Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys joined Valerie Bistany, Director of the Irish Writers Centre, Cllr. Fergal Curtin, Cathaoirleach, Cavan County Council, Rhonda Tidy, Public Art Manager, Cavan Arts, Eoin Doyle, Director of Service, Cavan County Council and Sinéad O’Reilly and Liz Meaney from the Arts Council on Tuesday 9 May to announce the launch of the Irish Writers Center Cavan Literary programme. The group was also joined by writers Mia Gallagher and Louise Phillips and blogger Ketty Elizabeth who will be facilitating workshops and courses as part of the Cavan programme.
The programme will be launched on Wednesday 17 May with an information session hosted by Valerie Bistany of the Irish Writers Centre and Catríona O'Reilly of Cavan County Council Arts Office who will also discuss the upcoming courses that the Centre is providing in the Townhall Arts Space, Cavan for the coming year. The information session will be followed by one-on-one Creative Clinics with well-known Irish writers Pat Boran, Mia Gallagher and Brendan O'Brien and a creative writing taster with Louise Phillips.
Catríona O'Reilly of Cavan County Council Arts Office said of the launch
“I am delighted to work with the Irish Writers Centre in Cavan. We have a proud tradition of literature in Cavan from the work of Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Gunna, Charlotte Brooke, Mary Ann Sadlier to the recently departed Dermot Healy and the ground breaking playwright Tom Mac Intyre. Windows Publications have over 25 years promoted emerging talent and creative writing for children. There is a genuine interest in the county to explore words and give voice and I believe that this partnership supported by the Arts Council will bring new dimension and strength to the literary landscape of county Cavan.”
Among the courses on offer in Cavan will be workshops on blog writing with Ketty Elisabeth, the author, editor and eater behind French Foodie in Dublin, the multi-award winning blog about Dublin’s food scene and a one-day novel editing course with Brian Langan, editor at Transworld/Doubleday Ireland, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Writing for radio will also be on offer, facilitated by Brian Leyden, past winner of the RTÉ Radio 1 Francis MacManus Award and author of the best-selling memoir The Home Place.
Find more information on the Irish Writers Centre Cavan Literary Programme here.
The Irish Writers Centre has announced the 18 participants for its newest programme, XBorders, an innovative new cross-border project bringing emerging writers together to explore and write about borders through fiction or non-fiction.
With art critic, lecturer and former Turner Prize judge Dr Declan Long, the writers will explore contemporary art practice of the ‘Post-Troubles’ period in Northern Ireland and the ways in which this work has engaged with social change in Northern Ireland.
International borders will be explored with anthropologist and border security expert Dr Mark Maguire whose research focuses on international migration, biometric security, counter-terrorism and border control. The writers will be also meet with Eileen Murphy a researcher with the Centre for Innovation Human Systems, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin who will explore the future of biometric border technologies and policies.
As fact increasingly moves closer to the fictional worlds of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell’s 1984, Valerie Bistany of the Irish Writers Centre explained:
“Ireland as an island has a long and complex relationship with borders which has been the subject of much great Irish writing. Writing is a powerful cultural force and we wanted to bring writers together to explore the idea of our national borders, both literal and metaphorical. Whether it be migration, the Troubles, Brexit or interpersonal boundaries, borders are one of the biggest cultural and social issues at the moment - we wanted to help writers to tap into this rich mine of ideas to address this in their writing.”
Working with Belfast-based writer Maria McManus and Managing Editor of Blackstaff Press Patsy Horton, the 18 participants, across six nationalities, taking part in the programme come from across Ireland and Europe. At the end of the process, the writers will produce feature length pieces which will be published on a number of platforms including In/Print journal, an arts journal published by the Dublin School of Creative Arts at Dublin Institute of Technology.
The Irish Writers Centre is supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Head of Literature, Dr Damian Smyth, commented,
“Our most talented emerging writers deserve meaningful, valuable development opportunities and the full list of writers assembled by IWC on the XBorders initiative represents a game-changing moment for each of the participants. Of course, the Arts Council is delighted to support a public platform for exchange, challenge and the showcasing of new writing from new writers.”
The selected participants are;
Charlene Hurtubise Doyle
Pádraig Ó Meiscill
Seminar dates - book tickets here
Saturday 6 May, 1pm: Dr Declan Long, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Saturday 17 June, 1pm: Dr Mark Maguire & Eileen Murphy, Verbal Arts Centre, Derry
Notes for the Editor:
The Irish Writers Centre is the national resource centre for Irish literature. The IWC supports and promotes writers at all stages of their development, and runs a diverse programme of writing courses and workshops led by established writers across a range of forms and genres. Last year marked the Centre’s 25th anniversary which was celebrated through significant projects including A Poet’s Rising and the newly released anthology Beyond the Centre with New Island Books (November, 2016). The IWC has welcomed many award-winning writers through its doors, including Nobel, Costa, Man Booker & IMPAC winners.
In its first year, the Irish Writers Centre’s Northern Ireland programme has rolled out its courses and professional development programme with an aim to bring our services to the north and to connect together writers from across the island.
For press enquiries contact Kate Cunningham, Communications & Events Officer, Irish Writers Centre
t: +353 (0)1 872 1302 / 087 259 8026 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org
XBorders Participants Announced April 19 2017
XBorders is an exciting new cross-border project bringing emerging writers together to explore and write about borders through fiction or non-fiction. As part of the Irish Writers Centre’s Northern Irish programme, one of the goals of this project is to bring together writers from North and South Ireland to workshop on the theme of borders in both a national and international context.
This process will be facilitated through seminars and workshops with artists, academics and professionals in the field. Ways of seeing and thinking of borders and their potential for art, and in this instance writing, will be explored. On completion of this research period the writers will attend a workshop on the editing process with a view to preparing their work for online publication on the IWC website.
The participants of XBorders have been selected.
Charlene Hurtubise Doyle
Pádraig Ó Meiscill
Over the next four months the participants will be working with border experts Declan Long, Mark Maguire and Eileen Murphy as well as editor Patsy Horton of Blackstaff Press and facilitator Maria McManus.
The seminars will be open to the public and can be booked here.
The Green Road, by Irish Writers Centre ambassador Anne Enright has been shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. The award is the the world's most valuable prize for a single work of fiction published in English.
The winner will be selected by the five member international judging panel, chaired by Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan, and announced by Lord Mayor, Brendan Carr, Patron of the Award, on Wednesday 21 June.
The IWC is delighted to congratulate Anne on this achievement and proud to have her as an ambassador for the centre!
See the full shortlist below and read more about the awards here.
International Dublin Literary Award shortlist
1. A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angolan) Translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn.
2. Confession of the Lioness by Mia Couto (Mozambican) Translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw.
3. The Green Road by Anne Enright (Irish )
4. The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine (Danish/Norwegian) Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken.
5. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Mexican) Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney.
6. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnamese/American) First novel.
7. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Nigerian-American) First novel.
8. A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish) Translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap.
9. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Austrian) Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins.
10. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (American)
Women Across Borders April 05 2017
On Saturday 11 March, the Irish Writers Centre marked the occasion of International Women’s Day with WomenXBorders, an all-island cross-border event that brought women from all corners of the country together to take part in a readathon and panel events at 19 Parnell Square.
Of this group, over half travelled from Northern Ireland with Women Aloud NI, honouring their name by reading aloud from their works on the train between Belfast and Dublin. They arrived laden with gifts for the centre: writers who had published books in print arranged a selection in the reception area.
19 Parnell Square came to life with the energy and enthusiasm of women keen to connect and network, to hear and learn about each other’s writing lives.
The main event kicked off in the Kiely room with welcoming words from IWC director Valerie Bistany, IWC chairperson Liz Mc Manus and Women Aloud founder and overall project manager Jane Talbot. Valerie spoke of the significance of ‘women across borders’ in these times of Brexit, but went further to say that the event should really be seen as ‘women without borders’. With this the Readathon began with eighty writers reading excerpts from their work throughout the day. Some had short pieces written especially for the event, focusing on the theme of women’s situations from a variety of angles.
On the second floor, panels covering different aspects of the writing process were in full flow. The first panel of the day on Writing Communities, was opened by Moyra Donaldson who distinguished between different functions of writing groups, including personal and career support. Shelley Tracey spoke about the arts’ important function to help develop and strengthen communities while Katie McGreal highlighted the continuing need for women's writing groups in a publishing landscape which is still gender-biased. Gretha Viana, a Brazilian documentary film maker and producer who lived in London before coming to Dublin, described the feeling of belonging that she experienced in the IWC writing group for non-native writers of English, ‘New Irish Communities’. A German participant agreed; she had not known that she ‘needed a group like this until she attended it’ and hopes to establish something similar in the area where she lives.
The next panel was made up by Angeline King, Catherine Ryan-Howard, Claire Savage and Jo Zebedee and put a spotlight on self-publishing and explored the various directions that self-publishing can take an author. The panel addressed the challenges of marketing and finances that face all authors, but often particularly self-published authors.
The final panel addressed the ‘Writers See Saw’ and acknowledged the dual role that many women writers occupy as they balance their writing and a demanding career, or a caring role, whether as a parent, or a carer. The panelists Kelly Creighton, Kerry Buchanan Réaltán Ní Leannáin and Catherine Tinley spoke from their own experiences as writers and parents and working women, making space for a much needed conversation in the world of writing.
The day came to an end with the grand finale of the WomenXBorders Soundscape in the Gardens of Remembrance. ‘Conducted’ by Jane Talbot, the women read simultaneously from their texts on the steps below the statue of the ‘Children of Lir’, creating a sight and sound that the audiences on Parnell Square are sure not to forget.
Thanks to WomenAloud NI and Jane Talbot for their dedicated work in making this special event happen. We're looking forward to welcoming everyone back for WomenXBorders 2018!
*We're delighted that the WomenXBorders collaboration with Women Aloud has been nominated for a Saboteur Award! You can vote for us here!*
5 NORTHERN IRELAND BOOKS BY WOMEN TO BE PROUD OF March 08 2017
Looking at ‘Five Northern Ireland books to be proud of’ – last week the Mid-Ulster Mail drew up a list of five books by male writers for World Book Day – we thought we could balance the books on the day that’s in it.
5 NORTHERN IRELAND BOOKS BY WOMEN TO BE PROUD OF
Belfast-born Rosa Mulholland (also known as Lady Gilbert, 1841 – 1921) was an Irish poet, playwright and author of novels for adults and children. Charles Dickens is credited with helping to launch her literary career by publishing one of her novels in the periodical All the Year Round.
The book focuses on the childhood and progression into adulthood of ‘Hetty Gray’, a child who has been found after a shipwreck, and who is first taken into care by Mr and Mrs Kane, a poor couple who live and work in Wavertree. Hetty later comes to the attention of widowed socialite Mrs Rushton, who ‘adopts’ her, as she finds her entertaining and precocious.
2. GOODNIGHT SISTERS by Nell McCafferty (1984).
Nell McCafferty, a native of Derry, is an Irish journalist, playwright, civil rights campaigner and feminist.
The effect of her unapologetically partisan approach to writing has been enduringly popular. She received an honorary doctorate of literature from University College Cork on 2 November 2016 for "her unparalleled contribution to Irish public life over many decades and her powerful voice in movements that have had a transformative impact in Irish society, including the feminist movement, campaigns for civil rights and for the marginalised and victims of injustice'.
3. PARALLAX by Sinéad Morrissey – a poetry collection which won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2014.
The multi-award winning poet Sinéad Morrissey was born in Portadown, County Armagh.
Her fifth collection, Parallax, was praised by the chair of the judging panel, Ian Duhig, as 'politically, historically and personally ambitious, expressed in beautifully turned language, her book … as many-angled and any-angled as its title suggests’.
4. THE MEETING POINT by Lucy Caldwell – a novel which won the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2011.
Lucy Caldwell, a native of Belfast, is a multi-award-winning playwright and novelist.
The novel follows the marriage of Euan and Ruth who leave their home in Ireland with their young daughter to do missionary work. Their story becomes intertwined with that of Noor, an overweight and depressed English girl who has moved to Bahain to live with her father, and her cousin Farid who initiates a dangerous relationship with Ruth.
The plot was described as ‘cleverly constructed’ with ‘well-drawn settings and slick sentences’. The founder of the Dylan Thomas Prize Peter Stead called it ‘a beautifully written and mature reflection on identity, loyalty and belief in a complex world.
5. ABOUT SISTERLAND by Martina Devlin – shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards 2015.
Martina Devlin, a native of Omagh, County Armagh, is a multi-award-winning journalist, short story writer and best-selling novelist.
Set in the near future, in a world ruled by women, a world designed to be perfect, ‘About Sisterland’ is a searing, original novel which explores the devastating effects of extremism.
Women lead highly controlled and suffocating lives, while men are subordinate – used for labour and breeding. Selected to reproduce, Constance finds herself alone with a man for the first time. But the mate chosen for her isn’t what she expected – and she begins to see a darker side to Sisterland.
This Saturday 11 March, the IWC will be partnering with Women Aloud Northern Ireland in celebration of International Women's Day for a day-long celebration of women's writing with a readathon, panels and a mass reading being held on Parnell Square. Join us on the day and check out this Women Aloud NI list of even more books from Northern Ireland to be proud of!
Announcing the Novel Fair 2017 finalists January 30 2017
Announcing the Novel Fair 2017 finalists –
as selected by judges Anthony Glavin, John MacKenna & Nadine O'Regan
Twelve aspiring novelists have been selected from almost 260 applicants to participate in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2017, an annual Irish Writers Centre initiative which will take place on Saturday 18 February 2017.
