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.


      1. HETTY GRAY – NOBODY’S BAIRN by Rosa Mulholland, a popular children’s classic, published in 1884.

          HETTY GRAY NOBODY’S BAIRN Rosa Mulholland Irish Writers Centre

          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:


              Patricia Byrne
              Dominique Cleary
              Georgina Eddison
              Jennifer Hall
              Fidelma Kelly
              Enda Kilroy
              Mary Lennon
              Sean Mackel
              Fintan O'Higgins
              Paul Quaid
              Sian Quill
              Mark Tuthill


              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

                  Henrietta McKervey & Jack Harte 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.

                  Carlo Gébler launching Beyond the Centre at the Crescent Arts Centre"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."

                  Carlo Gébler
                  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

                  IWC Northern Ireland Courses

                  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 writersgroup 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 wasnt 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 theyd spill their tea again. Well, thats 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 wasnt involved with the competition judging process at all.

                  Aidan J HerronHowever, 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

                  Catriona Lally

                  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

                  Humans of No 19 - June CaldwellJune 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

                  With the deadline for Novel Fair 2017 approaching we spoke to Mairéad Rooneyall the way from Canadato get some inside tips! 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! 

                  IWC Writers-in-Residence announced – Florence & Cill Rialaig 2016 July 13 2016

                  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. CallaghanKate KavanaghMartin MaloneDairena Ní ChinnéideNessa O’MahonySydney 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


                  St Mark's Church Florence       Cill Rialaig   

                  Leland Bardwell leaves a legacy of generous commitment to the arts July 02 2016

                  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.

                  Leland Bardwell

                  The UL/Frank McCourt Summer School in Creative Writing April 27 2016 1 Comment

                  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

                  Further details may be found at: or


                  Joseph O'Connor Frank McCourt summer school

                  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.  

                   I Am Dublin  Gavin Corbett


                  For the birds 
                  Gavin Corbett

                  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 

                  Catherine Dunne 


                   A Poet's Rising

                  ‘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.

                  Thank you.

                  Catherine Dunne



                  Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill   Paul Muldoon   Theo Dorgan

                  Thomas McCarthy   Jessica Traynor

                  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.  


                  I Am Dublin Paula McGrath

                  I Am Dublin
                  Paula McGrath

                  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

                  I Am Dublin Fionnuala O'Connor

                  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.

                  The Last Gig
                  Fionnuala O'Connor


                  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

                  I Am Dublin Flash Fiction  Laurence Keogh


                  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.

                  Killing JB
                  Laurence Keogh
                  On an afternoon in spring, I saw John Banville coming out of the Mark’s and Spenser’s on Liffey Street. I am a great admirer of his work. I followed him down the street. I didn’t do this with the intention of killing him. Not straight away, in any case. I planned to work up to that, having first allayed his suspicions by means of some literary conversation.
                  He  wasn’t carrying a bag. But he was carrying something. He walked quickly in the direction of the river. He wasn’t smaller in real life. This was real life; he was the same height as Bono. When I’d got closer to him - outside the adventure sports shop – I saw that he was carrying a wedge of parmesan cheese. I have a great enthusiasm for this cheese. Banville had gone into M&S for parmesan, and that’s what he had come out with. He’d  been single-minded in his errand, undistracted by marinated artichokes, say, or even prosciutto. He held the cheese now in his hand,  the palm facing downwards, the way an american footballer might hold the ball. 

                  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

                  I Am Dublin Flash Fiction

                  Sinead Flynn

                  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.

                  Sinead Flynn

                  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’.

                  ‘Bye Da.’


                  ‘See ya soon Da’.

                  They waved as two guards led Mick back to his cell.

                  I Am Dublin: Liffey. If He. Dares by Louise Cole March 22 2016

                  I Am Dublin Flash Fiction  Louise Cole

                  Following the success of our recent showcase of the I am Dublin Flash Fiction Competition with Five Lamps Festival we will be posting each of the four winning entries here for the enjoyment of all. 

                  Entrants were encouraged to channel their inner Anna Livia Plurabelle and to seek inspiration in the charm of our fair city – cracks and all. Our first author is Louise G. Cole, she  performs at the Word Corner Café in the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, and at pop up shows in the West with the Hermit Collective. She also blogs about writing. Read her winning entry below.

                  Liffey. If He. Dares.

                  Louise Cole

                  I make him tremble. The thought of me: I have causality. He is drawn to me. Torn.

                  More than a tremor.  A convulsive shudder and shake. Rock and roll. Slips and slides. Wants to hide. Looks up into the emptiness above, and then down, into my soul, the inviting deepness of me.

                  Vulnerability bows those broad shoulders, venerable boulders. Hairy, leery atop the worn elbows of a charity shop find three winters ago.  Now, he quakes. Shivers. Shows respect for the force that I am.

                  He doesn’t know I have herons upstream, grey and spike beaked, and herrings grey and quick finned down, streaming into the ocean. Screaming there on the Halfpenny Bridge, gulls and pigeons swoop hopefully low. He has no crumbs left, just a belly full of Costabucks caffeine threatening to reappear with the vodka naggin he quaffed in the gents, quickly and in secret for expediency of effect.

                  And affected, he thinks not to change his mind. He might exchange it for someone else’s, some bright Trinity student with the world at his feet, disaffected youth with attitude.

                  Only a vestigial self is his now.   Hardly anything remains as I slosh another wave of desperation over him.  A splash, a dash, a lash of brackish water, my best. His test: to take a deep breath and step into the unknown.

