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Swansea University’s Creative Writing Programme appoints two more of Wales’s leading writers

 This week, Swansea University’s Creative Writing programme has appointed two of Wales’s leading writers, Jon Gower and Jasmine Donahaye, making Swansea (unarguably) the country’s top university for creative writing, and among the best in Britain for a subject that is regarded as a major growth area in the humanities.

 The course, established in 2003, has enjoyed rapid success and is taught by prize-winning writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. The programme has also quickly established an international reputation, regularly attracting postgraduate students from countries such as America, Canada, Australia, India, Nepal, Tanzania and Norway, as well as from the United Kingdom. The addition of writers such as Jon Gower and Jasmine Donahaye to the team is a major coup for the university, and will considerably enlarge its profile.

 Llanelli-born Jon Gower, whose many prizes and awards includes the Short-Story Prize in the 2010 National Eisteddfod, is a bilingual writer with formidable achievements in all the main literary genres. Currently a freelance writer and producer, Jon Gower has worked for the RSPB and for the BBC and HTV, becoming well-known among viewers and listeners as a producer and presenter, particularly in the fields of arts, nature and the media. His prolific output of about a dozen books includes short stories, novels and works of local history, psychogeography and travel writing. His major current research project is a ‘deep mapping’ of Y Wladfa, the Welsh colony in Patagonia.

 Jasmine Donahaye, recently appointed editor of the distinguished journal Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, is a widely published author of poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction and criticism. Her ground-breaking research on Wales–Israel associations and certain Jewish writers of Wales led to a PhD at Swansea, after which she worked for Parthian Books (as an editor), for the Welsh Books Council and for Aberystwyth University as a creative writing teacher. She has lectured and performed her poetry in numerous venues in Wales, England and the United States.

 They join a team whose members include the Booker and Orange long-listed novelist, short-story writer and critic Stevie Davies, whose many prizes include the Wales Book of the Year prize (2002). She is co-director of the creative writing programme with the poet and writer Nigel Jenkins, winner of the Wales Book of the Year Prize in 1996 and co-editor of the internationally acclaimed Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales (2008).

 The bilingual Fflur Dafydd, who teaches prose fiction, won the Medal for Prose at the National Eisteddfod in Swansea in 2006, the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize at the Meirion and District National Eisteddfod in 2009, and the Guardian Hay Festival’s Oxfam Prize for her novel Twenty Thousand Saints (Alcemi, 2009); a pop star on Welsh radio and television, she was named female songwriter of the year at the BBC Radio Cymru Awards 2010.

 Prose fiction is also taught by Alan Bilton, author of a novel and several works of literary criticism, chiefly concerning American literature. Drama – for both stage and radio – is taught by the internationally renowned dramatist and dramaturg D.J. Britton, an Australian living in Cardiff, who used to be head of radio drama at the Australian Broadcasting Company. Nigel Jenkins shares the teaching of poetry with the poet and critic John Goodby, currently on sabbatical, who was winner of the £5000 Cardiff International Poetry Prize in 2006. Screenwriting is taught by Geraint Evans, scholar and critic, with many years’ experience in media work in Australia and Britain.

 ‘Most writers tend to be specialists in just one or two fields,’ said Nigel Jenkins, co-director of the creative writing programme. ‘But Jon is that rarest of literary creatures, an absolute all-rounder. I can’t think of a single genre in which he has not excelled.

 ‘We are so fortunate to have attracted these two superb writers, who also happen to be brilliant teachers. They will be an inspiration to our students in whatever genres and subjects they are tackling. They will also bring enviable riches to the REF table. ‘Impact’ is the buzz-word when it comes to assessing university research and its effects in the wider world. Well, these two writers have impact by the barrow-load.’

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