Now in its sixth year, the event aims to introduce up-and-coming writers to top publishers and literary agents, giving novelists the opportunity to bypass the slush pile, pitch their ideas and place their synopsis and sample chapters directly into the hands of publishers and agents.
The judging panel, who have remained anonymous up until today, can now be revealed as writer and editor Anthony Glavin, playwright and novelist John MacKenna and writer, producer and broadcaster, Nadine O'Regan.
Congratulations to this year's winners who have been named as:
There is a diverse range of genres across the novels including literary fiction, science fiction, crime, YA and dystopian fiction and a psychological thriller. The 2017 finalists are also skilled in other forms of writing with a poet, a journalist and a memoir writer in the mix and a former winner who will be trying his luck a second time round at the Fair.
Ahead of the Fair, the finalists will take part in a Prep Day on Saturday 4 February to hone their skills, practise their pitches and gain expert advice from this year’s judging panel, while former winner Kevin Curran who has released two novels since his win, Citizens and Beatsploitation (Liberties Press), will be offering a winner’s insight.
This is the third year where a longlist of twelve applicants will have their work critiqued, extending the prizes from 12 to 24 winners. The following names will receive individual critiques:
- David Atcheson
- Megan Brebner
- Abigail Browne
- Frances Haysman Burke
- Eileen Counihan
- Edward Field
- Daniel Fleming
- Emer Hoare
- Bernadette Kearns
- Veronica Lynch
- Gráinne Murphy
- Anne Rabbitt
We would like to thank each and every applicant for entering and we wish all aspiring novelists the very best in continuing their writing.
About the Fair:
The Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair presents a unique opportunity to gain face time with some of the most influential people in Irish publishing and has the potential to kick-start a literary career for each year’s winners.
This year’s Fair will welcome representatives from the Irish and UK publishing industries including Penguin Ireland, Hachette Ireland, Transworld Ireland, New Island, The Book Bureau, Tramp Press, Marianne Gunne O’Connor Literary Agency, Jonathan Williams Literary Agency, Lisa Richards Agency and, for the first time, Tinder Press.
A dozen publishing deals have arisen from the Fair since its inception. Listed below are details of just some of the various publications and success stories to date that have arisen through the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair:
- Janet E. Cameron’s novel Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World was published by Hachette in March 2013.
- Niamh Boyce’s novel The Herbalist was published by Penguin Ireland in June 2013 and is on the longlist for IMPAC 2015.
- Beatsploitation by Kevin Curran was published by Liberties Press in August 2013 and Kevin released his second novel Citizens to great success in 2016.
- Alan Timmons’ novel Here In No Place was released by New Island in September 2013.
- The Reluctant Cannibal by Ian Flitcroft was published by Legend Press in October 2013.
- Daniel Seery’s novel A Model Partnerwas published by Liberties Press in spring 2014.
- Susan Lanigan’s White Feathers was published by Brandon in 2014.
- Liberties Press published Eggshells by Caitriona Lally in May 2015.
- Andrea Carter's novel Whitewater Church was published by Constable & Robinson (Little, Brown Book Group) in September 2015.
- Swimming on Dry Land by Helen Blackhurst was published by Seren in November 2015.
And we are eagerly awaiting more updates from former winners!
Announcing the Jack Harte Bursary recipient for 2017 December 13 2016
Last week we were delighted to award Henrietta McKervey the Jack Harte Bursary at a celebratory evening with IWC members and friends, on Thursday 8 December at the Irish Writers Centre. This is the third year of the Bursary which is presented in association with Annaghmakerrig at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and offers writers a two-week fully resourced residency in spring 2017. The award was named in Jack Harte's honour as the unsung hero of the literary scene; he has been instrumental in the establishment of the Irish Writers' Union and, later, the Irish Writers Centre. Liz Nugent was the first recipient of the award in 2015 and Sarah Moore Fitzgerald was the 2016 recipient.
Henrietta McKervey is a fiction writer and design and advertising copywriter. She has published two novels: What Becomes of Us (Hachette, 2015) and The Heart of Everything (Hachette, 2016). She has a MFA in Creative Writing from UCD and has been described by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne as:
‘a novelist in the early stages of her career, brimming over with promise. She has wit, imagination, and an understanding of human beings, which are the hallmark of the true novelist. In addition she has the drive and perseverance every serious writer needs.’
On receipt of the bursary Henrietta commented:
'The Jack Harte Bursary will have a huge impact for me as an individual – the time and space to work on a book without the demands of what passes for ordinary life getting in the way is a wonderful opportunity. But what I think makes this award particularly special is that it’s not created as an acknowledgment of previous work; a book already written. Instead, every year the IWC makes an investment in a new project, something as yet unwritten (or at the very least, unfinished). It seems to me that the world generally has come to lack faith in the power of ideas. That the IWC continues to show its faith in the future of writing in Ireland, in the importance of continuing creativity and ideas, is what makes this award special.'
Beyond words November 28 2016
Recently we were thrilled to launch our 25th anniversary anthology, Beyond the Centre: Writers in their own words, at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on 16 November. We were even more delighted when Carlo Gébler agreed to help us launch the anthology, little did we know that his speech would be a tribute not only to the Centre — but to the writers who comprise such a vital part of it. Read on for Carlo's full speech.
"In 1978 the New Review, literary magazine, English, held a symposium on the state of fiction: 56 writers supplied replies to a questionnaire. The respondents varied in age from mid-twenties to mid-sixties and they gave very different but very detailed replies. Peter Vansittart (1920 – 2008), 1st published novel 1942, 688 copies sold, described himself as, ‘fairly hopeful’ about being a writer. Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn, confessed he’d eschewed the novel in 1972, when his 5th had earned him £600 on the grounds, and I quote, ‘it is not possible to bring up a young family of four on this sort of earning, and it is not possible to hold down any sort of regular journalistic engagement if one is to take three months off every year to write a novel’. You should be so lucky some perhaps thought, then, and even now.
Jeremy Brooks revealed his last novel Smith as Hero (1964), took three years to write, enjoyed good reviews, but only earned £1200 in total, so he gave up fiction for journalism. Francis King, sometime British Council employee, revealed that in order to support himself and novel writing: he worked as a reader for Weidenfeld & Nicolson, wrote a weekly fiction round-up for the Sunday Telegraph, a television column for the Listener, and took lodgers in to his house in Brighton with meals, which he cooked himself, included in the rent. Penelope Fitzgerald described how the managing director of Duckworth, Colin Haycroft wondered if an advance of £200 on her first novel The Golden Child (1977) was acceptable to which she replied, to him, ‘No, but I haven’t the courage to say no.’
