Sunday 24 February 2019

Nerd Church - The Writer Diaries: Relocating Cymru

If you're familiar with this blog, you're probably aware that I'm Welsh.

(If not, then how on Earth have you managed to miss that? That's actually impressive!)

Welsh flag with the Welsh Dragon/Y DDraig Goch
We win flags, ok?

So it may come as something of a shock to you that in the past I've rarely, if ever, set stories in Wales.


In fact, I was more likely to set a story in London than Cardiff - and I've never set foot in London.

History nerd that I am, I probably know more about London 150 years ago than I do London today.

So why would I set my story in a place I know pretty much nothing about?

Well, this is me, so there ain't gonna be one single, straight-forward, answer! 😅

A lot of it, though, comes down to language and nationality politics.

Now, I'm really not going to explain language politics to you in their entirety because my God is it a tangled mess, but in an extremely over-simplified nutshell:

  • There are two official languages in Wales - English and Welsh (Cymraeg)

  • Welsh, as a language, is literally thousands of years old

  • Welsh was systematically oppressed for centuries by the English, with one of the major myths being that the language made us stupider. I sh** you not.

  • Since the 20th Century, there's been a lot of pushing back and forth over promoting or discriminating against the language.

  • The latter half of the 20th Century, moving into the 21st, saw a major push for language rights, but that left first language English-speakers, many of whom were born to families who had dropped using Welsh due to oppression, feeling alienated. (Hello!)

  • Now, we're sort of moving into an uneasy stage where we recognise that the language belongs to all of us, not just those who have it as their first language.

So, into this mess comes me - who is first-language English, and wants to be a writer.

Except that if you're Welsh, and you write in English, you tend to get labelled as an 'Anglo-Welsh' writer; Anglo meaning English.

And I'm not English.

Being called English is... not something you ever want to do to a Welsh person. Let's just leave it there.

Also, we had to look at 'Anglo-Welsh' writers in school, and they always seemed to make us read the most boring stuff ever.

Urgh. In the years since I've learned that most Welsh writers aren't that bad, thank God.

It's just for some reason if you're any good then you graduate from the 'Anglo-Welsh writer' label to just 'writer' - Roald Dahl and Sarah Waters, for example. Welsh writers. True story.

And we never studied any Welsh poets for some reason?

A nation of poetry writers and prose readers - yeah, that's a good economic model. *sighs*

fancy fountain pen

So I've got what is basically an implication that I'm 'not Welsh enough,' and then I've got the stereotype that Welsh people are 'stupid' coming at me from the English-dominated wider British culture.

I guess I figured writing about Wales in the English language would make me seem quaint and twee at best, and 'stupid' and 'rough' at worst.

So I went in the opposite direction, and set everything in England. I figured that's just where successful books were set.

Which is kind of sad, really.

But now? I've decided that it doesn't matter where my stories 'should' be set, or that I'm a Welsh chick writing in English.

So what? F**k it. THIS is my country.

This, the most beautiful land in the world, is MY land.

It's the land that I love, and the land that loves me.

So why shouldn't I set my writing here?

They say 'write what you know.' And this is everything that I know, everything I've ever known.

That doesn't mean I'll never set something outside of Wales again.

It just means I'm going to stop forcing myself to set stories beyond the Cymru/Lloegr border for no goddamn logical reason.

I'm gonna write Mam instead of Mum, and have characters say 'b'yuh' (by here) like I do.

I'm gonna talk about the Valleys, and the mountains, and the ex-industrial areas, and the fields filled with sheep, and the patchwork-repair of the roads and the pavements.

And I'm going to write about the beautiful, passionate, hard-working, kind people that live here.

The old men who can't breathe and the young ones who can't find work.

The songs and the Socialism, how 'Chapel' is something you are, not somewhere you go, and how the land and the people are so important that we have The Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

I'm gonna write it all. Because this is my land, my life, my culture, my people.

...And I'll add some ghosts and sh**, cos why not? 😎

Where do you set your writing?
Do you like it when authors step outside of England or the US in their stories?
Talk to me! 👍💬

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Last updated: 2nd March 2019


  1. I've never realised this but I actually don't often think about an official 'country' so say when I think about a setting, only the sort of landscape. But now you bring it up, I suppose it is really quite an important part of a story and the characters! You should definitely be proud of where you come from :)
    Alice Xx

    1. I think that sometimes it's possible to make a generic setting, but a generic British setting is still going to be different to a generic American setting, y'know? :)

  2. I didn't know a lot of this stuff, so it's pretty interesting. But I say write what you want. Writing's hard enough and having to do in a way that wouldn't make you happy just makes it worse. And I think if you know the area or did the research, then write wherever you want :)

  3. Good for you, Cee! I love it when authors set their books outside of England and the US. I will always set my stories in Canada, because that is where I am from and I will always respect that.

    1. Thanks! And cool! I don't think I've read too many books set in Canada :)

  4. The most beautiful country in the goddamn world! :) <3

  5. I've never really thought much about this but I can relate about struggling to feel like if you are enough of a nationality to call yourself that nationality. Living abroad and heritage and everything totally has me confused. I've come pretty much to the same conclusion as you. And I hope you enjoy writing your stories set in Wales. You go!!

    1. Liv, you are what you feel you are, and if anyone says otherwise, they can kindly f**k the hell off ;)

      And thank you! :) <3


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!