My writing summer

My writing summer.


It’s been a busy summer, largely facilitated by the wonderful Fran, a young woman who has lived with us as an au pair for the last 8 weeks.  Sorry to see you go, Fran.

Suddenly, a few snatched hours here and there, between the toilet-training and the cream-cracker-buttering turned into two-to-four hour stretches alone with my creaking lap-top and my thoughts.  Words poured out.  Memoir completed.  Thirty thousand words of a brand-new, rural short-story collection, poems (yes, poems, unbelievable!) were all unlocked with the luxury of time and space.

I had the huge pleasure of seeing two short stories published online and well-received.  “Carphone 1992” in   and “Bleeding” in   I have never thought of myself as a fiction writer, turns out I might be wrong!

In early July I made my inaugural, annual trip to the West Cork Literary Festival to read at the launch of the Fish Anthology.  A chapter from my memoir “Union Jacks and Rosary Beads” was highly commended in the Fish Short Memoir contest (top ten placing out of 810 entries, not too shabby for a beginner.)  The prize: an invitation to read, at my own expense, at the book launch.  I leapt at the opportunity, booked a double room, bullied a friend into joining me.  We have already booked our days off for next year! 

There was plenty to choose from: Gerry Stembridge made us laugh til our faces ached.  Two bottles of Pinot Grigio over supper had the same effect on our heads.  Poetry, short stories, Booker Prize winners, free guided tours of the fascinating town, a tiny museum wherein I was bitten by a flea in the costume section, Bantry has it all.

Unfortunately, there was a rather dramatic cut-and-paste snafu in the anthology: under my name and title appears last year’s runner up story.  I will admit to having tears in my eyes.  You will have to wait til next year’s anthology to read my story, “Drumming our way to the future”.  Meanwhile, I am enjoying the first modules of the Fish online short-story writing course which distraught Fish Publishing Editor Clem Cairns has enrolled me in, free of charge, as a consolation for their error.  Many thanks, Clem.

July also saw a hiatus in the free, six-month series of writers’ workshops hosted by Newbridge Library and facilitated by the wonderful, multi-award-winning David Butler (Via Crucis, poetry.  In loving Memory, short story collection, The Judas Kiss, thriller.) 

During the first five sessions we have flown through the history and skimmed the theory of fiction writing, from the Greeks to today, via Cervantes and Shakespeare.   Additionally, David forced us to address poetry, for which I will be always thankful- it’s important to leave my comfort zone occasionally.  Can’t wait for the sixth and final session in September.  Huge thanks to the Kildare Library Service.  I would advise anyone to keep their eyes and ears open:  there’s never been more help for aspiring writers than there is now.

Liffey Writer’s circle welcomed me into their group and I have attended two sessions so far.  The collaborative nature of a writing group is new and somewhat daunting.  Do I have what it takes to become a useful member of a team?  We will have to wait and see.

Finally, the highlight.  The Babble Festival in Cavan, August 16-18th.  A wonderful experience all round.  There were events for all-comers at any level of experience, and all free, thanks to funding from the Peace 111 initiative and Cavan County Council, I believe. 

Workshops have been held all summer under the Babble aegis, featuring household names such as Ted McCarthy, Tom McIntyre, Dermot Healy, Padraig McIntyre and yours truly!  It was a stunning and humbling feeling to be on the same bill as these legends of Irish literature, giving two workshops on “Beginning Life Writing”.  I was there on a voluntary basis, and I would happily have paid to attend the other workshops, but that was not necessary, as they were free and open to all.

 A reading of my friend Tara Maria Lovett’s newest short play “The Change”, in the festival café after  readings from the aforementioned celebrities (and me!) was another highlight, and warmly received by the audience.  Who knows which prize this one will win, she already has most of the Irish playwright’s prizes under her belt.

Now I am home, exhausted, counting the few remaining days until Fran returns to University in Dublin and missing her already.  I won’t forget the impetus that setting aside a little time and space can give to my work.  Going forward without her, it’s my duty to find a little time, as often as I can.

20th August 2013

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