So that was Albion. Thirty years later, different polity, we find, when we read Beyond the Centre, this marvellous collection of essays about literary culture now, and particularly Catherine Phil McCarthy, Jack Harte and Peter Sirr’s essays, those challenges as politicians would doubtless call them, encountered by writers, well, they haven’t gone away, have they? As several of the writers whose work is contained herein testify it is difficult, very difficult to make a living as a writer. Or, to put it another way, there simply ain’t enough cake to go round: not for writers, and not for the Irish Writers Centre either. This gruesome economic truth runs through the essays in this collection like Bundoran runs through a stick of Bundoran rock. And by the way, yes, I bought some Bundoran rock recently and I know of what I speak.
Now: These essays aren’t only about economics of course. This is an eclectic collection. The contributors have chosen to approach their brief from many different angles, not just the financial one and the book is the stronger for its breadth but it is, if any in power chose to read it, a bracing read because what would be born in on them is that the rewards for making literature are meagre. However, this is not artefact simply of complaint. There are complaints, yes, and the Irish state, its political elite and its arts bureaucrats get a quite a roasting, and fair enough, but this is also emphatically a book that celebrates collaboration, communal activity, solidarity between like minded souls and describes what people have done by pulling together.
Orwell wrote a marvellous essay on Dickens. It was inside the collection Inside the Whale. I love Orwell and in this essay I was particularly captivated by this, which I think Lisa McInerney, because of her contribution on culture and class in this collection, might particularly like:
‘If you hate violence and don’t believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education. Perhaps society is past praying for, but there's always hope for the individual human being, if you can catch him young enough. This belief partly accounts for Dickens preoccupation with childhood.’
I personally don’t believe in violence and I despair of politics and our politicians, so all I have left is education. That is, actually, all I believe in and that is indeed, in the widest sense what the Irish Writers Centre offers, as these essays also attest. You’re probably now thinking, What’s he talking about, the classes, the courses? Well, yes and no. They are educational and they are a core part of the Centres activities. The Irish Writers Centre has helped writing by teaching people to write better and in the process has helped writers by employing them to teach people to write better. Hooray. But I’m not talking about just that kind of educational endeavour, the pedagogical variety.
So am I talking about the huge number of happenings, events, readings, and the way the Centre has acted as an impresario for cultural activity, literary mostly, and that is in and off it self a jolly good thing. Again, yes and no. These are great. They introduce to readers writers and the work of writers they might not know. Fabulous. What’s not to like? And it is educational.
But the kind of education I’m talking about is the wider, deeper, fuller variety, the kind that raises consciousness, the kind that transforms actual thinking patterns and enables thereby, what hasn’t been thought before to be thought and then enacted, put in to practice, actualised.
And the basis and enabler of this consciousness raising is the utterly unpredictable but incredibly liberating, stimulating intellectual miscegenation that occurs by virtue of the Centre being a centre. Because it’s a centre people go to it. They bring ideas, literatures, attitudes, habits and social practices. They meet other people, talk, interact, blah blah, and all this psychic material gets mixed up, and then it gets churned around and then it gets broken down and then and then it reforms in to something not previously considered or imagined and then hey presto something new has arrived. This has been going on since the Centre started. Obviously a lot of what’s been made is written but there’s a lot more than texts made there and, moreover, we can name these things. The list is long, I’ll just list a few examples (don’t take it personally if you’re left out) the Liffey Project, the Bloomsday thingamajig, the Dublin Writers Festival, the UNESCO designation of Dublin as a ‘City of Literature, and a host of trade or industrial organizations and bodies. Other bodies were involved but the Centre was of some service in the case of these and more and these are the kind of educational outcomes that I believe in. I believe in things, programmes, rituals, whatever, that go out in to the world and change it for the better as all of the things that have come out of the Centre have done and I believe these things in turn, have an educational remit because they, in turn, all raise consciousness. You see, I have a thesis. There is a virtuous circle.
The world, at the moment, is not a happy place. We live in a mad world and we, writers, artists, what ever you want to call us, we have a job. Our job, to paraphrase Mencken is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, or so I believe, and we do that by raising consciousness also in what ever way we can and the Centre’s function is, in every way, to enable that, and it has, and it does. It’s been doing it brilliantly for the last quarter century, as the essays attest, and I believe there is every certainty, given the people in charge, Valerie Bistany et al, I believe that there is every certainty that it will continue to fulfil this vital function. And in that endeavour it will certainly have my absolute and unqualified support."
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Beyond the Centre: Writers in their own words is available now from New Island Books, just in time for Christmas!
Irish Writers Centre launches Northern Ireland Programme November 16 2016
Image: Pictured at the programme launch are: Valerie Bistany, Irish Writers Centre, Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and writers Jack Harte and Martin Devlin.
The Irish Writers Centre (IWC), with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funding, is extending its programming into Northern Ireland with a series of specialized courses and residentials in Belfast, Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone. The prestigious Dublin-based institution is also offering 20 free professional memberships to local writers.
The IWC, which supports and promotes writers at all stages of their development, announced the details at a special event, hosted at the Crescent Arts Centre, on Wednesday evening.
The information session was attended by writers from across Northern Ireland and provided an in-depth look at the services and resources that the Centre can offer emerging and professional writers, such as workshops, networking opportunities and training courses.
Upcoming events include, Mindshift: The Connected Writer at The Crescent Arts Centre on 19th November, an event for writers wishing to raise their public profile. While crime fiction writer Declan Burke will be hosting a writing course at Ranfurly House on 3rd December, revealing the critical elements needed to create a memorable mystery.
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:
“The Irish Writers Centre is already a flagship resource for writers across the island of Ireland, providing quality training and development opportunities for those at all stages of their career. It’s first dedicated programme of workshops, training days and residencies will stretch to venues across Northern Ireland, with opportunities for writers of all disciplines to get involved.”
Valerie Bistany, Director of the Irish Writers Centre, commented:
"The Irish Writers Centre is delighted, with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s support, to offer a bespoke literary programme for Northern writers, with a specific emphasis on professional development. We are inviting Northern writers to connect and engage with us, and form part of an all-island writers' community.
“To that end, we are offering professional Northern Irish writers 20 free memberships for 2017 on a first-come first-serve basis (pending eligibility), two dedicated Cill Rialaig residencies and a subsidy scheme to avail our mentoring scheme. Sign up for our newsletter for information on how to apply."
The Irish Writers Centre is a national resource for literature. It runs a diverse programme of writing courses and workshops led by established writers across a range of forms and genres, including screen-writing, memoir, poetry, playwriting, short-stories and the novel. In addition, the Centre offers a variety of seminars, lectures, events and readings all related to the art of writing and has welcomed many award-winning writers through its doors, including Nobel, Costa, Man Booker & IMPAC winners.
The Novel Fair Reject's Tale October 17 2016
As the Novel Fair deadline approaches (21 October 2016), we went back through our winners' stories and were reminded of the old adage, 'if at first you don't succeed...' This week we hear from Aidan J. Herron and how he went from Novel Fair longlistee to sitting across from publishers and agents just two years later...
