Literary prize keeps alive the spirit of Dylan Thomas

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The Independent Culture

He published his first volume of poems at the age of 20 and was dead before another two decades had passed.

But the spirit of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is being kept alive with a new prize for other young literary talents. The long-list for the inaugural £60,000 award was announced yesterday.

Nick Laird, the acclaimed poet married to Zadie Smith, has two entries on the long-list with both his debut novel, Utterly Monkey, and his first poetry collection, To A Fault.

His rivals for one of the most valuable prizes in literature range from James Scudamore, a former advertising executive, to Joey Goebel, a former racetrack employee in Kentucky.

The two youngest authors in the running for the prize, at 25, are Ian Holding, a teacher in Zimbabwe, and Belfast-born Lucy Caldwell, whose awards hitherto have been for her work as a playwright.

The subjects of the 14 books include sex, Hollywood, race relations and prejudice. The similarly themed Two, Sayonara Bar by Susan Barker and The Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore, are about a year abroad, and gap-year travelling experiences.

The EDS Dylan Thomas Prize has been sponsored by a consortium of public authorities and private companies with the aim of conveying the commitment of the people of Wales to new writing in the English language. EDS, the headline sponsors, are a technology services company based in Thomas's home town of Swansea.

The biennial prize is open to any published writer of fiction, poetry or drama in the English language under the age of 30 and attracted submissions from authors in Australia, North America, Africa and Europe.

Andrew Davies, the award-winning screenplay writer who chaired the judging panel, said the standard of the works was outstanding.

"This unique prize was established to celebrate young, talented writers worldwide and these works aptly showcase the excellence of creative writing that exists across the entire English-speaking world.

"This award honours a truly great writer who died while still a young man and I am sure it will be a great encouragement to talented young writers."

The other judges include Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of The Independent, Menna Elfyn, the Welsh poet and playwright, and Paul Watkins, a Welsh-American novelist.

Professor Peter Stead, a Welsh academic also on the panel, said they were delighted to have received entries from every corner of the English-speaking world.

"The prize is very much aimed at encouraging, promoting and rewarding all forms of creative writing amongst the world's young and flourishing authors."

As with the Artes Mundi international art prize which has been established in Wales, the Dylan Thomas Award is part of an attempt to develop Welsh cultural life within an international context. The shortlist of entries will be announced in September and the shortlisted writers invited to participate in a series of events in Wales and North America, involving organisations including Swansea University, the University of Texas and the BBC.

An award ceremony will be held in October. Professor Stead said: "As part of awarding this prize, we look forward to celebrating the memory of one of Wales's most distinguished literary talents."

Long-list of 13 authors and 14 books ...

JAMES SCUDAMORE, The Amnesia Clinic

Born 1976. After studying languages at Oxford and working in advertising, took the creative writing MA course at the University of East Anglia. First novel. Pictured above.

JOEY GOEBEL, Torture the Artist

Born 1980 in Kentucky. Previously a musician, screenwriter and record reviewer. Third novel.

MATTHEW DAVID SCOTT, Playing Mercy

Born in 1978 in Manchester. Now settled in South Wales where he is a magazine contributor. First novel.

LUCY CALDWELL, Where They Were Missed

Born in Belfast in 1981. Already an award-winning playwright, she is currently writing a new work for the Royal Court in London where she lives. First novel. Pictured above.

LIZA WARD, Outside Valentine

Born in 1981 in New York, holds a couple of degrees, has had short stories published in assorted reviews. Lives in Massachusetts. First novel.

RODGE GLASS, No Fireworks

Born 1978 in Cheshire but based in Scotland since 1997, where he took a creative writing MPhil. Writes for The Herald. First novel.

RACHEL TREZISE, Fresh Apples

Born in the Rhondda Valley in 1978. Won the Orange Futures Award for first novel. First collection of stories.

KIRA COCHRANE, Escape Routes for Beginners

Born Essex in 1977. Studied at universities of Sussex and California before moving to London to work as a journalist. Second novel.

NICK LAIRD, Utterly Monkey, and To A Fault

Born 1975 in Co. Tyrone. Cambridge-educated poet married to author Zadie Smith. First novel and debut poetry collection.

TALITHA STEVENSON, Exposure

Born 1977. After Oxford, lived impoverished artist's life in Florence studying art history. First novel was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award. Second novel.

EMILY MAGUIRE, Taming the Beast

A novelist, essayist, commentator and English teacher in Sydney, Australia. First novel.

SUSAN BARKER, Sayonara Bar

Born 1978 to a Chinese-Malay mother and an English father and grew up in east London. Took creative writing MA at Manchester University. First novel.

IAN HOLDING, Unfeeling

Born 1978 in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he is a schoolteacher. First novel based on the experiences of a pupil in his school.

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