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Category: Book News


lolian.jpgY Lolfa publishers will begin their 50th anniversary celebrations earlier than expected as they launch the private diaries of Y Lolfa founder and co-founder of Lol magazine, Robat Gruffudd, on Friday.

Lolian is a collection of ‘eccentric and too honest’ personal diaries that Robat Gruffudd kept since the sixties. Written over the last fifty years, the diaries are published for the first time ever this year.

The diaries are published before the 50th anniversary of Y Lolfa which will be celebrated next year. The book delves into the publishing world but Robat emphasises that this is not an autobiography nor the history of Y Lolfa per se.

‘We will be celebrating Y Lolfa’s birthday soon. Watch this space for news of a big party and a range of other events!’ says Robat.

The book is launched officially on Friday the 25th of November at 8pm at the Llew Du (Black Lion) in Talybont. The academic Simon Brooks will be in conversation with the author followed by live music from Tecwyn Ifan.

The diaries include response to events and an ‘unofficial’ yet original portrait of life in Wales over the last fifty years.

The book contains a mixture of humours ancedotes, provoking comments and memories about the twists and turns working in the pubilshing industry and meetings with authors and beyond in Wales and in bars on the continent. As a language campaigner since his early years, Robat goes into detail about his work with Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Cymuned, Dyfodol i'r Iaith – and a campaign where he refused to speak English. Also discussed are the Trefechan bridge protest and the campaign to establish a daily Welsh newspaper, Y Byd.

Other stories include the arrest of him and his wife Enid under false suspicion that they had played a part in the burning of holiday homes in the 80s.

His Jewish and German background is also illustrated – as well as the prosecution suffered by his family in Germany, which was the basis of the successful book written by his brother Heini, A Haven from Hitler, which won Book of the Year (as Yr Erlid). It includes an entry where Robat visits Ravensbrück concentration camp where his grandmother was murdered by the Nazis during the second world war.

‘There are funny stories about plenty of people here and that’s what I’m afraid of! What will they say when they see their names in print? But the diary form asks for complete honesty,’ says Robat, ‘If you’re not honest then what’s the point? Although I may leave the country for a month or two after publication!’

Lolian by Robat Gruffudd (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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alunthebear.jpgA true story that survived through the oral tradition is the subject of a new novel published by Y Lolfa publishers this week.

Pantywennol by Ruth Richards tells the story of Elin Ifans – a lively young woman in her teens who is hindered by the rural life of Pen Llŷn during the nineteenth century. Because of her obsession with the supernatural Elin is given the name ‘Bwgan Pantywennol’ (the Pantywennol Ghost) by the locals, which raises tensions and conflicts within the community between religion and supersition.

The novel is based on a true story which was kept alive by word of mouth.

‘I suppose what inspired me what the combination of studying nineteenth century literature for my MA and memories of old stories from Pen Llŷn I heard from my two Nain (Grandmothers)’ said Ruth Richards, ‘I got hold of a book by Moses Glyn Jones and Norman Roberts about the history of the ‘bwgan’ (ghost) and was somewhat surprised that no one had turned the story into a novel. What was so exciting was that there was plenty of history that had survived to form a basis which allowed me to construct a narrative around it myself.’

The novel revolves around the frustrations of a teenager who realises that the contraints of her Victorian life will allow little opportunity or adventure for her.

‘The fact that Elin was so young when the trouble happened was very appealing to me,’ explains Ruth, ‘I tried to recognise a certain ‘punk’ spirit that belonged to her. The kind of energy and raw defiance that makes the process of shaming her so much more unjust, and her fate even sadder still’.

The novel recieved high acclaim during the Medal Ryddiaith (Prose Medal) competition during the National Eisteddfod in y Fenni this year and came close to winning the top prize.

Fe gafodd y nofel ganmoliaeth uchel yng nghystadleuaeth y Fedal Ryddiaith yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol y Fenni 2016 gan ddod yn agos at gipio’r brif wobr.

Judging the competition, Dafydd Morgan Lewis said,

‘From the outset I doted on this novel. I fell in love with her really’ says Dafydd, ‘This isn’t just a compelling story but very powerful writing as well’

Jane Aaron added that the novel echoed some American Gothic literature, such as Arthur Miller’s famous play, The Crucible.

Pantywennol is Ruth Richards’s first novel.

Ruth grew up in Cemaes, Anglesey, but now lives in Beaumaris. She was a student on the MA Creative Writing course at Bangor University and works for the lobbying organisation, Dyfodol i’r Iaith.

The novel will be launched at Oriel Plas Glyn Widow in Pwllheli at 2pm on Saturday 26th November. There will be readings from the novel and performances of ‘Baled y Bwgan’ (‘Ballad of the Ghost’) which is an old ballad about the story. Professors Angharad Price and Gerwyn Wiliams will also be in conversation with Ruth Richards.

Pantywennol by Ruth Richards (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

Please note: this book is in Welsh

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alunthebear.jpgAt 10.30am on Friday 11th of November, at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff, Lucy Owen will be launching her first book for children – Boo-a-bog in the Park.

A familiar face on BBC Wales, Lucy is also an Ambassador for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity and all royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the charity.

Children from the hospital will be invited to celebrate the launch of the new book and enjoy a storytelling session with Lucy and husband Rhodri Owen, whose Welsh adaptation of the book, Bw-a-bog yn y Parc, will also be launched on the same day.

Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity Director Suzanne Mainwaring says,

“Lucy is such an incredible advocate of the Noah’s Ark Charity and we’re hugely thankful to her for choosing us as the beneficiary of her first book. Reading and telling stories is a central part of every childhood and as a charity that has children at the heart of everything it does, this seems like the perfect fit.

“We hope that families for generations to come will enjoy hearing the story of Tom and his monster, just as many will benefit from the proceeds it helps to raise.”