There was no going back once I dropped my entry into the postbox. I was committed. Writing for educational purposes, familiar territory to me, was one thing. Entering an open competition like the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2013 was quite another.
I had never submitted my work to anybody for comment before nor was I part of a writers’ group so I had no idea of what others would think of it. But I believed in my story. And I also had some small belief in my own ability. A few months later, to my utter surprise, my nom de plume appeared on the Novel Fair long list. I read and re-read the IWC email, convinced that someone else must have used the same pen name. But the book title was mine: ‘The Awakening.’ No mistake then. I began to believe.
A couple of weeks later, the winners were announced. My pseudonym wasn’t listed this time. I read and re-read that IWC email too, amazed at my feelings. Disappointment! Dismay! A bit of slow-burning resentment even. Not at the judges, let me quickly add, but at myself. I had come close...but not close enough! It was good...but not good enough.
My family, a keen bunch of readers, had been encouraging me but didn’t realise the extent of what this meant to me. My Beloved Daughter was amused when I eventually told her, and perhaps she was a little proud at my even getting as far as the long list. But inside, I was gutted. Stung even, at not making the grade. I decided not to take it lying down.
I took a break before returning to the rejected manuscript and read it with fresh eyes. How unsophisticated and underdeveloped, I thought. The judges were right! It lacked fizz and sparkle, and a plot that crackled. So I returned to it with a renewed sense of purpose. I tore the whole thing apart, ruthlessly analysing it from every aspect. I revamped the plot, plot layers and subplots, dumping themes and threads that I once had thought were brilliant; whole chapters that had added little to its progress went into the trash, even though they had been meticulously researched and crafted. I eliminated several characters and invented new ones; I spiced up the dialogue, introducing menace and suspense. And I became bloody-minded - I loved my characters but they had to be made to suffer and bleed. My main (male) protagonist was joined by a female associate who brought whole new dimensions to the storylines. They developed a dark side, (I was exploring my own at the same time), so that they became more unpredictable and less dependable, flawed and imperfect. I introduced a killer opening that would grab the reader and make them spill their tea; and carefully paced the action to a dramatic climax, when they’d spill their tea again. Well, that’s what I was trying to do.
And then, two years later, I approached that postbox again. I entered the IWC Novel Fair 2015 with ‘The Obsidium’, my totally reworked book. The fact that my Beloved Daughter had by now taken up employment in the IWC was a complication, though she wasn’t involved with the competition judging process at all.However, this was easily addressed by simply not telling her that I was rewriting the novel in the first place, and then by submitting my entry once more - under a different nom de plume. When it would be discounted, I reasoned, she would never have known that I had entered in the first place, and my fragile paternal dignity would be intact. That year, ‘The Obsidium’ was one of the twelve winning entries. My stubborn persistence at the keyboard had paid off, my fragile paternal dignity remained intact and my creative ego received a serious boost, thanks to the IWC Novel Fair.
Oh, and I’m still writing.
(c) Aidan J Herron, 17 October 2016
Aidan J Herron, a winner of the 2015 Novel Fair, has gone on to publish a novel about the Battle of Waterloo, entitled To the Beat of a Savage Drum, and is a regular contributor to The Skerries News.
On the fair treatment of writers... October 11 2016
In light of recent social media attention, the Irish Writers Centre would like to reaffirm that, as a resource and development organisation for writers at all stages of their career, it seeks to support, promote and inform writers through its programmes. While we support writers on broad issues of advocacy (such as fee rates), we would generally advise writers to approach the Irish Writers' Union (whose specific remit it is) to advocate on their behalf.
Therefore we fully endorse the statement made by Ruth Hegarty of Publishing Ireland in The Irish Times (11 October 2016), where she says:
'We would encourage any writer who is experiencing difficulties with their respective publishers to approach the Irish Writers’ Union for help.'
'All authors are entitled to royalty schedules and payments if in their contract.'
We believe that it is in the interests of the literary community at large that the basic principle of fair treatment as regards payment to writers is respected and upheld.
In regard to our own publishing initiative, the Novel Fair, the criteria in regard to submission, selection and invitation to publishers is reviewed annually and is amended at our own discretion, and as necessary.
From the Irish Writers Centre Team
Novel Fair: Walking on Eggshells October 06 2016
The deadline for Novel Fair 2017 is a mere two weeks away. With that in mind Catriona Lally reflects on her experiences of the Fair and how her novel Eggshells developed as a result of this.
It was at a launch at the Irish Writers Centre and I just happened to see a poster for the Novel Fair. I looked it up and thought that it would be a brilliant deadline; a novel can be the kind of thing that just sits on your computer for years. I really need some kind of structure and deadline to get anything done, so aiming for October and then for February to have it finished was fantastic.
Mid-October is the deadline to submit the novel and you then have three months to complete it so that you’re ready for the Fair in February. My thinking was – worst case scenario I wouldn’t get picked but I would still have a completed novel that I could send out to publishers myself.
But then, after being selected as a finalist, we had a prep day two weeks before the Fair, and it was just brilliant to get feedback from the judges about what had worked, what was strong/weak but, in particular, on how to pitch the novel. That was the hard part for me, I really struggled to sum up the novel. ‘Where does your novel sit on the shelf?’ was the question that threw me the most as the agents and publishers want to know very quickly what’s your story and what your book is really about. They also want to know your influences as well, who your favourite writers are, etc. so they can see where you might fit in.
Within each breakout group the other writers would try and come up with a sentence or two to help with your pitch, and the camaraderie was lovely. At this stage you’re all in it together and our novels were all so different. In my group there were two crime novels and another literary fiction novel so it really does seem that the Novel Fair has this nice mix of genres.
A previous winner, Kevin Curran, came along to the prep day and told us what to expect which was helpful in pointing out things that I hadn’t thought about. I was focused on writing the novel and hadn’t thought beyond that! We were also encouraged to think about longevity. Publishers and agents want to know if you have something else in the pipeline and Kevin had all of us warned that on the day most people would probably ask ‘what’s next?’. Even if you haven’t started writing it, you’re encouraged to tell them what you’re working on next.
The prep day was practical as well. Sarah Davis-Goff, one of the judges, asked us how much we thought the average debut author’s advance was. We’re all thinking in the tens of thousands and she reveals it’s more like €1,000. There were gasps from people. That was helpful to hear; there’s often talk about massive author deals but you have to think realistically – maybe don’t give up the day job just yet!
Exhilarating is probably the best word to describe the Fair. It can be exhausting because you’re ‘on’ the whole time – it’s your baby that you’re selling – and it’s intense too. I was very nervous for the first pitch but once it’s over you think ‘oh, okay’ and you see that the publishers and agents are humans too!
Some of them were very honest and said that my book wouldn’t suit their list fairly early in the conversation which is great – you don’t want to be led on. Most importantly the agents and publishers are simply interested in books, so even if the novel doesn’t suit them you can still chat away about literature and writing.
