Support our Nation today - please donate here

On Being a Writer in Wales: Georgia Carys Williams

23 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Georgia Carys Williams

Georgia Carys Williams

I’ve lived in South Wales since I was born. I went to school in Swansea, before attending Swansea University, where I stayed put until I completed my PhD in creative writing, and then, guess what? I taught creative writing evening classes at Swansea Uni too.

I used to feel self-conscious about the fact my “here” was often so predictable, especially as a writer, where being as cultured as you can is supposedly part of the package, including back-pocket travel anecdotes that can shock and fascinate people.

But Swansea is my home, and we all have a different story.

A few years ago, I wrote a poem based on this feeling:

Gone travelling

I have not taken a gap year
to pick mangoes in Australia
or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.
I have not conquered Everest,
driven Route 66 in a red Chevrolet
or bathed a four-tonne elephant in Thailand.
I have not sat upon the summit of a bubbling volcano,
or congregated among king penguins in Antarctica.
I have not shaken hands with the Statue of Liberty
or watched giant tortoises make love in The Galapagos,

but I have
checked out.

Do not underestimate
the itch of my feet
that walk The Great Wall of thirty years
from bed,
that herd ice-faced sheep over ten thousand fences
and relive history in a single hour.
Do not underestimate
my wandering wellbeing,
or lust for secret regions,
my need to breathe in experience
as my pyjamas prophesise the future
in poetry I would not otherwise write.

I promise, this other me
is ever so cultured;
never plans, never packs,

I find myself
off the beaten track.

I haven’t spent ten years – or even a single year – in a country other than Wales. Of course, I’m in no way a hermit. I love travelling for shorter periods of time and exploring everything I can, but I’ve never been anywhere other than Wales for long enough to question where my home is.

When it comes to being an author, I write best when I’m at home, at my most comfortable, without being seen. A lot of my stories begin with a feeling, rather than something tangible; it’s more about turning the ideas inside-out and finding the visuals that allow them to come to life.

I once heard someone say, “If you’re stuck for ideas, let yourself get bored.” I don’t feel bored very often because there’s always something to be working on, but that idea does have feet.

People often search for stillness, peace, a little time to think or dream, and having a dream is a key theme in my debut novel, Unspeakable Beauty.

So, why did I set this story in Wales?

Well, I suppose the question for me instead should be, why wouldn’t I?

Unspeakable Beauty is set in a fictionalised, fabricated South Wales area on the Welsh coast, inevitably inspired by the Gower and Swansea landscape.

It’s positioned between the city and the sea, the loudness and the quietness, the built-up elements of the town, and nature at its most honest.

I realised this was a convenient parallel with my protagonist – Violet’s – personality; her introversion and the world where everything “happens.”

The Welsh Common holds a mysterious presence throughout the book; a spectator of Violet growing up. She is a quiet person in a loud world and often searching for an escape – ballet being her main outlet.

The Common is territory that intrigues her as it changes appearance throughout the seasons.

Its watchful eyes, its scuffle of hooves and swoop of wings tell Violet that the Common is a place of freedom but also something to be wary of.

Welsh rears its head every now and then throughout my writing, as a “bach” or “blodyn,” in a setting where the language tries to break through, and I welcome it with open arms, just as I do in my day-to-day life.

After all, I am very much Welsh, even in my non-fluent, wannabe-Welsh-speaking way.

The Welsh landscape in Unspeakable Beauty has a quietness that speaks volumes to Violet who has a loud mind that seeks some release, as well as a listener.

Her first language is ballet, and the uninhibited nature around her is a kind of therapy throughout her adolescence.

Trees dance as she silently asks for their wisdom, and nature brings something reassuringly cyclical to her surroundings and her story: things will always change, for better and for worse, and as with all coming-of-age tales, there is a lot to learn.

Unspeakable Beauty by Georgia Carys Williams is published by Parthian and is available from all good bookshops. 

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.