Boo-a-bog in the Park is a wonderful, reassuring, rhyming story about a little boy called Tom who finds it difficult to make new friends.

When asked what inspired her to write the book, Lucy explains that,

‘This story is about a little boy getting through a difficult time. But with the help of his imaginary monster friend Boo-a-bog, Tom finds his strength. For me, the theme of the story felt like a lovely fit with the Noah’s Ark Charity. It would be wonderful if the book helps raise money for this very special facility we have for children in Wales.”

The heart-warming story is beautifully complemented by Andy Catling’s illustrations and has already gained praise from some well-known personalities including Wales Football Team Manager Chris Coleman who said,

“A delightful, rhyming story with excellent imagery which I’m really looking forward to reading with my children.’

Hollywood actor Matthew Rhys also enjoyed the story and the positive message it conveys,

“This is a beautiful song of hope for the Tom in all of us… If only there WERE Boo-a-Bogs in adult life too. Lucy's obvious flair and talent for rhyme lets this poem of hope fly.”

Boo-a-bog in the Park is available from all good bookshops and online retailers.

For more information, please visit www.gomer.co.uk


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alunthebear.jpgAbout the author:


  • Lucy Owen lives in Cardiff with her husband Rhodri Owen and their son, Gabriel
  • Lucy is a familiar face on BBC Wales as she presents the BBC Wales evening news and consumer show, X-Ray
  • Before moving to BBC Wales, Lucy co-presented Wales Tonight on ITV Wales
  • Known for her charity work she supports many charities and is an Ambassador for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity

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The New Welsh Writing Awards 2017, run by New Welsh Review in association with Aberystwyth University and AmeriCymru, opens for entries on 26 September with two new categories, the Aberystwyth University Prize for Memoir and AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella.

Now in its third year, the Awards were set up to champion the best short-form writing in English and has previously run non-fiction categories with the WWF Cymru Prize for Writing on Nature, won by Eluned Gramich in 2015 and the University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing, won by Mandy Sutter in June 2016.

This year sees the Awards open up to fiction and memoir, welcoming sponsorship from Aberystwyth University, the core sponsor and host of New Welsh Review, and US online magazine and social network AmeriCymru. The Awards are run in partnership with Curtis Brown, Gladstone’s Library and Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre.

New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies will judge both categories with Welsh-American writer David Lloyd co-judging the Novella category. David is the author of nine books including poetry collections and novels, and directs the Creative Writing Program at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY.

Each category winner will receive £1,000 cash, e-publication by New Welsh Review on their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint and a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at Curtis Brown. Second prize for each category is a weeklong residential course at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, north Wales and third prize is a weekend stay at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, north Wales. All six winners will also receive a one-year subscription to New Welsh Review. In addition New Welsh Review will consider the highly commended and shortlisted nominees for publication in a forthcoming edition of its creative magazine New Welsh Reader with an associated standard fee.

The Awards are open to all writers based in the UK and Ireland plus those who have been educated in Wales. The AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella is also open to writers based in the US and Canada. Entries close at midnight on 1 March 2017. Full details, including terms and conditions, can be found online at www.newwelshwritingawards.com.

The longlist will be announced online on 3 April 2017, with the shortlist announced at an event at Aberystwyth University on 4 May 2017 and the winner at an event at Hay Festival on 1 June 2017.

Gwen Davies, editor of New Welsh Review says: 'We are seeking evocative, succinct and authentic short book-length manuscripts in English. For the novella category they will be between 8,000 and 30,000 words. For the memoir, between 5,000 and 30,000. If your top drawer hides a novella with the punch of Animal Farm or the poignancy and dialect of Mihangel Morgan's Pan Oeddwn yn Fachgen; or the bite, and visceral local feel of memoirs such as Mary Karr's The Liars' Club or the sheer cheek of Charles Nicholl's The Fruit Palace, we want to hear from you.'

Co-judge David Lloyd says ‘I am delighted to serve as co-judge for the AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella. Ever since writing a novella for my first book of fiction, I have loved the form, which combines the intensity of the short story with the expansiveness of the novel. It can be devoured in one sitting or put down and picked up for leisurely reading. Anyone who has read James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Café, or Kate Chopin’s The Awakening will know the pleasures of this genre in the hands of masters. I also very much value the international scope of this contest, which I hope will draw out authors from diverse backgrounds who write – or who are now inspired to try – the novella.’

Louise Marshall, Head of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with New Welsh Review to find the best writing talent in Wales and beyond. Memoirs are a fascinating and often surprising literary form and, just as these Awards have already celebrated Mandy Sutter’s and Eluned Gramich’s beautifully crafted and enthralling works, we are very much looking forward to discovering equally talented writers in the future.’

Ceri Shaw, co-founder of AmeriCymru, added, ‘AmerCymru is honored to be offered this opportunity to partner with the New Welsh Review and Aberystwyth University. We founded AmeriCymru to increase awareness of Wales and Welsh heritage and to bring Wales and its arts, including literature, to the attention of more people around the world. This competition provides voice and opportunity to new and upcoming writers, and we are excited to be able to contribute to this effort.’


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(from left to right, Gwenllian Jones (Office Manager), Carolyn Hodges (English language editor), a Robat Trefor (Welsh language copy editor)


Lolfa publishers have welcomed three new staff members this month.

Gwenllian Jones has been appointed Office Manager, Carolyn Hodges as English language editor and Robat Trefor as Welsh language copy editor.

Gwenllian Jones, the new Office Manager, is from Aberaeron originally and graduated from Aberystwyth University. She previously worked with Avanti in Cardiff before moving back to Ceredigion.

‘I’m glad to be back in Ceredigion and look forward to working for such a busy and colourful company!’ said Gwenllian.