Humans of No. 19 - June Caldwell September 15 2016
June Caldwell was in the Centre this week so we took the opportunity to chat with her about the moral elements of writing. #humansofno19 #writersofinstagram #irishwriterscentre
June is our inaugural Online Writer-in-Residence so stay tuned for more from her. And, we're thrilled to announce the exciting news that June has just signed with New Island for a short story collection, due 2017. Whoop!
'For years I thought I chose the wrong path because I was never happy with journalism, I hated it. Now I look back and I think that was really great grounding for my writing. To me creative writing is a moral form, it’s a way to look at the connection between human behaviour, events and how we perceive things. That’s what is so interesting about creative writing compared to journalism; you’re limited by what you can do in journalism, you’re only writing the facts but with creative writing you can take it a lot further. You can try and understand what the hell is going on in someone’s head and you can recreate the events around that, the drama which might give you a sense of horror, completion or whatever. My stories tend to have some kind of social element to them and they have a journalistic twist because the journalist in me is still so strong. I’ll take some of the facts, make them surreal in some way and play around with them. I think creative writing is way more powerful than journalism, I really do. You can find a new way to present the truth.'
Novel Fair: an opportunity worth travelling 5,000 kms for! August 23 2016
We spoke to Mairéad Rooney—all the way from Canada—to get some inside tips on applying for Novel Fair! A two-time Novel Fair winner Mairéad chatted about her writing process and whether her experience of the Fair changed the second time around.
Tell us about when you first came across the Novel Fair…
In 2012 I had just finished my novel and had reached the what-next moment. So I submitted to the 2012 Novel Fair and a few literary agents. But there were no bites. As it turned out the manuscript was not ready and the only thing to do was edit. I spent a year reworking the words and then submitted to the 2013 Novel Fair. That time I was lucky and got the call.
- What was your writing process/routine for the first Fair?
At the time I was writing first thing in the morning. And if some days I could not write, I read around the subject of writing. Though a lot of time, I didn’t do either! When I got the call from the Novel Fair in 2013, it was a real boost and, in preparation, I concentrated on editing the first 10,000 words.
- What was it like to receive the call telling you that your submission was successful?
Getting the call was great, a tiny taste of success! The manuscript was finished so there was no mad rush.
- You’ve participated in two Novel Fairs so can we assume you enjoyed the first time so much that you came back for round 2?!
I don't know if enjoy is the right word! Both Novel Fairs were a bit nerve-wrecking. But they are a unique opportunity for a writer to have a one-to-one conversation with several agents and publishers – and all in one day!
- You travelled from Canada for the Novel Fair this time. Did you plan to participate in the Fair again whilst you were living there or was it a last minute decision?
I wrote my second novel in Canada which took me three years. When it was finished I submitted it for the 2016 Novel Fair, but without any expectations. I just threw my hat in the ring.
- As a writer, what have you gained from the experience?
The first time I ever sat with an agent or a publisher was at the Novel Fair. A lot of the agents/publishers shared their thoughts on the current market, and also on what types of novels they were seeking. Some made a comment, negative or positive, on my pitch/CV/story so all of that is useful for the future of my writing.
- What advice would you give to a writer hoping to submit their work for the fair?
Work on the manuscript. Edit, edit, and edit again. Then pray for a bit of luck. Lots of luck!
We are delighted to reveal the lucky recipients of our Florence and Cill Rialaig residencies:
Paula McGrath will have the honour of residing in St Mark’s Church, Florence for one week this October and Louise C. Callaghan, Kate Kavanagh, Martin Malone, Dairena Ní Chinnéide, Nessa O’Mahony, Sydney Weinberg and Adam Wyeth will be heading to Co. Kerry this autumn as well.
Congratulations to these eight writers and we’re sure they'll have a fruitful time!
If you missed the deadlines for the above, fear not... the Jack Harte Bursary at Annaghmakerrig, a two-week fully resourced Writer-in-Residence Bursary, is once again open for applications. Click here to read more about the Jack Harte Bursary.
This week the sad news reached us of the death of Leland Bardwell. She was 94 and died in Sligo where she had made her home for many years. From her birth in India in 1922, Leland enjoyed a colourful life with a rich and varied writing career.
Her work included five novels, five collections of poems, a collection of short stories, as well as a memoir, and several plays. Apart from her accomplished body of work, Leland also leaves a legacy of generous commitment to the arts, having been one of the founding editors of Cyphers. She was also involved in the founding of the Irish Writers' Co-op, and the Scriobh literary festival in Sligo.
We in the Centre recall with great fondness her participation in our Peregrine Readings in 2011 – despite her age she was not fazed by touring provincial venues, and giving readings that enchanted audiences. Her warm charm and her wit will be sorely missed by the literary community.
University of Limerick Launch New York Summer School in Creative Writing in honour of Frank McCourt
We are so pleased to be partnering this July with Glucksman Ireland House NYU and the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Limerick, along with the generous sponsorship of the Shannon Airport Authority, to offer a Summer School in New York in honour of the late Frank McCourt.
The UL/Frank McCourt Summer School in Creative Writing will take place in New York from 7–10 July inclusive. The Summer School will be led by the renowned novelist and Frank McCourt Chair of Creative Writing Professor Joseph O’Connor. The Summer School will feature the talents of University of Limerick faculty including Joseph O’Connor, Donal Ryan, Giles Foden, Mary O’Malley, Sarah Moore-Fitzgerald and Eoin Devereux. In addition to creative writing workshops and lectures, the Summer School will feature a performance by Martin Hayes (The Gloaming).
The UL Frank McCourt Summer School is open to applications from those based in the USA and to those willing to travel from Ireland.
In announcing the summer school at the Frank McCourt Museum in Limerick City, Professor O'Connor said:
'2016 sees the twentieth anniversary of publication of Frank McCourt's masterpiece Angela's Ashes, a book that became a success all over the world, shedding light on the unique relationship that exists between Ireland and the United States, specifically between Limerick and New York. Frank's tale of two cities was translated into dozens of languages, stirring recognitions for millions of readers. We at UL's new Creative Writing Programme wished to honour him and his achievement, in this special year. We're establishing a New York-based Creative Writing Summer School in his name, bringing together his two great loves: teaching and writing.'
Professor O’Connor added:
'In founding the UL/Frank McCourt Creative Writing Summer School New York, we've had the immense assistance of so many people who loved Frank: his family and friends, his colleagues and collaborators. We thank Ellen McCourt and Loretta Brennan Glucksman for their help with the project, Rose Hynes at the Shannon Airport Authority for their most generous sponsorship, Barbara Jones, our Consul in New York, the Department of Tourism and Trade, the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin, Gabriel Byrne, John McColgan and Moya Doherty, and our magnificent pals at the Irish Arts Center in New York and at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, which will be the Summer School's home this July. This project has seen UL work with many transatlantic friends and colleagues, to honour a great writer we think of as one of our own and to highlight the exciting and innovative programme we at UL Creative Writing are building in his name.'
