How do you summarise the Dylan Thomas Prize Authors Week experience? I suppose there’s the admittedly-not-very-funny, untrue joke: I spent six days in Swansea and all I got was a lousy t-shirt that says “Cwtch the Bid”.
There was also the reality-TV staples of surprise visitors, photo shoots, on-camera interviews and an overuse of the word “amazing”; a few teary phone, and the statements about opportunity, teamwork and people that would seem equally at home in a year-end company report.
But none of those is good or right or enough. No one way of summarising or describing the time I spent with six other young writers in Swansea can accurately or adequately get across the what those six days were like, what they’ll mean to me for the rest of my life.
There are so many ways to measure the time we spent in Swansea. In red wine and Diet Coke. In taxi drivers and time zones. In facts learned about Swansea and Port Talbot. In the faces of students who needed to hear that it’s OK to like reading, making up your own world and escaping into it. In fire alarms and run-ins with a young collie called Ted. In the number of times I desperately scanned Call it Dog looking for appropriate sections to read to 12-year-olds. In questions about who I’d support in Saturday’s rugby match (ashamed to report I sold out my country when put on the spot). In conversations about JM Coetzee. In shared experiences of being a young writer trying to cobble together an existence, promises to refer each other to our agents and publishers and friends. In the number of steaks Majok ate. In upcoming pancakes in Princeton, horse rides in Aberystwyth, rock climbs in the Peaks. In new friends, who will hopefully be old friends someday.
I’m so lucky to have been chased by Ted the collie, to be, still, somehow, this tired. To have met students across Swansea and, most of all, to have met the other writers on the shortlist. And for that, I want to say thank you to The Dylan Thomas Prize and its sponsors, and especially to Peter Stead and Swansea University. Cwtch the Bid!