The new Welsh language copy editor is Robat Trefor from Anglesey who will also be working part time at Ysgol y Gymraeg in Bangor university.

‘Its quite a responsibility but I’m very happy to be joining the team and returning to the world of books!’ said Robat Trefor.  

Carolyn Hodges will be stepping in to the role of English editor – which is a new job at Y Lolfa.

Carolyn comes from Buckingham in England originally and began her editing career at Oxford University press where she worked for 14 years.

‘I learnt Welsh myself by using Say Something in Welsh and had always dreamed of moving to Wales to live and to be able to speak the language everyday,’ said Carolyn, ‘so I feel very lucky to be given this opportunity.’  

Said Y Lolfa’s managing director, Garmon Gruffudd,

‘It is with great pleasure that we welcome Gwenllian, Robat and Carolyn to our team at Y Lolfa. All three are very experienced and will be a great asset to the company as Y Lolfa continue to publish new and exciting publications in Welsh and English.’

Y Lolfa will be celebrating their 50th anniversary next year.  

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Today marks the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth in Cardiff, Wales.

He wrote children's books including 'Matilda' 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' and 'The BFG'

In his autobiography ‘Boy’ Dahl talks about his childhood in Wales.

Wales is celebrating the centenary with a number of events:

http://www.roalddahl100.wales/whats-on/

How Welsh was Roald Dahl? Find out in a BBC interview with Prof Damian Walford Davies author of ‘Roald Dahl: Wales of the Unexpected’ and Lleucu Siencyn CEO of Literature Wales:

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36963989


Above picture:- Photographer Carl Van Vechten
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A pioneering new book aims to present a journey through Welsh history and ‘introduce the people of Wales’ to their own history through the Welsh Christian experience.

Our Holy Ground - The Welsh Christian Experience by John I Morgans and Peter C Noble tells of the Welsh Christian story and, through showing how it is rooted in localities, tells the story of Wales.

‘This is for the people who live in Wales to learn about their own story – a story which continues to be contemporary and relevant.’ John and Peter explained,

‘We want the people who live in Wales to know their own shared story.’ they added. This is the first book of its kind which attempts to tell the Welsh story from the widest possible perspective, whilst also being a readable retelling of old and recent revisions of Welsh history and integrating both the ‘secular and religious story’.

John Morgans wrote the book and Peter Noble was the photographer. Both were aware that when they were introducing ministers from other countries to come and serve in Wales, the ministers were oblivious to the different national context and there was no straightforward book which they could recommend.

The answer seemed to be ‘put that right yourself’.

‘Our joint experience confirms our awareness that this is a story which is no longer being shared.’ they explained, ‘The majority in the churches have no concept of the wholeness of the story. Welsh denominations, as they weaken, are focusing on their own separate history and stories.’

‘But this historic story belongs to all the people of Wales. Our hope is that this book will alert the church and the wider public that there is one great story which belongs to everyone.’ they said.

‘This book is the appropriate history of a movement.’ added the Rt. Rev. Dom Daniel OCSO, Abbot of Caldey, ‘This publication is not just a history book among many others but a re-telling the story in a way our ancestors would have done from generation to generation.’

The volume includes over a hundred photographs taken by Peter Noble as he travelled throughout Wales over a period of several years.

‘The photographs are an integral element to the book, the unique collection of images illustrating the historic narrative and at the same time the awareness of a contemporary journey.’ said Peter.

Two of these images include Our Lady of Penrhys and The Guardian of the Valleys monuments respectively which feature on the front cover.

‘The images we chose for the cover were deliberate’ they explained, ‘They symbolise a journey of discovery into forgotten Welsh history.’

John I. Morgans was born in Tylorstown, Rhondda and studied history, theology and church history at Swansea, Oxford and Hartford, Connecticut before ordination in 1967. His first pastorate included the United Reformed Church in Llanidloes and the Welsh Independent Church in Glanhafren. His ministry continued with the URC in Manselton, as Moderator for the Wales Synod, and at Llanfair, Penrhys where, with his wife Norah, he helped form the ecumenical church. He retired from pastoral ministry in 2004. Our Holy Ground is his sixth book.

Peter C. Noble was raised in Brynmawr, Gwent. Following service in the RAF he studied for ministry in the United Reformed Church at Manchester. Ordained in 1983 his ministries have been Brecon, Libanus and Cwmcamlais (UWI), Caerffili and Ystrad Mynach, Chaplain to Higher Education in Cardiff, Synod Training Officer, and Moderator for the National Synod of Wales. He is presently Ecumenical Chaplain in Cardiff Bay.

Our Holy Ground – The Welsh Christian Experience by John I Morgans and Peter C Noble (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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The autumn edition of New Welsh Reader includes exclusive extracts from entries to the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing including the winning essay ‘Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me’ by Mandy Sutter, which depicts a Nigerian domestic scene where subtle and interdependent racial and class issues are seething under a tight lid. ‘The Rains of Titikaka’ by John Harrison recounts the rise and fall of the pre-Columbian city of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, ‘Stranger Shores’ by Karen Philips looks at the underground (and underwater) currents of Mayan culture in the Yucatan, Mexico; ‘Seven Days: A Pyrenean Trek’ by Nathan Llywelyn Munday depicts the highs and lows of the grand narrative on trek through the Pyrenees; the etiquette of the Trans-Siberian station pitstop is narrated in ‘Moscow to Beijing on Train Number Four’ by Julie Owen Moylan and ‘No Situation is Permanent’ by Hannah Garrard follows the progress of a pioneering school from its refugee-camp origins in Ghana.

