Eloise Williams, author of Gaslight (Firefly), has been named the first-ever Children’s Laureate Wales.
Literature Wales has introduced the two-year post to raise the visibility of children’s literature in Wales, help develop children’s literacy skills and support the next generation of writers. During her tenure, the Pembrokeshire-based writer will work primarily with children aged five to 13 at schools, clubs, festivals and events across Wales and will work alongside the Welsh-language equivalent, Bardd Plant Cymru, currently held by poet Gruffudd Owen.
The newly-formed post was announced at Jubilee Park Primary School in Newport where Williams is patron of reading. "I want you to feel empowered by words, so that you can be the authors and storytellers of today and tomorrow," the author told students. "I want you to feel passionate about reading for pleasure. I want you to discuss books, write your own stories, visit libraries, browse bookshops, go to literature festivals, give opinions, ask questions. I want you to use your voices and your words. I promise that I will do everything I can to listen to you and to represent you well. I will do my very best to help you find the right stories for you. I will push for you to see yourselves well represented in literature and for you to have access to a wide choice of books. Your voices matter. You matter."
Williams was appointed following an open call by Literature Wales in June, following the release of the body’s new Strategic Plan (2019-2022) which outlines children and young people as one of its main priorities. As Children's Laureate she will encourage self-expression and develop literacy and communication skills amongst children; be an ambassador and positive role model for children, championing their rights and interests and raise the visibility of children’s literature in Wales, nationally and internationally, according to Literature Wales. Williams will also be a strong advocate for creative reading and writing for pleasure; support the development of the next generation of young writers and particularly engagechildren from BAME backgrounds, children from low income backgrounds, children with disabilities or illnesses (physical or mental) as well as scout, develop, support and advocate for a cohort of talented young writers at the start of their literary careers.
Chief executive of Literature Wales Lleucu Siencyn said: “Our vision is a Wales where literature empowers, improves and brightens lives. This role will increase the accessibility and impact of creative writing for our children and young people and make a significant contribution to their well-being. Eloise will be a terrific advocate for creative reading and writing for pleasure, and for representation within children’s literature, and I look forward immensely to following her journey over the next two years.”
William’s novel Gaslight was written with the support of a Literature Wales New Writer’s Bursary and won Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year 2017, the YBB Book Awards 2018, and was shortlisted for the Tir na nOg Awards 2018. Williams’ first novel Elen's Island (Firefly) was shortlisted for the Firefly Children's Book Award while her most recent book, Seaglass (Firefly), was also shortlisted for the Tir na nOg Awards in 2019, and the North East Book Awards 2019. Her fourth book, Wilde, will publish with Firefly Press in May 2020.