Debut Novelist Maggie Shipstead Wins University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize

Posted on 12 November 2012
VC & Maggie Shipstead

Professor Medwin Hughes and Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead has won the £30,000 University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize, announced Friday night at an awards ceremony held at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.  The 28 year old Californian author won the prize for her debut novel Seating Arrangements, which judges agreed showed immense maturity and great accomplishment.

A mentee of Orange Prize winner Zadie Smith at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she studied in 2008, the judges thought that Maggie Shipstead showed great promise, with novelist and judge Allison Pearson declaring:  “The winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize before she’s 30, the smart money has to be on Maggie Shipstead winning a Pulitzer before she’s 50”. 

Seating Arrangements takes a satirical look at the pretentions of New England society, and is a hilarious but deeply moving study of an American family as it prepares for a wedding.

Open to any published author in the English language under the age of 30, the award celebrates the legacy of Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas who wrote most of his best work in his 20’s. This prize aims to recognise and support the literary heroes of the future. 

The winner was chosen by a panel of judges including Hay Festival founder Peter Florence, novelist Allison Pearson, author, singer and BBC 6 music presenter Cerys Matthews, journalist and author Carolyn Hitt, commentator and artist Kim Howells, Guardian Review journalist Nicholas Wroe, and Chairman of the Dylan Thomas Prize, Peter Stead.

Chairman of the Judges Peter Florence said:

“I've never known such an open field for a book prize. All the shortlisted books had advocates on the jury and had exceptional merits of different kinds. I am deeply grateful to my fellow jurors, if you have to be sequestered with a bunch of mates in a book club these are the guys to be with for insight, passion and elegantly expressed outrage. This prize celebrates the achievement of young writers, and does so in the name of the gabbiest, most compassionate, anguished and playful spirit of his age. The bar is set very high. We're confident that this year's winner honours that aspiration.”

The announcement of the winner was the climax of a week of events that four of the five shortlisted authors participated in on behalf of the DylanEd programme.  Maggie and her fellow shortlistees visited schools and universities across Wales to give readings and participate in creative writing workshops, helping to inspire the next generation of young writers.

Maggie Shipstead joins previous winners Rachel Trezise for her set of short stories Fresh Apples which won the inaugural prize in 2006, Vietnamese writer Nam Le for The Boat (2008), Elyse Fenton for Clamour (2010), and the most recent winner, Lucy Caldwell for her novel The Meeting Point (2011).


Notes to Editors: 

The University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize 2012 Short-list:
Tom Benn, 24 – The Doll Princess (Jonathan Cape/Vintage)
Andrea Eames, 26 – The White Shadow (Harvill Secker/Vintage)
Chibundu Onuzo, 21 – The Spider King’s Daughter (Faber)
Maggie Shipstead, 28 – Seating Arrangements (Blue Door)
DW Wilson, 27 – Once You Break A Knuckle (Bloomsbury)

If you would like to interview the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2012, or if you require any further information, please contact:  Helen Barnes at FMcM on 0207 4057422/07825 412232 or email


Search News

Select Category

Related Articles