In advance of the Summer School, UL and the Irish Arts Centre, New York, will present An Evening for Frank McCourt at the Irish Arts Centre, NYC, on Sunday 26 June, featuring Gabriel Byrne, Jean Butler, Paul Muldoon, Maeve Higgins, Pierce Turner, Joseph O'Connor and others. Generously sponsored by the Shannon Airport Authority.
Informal enquiries to email@example.com
Further details may be found at: http://frankmccourt.ulfoundation.com/ or http://www.ul.ie/artsoc/content/summer-school-creative-writing
I Am Dublin: For the birds by Gavin Corbett April 07 2016
Our flash fiction competition 'I am Dublin' during the Five Lamps Festival showcased emerging writers and established writers including Gavin Corbett & Paula McGrath.
We have shared the winning entries on our blog and are delighted to be able to share the stories of Paula and Gavin with you as well. Below is Gavin's story.
For the birds
I’m a romantic, I suppose. I like the shine of the granite and I like the stories. I like BTs’ bed linen for the softness, that’s my indulgence, and I like that I’ll never see the inside of Fitzwilliam Square. I’m a Dublin man. I used to believe that one day Maura’s ring would turn up. Every little squit of doo-doo I’d look for that diamond. The other week, even, in Marks’s rooftop café, I was sitting there with my coffee and my pastry, and a seagull was knocking on the glass, trying to get to me. He was trying to say something. You’re the little gurrier, I said.
I used to believe the ring would just turn up, that’s the truth. Maybe I still do. There’s hope yet, and there’s always hope. It can happen. Things turn up. Some drugs turned up in my shore once, flushed down from Mountjoy prison. But as I say, I’m a romantic, and that’s just foul. But I got a reward.
No; I said to Pat once, your sister will come back to me one day, and it’ll be her ring. That’s how she’ll come back. ‘Yeah,’ he said, and I changed the subject, or so Pat thought. I spoke about seagulls. Pat thinks I’m a weirdo. He’s from Dungarvan, like Maura was, all the Roches; – culchies.
I said there were so many seagulls in the city, that they lived their whole lives here without ever going to sea. Why do you think that is, I said? I said I’d heard it was because of the smell of fish in the air.
Pat said, ‘Fish? But there’s no fish in Dublin. There’s not even a fishmonger. It’s because of the rubbish is all it is. Dublin’s filthy. The seagulls love the dirt.’
But then I heard there was fish in Guinness. And isn’t the air of Dublin saturated with Guinness? Can’t I smell it when the barley’s roasting? And I’m a human, I have a bad sense of smell. Can you imagine what a seagull smells?
I say I heard this but I was actually reading it in an article. They were writing about it because Diageo are taking the fish out of Guinness. Vegetarians putting pressure on Diageo. Diageo, I tell you. Vegetarians. Good night, I said.
A Poet's Rising live event April 05 2016
at the Irish Writers Centre, 31 March 2016
‘When I think of all the false beginnings…
The man was a pair of hands,
the woman another pair, to be had more cheaply,
the wind blew, the children were thirsty – ’
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poem ‘For James Connolly’ was the first to be recited to a spellbound audience at the Irish Writers Centre in Parnell Square, Dublin, last Thursday night.
I found these opening lines deeply moving – they brought me right back to when I was ten or eleven and read my first adult biography. It was a portrait of James Connolly, one that concentrated on the family man, the deeply compassionate human being whose sense of fairness and decency was outraged by the appalling poverty in which the ‘common man’ – and woman and child – were living.
I thought that Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s lines captured that sense perfectly – the sense of a man tired of waiting for ‘the voices to shout Enough’.
‘For James Connolly’ is one of six poems commissioned by the Irish Writers Centre and supported by the Arts Council as part of the national commemoration of 1916.
The six poets concerned are Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Muldoon, Jessica Traynor, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Theo Dorgan and Thomas McCarthy.
Each poet focused on a key historical figure and a particular location associated with the Easter Rising. Paul Muldoon ‘ventriloquised’ Patrick Pearse. Jessica Traynor chose Dr Kathleen Lynn, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill the O Rathaille, and Theo Dorgan paid tribute to Elizabeth O’Farrell.
Thomas McCarthy inhabited the Garden of Remembrance, where he reflected upon ‘the two states we’re in/A state of mystical borders and broken spears/Left by a silent procession of things left unsaid.’
All of the poets were then filmed in their chosen locations and the film will soon be an app, freely available for download at the end of April.
Conor Kostick has written the historical links between each of the poems on the app, and the glimpses that the audience got of the final version were enticing.
As the poets are filmed reading their work, they are accompanied by the fiddle playing of the incomparable Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Colm composed a haunting score in response to the poets’ commissioned work. We, the audience on Thursday night, were privileged to be in attendance as he played ‘Solasta’ for us.
It was illuminating to focus on the humanitarian motivations shared by so many of those involved in Easter 1916.
In Jessica Traynor’s ‘A Demonstration’, she explores the work of Dr Kathleen Lynn:
‘Haunted by skulls
that boast through the thin skin of children
Who ghost the alleyways, dying
young in silent demonstration
I raise my own demonstration
against my limits as woman and doctor.’
And finally, among all the many riches of the evening, I took away with me the closing words of Thomas McCarthy from his beautiful ‘Garden of Remembrance’. Words of reconciliation, of understanding, of all the things we share in our common humanity:
‘we have a duty to make a firm nest –
Not an ill-advised pageant or a national barricade.
When the midday sun breaks through, my eyes rest
On harp and acorn, on trumpet and bronze hands,
On things a family without our history understands.’
This was a memorable evening on so many levels.
Congratulations to the Arts Council, to the Irish Writers Centre – particularly to Pádraig Burke, the Development Officer there – to Colm Mac Con Iomaire, to Conor Kostick and, of course, to all the poets involved.
I made my way home through the Dublin evening afterwards feeling uplifted, grateful, almost optimistic.
I Am Dublin by Paula McGrath April 05 2016
During the Five Lamps Festival the Irish Writers Centre hosted a flash fiction competition 'I am Dublin' which showcased emerging writers along with some established writers including Paula McGrath and Gavin Corbett.
We have shared the winning entries on our blog and are delighted to be able to share the stories of Paula and Gavin with you as well. Below is Paula's story.
From up here, says the bird, it is a city like any other, concrete brick machines glass, a river, a port. And look, over there, on the crest of the bridge, a boy.
From up here, says the boy, it is a port like any other, filled with ships containers warehouses cranes. But it is not any other, it is Dublin. This bridge is Samuel Beckett, and the grey green river is called the Liffey. I asked when I first came.
My English is better now. I make it a game to pass the time. Too much time. I watched the others, closing in, closing down. Down time, free time, free run.