There is also an exclusive extract from Cynan Jones’ new novel Cove (Granta) publishing in November 2016. Out at sea, in a sudden storm, a man is struck by lightning. When he wakes, injured and adrift on a kayak, his memory of who he is and how he came to be there is all but shattered. Now he must pit himself against the pain and rely on his instincts to get back to shore, and to the woman he dimly senses waiting for his return. With its taut narrative and its wincingly visceral portrait of a man locked in an uneven struggle with the forces of nature, this is a powerful new work from one of the most distinctive voices in British fiction.

In addition there is new poetry from Wales Book of the Year 2016 category winner Philip Gross, Argentinian poet Daniel Samoilovich, Chilean poet Malu Urriola, (both translated by Richard Gwyn), Ian McLachlan, Syed Shehzar Mukkarim Doja, Agatha Abu Shehab and CM Buckland.

New Welsh Reader editor Gwen Davies talks through the edition highlights:


New Welsh Reader poetry submissions editor Amy McCauley explains why she chose Philip Gross' poems:


Cynan Jones will be reading from Cove at Chapter’s First Thursday on 3 November at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.

http://www.newwelshreview.com

@newwelshreview

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The celebrations to commemorate 50 years since the establishing of Y Lolfa publishers and press have begun with the publication of a calendar of old posters. 

Calendr Posteri’r Lolfa 2017 (Y Lolfa Poster Calendar 2017) is a collection of commercial and political posters that were printed by Y Lolfa during the 1960s and 1970s. 

It is published to coincide with Y Lolfa’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2017.   

Amongst the posters are old favourites such as ‘Gwnewch Bopeth yn Gymraeg’ (Do Everything in Welsh) – as seen on the front cover, the iconic poster which shows the silhouette of two lovers behind a colourful backdrop. It was designed by Elwyn Ioan in 1972 and has been reprinted many times over the decades. Other classics include the infamous poster of Eirwyn Pontshân – ‘Gwell Llaeth Cymru na Chwrw Lloegr’ (Better Welsh Milk than English Beer). 

Others are more political in their nature such as the popular image of Ifas y Tryc in front of the Union Jack, ‘Britannia Rŵls ddy Wêls’, and drawing by John Jenkins, , ‘Gwyn eu Byd y Rhai Erlidir o Achos Cyfiawnder’ that was drawn when he was in prison. 

Some of the posters also revisit the world of pop including Pinaclau Pop, the disco of Mici Plwm, and the psychdelia of the end of the sixties in the form of Y Blew – the first ever electric rock group in Welsh. Other notable icons include Meic Stecens, Dafydd Iwan, and y Tebot Piws which appear on posters that reflect the exuberance and confidence of the time. 

‘It will appeal to the nostalgia of the older generation but most importantly, I hope, to the younger generation who were not around when the company was established during the excitement of the late 1960s.’ said the founder of Y Lolfa, Robat Gruffudd. 

Y Lolfa was established in 1967 during an exciting period of fun and protest. The company evolved gradually, producing an ever widening range of popular books in both Welsh and English, and next year will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.   

Calendr Posteri'r Lolfa 2017 (£10, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Mandy Sutter

New Welsh Review, in association with the University of South Wales and CADCentre, announced the winner of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing at a ceremony at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff on Thursday 7 July.

The Prize celebrates the best short form travel writing from emerging and established writers based in the UK and Ireland. The judges are New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies and award winning travel writer Rory MacLean.

Mandy Sutter from Ilkley won the top prize for her re-telling of her mother’s story of growing up in mid 1960s white Nigeria through her own eyes, ‘Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me’. She was given a cheque for £1,000 by judge Rory MacLean and her winning entry will be published by New Welsh Review on their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint this autumn and will also receive a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at WME.

NWR editor and Prize judge Gwen Davies said ‘Travel writing creates bridges of understanding across physical and imaginative borders, between our own and 'other' cultures as well as between the past and the present. Mandy Sutter's Nigeria rises like a mirage from her story as a child there in the mid 1960s; her use of fiction techniques such as empathy and multiple viewpoints, especially her mother's adult experience as an ex-pat negotiating her own family's conforming views of race and class, create a complete arc of innovative concision.’

Co-judge Rory MacLean said ‘Mandy Sutter's 'Bush Meat' triumphs, in its lean prose and true dialogue, in its disarming humour, in its evocation of a family divided by sexism and racism in 1960s white Nigeria. In her story, Mandy stitches together the threads of memory to create a moving tapestry of lost life, building bridges of understanding across time and place, enhancing literature's ever-changing, ever-supple genre.’

Mandy Sutter grew up in Kent but now lives in Ilkley with her partner and a large black dog called Fable. She has co-written two books about the lives of Somali women, published in 2006 and 2007 and her first novel Stretching It was published in 2013. She has also published three poetry pamphlets with independent presses.

Second prize was awarded to Cardiff University PhD student Nathan Llewelyn Munday for his piece ‘Seven Days, A Pyrenean Trek’ that uses European creation myths to map the highs and lows of the grand narrative. A deceptively simple hike with his father becomes a timeless, scholarly, rich, human, engaging and heartfelt Odyssey. Nathan wins a weeklong residential course of his choice at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, north Wales.

Third prize went to Welsh travel writer John Harrison for his piece ‘The Rains of Titikaka’ that tracks the rise and fall of the pre-Columbian city of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, highest city in the ancient world and the hub of a trading empire stretching from Chile to Peru. John wins a weekend stay at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, north Wales.

All three entries will be published in extract form in the autumn edition of New Welsh Reader (112) on 1 September and all three winners will also receive a one-year subscription to the magazine.

Watch the ‘Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me’ animation video, produced by Emily Roberts in partnership with Aberystwyth University: Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me (this will go live at 7.30pm on 7 July) and Shortlist Showcase with Interviews, Readings and Animation: Shortlist Showcase

New Welsh Review also announced the winner of their Best Travel Book Poll at the event, Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye (Seren), a moving and honest account of the author’s relationship with Israel, which spans travel writing, nature writing and memoir. Voted for by the public, Losing Israel was the overwhelming winner from a shortlist of three titles that comprised Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakin (Penguin) and A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (John Murray). Losing Israel has also been shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year 2016.


