Monday, 27 August 2012

Four gifts from Wales

  • First gift comes from the terrific Lampeter Reviewthe online magazine of the Lampeter Creative Writing Centre (part of the University of Wales, Trinity St David.) who have published the very first small extract from the next novel, Kit, which is a sequel and a prequel to The Coward’s Tale. I think. Hope. Trust. Fingers crossed. 

Here’s the start of the extract: 

MAMETZ WOOD July 10th 1916
We were to advance in quick time in eight waves and all Harris could talk about was his broken tooth. He talked strangely bright -  “I have a broken tooth, Sir. Sir - my tooth, and it will be aching before too long,” and someone said to shurrup, it would be alright that tooth, and we could pull the rest out if he liked, after. “After what?” Harris said, standing facing the sandbags like the rest of us, laughter all around like we were waiting for a friendly...
Here is a link to the magazine PDF, where you can read the rest. (Contributors get a print copy, and rather lovely it is too) - Kit is on pages 79 - 81 inc. 

  • Second gift comes from The New Welsh Review and a reviewer called Robert Walton, who, he tells me, is doing a PhD in CW at Cardiff Uni, researching the contemporary Welsh novel in English - a review of The Coward’s Tale.  I couldn’t be happier to read lines such as:

It is a paradox of Welsh writing in English that the person arguably considered the greatest of our writers, Dylan Thomas, is the one whose influence everyone tries to shake off(... )The Coward’s Tale is remarkable because Gebbie has taken up the baton passed on to Welsh writing by Dylan Thomas and produced a début novel that is powerful in its storytelling, touching in its view of small-town life, and bold in its stylised language..
       The comparisons with Under Milk Wood could easily lead to the view that The Coward’s Tale is derivative (...)(her) success, however, lies in the fact that she has dared to pick up a tradition in Welsh storytelling and developed it (...) The effect, both ancient and modern, at times struck me as lying somewhere between that of the Bible and the prose of Niall Griffiths or Cormac McCarthy.
This novel should certainly stir a debate about the relationship of twenty-first century fiction from Wales to its heritage from the 40s and 50s. 
 If you are not wanting to throw up at my boundless joy at this, you can read the whole review here:

Ty Newydd

Across the garden to the sea
  • Third gift comes in the form of a wonderful poetry course at Ty Newydd, the writers' centre of Wales, based in the house Lloyd George had built towards the end of his life, in Llanystumdwy, it was brilliantly tutored by Pascale Petit  and Daljit Nagra with a visit from Karen McCarthy Woolf. I've written poetry for a while, had some publications, and even been in the final lists for a comp or two - but I don't know much about why good is good, and not so good is bad - if you see what I mean.  When I read a good poem, I know it's good. But assess my own stuff? Pah!  I think I am getting closer to things as a result of the course, and have started on a systematic submissions programme. Watch this space... 
                    By the way, there is a stonkingly good museum in the village, dedicated to the life and achievements of Lloyd George. Did you know he was brought up by a shoemaker, his uncle, after the death of his father? No neither did I. Did you know we have him to thanks for the old age pension? No, neither did I.

The old Dr Williams' School main building 

  • Fourth and final gift - I went back to Dolgellau, to  Dr Williams', my old school, where I spent five of my teen years. Really strange and wonderful, especially as the school closed five years after I left - it is now a tertiary college. We (I went with an old school buddy) were taken round our old building - and my goodness - very little has changed, really. Some updating of windows,  some new ceilings, but it's all there. Here are a few pics - starting with the very window in the then sick wing, out of which, when I had chicken pox, I was found leaning, dangling knitting wool 30 feet to the ground. And a friend was discovered attaching sweets to the other end, shouting 'Rapunzel Rapunzel, bring up your hair...' Ahem. 


  1. Hi Vanessa, what a lovely blog re Wales and your personal journeys I loved reading them and remember your warmth and smiles and extraordinary fabulous words. Penny xx

  2. Lots of great news all around -- but I'm especially thrilled to see that the next novel is starting to come to light. Can't wait to read it!

  3. Ah, hi Penny, and thank you for your lovely words. I so enjoyed meeting you, and listening to the amazing words that just appeared out of nowhere for you during the sessions. Wasn't it a wonderful place, with great company! x

  4. Thanks Sue - Kit is coming out very slowly!

  5. Lovely news all around. And the Rapunzel bit got a laugh out of me!

  6. Ha! ta Lauri, hope all's well where you are. x