The 2013 Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers, which is sponsored by Swansea University, has been won by Claire Vaye Watkins, with Battleborn, a collection of short stories set in her native Nevada.
Now in its seventh year, the international prize celebrates the legacy of Swansea poet and writer Dylan Thomas.
It celebrates the legacy of Swansea poet and writer Dylan Thomas, who wrote most of his work in his twenties.
Battleborn interrogates the myth of the American West. The subjects of her tales include a man who finds a cache of letters, pills and a photograph abandoned by the side of the road, and writes to the man he imagines left them behind, only to reveal moving truths about himself.
Chair of the judging panel, Peter Florence, said:
“Claire Vaye Watkins has some of Dylan Thomas’s extraordinary skill in the short story form of giving you a perfect vision of a complete world and that’s extraordinarily rare.”
Cerys Matthews, singer and musician and another of the judges, added:
“Battleborn just bubbles. She is such a natural writer. The whole book is so infectious, it leaves you looking forward to what is coming next from this exceptional young author.”
Claire Vaye Watkins said:
"It has been such an honour and a treat and a barrel of laughs to spend time with all the shortlisted authors.
Battleborn was written for the Dylans of the world, the people from the so-called backwaters. It was not written for New York or London. It was written for people like you and like Dylan".
Claire will receive a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze cast of Dylan Thomas.
Professor John Spurr, Head of the College of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University, which sponsors the prize, said:
"Swansea University is delighted to sponsor the Dylan Thomas Prize. Our partnership with the Prize is based on common goals: we aim to identify and nurture talent, to celebrate creativity, and to achieve international excellence.
We want to take the best of Swansea to the world and bring artists, scholars and students from around the globe to South Wales.
As an ambitious, research intensive university, Swansea thrives on the creativity of students and staff. We applaud all of the shortlisted writers and will watch their future careers with pride."
Claire Vaye Watkins was born in Bishop, California in 1984. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada Reno.
Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011, New Stories from the Southwest 2013, the New York Times and elsewhere.
The 2013 judging panel consisted of: founder of the Hay Festival, Peter Florence; novelist and Telegraph columnist, Allison Pearson; author, singer and BBC 6 music presenter, Cerys Matthews; journalist and author, Carolyn Hitt; commentator and artist, Kim Howells; Guardian Review journalist, Nicholas Wroe; poet and English professor at the University of Texas, Kurt Heinzelman, and Chairman of the Dylan Thomas Prize, Peter Stead.
The shortlist, (pictured left) which was entirely made up of debut works, was:
• Tim Leach, The Last King of Lydia
• Marli Roode, Call It Dog
• Majok Tulba, Beneath the Darkening Sky
• Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn
• Prajwal Parajuly, The Gurkha's Daughter
• James Brookes, Sins of the Leopard
• Jemma King, The Shape of a Forest
Chair of the Dylan Thomas Prize, Peter Stead, said:
"The books on this year's shortlist indicate the truly international scope of the Dylan Thomas Prize.
There are two young poets, one English, one Welsh and five prose writers from around the world whose stories take us to Nepal, war-torn Sudan, South Africa, Nevada and the Near East of Classical times”.
2014 is the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas. In addition to sponsoring the Dylan Thomas Prize, other highlights of Swansea University’s activity to mark the centenary include:
- Dylan Unchained – an international academic conference on Dylan Thomas at Swansea University in September 2014
- New edition of Dylan Thomas’s poetry - publication of a new and authorised complete edition, edited by Professor John Goodby, an international authority on the poet.
- New study of Thomas’s work – Professor John Goodby has just launched a major study of Dylan Thomas, re-evaluating his work for the 21st century.
- Taking literature to the wider world - our poets, novelists, dramatists and critics will take their work to the wider world through literary festivals, including Hay, during 2014
- Dylan Thomas in Chinese – the University and the City and County of Swansea are funding a visit by Chinese poet Wu Fu-Sheng, Professor at the University of Salt Lake City, who will be working on the first substantial translation of Thomas’s poetry into Mandarin Chinese. It has been agreed that the selected poems will be published by a State publishing house.