Wales’ International Dylan Thomas Prize Expands Jury for Its 15th Year

In News by Porter Anderson

The £30,000 award for writers 39 and younger is scheduled to produce a longlist by January 24.

The Dylan Thomas sculpture at the theater named for the poet in Swansea. Image – iStockphoto: Tirc

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Five Guest Jurors This Year
As the opening of the new awards season moves forward, announcements of juries, longlists, and shortlists arrive daily from various world markets.

Wales’ International Dylan Thomas Prize, presented by Swansea University, will reach its 15th year in the new cycle, and has announced that the program’s chair, Dai Smith and the University of Texas’ Kurt Heinzelman will this year be joined by five guest jurors.

This is in contrast to a previous pattern in recent years of considerably smaller juries. Last year’s panel had only two guests join Heinzelman and Smith, and three guests has been the norm in recent cycles. The 2014 panel was bigger than this year’s, however, with Hay’s Peter Florence and the prize-founding Peter Stead representing the program and five guests in addition to Heinzelman.

Dates in the program are:

  • Longlist announcement: January 24
  • Shortlist announcement: April 7
  • Winner announcement: May 14

In addition, there’s an event planned for London on May 13.

The prize honors writers under 39 years of age—the age at which the program’s eponymous poet died—and awards a £30,000 purse to its winner (US$39,135). As such, the program classifies itself as “the world’s biggest prize for young writers.” Such assertions, while difficult to verify, are not unusual in the British market because each prize program must work to stand out from the crowd. The UK seems to produce more book and publishing award programs than any other single national market–perhaps another assertion worth publicizing.

Devised with unusual range in its potential selection of material, the Dylan Thomas prize can go to poetry, novels, short stories, or drama.

Last year’s winner of the prize was the British-Sri Lankan writer Guy Gunaratne for his debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City (Headline’s Tinder Press, 2018). In addition to Gunaratne’s book, the Dylan Thomas shortlist included:

  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US; Riverrun, UK)
  • Zoe Gilbert, Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Louisa Hall, Trinity (Ecco)
  • Sarah Perry, Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, House of Stone (Atlantic Books)

In opening the new year’s competition, the university’s John Spurr is quoted, saying, “This is a very special year for the prize, as Swansea University celebrates its centenary and the prize is in its 15th year. We look forward once again to a stimulating longlist and shortlist representing the best in young writing around the world.”

Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 Guest Jurors

Guest jurors in the 2020 Dylan Thomas Prize are, from left, Lucy Caldwell, Namita Gokhale, Max Liu, Ian McMillan, and Bridget Minamore

  • Lucy Caldwell was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in its first year, 2006, for Where They Were Missed, and won the award in 2011 for her second novel, The Meeting Point.  She has since written a third novel, several stage plays, and radio dramas and, most recently, two collections of short stories, Multitudes (2016) and Intimacies, scheduled to be published by Faber & Faber in June. She edits the anthology Being Various: New Irish Short Stories (2019).
  • Namita Gokhale is has written 18 books, the latest, Jaipur Journals, to be released this year. Gokhale is a founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival and of Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literature Festival. She’s a founding director of Yatra Books, a publishing house that specializes in translation.
  • Bridget Minamore is a British-Ghanaian journalist who contributes to The Guardian. She was chosen as one of Speaking Volumes’ 40 Stars of Black British Literature and is a lead tutor for the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. Her book poetry Titanic (Out-Spoken Press) was published in May 2016.
  • Ian McMillan is a writer and broadcaster. He hosts The Verb on BBC Radio 3. He’s writing a libretto, The Tin Soldier, with Jonathan Dove for Leeds Festival Chorus.
  • Max Liu has written about arts, culture, and society for The Financial Times and The Guardian. In 2019, he interviewed Elif Shafak, Isabel Allende, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others, and wrote on the subject of men’s responses to the #MeToo movement and the gendered nature of housework. His essay about losing friends in his 30s went viral and sparked debates about the nature of male friendship.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is here. And more on literary awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.