Winner of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing from New Welsh Review on Vimeo.

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WELSH PAST, WAR ZONE PRESENT


By Ceri Shaw, 2016-06-14

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dreaming-a-cityTo the sound of distant gunfire, school children in Donetsk are now learning about their city’s Welsh past. Lily Revenko, a teacher in the war torn city, has decided to make the book Dreaming A City the basis of a what she calls “investigative journalism” by her pupils, a means by which they can both improve their English and discover the origins of their city.

Donetsk was originally founded by Welshman John Hughes. Born and brought up in Merthyr, he began work as an apprentice in the Cyfarthfa ironworks, developed his own business in Newport and then London and finally, with the help of hundreds of Welsh workers, established the centre of the coal and steel industry in Ukraine – the city of Hughesovka.

Following the 1917 revolution, it became Stalino and Hughes was written out of its history but, since it changed its name again to Donetsk, the city has been prepared to acknowledge that it was founded by a Welsh capitalist and a statue has been erected to him there.

Lily Revenko became aware of Y Lolfa’s book on her city through an enquiry to the Glamorgan Record Office and its author Colin Thomas eventually managed to get a copy to her across the Ukraine/Russia battle lines in eastern Ukraine.

Of the book, Lily said, ‘One of the strengths of the book is the combination of the past and the present - historical events and the process of making the book, a dialogue with the reader.’

The book comes with a DVD of the BBC’s three part series Hughesovka and the New Russia presented by the late Professor Gwyn Alf Williams.

‘The brave and artistic voice of Gwyn Williams does the same – you feel yourself part of the past and of the present.’ added Lily.

Over 9000 people have died in the Donetsk region since it became a centre of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in 2014. Despite what Lily Revenko calls ‘this horrible war’, she has just set her pupils a series of questions about Dreaming A City.

‘Our readers need this book – it will teach them not only about the past but also will teach them how to live in the present, how to work in a way that will make sparks fly.’ she said.

Dreaming a City by Colin Thomas (£9.95, Y Lolfa) is available now.

Statue of John Hughes in Donetsk

John Hughes statue

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WINE TALES FROM DOLGELLAU TO VERONA



A long-standing business relationship between an Italian winemaker and a Welsh wine importer was sealed with the presentation of a book at the world famous Vinitaly wine fair in Verona this week.

Dylan Rowlands and two members of staff, Emma Williams and Terri Jones, flew over to Italy on Sunday taking a copy of his newly published Rarebit and Rioja – Recipes and Wine Tales from Wales’ to present to Vincenzo Bossotti and his daughter Cristina.

Bossotti’s vineyard features in the Welsh wine importer’s newly published book about wine.

The book’s chapters and recipes are structured around the wine producing countries from which Dylan imports and has tales about his journeys through Europe searching for wine. Vincenzo fittingly features in the first chapter.

The story began with Dylan’s first steps into the wine world as he ventured to Turin in Italy fifteen years ago to discover his first wines to import in the very same wine fair – quite a daunting affair as it is a very large expo with over five thousand producer stands on the site.

It was here where he met Vincenzo before visiting their family run vineyard in Cisterna D’asti, a beautiful little hilltop town in Piedmonte, Northern Italy.

Quality reigns at the Bossotti vineyard and this won Dylan over immediately.

‘The integrity of the winemaker is all important in a long-distance partnership like this and you have to trust the person you’re trading with to be consistent. The Bossotti family have never let me down over the years and I’m proud to sell the wine of a small family producer.’ said Dylan.

‘There is little doubt the passion of the whole family is reflected in their product, from the beautifully designed labels to the wine in the bottle. Long may this Italian - Welsh relationship last!’ he continued.

Wine shop and cafe bar Gwin Dylanwad Wine is based in Porth Marchnad in Dolgellau. Since 2003 Dylanwad have been importing exclusive wines direct from Spain, France, Italy and Austria. These are available to drink or buy in Gwin Dylanwad Wine or to take out and can be delivered throughout Britain.

Rarebit and Rioja: Recipes and wine tales from Wales by Dylan and Llinos Rowlands (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Liliya Revenko (left) and Polina Pavlova (right)Wales and Ukraine met in the most unlikely of circumstances when Liliya Revenko, a teacher from Ukraine, contacted Welsh author Colin Thomas.

‘It began last Autumn. I was asked by school authority to do some research work and all of a sudden, the topic of the history of our city, that has been suffering so much recently came to my mind. But what new things can we write about if there is so much information? We started our pursuit for new facts that were not translated into Russian.’ explained Liliya.

‘We were surfing the Net when we came across the part of Colin Thomas's video about his work to create the film about Hughsovka. We got interested at once!’ she continued.

Having recieved information about Colin himself and after realising it would be impossible to obtain his book on their city given the current situation in Ukraine, Liliya was put into contact with him via Susan Edwards at the Glamorgan Archive. The archives at Glamorgan had an extensive section on Hughesovka/Stalino/Donetsk.

‘Myself, along with my student Polina Pavlolva, contacted Colin and collected the information and Polina assembled the research.’ said Liliya.

‘When we received the letter from Colin, we got excited at once! We are currently reading his book and thinking about the second part of our research work.’

Dreaming a City by Colin Thomas is the history of one Ukraine town, a microcosm of Russia. Hughesovka (later Stalino and Donetsk) was a mining and steel town founded in the 1870s by Welsh entrepreneur John Hughes and seventy Welsh workers.

The book traces the town's shifts from patriarchal beginnings through the Russian revolutions, Bolshevism, Stalinism, Nazi occupation and the collapse of Communism and 1990s' rising Ukraine nationalism, to Ukraine post-independence.

