Eight new and exciting nature writers attend a course at Tŷ Newydd

Published Mon 6 Nov 2023 - By Literature Wales
Eight new and exciting nature writers attend a course at Tŷ Newydd
From left to right. Top row: Jannat Ahmed, Sarah Asante-Gregory, Kate Cleaver, Lal Davies. Second row: Lily Dyu, Chandrika Joshi, Tafsila Khan, Rosa Pouakouyou.
Over the summer of 2023, Literature Wales launched a call out for  individuals of colour who identify as women, or of a marginalised gender, to a free nature-writing residential course to be held during the autumn of 2023.

Led by the writer and the Co-Editor of “Gathering, an essay anthology on nature, climate, the landscape by women of colour” (forthcoming 2024, 404 Ink) Nasia Sarwar-Skuse, along with guest writer, Noreen Masud, the course looked to help the writers develop personal essays exploring their relationship with the natural world.

Research shows that the worlds of conservation and nature writing continue to be dominated by a homogenous group of writers. Representation and equality are priorities for Literature Wales as our work aims to help shape a sector that supports equal access for all by addressing historical and structural inequalities and platforming diverse voices. The course was designed to celebrate fresh perspectives and help women of colour claim a space in nature and nature writing, whilst also highlighting the well-being benefits of engaging with both nature and literature.

The Notes on Nature cohort recently completed their week-long residential course at Tŷ Newydd, Wales’ National Writing Centre. The eight selected writers were, Jannat Ahmed, Sarah Asante-Gregory, Kate Cleaver, Lal Davies, Lily Dyu, Chandrika Joshi, Tafsila Khan and Rosa Pouakouyou. During the course, held between 25 – 29 September 2023, the writers enjoyed several workshops spanning across the topics of the climate emergency, eco-feminism and decolonisation, alongside one-to-one tutorials, and outings in and around the local area of Llŷn and Eifionydd.

All the participants noted that the week had increased their confidence in their writing and had allowed them to make valuable connections with other writers.

Lily Dyu, one of the Notes on Nature participants, described the week as such:

“I feel that my life has irrevocably changed for the better after this course. I was introduced to new authors, topics and styles of nature writing that have left my head spinning with possibilities and ideas. But best of all was being in a group where I felt so seen, understood, and supported in my creativity as a female writer of colour.”

Literature Wales will continue to support the cohort of writers, by organising bespoke follow-up sessions with the tutor Nasia Sarwar-Skuse, continuing to nurture the connections between the writers and facilitating pathways towards publication.

Meet the Writers:

Jannat Ahmed was born and grew up in Barry and is co-founder of Lucent Dreaming, an independent creative writing magazine and book publisher. As well as working as an editor, she is an occasional poet, writer, illustrator and teacher. In 2023 she was a finalist in the national St David Awards for her contribution to culture. She has published poems in Cheval 13, Poetry Wales and Poetry Birmingham and has written for Poetry London, The Poetry Review and Jerwood Arts.

Sarah Asante-Gregory is a writer born and raised in London, and who now lives in Cardiff having fell in love with the people, the place, and the politics. Her dream is to become a published author as she views her writing as a means of connecting to others, enabling deep and meaningful conversations and helping her make sense of the world. In 2020 she set up a writing circle and completed a nine-month Faber academy course, under the tutelage of Nikesh Shukla, to begin her first book. To date she has had articles in the Ecologist, Mother and Baby and delivered a TedxTalk. She loves indie films that speak to the heart, rocket leaves straight out of a packet and cold-water dips when there is a sauna close by.

Kate Cleaver is a neurodiverse disabled Anglo-Indian writer who has just finished her PhD with Swansea University and is awaiting the verdict. She was researching the lives of ordinary people who found themselves incarcerated in the Briton Ferry Insane Asylum, Vernon House. In 2019 she was long listed in the New Welsh Writers Award and has had a memoir published by Parthian in ‘Just So You Know’ and by Honno in ‘Painting the Beauty Queens Orange’. In 2022 she was published in ‘Land of Change: stories of struggle and solidarity from Wales’ and in 2023 she gained a highly commended for ‘The King of Swansea’ by the New Welsh Writers Award. This has led to an extract being published in the September edition of the ‘New Welsh Reader’. She also writes a monthly column for Nation Cymru called ‘The Cleaver’ and has recently moved into nature writing.

Lal Davies is an award-winning filmmaker, photographer, and poet with South Indian and Southern Irish heritages. Lal’s practices include first-person narrative/short documentary filmmaking and a multidisciplinary practice using film, photography, and poetry as distinct disciplines and at the blurred edges where they meet.

Lily Dyulives in Powys and is an author and freelance writer. Nature features as a central theme in all her work and she has written four children’s books: ‘Earth Heroes’ (Nosy Crow, 2019) which was shortlisted for the 2020 ALCS Educational Writers Award, ‘Fantastic Female Adventurers’ (Shrine Bell, 2019) which was shortlisted for the 2020 Rubery Award, ‘The World’s Wildest Places’, (DK Children, 2022), and ‘The Amazing Power of Activism’ (Oxford University Press, 2023). Her favourite things are running in the mountains, camping wild and watching the night sky, and she has also authored two outdoor guides – ’Fastpacking: Multi Day Running Adventures’ (Cicerone, 2018) and ’Brecon Beacons Trail Running’ (Vertebrate, 2018).

Chandrika Joshi is a writer, a storyteller and a Hindu priestess . She moved to Wales from Uganda as a teenager and started writing a journal as a means of catharsis. She writes both poems and prose. Her short story ‘fractured glass’ was published by Artesmundi in 2021. She created a story for children called ‘The yellow bicycle’ for The National Archives . She hopes to write a book in the future.

Tafsila Khan is a registered blind access consultant and theatre maker in Wales with a passion for real stories & giving a voice to those who are usually unheard. She is motivated to create change within society and her work has accessibility at the core to develop wider engagement within the arts. Tafsila is currently working at Taking Flight Theatre Co. as a Trainee Access Coordinator and has also worked with the Wales Millennium Centre as a Creative Associate. She is currently a board member of both National Theatre Wales and Arts Council of Wales.

Rosa Pouakouyou is a creative writer and international development researcher from Monmouthshire. She graduated from the LSE and University of Oxford with a BA and Mst in History. She is drawn to a broad array of genres, but is particularly interested in personal essay, memoir, and historical fiction. She would like to explore themes of nature, Welsh mythology and folklore and womanhood. She hopes to build a network that will encourage her learn from the practices of others and to grow in confidence as a writer through an open dialogue about her work.