I've Been Enjoying Reading All of the Books. There Will Be a Real Problem Choosing Just One Winner from Them; Young Writers Shortlisted for Dylan Thomas Prize Meet for First Time

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Price Chief Arts Correspondent

THE six international young writers shortlisted for the UK's largest literary award - the pounds 60,000 Dylan Thomas Prize - met for the first time yesterday in Wales.

And as they count down the days to the award ceremony at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall on Monday, they say there is no rivalry between them.

In fact, the writers, who range in age from 22 to 30 and come from countries as far afield as Ethiopia, Australia and South Africa, are looking forward to working alongside each other as they give advice in creative writing to students at universities in Wales this week.

They have also been busy checking out the competition by reading each other's books, which include novels, short stories and a poetry collection.

The biennial contest, which was launched in 2006 and is part of the Dylan Thomas Festival, is open to young writers from all over the world who are under the age of 30 when their submitted book is published.

The inaugural winner was Rhondda writer Rachel Trezise for her collection of short stories, Fresh Apples. There are no Welsh writers on the shortlist this time.

Those who have made the list - Ross Raisin, Edward Hogan, Ceridwen Dovey, Dinaw Mengestu, Caroline Bird and Nam Le - met yesterday at the Boathouse in Laugharne, which is where Dylan Thomas wrote.

Amongthose greeting them was the Swansea poet's daughter Aeronwy.

She believes that the judging panel - which includes Hay Festival director Peter Florence, screenwriter Andrew Davies, columnist Miranda Sawyer and poet Owen Sheers - will have their work cut out as they come to their decision.

She said: "The quality of the work is really of an international standard. I've been enjoying reading all of the books.

"There will be a real problem choosing just one winner.

"Sometimes when you read a collection of books two or three really jump out but this time I know the judges are going to have a real problem choosing one over another."

Alun Ffred Jones, Assembly Heritage Minister, added: "The prize is making great strides in putting Wales well and truly on the map in the literary world.

"Dylan Thomas remains our most celebrated literary figure of modern times and this award, which encourages creativity and innovation in today's young writers, is a wonderful tribute to his immense talent."

Dinaw Mengestu, 30 - Children of the Revolution

Background: Children of the Revolution has already bagged a major prize for Dinaw Mengestu - the Guardian First Book Award 2007. Born in Ethiopia, he is a graduate of Georgetown and Columbia universities. He works as a journalist and reviewer and is researching a book tracing his extended family's exile from Ethiopia after the 1974 revolution.

About his book: Children of the Revolution is about one man's longing for the American dream, and tells of the tenacious grip of the past across continents and time. It is a tale of an Ethiopian immigrant's search for acceptance, peace and identity.

He says: "I was writing when I was about 12 or 13. I got into writing through reading as I loved books a lot. I always wanted to write something as good as the books I was reading. I was a slightly precocious reader - J D Salinger, Kerouac, James Baldwin and a lot of poets as well. I was very excited when I heard I had been shortlisted for the prize and I was more excited after I'd had the chance to read the work of the other writers - they are fabulous."

Nam Le, 29 - The Boat

Background: After throwing away his debut novel because he says it was "spectacularly bad" Nam Le has been shortlisted for a collection of short stories. Born in Vietnam and raised in Australia, he has won a number of accolades in the past, including the Pushcart Prize, the Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award, and fellowships from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Phillips Exeter Academy. …