Difficulties with crossing the border and sending parcels and packages to Liliya at her Kharkov address meant that she had to recieve a digital copy of the book.

‘The situation in Donetsk has improved a little but still we have military men in the streets and no peace treaty.’ said Liliya.

‘I read about what has happened to Donetsk with great sadness.’ added Colin Thomas.

‘Colin’s work is very important for our region’ said Liliya ‘If we don’t know our past we will not have a future. In the past information about the origin of Donetsk has been concealed and reduced to maybe 2-3 lines in a school textbook. A lot of common people didn’t think what city they lived in.’

‘Even today we still have a lot of work to tell people the truth about the origin of their city. As a teacher, I am going to prepare some tests based on Colin’s book and will include in my work to popularize our history!’ she continued.

Dreaming a City is a mixture of Russian and Welsh social and political history; travel journalism, as well as a tribute to Welsh historian Gwyn Alf Williams. Probing important themes such as capitalism and communism; internationalism and nationalism, in addition to freedom and exploitation, the author uses the city as a metaphor to explore a retreat from political idealism, and the nature of hope and disillusion.

Dreaming a City by Colin Thomas (£9.95, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Peter Thabit Jones - Welsh poetAmeriCymru spoke to Welsh poet and Seventh Quarry poetry magazine founder and editor Peter Thabit Jones about plans for the forthcoming DT100 ( Dylan Thomas 100th Anniversary ) celebrations in New York and other US cities.

"Dylan Thomas is a cultural icon around the world and a poet who made a major impact on poetry itself. In many ways, poetry was never the same after the publication of the astonishing 18 Poems in 1934 and 25 Poems in 1936. For Wales, it is a great opportunity to celebrate his life and works and to put the spotlight on the main places of his inspiration, Swansea and Laugharne, indeed the whole of Wales."

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AmeriCymru: Hi Peter and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What in your opinion is the significance of this Dylan Thomas centenary year to Wales and the Welsh American community?

Peter: Dylan Thomas is a cultural icon around the world and a poet who made a major impact on poetry itself. In many ways, poetry was never the same after the publication of the astonishing 18 Poems in 1934 and 25 Poems in 1936. For Wales, it is a great opportunity to celebrate his life and works and to put the spotlight on the main places of his inspiration, Swansea and Laugharne, indeed the whole of Wales. It will also be an opportunity to spotlight both literatures, English-language and Welsh-language, the unique culture of Wales and its varied and inspiring landscapes. It will be great if Welsh tourism, as well as literature, also gets a huge boost via DT100.

AmeriCymru: Of course, Dylan Thomas visited the US several times in his later years. How do you think he rated and valued the experience?

Peter: It was Dylan who wanted to go on that final tour, against the wishes of Caitlin and his tour-organiser, John Malcolm Brinnin. I think he was probably shocked and awe-struck by America, in particular New York, on the first visit. He was an ‘impoverished poet’, escaping a country still stuck in the rationing of World War Two, so the sheer size of everything American must have been a real eye-opener. He wrote a letter to his parents describing the size of an average American dinner and he sent sweets and treats back home for Caitlin and the children. He made many close friends there, such as sculptor David Slivka, who was to be the one, with Ibram Lassaw, to make Dylan’s death mask; and he loved to sit and talk to working-class, non-literary men in pubs such as The White Horse Tavern. He was ‘at home’ in such places.

I also think the incredible response to his first visit from audiences, where the likes of poet e. e. cummings were blown away by Dylan’s performances, endorsed a need for more clarity in his writing, which he had already started in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog and in Deaths and Entrances. Under Milk Wood was a step in that direction and had he lived I think he would have written dramas for television and worked on scripts for commercial films. Maybe Lennon and McCartney would have chosen him, rather than fellow Welshman Alun Owen, to write the script for A Hard Day’s Night, as they were fans of Dylan. He met many famous people during his visits, such as Charlie Chaplin, and he was as excited as any fan by such a meeting. His historic Caedmon recordings established what was to become the spoken-word industry. Dylan, in many ways and all alone, did what The Beatles were to do in 1964: take America by storm.

AmeriCymru: We understand that the First Minister of Wales will be visiting New York in February 2014 and that he will be guided on the Dylan Thomas Walking Tour as part of the DT100 launch in America . Care to tell us more about this visit?

Peter: Yes, the visit by the First Minister of Wales will be the launch of DT100 Starless and Bible Black in America, organized by The British Council. My and Aeronwy’s Dylan Thomas Walking Tour of Greenwich Village, commissioned and developed in 2008 by Catrin Brace of the Welsh Assembly Government in New York, will be launched as a tourist pocket-book. It has previously been available as a PDF, an audio version narrated by Welsh actor John Pierce Jones, and a guided tour with New York Fun Tours. Along with the tourist pocket-book, The British Council and Welsh Government have commissioned a company to do an internet/smart phone version. I have been helping the company and it is an exciting development, which hopefully will stimulate an interest in Dylan and his New York visits among young people who engage with this new technology.

The First Minister, other dignitaries, and the media will experience aspects of the Walk, such as The White Horse Tavern, guided by an official New York tourist-guide, Hannah Ellis, Dylan’s granddaughter, and me. My New York publisher, Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications, will be accompanying me. Robert Titley of the Welsh Government in New York has organized it all.

Also, my New York publisher has organized a launch for the book at Poet’s House, New York, on March 5th. Hannah has written the Foreword; and it has such (extra) things as an unpublished photo of Dylan’s death mask, a drawing self-portrait by Dylan, a drawing of Dylan and Caitlin by Caitlin Thomas, and paintings of Dylan by America’s Carolyn Mary Kleefeld and Carey Crockett, and Italy’s Gianpiero Actis. I will give a talk, Dylan Thomas in New York, and Stanley H. Barkan, a terrific reader, will read some poems at the launch.

