The long lists have been announced for the 2010 Wales Book of the Year awards. These will be boiled down to short lists of three at the Hay Festival before the two winners (English-language and Welsh-language) are announced in Cardiff in the summer.
Glancing through the English-language long list, it is unclear what the qualifications for entry are. The subject matter doesn’t have to be specifically or even vaguely Welsh, the setting doesn’t have to be in Wales, neither the writer nor the publisher need be Welsh and whether or not the work sells a single copy in Wales is irrelevant. It seems the only criteria for entry is that the author has an address in Wales – plus the desire to get hold of the £10,000 prize. No wonder it is usually snaffled by posh English literati with second-home retreats in the Welsh countryside. As with various sporting events, the tourist-dependent economy and other cultural competitions like Artes Mundi and Singer of the World, the Wales Book of the Year prize relegates Wales to the position of a mere venue rather than a place of interest in its own right.
When my effort sees the light of day it will be eligible for entry in the 2011 competition. But I won’t waste time working on a valedictory acceptance speech: it doesn’t stand a chance – it’s about Wales.