Friday, 16 February 2018

Tales From Wales - The Revolution Is Spreading!

One of the stated aims of Tales From Wales is to reach out to writers with Welsh roots across the world. Meet Elizabeth Jane Corbett who discovered quite by chance she wasn't as Australian as she thought she was.

I'll let Elizabeth tell her own story.


Finding my Way Home 

It started with a mid-life crisis. On approaching a significant birthday (let’s not be specific), I realised I’d always wanted to write a novel. I’d never written a novel before, mind. But I loved history, and moving to Australia had been the defining event of my childhood. So why not make it an Aussie immigration novel? Dad was born in England, but Mum was Welsh. Almost as an afterthought, I threw a Welsh couple into my fictional group of migrants. Looking back, I am struck by how casually the decision was made.


            It has changed my life in so many ways.
I knew nothing about Wales at that stage, beyond a history of coal mining (mum was from Aberafan in South Wales) and that Wales played rugby. I also knew Welsh people spoke a different language. I wanted my Welsh couple to be an agent of change in the life of, Bridie, my fifteen-year-old main character. But rugby wasn’t invented in 1841 and, even if I could have invented a scenario in which a whole male voice choir emigrated en mass, I didn’t think she would find it particularly inspiring.

Some quick research told me Wales also had a strong bardic tradition. I read the Mabinogion and a host of other Welsh fairy tales. Wow, like wow! These were my stories, part of my heritage, and I hadn’t even known they existed – not the story of the red and white prophetic dragons, nor the legend of Taleisin, nor the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach, or any of the other tales in the Mabinogion. To me this is akin an aboriginal Australian not knowing about the Dreamtime. A travesty. I think that’s why the mythology resonated so strongly. Why, Rhys, my Welsh viewpoint character became a storyteller.

Around this time, I also realized there were Welsh classes, in Melbourne. Welsh classes, in Melbourne. Hmm… maybe some basic knowledge of the language would be useful?

I enrolled for what I thought would be a term. I had four children living at home in those days. I must admit being able to say, I’m off to my Welsh class, and walk out the door became part of the appeal. But I also found the language strangely enticing. It had amazingly, onomatopoeic words like GwdihĊµ which meant owl and sounded like twit-twoo, and pilipala which meant butterfly and sounded like wings fluttering and corgi which literally meant dwarf dog and drewgi (skunk) which meant stink dog and and buwch goch gota’r haf which meant short red cow of the summer. One term of classes turned into two, then three. Before I knew it, Welsh class had become part of my life.

            I didn’t expect to ever speak the language. I’d done Japanese at school and never progressed beyond the basics. But writing a novel with Welsh characters and learning the language were waking a hidden part of me, a part that I hadn’t not known existed.
          
  I finished a first draft and got shortlisted for a manuscript development award. I also won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Then disaster struck. Our youngest daughter began to work her way through a list of every parent’s worst fears. The running away, the self-harm, the dropping out of school and shoplifting had a terrible effect on my mental health. I couldn’t write. I could barely function. My husband insisted I take a break. We had loads of frequent flyers points.

            Why not travel to the land of words and stories?
            In preparation, a friend recommended I try Say Something in Welsh. I felt so fragile. The idea of doing strange online language course terrified me. But I summoned the courage to try one lesson. Aran, the man on the podcast, was so kind and encouraging. He told me I was doing a great job, I would succeed. It was like rain on parched earth.

            Five years of language learning fell into place.

            I did Cwrs Haf in Aberystwyth, the following year. Whilst there, I met Veronica Calarco, an Aussie artist living in Wales. When Veronica set up Stiwdio Maelor, a residency studio for artists and writers, I became her first long-term volunteer.

            I improved my Welsh, during my seven months I spent living in Wales and finished my novel, The Tides Between - an historical coming of age novel about fairy tales and facing the truth – which has recently been published by Odyssey Books. It is an Aussie immigration novel, filled with Welsh fairy tales, that is set in the steerage compartment of an emigrant vessel, and somehow, through the process of its creation, I had found my way home.

(The Tides Between is available online through The Book Depository, Amazon, Hive.co.uk, or you can simply order it through your local bookshop. The details are on my website at: elizabethjanecorbett.com/novels)

Elizabeth Jane Corbett is one of our featured authors and you can read an extract from the enchanting 'The Tides Between' in the Spring issue of Tales From Wales - out March 1st.
Please sign up to our newsletter (SIDEBAR TOP RIGHT) at www.talesfromwales.net to make sure your free digital copy of Tales From Wales is delivered on time.

Staying firmly on the subject of 'revolution (writing that is) and the world' one Welshman has done more, unaided,  than most to engage Wales globally. Over to you Dave Lewis.



Calling All Poets!

This year sees the International Welsh Poetry Competition reach out to poets for the 12th time. Founded in 2007 by Welsh writer and poet Dave Lewis the contest is now the biggest, and some might say the best, in Wales.

The aim of the competition remains the same - to encourage and foster the wealth of creative writing talent that we know exists in Wales but currently languishes in the doldrums.

“We aim to inspire people to capture life in the present day and to give a voice to a new generation of poets and writers. We are not interested in purely academic types of literature but would much rather see pure raw passion burst onto the creative writing scene in Wales.” said Dave Lewis.

“It was obvious, after our first few years, that our competition was here to stay, and with entries from as far a field as Abu Dhabi, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Corfu, Denmark, England, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Swaziland, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, USA and Vietnam as well as Wales of course, the Welsh Poetry Competition is a truly international competition, accessible to all (through the English language).

“It should also be noted that the competition is totally independent and financed purely by the organisers and entrants. We receive no grants, bursaries or funding from any external agencies whatsoever. In fact during our first 12 years we’ve had no support at all from Literature Wales even though it is their job to promote Welsh literature! Maybe they feel encouraging writers and poets gets in the way of whatever else it is they do? After all 75% of their funds are spent on staff salaries according to a recent Welsh Assembly report.

“We just carry on though, regardless of any help or hindrance from the establishment. The wider world has embraced us and that’s all that matters. We do the same thing each year – we offer a chance for budding writers to compete on an equal footing with more experienced and established poets. Our competition is honest and fair, we don’t use filter judges and is judged anonymously by excellent Welsh writers.

We have also published two fantastic anthologies of our first ten years of winners’ poems.
If you’d like more information just visit our website.

Links:
www.welshpoetry.co.uk 


SUBSCRIBE NOW and receive a FREE DIGITAL copy of the SPRING EDITION of TALES FROM WALES on MARCH 1st 

"VIVA LA REVOLUTION!"


1 comment:

  1. Lovely piece by Elizabeth Corbett, so evocative of my own experience and so similar as I, too, am an emigrant writer, living in Melbourne and who has spent the past 10 years discovering and exploring his Welsh roots - and writing a book about them, with a sequel in progress. "Home" - which is always a bewildering concept to migrants - is now Pembroke, where great-grandfather was born. And I return there whenever I can but which is never enough.

    ReplyDelete

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