AmeriCymru: Are there plans to visit other US cities?

Peter: Yes, I am at the NEMLA Conference in Pennysylvania in early April, where I’ll be on a literary translation panel and where I’ll give a talk on Dylan Thomas and organise a poetry workshop. Whilst back in America, the book will be launched at the historic The Grolier Poetry Workshop in Boston on April 9th. I’ll deliver my talk again and Dr. Kristine Doll, my host and a poet, and poet and owner of the Bookshop, Ifeanyi Menkiti, will read some poems. Then in July, when I am writer-in-residence again in California for a fifth summer, it will be launched at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, where I’ll be accompanied by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld and John Dotson.

Its Welsh launch, by the way, will be at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. I have also researched and organized a Dylan Quotations Trail, which will be on display for people to follow at the Museum, from July 2014 to March 2015.

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us a little about the internet app version of the Dylan Thomas Walking Tour Of Greenwich Village, which is being launched to coincide with the centenary?

Peter: It is based on the book version and is being produced by a Welsh company. A Welsh actor is being chosen to narrate the Walk and read some of Dylan’s works. Obviously an app has so much creative and interactive potential and so I can’t wait to see what is produced. Aeronwy and I always felt there should be a tourist book version and she would be so pleased. I’m sure, too, she would be thrilled by an app version. Her daughter, Hannah, is very excited by the book and the app.

AmeriCymru: Where can people go online to discover more detail about the various events and publications?

Peter: Firstly,

http://dylanthomas.org ; secondly, The British Council/Wales website, under Starless and Bible Black; thirdly, the Poets House website; and there will be various other links as things unfold.

AmeriCymru: How will your international poetry publication, The Seventh Quarry, mark the centenary?

Peter: I am including some wonderful drawings of Dylan during periods of his life by Swansea artist Jeffrey Phillips in the Winter/Spring and Summer/Autumn issues. Jeff has put together an exhibition on Dylan that will tour parts of Wales. I have also interviewed Dreena Morgan-Harvey of the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea for the Summer/Autumn issue. Lastly, Quarry Press will publish a chapbook of Dylan-inspired work by a writers’ group based in Swansea. I will give a talk on Dylan and carry out a writing workshop with the group.

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Welsh author Chris Keil will be appearing at Wordstock and at the AmeriCymru/Portland Sate University panel discussion ''Culture Wars: Other Voices in British Literature'' Oct 4th-6th. For full details of all his appeances see the the article and interview below.



Chris KeilAmeriCymru:  Hi Chris and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. You have visited Portland before. Care to tell us more about your experiences on those occasions?

Chris: Portland is a wonderful, vibrant, hospitable city, full of life and colour and brilliant, creative people. I love downtown, and the river, and the size and scale of all that, and the detailed infill of bars and dance-halls between massive locations - iron bridges and docks, and steel and glass sky-scrapers, and then the suburbs, winding up into melancholy foothills, and freight-trains calling in the night; and the numbing vastness of the forest all around. I’m really looking forward to being back!

AmeriCymru:  You are presenting a workshop at Wordstock titled 'Sex and the Serious Novel'. Can you tell us more? When and where will the workshop take place?

Chris: My workshop is on Saturday October 5th, at the Oregon Convention Centre, from 4.30 to 5.45 pm, followed, for me at least, by cocktails. The workshop will look at the role of the erotic in literary fiction: sometimes moving, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes unintentionally hilarious. Sex is a major part of life; why do so many good writers have so much trouble with it? We’ll look at examples from the sublime to the toe-curling, in a format that will be participatory, discursive and interactive. Or, as the Festival programme puts it: Let’s get seriously sexy!

AmeriCymru:  You will also be giving a reading from your novel ''Flirting At The Funeral''. Will there be a Q&A session afterwards? When does this take place?

Chris: I’ll be on-stage with the fantastic Chelsea Cain from 2.00pm to 3.00pm at the Convention Centre. We’ll both be reading from our books, and there’ll be a Q&A session, and lots of black humour and serious fun. If you’ve got a ticket to the Festival, the event itself is free, so there is absolutely no excuse for not being there.

AmeriCymru:  You are appearing at the AmeriCymru/Portland State University panel discussion on the subject:- 'Culture Wars, Should Welsh Writing in English be taught as a separate course or module in U.S. Universities?' What are your initial thoughts on this topic?

Chris: I’m looking forward to this: an interesting question, and excellent fellow-panelists. It seems to me there’s a real issue here: in the wide world, UK literature tends to get called ‘British’ literature, but there’s a tacit or out-loud recognition that writing from Scotland occupies a territory of its own; and of course Ireland has a distinct national cultural voice. This leaves Wales annexed to England, in a long and unhappy marriage that badly needs relationship-counselling.



 

WORDSTOCK

Find AmeriCymru at stall 718 (see floor plan below, click to enlarge ).

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CULTURE WARS - OTHER VOICES IN BRITISH LITERATURE

Presented by AmeriCymru and the Portland Center for Public Humanities

Portland State University, Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 327/8

Fri Oct 4th 6.30-9.00 pm

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Profile

Chris Keil is a novelist and part-time university lecturer. He has worked as a sheep-farmer, a journalist and a tour-guide in a number of European cities. In academic life he has published and lectured widely on traumatic memory and representations of the Holocaust, and currently teaches at the University of Wales. He has held literary residencies, workshops and master-classes in Europe and the United States. He is the author of The French Thing (Carreg Gwalch, 2002), Liminal (Alcemi, 2007) and Flirting at the Funeral (Cillian Press, 2012). Flirting is a story about love, money and lost opportunities, set against a background of global crisis, terrorism and the power of the super-rich. In 2013 Chris has appeared at literary festivals in Galway, at Hay Literature Festival, and in October will be at Wordstock for an author-appearance and a writing master-class.

