is no less stunning. It follows the stories of three women – Magda, Evelyn, and Susheela – travelling across time and continents, from North Wales to India, as their lives begin to unravel in all sorts of ways, anchored always to thoughts of Home. This is a novel which does not shy away from portraying the conflict and hypocrisy of Britain’s colonial past.   Continue reading

Writing on a Global Scale: An Interview with Dylan Moore, Hay Festival International Fellow

Dylan Moore - writer and Hay Festival International FellowDylan Moore is a writer, editor, critic and English teacher living in South Wales. His first book Driving Home Both Ways was published by Parthian in 2018, and he was named as the Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow for 2018-19.

Dylan and I met a few years ago, when he happened to marry one of my close friends, and I was chuffed to hear that he was given the Hay Festival Fellowship, a programme that allows a writer from Wales to participate in international Hay Festival events throughout the year, in Colombia, Spain, Peru and Mexico as well as Hay itself. I thought it would be interesting, as he nears the end of this momentous year, to find out how it has shaped and developed his work as a writer…    Continue reading

A Poet in the Making – Finding Inspiration at Tŷ Newydd

Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre Last week I was invited to the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales as one of 10 writers selected for the 2019 Literature Wales Mentoring Scheme. After several months of ill-health I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend, but the week turned out to be beneficial in more ways than one – providing not only inspiration and development for my writing, but also some much-needed rest and relaxation in a gorgeous old house on the Llŷn Peninsula.    Continue reading

Translation, Interrogation, Spoken Word and Collaboration: Highlights from the Seren Poetry Festival

Poet Amiina Mohamoud

Despite being unwell I was determined to enjoy at least a few of this year’s Seren Poetry Festival events. Highlights included a fascinating insight into the complexities of translating poetry from Welsh to English, exceptional spoken word from up-and-coming poets Amiina Mohamoud and Umulkhayr Mohamed, an unusual two-way collaboration between visual artists and writers, and a frank and open discussion about the ‘BAME’ label and the need for change within the publishing industry…   Continue reading

Book Review: The Plankton Collector by Cath Barton

The Plankton Collector by Cath BartonThe Plankton Collector is told in the comforting voice of a storyteller, rather like a bed time story, and it is short enough to be read in one sitting. The plot is based around the struggles of one small family as they attempt to keep going in the face of intense grief. One by one, each family member is visited by a mysterious figure – the Plankton Collector. He does very little, and says very little, but gradually, over time, his visits begin to help, and their wounds begin to heal…   Continue reading

Book Review: Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies

Book - Tirzah and the Prince of CrowsSet in the South Wales Valleys, in the 1970s, Tirzah and the Prince of Crows follows the story of a sixteen-year-old girl as she grows into adulthood. Tirzah has been brought up in a very strict, chapel-going family, but she soon begins to sense a change within herself, and an unsettling desire for freedom.   Continue reading

Book Review: Driving Home Both Ways by Dylan Moore

Book - Driving Home Both Ways by Dylan MooreDriving Home Both Ways is a detailed account of the author’s travels over a period of thirteen years, from the moment he set off from Brecon to Cardiff as a teenager. Exploring themes of identity, nationhood and community, he continually refers back to his Welsh roots, recounting trips to destinations across the globe – from the Basque Country to Slovenia, from Mexico to San Francisco… exploring some unique places along the way.   Continue reading

What’s your ‘Writer Identity’?

person writing

Are you a Welsh writer? Or an Irish writer? Or an Asian writer? Publishers love pigeon-holing their writers, and writers are often labelled by the media. But how do you identify with a particular location if you move around? Can ‘writer identity’ be a positive thing? And what do the writers think?

Here are just three opinions on the complex subject of ‘writer identity’ – not a representative snapshot by any means, but please do feel free to add your own thoughts using the comments below…

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Beyond Psychopaths: Mental Health in Crime Fiction

Rosie Claverton at Crime Fiction FestivalCardiff celebrated its first ever crime fiction festival last week, and one of the most interesting events explored the portrayal of mental illness within the genre. Local crime writer Rosie Claverton also happens to be a junior psychiatrist, and it was fascinating to hear her in discussion with Matt Johnson, a former police officer who also writes crime fiction, and has experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, turning to writing as a form of therapy.    Continue reading

Crime & Coffee – A Festival of Crime Fiction in Cardiff

Crime & Coffee festival banner

Cardiff will soon be playing host to some top quality crime fiction writers in the capital’s newest literary festival – Crime and Coffee. Taking place over two days – 1st and 2nd June – the festival is organised by Cardiff Council Library staff in conjunction with Crime Cymru, featuring Belinda Bauer, Christopher Fowler, Rebecca Tope, Kate Hamer, Mark Ellis, Katherine Stansfield and other crime writers, for two days of workshops, readings and discussion. I interviewed local crime writer Katherine Stansfield, to find out more about this brand new festival…

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Looking Forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2018

rhiannon hooson poet

Wales is full of literary events, book fairs and writing festivals, from the very small to the very large, and in almost every corner of the country… we love to celebrate literature in all its forms. So here’s a list of all the literary / book festivals taking place in Wales during 2018.

Please use the comments below to add information about any festivals which I have missed out, and I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year.

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Collective 2017 – Poetry on Ice

Rhian EdwardsLast week’s freezing temperatures could not prevent a host of poetry enthusiasts from congregating together in Little Man Coffee Company for the second annual Collective event, organised by Christina Thatcher. The poetry was entertaining and captivating in equal measure, beginning with four poets whose collections were published this year…    Continue reading

The Cardiff Book Festival – Highlights from 2017

Horatio Clare at Cardiff Book FestivalThe Cardiff Book Festival began last year as a brand-new annual celebration of all things literature in the Welsh capital, and this year’s festival followed in a similar vein, with a slightly stronger Welsh slant to the majority of events. On Friday night I braved the darkening skies, sideways drizzle and end-of-week exhaustion on my walk across town, to emerge inside the bright, grand foyer of the old Angel Hotel, where most of the weekend’s events took place…   Continue reading

Looking Forward to The Anglesey Môntage Writing Festival

The Môntage Writers Festival Committee2A Guest Post Written by Joy Mawby (Chair of Môntage Writers)

“What shall we do next?”
“How about organising a writing festival?”
I remember this conversation during a Môntage Writers’ Committee meeting about eighteen months ago.

It had all started about five years earlier, when members of two Anglesey writing groups met to discuss how they might work together to publish some of their own work.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Mabinogi by Matthew Francis

Poetry Book The MabinogiSpeaking at the Hay Festival last month, Matthew Francis described his first encounter with The Mabinogi (which he read in 1999 when he moved to Wales). “I was both baffled and fascinated by it,” he explained, “It’s extraordinary, and strange in the way it’s constructed, and it also has a strange logic.” He is not a Welsh speaker himself, and this is not a translation – he described it as a “re-imagining” of the myth, in the same way that Shakespeare drew on existing stories for his plays.    Continue reading