Although the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize attracted more entries than ever before, this year’s prize was withheld by adjudicators, Bethan Gwanas, Caryl Lewis and the late Tony Bianchi, who died a few weeks ago.
The task for the 13 writers who entered the competition was to create an unpublished novel with a strong storyline of no less than 50,000 words. The prize available was the Daniel Owen Memorial Medal and £5,000, donated by Ann Clwyd in memory of her husband Owen Roberts, Newborough.
Before delivering the adjudication on behalf of her fellow judges, Bethan Gwanas paid tribute to Tony Bianchi, saying, “There were three of us supposed to be on the stage this afternoon, and it’s a source of great sadness that we have lost Tony Bianchi in the short period since we were reading and adjudicating this competition. Working with him was, as usual, a wonderful experience; both of us did – and still do – consider it an honour. He was a former winner of this competition and the Prose Medal.
“Our work was done before we knew he was unwell, but he had told us that he would not be able to join us today. Yes, we are missing you up here on stage today, Tony, but the whole of the literary world are also missing you, and we send our profound sympathies to the family.
Turning to the competition and speaking on behalf of her fellow judges, she said, “We’ve seen some excellent novels published following this competition over the years, so the three of us were looking forward to reading the 13 novels which arrived this year. Yes, 13 novels, with some of them weighing a ton! So, thanks to everyone for competing.
“I was looking for novels that could make me forget that I was in fact adjudicating them – novels which would grasp me and take me into the magical imagination of the writers.
“Unfortunately, there was very little magical imagination this year. There were interesting ideas and some excellent characters, but too many of the novels were still in draft stages, and although writing at least 50,000 words is hard work, the real work is the self-editing and the polishing at the end of the process.
“So although we recognise the perseverance needed to create these works, we appeal to the competitors and anyone considering writing a novel to realise that it’s very rare that the first draft will be good enough.
“I started on a sad not this afternoon, and I’m also going to have to finish on a sad note, as with a heavy heart, I must announce that the three of us were unanimous, that to protect the standard and reputation of the competition, we cannot award this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Prize.”
The Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau includes the full adjudication for this competition and the winners of all the other composition winners at this year’s Eisteddfod. The volume is published at the end of the Chairing Ceremony on Friday afternoon.
The Anglesey National Eisteddfod is held in Bodedern until 12 August. For more information go to www.eisteddfod.wales.