On October 4th, he will participate in the panel discussion "Culture Wars. Other Voices in British Literature: Should 'Welsh Writing in English' be taught as a separate course or module in U.S. Universities?" at the Portland Center for Public Humanities at Portland State University.

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The Vanity Rooms Peter LutherBUY THE VANITY ROOMS HERE

Penarth author Peter Luther, whose supernatural thrillers have resulted in him being dubbed by critics as the Welsh Dan Brown, is about to launch his fourth novel.

A successful solicitor and an accomplished musician, Peter Luther’s first novel Dark Covenant became a word-of-mouth publishing sensation and has already been reprinted twice by Ceredigion-based publishers Y Lolfa. Following the success of the widely acclaimed Dark Covenant and his follow-up novels, The Mourning Vessels and Precious Cargo, the man critics have dubbed the Welsh Dan Brown will be launching his fourth novel in Cardiff Waterstones on Friday evening.

The Vanity Rooms is located in Cardiff Bay, in a decrepit building that offers free accommodation to wannabe actor Kris Knight. His room contains a chess game which has a life of its own, where the pieces come to resemble real people, and very soon the game becomes a ruthless one of life and death. The Vanity Rooms is the third in a series featuring Tristyn Honeyman, a Welsh minister and spiritual detective on the trail of a secret society.

Peter describes his books as supernatural thrillers with historical backdrops, but which have modern, relevant themes at their heart. “I write in an unfashionable genre – the supernatural thriller without vampires,” explains the author. “All of my stories are set in Wales, as it’s a beautiful, dramatic country with inexhaustible sources of inspiration. The majority of my scenes are, however, set in my home city of Cardiff, because of my familiarity with the area.”

He admits that his fictional work is influenced by his personal experiences. “I’m a great believer in writing what you know about, and this is true even of supernatural thrillers. My stories aren’t set on some alien planet or alternative reality. Cardiff is an important location in my books, and the characters are normal people with normal lives.”

Peter Luther has built a loyal band of followers, as testified by the response to his first three novels on his website, www.peterluther.co.uk. The Vanity Rooms will be launched in Cardiff Waterstones tomorrow night, Friday, 22 February at 6.30pm.

Acclaim for Peter Luther’s novels:

“This captivating story will keep you reading until the last page… Five stars.” Waterstones

“This is classic good versus evil horror stuff, enough to make you flinch at times, while admiring the imagination and accomplishment of a very fine author.” Western Mail

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The psychological heartache after successive failed attempts at IVF treatment has inspired a new novel by Cardiff author, Peter Luther. Describing the IVF lottery of success as “absolutely horrible”, he has used the experience as a basis for the second installment in his Honeyman series of novels.

Precious Cargo promises couples beautiful and gifted children when all other means have failed, but it’s a lifetime deal. The newborn children are ruled by its Trustees’ baptism gifts, handcrafted toys that nurture their talent and aspirations. The toys also understand what’s at stake, for while two Precious Cargo children are born every year, only one survives past age sixteen. Their fate seems linked to a Fabergé egg with an impossible lock, the clue to an old, fanatic crime…

As with all Peter Luther novels, the concept behind the story is bizarrely original: handmade toys communicating with a terrifying code, and a mystery that reaches back to the era of Marie Stopes.

Peter says of his third novel, “This is my most ambitious work to date. I always feel a sense of trepidation when my books are released because the ideas are so left field, so I wonder how they will be received. Fortunately, my readers have shown themselves to be very receptive to something which doesn’t neatly fit into one particular genre. In truth, my novels are human interest stories masquerading as supernatural thrillers, albeit with some entertaining twists.

“As someone who has trod the bitter path of IVF, Precious Cargo is also inspired from experience. The book is dedicated to my wife, the most courageous person I know.”

Peter Luther, a successful solicitor and an accomplished musician, lives in Cardiff and has already published Dark Covenant and The Mourning Vessels, supernatural thrillers which have been widely acclaimed in Wales and beyond. He has been called the ‘Welsh Dan Brown’.

Precious Cargo is published by Y Lolfa and was launched at Waterstone’s, Cardiff on 16 April 2010.

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Dark Covenant Reprinted for Third Time


By Ceri Shaw, 2009-09-01



Peter Luther’s debut novel, Dark Covenant, is having its third reprint this month. The novel was published in February 2007 and features a magazine with a mysterious crossword, which is completed as the story progresses and spells out a satanic code.

Peter, a Cardiff solicitor, was delighted at the news, saying, “It’s wonderful to have received such a positive response in a genre that’s so difficult to penetrate for a new author. I believe Dark Covenant has appealed to a wide range of readers, notwithstanding its ‘supernatural’ tag. This is perhaps because it explores the oldest of stories, that of gaining the world to lose your soul.”

Peter writes completely original supernatural thrillers, which address real life themes. His second novel, The Mourning Vessels, was published in October 2008 to critical acclaim and is the first in a series featuring Tristyn Honeyman, a Welsh minister on the trail of a nefarious secret society. The next instalment in the series, Precious Cargo, will be published by Y Lolfa in February 2010.

Peter Luther's Website

Y Lolfa's Website

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"My First Colouring Book" - Lloyd Jones


By Ceri Shaw, 2008-10-28

Prize-winning Welsh author Lloyd Jones celebrates the launch of his first collection of short stories next week. The work entitled "My First Colouring Book" will be available from Nov 5th. Lloyd Jones is the award winning author of "Mr Vogel" and "Mr Cassini", two of the most refreshing and challenging novels to come out of Wales in recent decades. His new book will be reviewed on this site in due course, meanwhile you can pre-order a copy from Amazon.com here:- My First Colouring Book


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