Articles - The Daily Iowan

Welsh writer reads at Prairie Lights

Fflur Dafydd’s eyes glint when she talks about her writing. The Welsh fiction writer and singer/songwriter is known to tell fantasy tales of weapon-wielding librarians holding a lockdown and of eccentric characters congregating on a mystical Welsh island.

“I like the games that the fictional narrative plays with the reader,” she said. “In fiction, the book is always one step ahead of you.”

Dafydd will read from her first novel in English, the award-winning Twenty Thousand Saints, today at 7 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St.

The author is the first Welsh representative to participate in the UI’s renowned International Writing Program. She will spend five weeks as a writer-in-residence through a maiden partnership launched with the British Council’s UK Writer-in-Residence Program. In addition to working on her own writing, she will teach an undergraduate writing workshop, visit English classes, and showcase her finished work around town.

“[Dafydd] writes at a high literary level in both English and Welsh,” IWP Director Christopher Merrill said. He said he loves the fresh ways she thinks about writing and addresses universal issues.

Dafydd has participated in a number of writer residencies and has documented each experience in a novel or short story. The idea for Twenty Thousand Saints evolved from her residency on Wales’ Bardsey Island, where her real-life acquaintances became a fictitious community, including archaeologists, dolphin watchers, tourists, and nuns, thrown into affairs of tension and conflict.

“I get inspiration from the people that I meet,” she said. “These people [from Bardsey Island] are so far from myself.”

For Dafydd, traveling detaches her from her own life. She finds herself able to immerse herself in the stories of new places and people, which all provide sparks to her stock of writing material.

“It’s such a wonderful feeling to immerse yourself completely in another world,” she said. “There’s almost an anxiety when you must separate yourself from the people in the story.”

During her stay in Iowa, Dafydd will work on an English translation of her award-winning and controversial novel Y Llyfrgell (The Library). Prompted by her numerous visits to the iconic National Library of Wales as a Ph.D. student in 2004, the satire takes place in 2020 and poses relevant questions about digitization and the imminent threat of the e-book.

“I like to write stories in which there is a point to be made,” Dafydd said.