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…   

Hi Dylan, first of all, would you be able to tell us what made you decide to apply for the fellowship?

Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to partake in a critics’ development scheme, and as part of that they provided funding for us to go and write about things that involved Wales abroad, and I applied to join Hay’s international presence. I saw both Jon Gower and Tiffany Murray (the inaugural Hay Festival Fellows) in Kerala, in India. Then I decided to apply for the fellowship itself a couple of years ago, and didn’t get it, but they rolled my application over to the next year. I decided to apply again anyway, because Driving Home Both Ways was just coming out and I had just started a Masters in Transnational Writing. All these things seemed to fit together, because I was writing about displacement and exile and simply being elsewhere.

Dylan Moore backstage at the Hay Festival in Arequipa

Dylan backstage at the Hay Festival in Arequipa, Peru

What has this year involved so far, as a Hay Festival International Fellow? And what have been the main highlights?

So far I’ve visited Hay Festivals in Spain (in September), in Peru (in November), and then Colombia (in January). It’s been amazing. I said at the time I found out, this time last year, that it was a dream come true, having grown up near Hay, and having been to the festival for the last 20 years… to have been going along and then to suddenly be on the other side of the fence and not only to take part, but to be backstage in the Green Room with truly world class writers… at a dinner with Zadie Smith or a cocktail party with Salman Rushdie… it’s been an amazing opportunity.

And, as a writer it’s also a platform to talk about your own writing, and a professional development thing as well – to get Welsh writers onto the world stage, and it’s a massive confidence boost, too. At the first one I felt almost a kind of imposter syndrome, being there with all these amazing people, but by the time I got to Cartagena I met someone else who was in a similar position, and she said, do you get used to this? because she was feeling shy, and I thought yes, you kind of do, once you’ve done a few events you feel like, yeah I kind of do deserve to be here.

So, the journey I’ve been on has been to see myself more in an international context. As a travel writer you’re always looking in from the outside, writing as an observer, but being on stage and meeting writers from around the world makes you feel connected, and that’s the most enjoyable aspect of it – meeting writers from all around the world. You could call it networking, but it’s much more than that – it’s to do with the spirit of Hay, it’s more like friendship, meeting people who have interesting lives and interesting things to say.

Dylan with Phillipe Sands and students on the British Council’s Ellipsis programme in Cartagena, Colombia

Have these experiences shaped your development as a writer? Have you been inspired to write anything new?

Definitely, and I think it has a few aspects to it – not all directly to do with the Fellowship, but a combination of things. I’ve been doing this masters course as well, and having the opportunity to travel as the Hay Festival International Fellow has widened the scope of my ambition as a writer.

For a long time, I thought I was a fiction writer but then, because I started bringing out magazines, and editing, I ended up as more of a critic and non-fiction writer, but this year has given me the confidence to go back to fiction. I’ve been collecting facts and non-fiction ideas and reshaping them as fictional narratives. The project I’m working on at the moment is a set of stories based on refugee experiences, but essentially they’re fictional. It’s also inspired by my links with Ethiopia and Eritrea, from working at Sanctuary and meeting people through that. So, the initial spark for the project came through that, but because I’ve now made connections in Colombia and other places, I’ve got the ambition to expand it, so I think Colombia and Mexico will come into it as well.

What’s next?

The next Hay Festival is at Hay, and I’ll be chairing a couple of events. And then there’s Mexico in September, which feels like a bonus really. With everything that’s going on at the moment, as someone writing about refugees and borders, and people in exile, it’s such a pertinent time to go to Mexico. But before that, as part of my MRes with Bath Spa, I’ll be going to Ethiopia, as part of the research for that, and that’s in April.

Thanks Dylan!

Dylan has written a series of blog posts about his visits to the Hay Festivals in Spain and Peru which you can see here, and two more blog posts about his experiences in Colombia: Cosmovisions in Cartagena and Medellín in 2.4 Hours.

You can read my review of Dylan’s book Driving Home Both Ways here, and you might spot the man himself at this year’s Hay Festival in Hay.

Dylan with the special festival transport, in Segovia