Water Front Online Profile

Profile: Fflur Dafydd
26th February 2007

Fflur Dafydd, lecturer of Creative Writing in Swansea's English department, has an awful lot of strings to her bow. With a repertoire including short fiction, journalism, lecturing, singing, songwriting, screenwriting, poetry, novels, plays and short films, it's difficult to see how she fits it all in. She admits she's not one of those writers who has a strict routine. "I wish I did!" she quips. "I wish I could just wake up at seven and finish at three and be done for the day.

Whenever I have a gap, an opportunity to write, I just have to seize it." In fact, Fflur appears to think that having a varied and involved working life is beneficial to writers. "It was worse when I had nothing to do. I had weeks and weeks of space and I just couldn't arrange my writing."

It's evident from Fflur's work that this experimentation within writing in various fields has a positive effect on her writing skills, as well as keeping her motivated. Her time with bands Y Panics and Y Barf have affected her short fiction. "It's very similar, putting together a collection of short stories to a collection of songs, the way you organise them."

Her work on classic Welsh soap Pobol Y Cwm has also been a learning curve. "You're given the storylines, you have to create around a set story. It's great because it teaches me a lot about the process of editing, of being succinct and using basic, realistic dialogue. It's a good discipline to learn in relation to writing something like a novel." On the experience of writing a novel she admits that it takes "a lot of determination and discipline". A novelist has to "live with an idea for months".

Dafydd's novels Lliwiau Liw Nos and Atyniad are part of a vibrant Welsh language literary scene. Fflur considers her Camarthen upbringing to be "all important" to her writing. "I think the Welsh cultural identity is integral to all my ideas." She's a predominantly Welsh language writer, but much of her work has been translated into English and even into Norwegian, German and Italian because of her involvement in writing on the continent, most notably the Scritture Giovani collection of European writing in 2005. "I hope that some of the Welsh identity carries over to other languages. I like the idea of taking the Welsh language elsewhere."

Fflur believes writing in Welsh is "personally more exciting" with "so much more to be done." She sees Welsh as a language that's still evolving. "Writing in Welsh is like stepping out into untouched snow, almost - there are no footprints. It's more difficult to find new ground in English, because there's so much that's gone before. It's difficult to find a distinctive voice. Welsh gives you the freedom to try something different."

However, Fflur's passion for literature is evident. Her influences include the Welsh-Jewish writer Bernice Reubens, fellow Swansea lecturer and author Stevie Davies, Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro and the welsh Poet R.S.Thomas who Fflur wrote her PHD thesis on. Fflur sees a language based degree as a good grounding for a writer. "A literature degree shows you so much about how to approach literature. It gives a writer a richness of reference and knowledge of how literature has developed." However, Fflur isn't fatalistic about writers without this level of formal education.

"I mean, there are people in my MA class who don't have a literary background, we've got chefs and engineers and things and they all bring their own experiences to their writing." Dafydd's work as a lecturer introduces her students to the vocation of writing and her own entry into the literary sphere has a similar ethos to the rest of her career. Her first piece was a short film called Bathtime produced by the Welsh College of Music and Drama. She later got published in various Welsh language journals and wrote for S4C.

Her first novel was published in 2005. Her prolific writing has seemed to lead Fflur to her preferred form, prose, but she's not about to rest on her laurels yet. "I'm working on an English translation of my novel Atyniad, due out in 2008, a collection of Welsh language stories that should be out this August, I've got another novel in the pipeline and I'm finishing publishing parts of my thesis on R. S. Thomas.'" Surely that's enough for one woman to deal with? Perhaps not.

Dafydd is heading to Helsinki for a residency and is attending some festivals in Croatia. She feels that residencies abroad "open up your mind, you get an insight into the way people are living, it fuels experience."

And Fflur's plan for the future are indicative of her appetite for writing, "I just intend to carry on getting published."

Fflur Dafydd's novel 'Atyniad' is available now from Y Lolfa, £6.95. Fflur's music is available for download on her Myspace page.

Holly Thomas