Rafael Mendes is a joint winner (alongside Julie O’Leary) of the Lacuna Bursary 2024. The bursary offers an emerging writer a one-week fully resourced Writer-in-Residence Bursary to take place in 2024 at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Now in its second year, this annual award is specifically designed to support a writer from a background typically underrepresented in Irish literature to develop their writing practice.

Read a statement Rafael wrote in acceptance of his award:

I arrived in Ireland almost eight years ago with limited proficiency in the English language. For instance, I couldn’t correctly spell out my name, so my library card read Refiel for two years. Out of stubbornness, I felt compelled to write in English and entered the Irish Writers Centre for the first time in 2018 to join a session of the New Irish Communities (now rebranded as BEYOND). Since then, my work has been published widely in Ireland, the UK, and the US. I have received bursaries and been selected for different programmes.

While at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I will work on the novella Central Station, the main piece of a collection of stories I’m putting together. This project is filled with characters who move between cities and languages and struggle with the idea of home. I am excited to spend a week focusing on my writing and hopefully see Central Station in the bookshops across the island.

I couldn’t finish this without acknowledging the people and institutions who have helped me throughout the years. Valerie, Teerth, Betty, Tom, Jo and everyone at the Irish Writer Centre; Jean O’Brien and Mark Grannier for mentoring my first attempts at writing in a second language and for their patience and care when approaching my proficiency limitations; Olivia Fitzsimons for allocating some of her time to chat with me about applications; finally, Tyrone Guthrie Centre for offering me a room in that outstanding residence, and the Arts Council. Go raibh maith agat, obrigado.

Rafael Mendes