Missing my playground—obstacle course of rubble and scree, a scramble through buildings unfinished or bombed, king of the castle atop roofs of burned out cars—I cracked open the hostel window, crept out along the ledge, dropped to the balcony then the roof below, across the abyss with a leap.
Leap of foot, fleet of foot, leap of faith, this is the game I play. From scaffold, to ancient city wall, to excavation where Luas will run, I run. Parkour, in an other language. Government building iron rail is my tightrope; I balance; I am outside, I am in. Tonight, the boardwalk, Liffey wall, swing on string of Samuel Beckett's harp, to my lookout, my crow's nest. This is where I have come to think about another city, ruined and racked and full of broken things. Tomorrow, in government buildings, I learn which city is mine.
But it grows light. Tomorrow is already here. I grip the rods, manoeuvre to the curve, then slide, and drop to the metal path below, to bollard, to bench, to grey canal bridge, then I leap. In that space, between take-off and landing, I unmake and remake myself; I live, and breathe, and sigh.
From up here, says the bird, it is a boy, not like any other, from up here, he looks like he can fly.
I Am Dublin: The Last Gig by Fionnuala O'Connor March 31 2016
Our final winning entry for the I Am Dublin flash fiction competition was submitted by Fionnuala O’Connor. She has been writing short stories since the 1980s albeit with a gap of about fifteen years. She was born in Dublin and has lived there most of her life, moving in 2004 to Bray.
Dermot takes his saxophone out of its case. It is as beautiful as ever. He hasn’t played for a year, since before he came here.
He puts it to his lips .
This audience looks unresponsive, slumped in their seats, and some asleep even. He’s played a fair few weddings in his time where half the guests were comatose before the band came on. The South City Jazz Band it was called. Originally Jimmy wanted “The Jimmy Devlin Jazz Quintet” but that got shot down pretty quick. Jimmy liked to think of it as “his” band even though he was only the vocalist. The rest of them would have to put him in his box. Dermot used to say to him
“Get back in your cage Jimmy you’re only a canary”
Still, to be fair to him, it was Jimmy who got them together in the first place and he organised most of their gigs.
A woman shouts “stop that noise!”
They got a bit of heckling in the old days too, played some rowdy Pubs . Jimmy could give as good as he got. One time some young gougers started throwing things and big Dan had to come out from behind his drums.
That was before they got a bit of a name for themselves. They had quite a following..
Yes he knows they weren’t masters of jazz, just a bunch of Dublin lads playing in their spare time. Some Music Journalist, as he called himself, once had a go at them for being “not authentic”. Well who’s to say what’s authentic? They loved the music and they played it as well as they could so feck him anyway.
Dermot pauses, then tries Summertime, always popular.
His fingers feel clumsy and slow.
Something is not right. Is it him or the instrument? The tone is wrong. Maybe it’s just that he misses having the others around him.
The old woman shouts again.
He stops. He puts the sax down.
“Just out of practice” he says to himself.
Carefully he places the saxophone back in its case, walks out of the big room with his head down, past the carers and the nurse who had encouraged him to perform today.
He won’t be taking it out again.
I Am Dublin: Killing JB by Laurence Keogh March 29 2016
The recent I am Dublin Flash Fiction Competition was a great success with wonderful talent being showcased. In our third instalment of winning entries you can read Laurence Keogh's entry Killing JB below. Laurence Keogh has lived in Dublin most of his life and is fascinated by its history. He works in marketing and the last book he read was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
I was close enough now – we had stopped at the pedestrian crossing on Abbey Street – to see that his parmesan was of the superior sort. It had that rough, unhewn underside that holds a oily sheen. It would be a pleasure to grate such a cheese, to see it melt onto pasta. It would have that aroma of rich fruit cake. There would be a crunch as your teeth met those tiny deposits of salt crystals in its interior.
Towards the end of his life, the playwright Moliere ate nothing but Parmesan. He believed it had miraculous health-giving qualities; his deathbed was covered in it. The story was a literary one - but too grim to use as an opening conversational gambit. As we approached the Ha’penny Bridge, however, I remembered a particular village mentioned in the Decameron. It is a vision of paradise. Here, says Boccaccio, there is a mountain consisting entirely of grated parmesan. The villagers do nothing but make macaroni. They cook it in chicken stock. They roll it down the mountain so it’s well coated in cheese. And then they eat it. I turned to Banville as the countdown to the green pedestrian lights began. I smiled. I nodded towards the cheese.
‘So, John’, I said, ‘what’s the plan for the Parmesan?’.
I Am Dublin: Joy by Sinead Flynn March 24 2016 2 Comments
In the second post of our showcase of the I am Dublin Flash Fiction Competition winners we have the pleasure of reading Sinead Flynn's winning entry. From County Meath, Sinéad has enjoyed living in Phibsborough for the past few years. She teaches singing, drama and English language to a variety of wonderful people. Apart from writing Sinéad loves mythology and animals – especially dogs.
Mick surveyed the anxious faces of his three children with the most disapproving grimace he could muster.
‘Lads I’m very disappointed in ye.’
Katie and Shane lowered their heads while Keith stared wide eyed at the two guards standing to his left.
‘How many times have I said Mrs O’Reilly’s garden is out of bounds for ye and that bloody dog? Look at the trouble you’ve caused…’
‘But Da we didn’t kick the ball in on purpose. Mrs O’Reilly has it in for us!’ Shane protested.
‘But you shouldn’t have gone in without permission. You should’ve rung her doorbell.’
‘Yeah but…’ Katie had made several attempts to argue their case but the small, grey room and the presence of the guards made her tongue-tied.
‘No buts! Ye didn’t have permission and why the hell was Max running free? You know the rules. He has to be tied or on the lead.’
‘He wanted to play football too!’ Keith piped up.
‘Really? I never knew dogs could talk! When did he tell yis this?’
‘Da’, Katie steadied herself, ‘It was an accident. We can fix up the flowerbeds and pay for the clothes Max chewed with our pocket money.’
‘Your pocket money? You’ll be lucky to get anymore of that! And what about Mrs O? She’s furious! She said if she sees Max again she’ll have him taken away.’
‘No Da’, Keith sobbed.
Katie wanted to run home to protect Max but she knew the doors were locked and she’d never get past the woman at the front desk.
Shane always the calmest shook his head. ‘Da it won’t happen again. We’ll be careful with Max from now on. We’ll say sorry to Mrs O’Reilly. I still have Christmas money so I’ll give it to her for the clothes.’
‘Good man yourself! Be polite with the aul bat. And tell Max not to be goin’ near aul women’s underwear in future!’
They all laughed. With that a guard stepped forward. ‘Visiting time is over’.
‘Okay guard. Right lads…’
Mick stared at each of them. ‘See ye soon.’
He stepped forward but his handcuffs got in the way of a hug. ‘Love ye lads… and lassie’, he winked at Katie. ‘Take care, be good’.
‘See ya soon Da’.
They waved as two guards led Mick back to his cell.
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