                  Beyond is the constant hum of the Luas trammeling the city, black cabs crashing bus lanes, beggars asking for change in ten tongues, shoppers tossing litter in the gutters, nutters tripping sean nós for the tourists, blaggers posing for selfies with the selfish passing by. Passersby. They pass him by.

                  Pulsing blue lights make this place take on the dark night, play the Dark Knight to his Marvel hero, marvellous heroics at my feet, Siren.

                  Glad tidings, riptides, tidy, tied. Can you hear me calling him? All he has to do is step forward, tip forward. Jump, fly, soar, score.

                  He can sleep in my bed forever and a day. Slide into the black mud, red blood flowing. Sink to my depths, I will welcome him here, caress the stress from that brow. Now.

                  I will swallow his shallow salt lake of grief, his tears, his fears.

                   Who cares? I do. I will take him to my heart, beating, fleeting, waiting. All he has to do is step my way. Just do it.

                  Compass Lines: Days by Karl Whitney & Philip Terry March 21 2016

                  Compass Lines #1 Days

                  Compass Lines is a writers’ exchange project aiming to establish links between writers and communities in the North and South of Ireland, while additionally examining relationships between the East and West of these islands, through workshops, public discussions, and the commissioning of new collaborative writing.

                  Compass Lines aims to encourage artistic fusion and integrate a sometimes fragmented audience, geographically and otherwise, through the strategy of combining writers with various concerns and backgrounds. Eschewing their comfort zones and usual patterns of working presents a diversion and a challenge to the writers, and a way of instigating discussions about ideas of process and place that reside in contemporary writing and which are often ignored through traditional views of literature.

                  Developed by poet, editor and curator Christodoulos Makris in collaboration with the Irish Writers Centre as producing organisation, and with the participation of the Crescent Arts Centre as partner venue, Compass Lines will comprise a series of enterprises, alternately in Dublin and in Belfast, each with the participation of two writers – one with connections to the north of Ireland and one to the south.

                  Each enterprise consists of three strands, community connection, discussion and new writing which will be specially developed collaborative pieces involving pairs of writers associated with the north and south of Ireland. The first Compass Lines event was on Wednesday 2 March 2016, the first in this series of collaborative pieces is available below.

                  Karl Whitney & Philip Terry

                  Days travelling to Ennis.

                  Beefsteak days.

                  Days coming events cast their shadows over.

                  Days when you buy a new pet.

                  Days walking in Tolleymore.

                  Days wondering whose thoughts you’re chewing.

                  Days when you feel as if you had been eaten and spewed.

                  Days when you bury a pet in the garden.

                  Days eating orangepeels.

                  Nights walking home from the 49N.

                  Nights lit sharply by the moon’s glow.

                  Some nights you remember, and others you forget. I remember:

                  Nights, restless nights, spent wheezing ‘til dawn.

                  Afternoons cycling along the tow-path.

                  Afternoons making kits.

                  Afternoons fretsawing.

                  Afternoons when you believe others’ eyes.

                  Afternoons watching cartoons after school.

                  Afternoons following lessons mechanically.

                  Afternoons walking vaguely through Spanish streets.

                  Afternoons when you arrive back at Aldergrove Airport, and it is raining.

                  Hours spent listening to David Bowie records.

                  Moments watching The Man Who Fell To Earth.

                  Moments daydreaming in class, gazing out the window, then being brought back to earth by an incomprehensible question.

                  Moments when you wonder how you got here and where you’re going.

                  Moments when you realise your coach leaves in an hour for some scrubland desert town.

                  Moments choosing what to eat at the ‘Say When’ casino in McDermitt, Nevada.

                  Those moments of possibility that show themselves while writing, or reading, or talking.

                  Moments dancing with your girlfriend in the kitchen.

                  Moments that surprise you with their intensity.

                  Moments hoovering: losing oneself, zen-like in the task.

                  Moments when you can’t remember if you locked the front door.

                  Days when you can’t remember what day it is.

                  Days when you still can’t remember what day it is.

                  Days when you no longer care what day it is.

                  Days filled with thoughts of other days.

                  Hours sitting at a desk in an office: typing, transcribing, redrafting.

                  Lunch hours when it’s raining out and you sit there with a sandwich, reading Species of Spaces.

                  Hours without conversation when you’re kept going by the anxious thrum of your thoughts.

                  Hours awake (there are more of these).

                  Hours asleep (fewer).

                  Hours between flights at Chicago O’Hare. You can see the city’s skyline, but don’t have enough time to reach it.

                  Hours when you have to be somewhere.

                  Hours when you don’t.

                  Nights when you spend more time awake than you do asleep.

                  Afternoons when you’re tired from lack of sleep.

                  Mornings when you wake to find a cow’s head poking through your window.

                  Mornings when you wake to find a horse’s head next to you in bed.

                  Mornings watching Homes Under the Hammer.

                  Mornings wasted.

                  Mornings cycling along the seafront.

                  Mornings sitting on buses, in traffic, watching pedestrians overtake you.

                  Mornings are like nights, but brighter; in fact, they’re more like days, light-wise.

                  But mornings can be dark during winter, that’s true.

                  Moments when things happen quickly.

                  Moments when time stands still.

                  Moments thinking up titles of essays you’ll never write, like “Joyce or U2?”

                  Moments when you notice the rifle trained on your car.

                  Dull afternoons at the Bibliothèque Nationale lit by the desk lamps’ glow.

                  Afternoons at the cinema.

                  Afternoons reading.

                  Afternoons writing.

                  Afternoons doing nothing.

                  Nights in Norway when it doesn’t look like night.


                  Hours spent walking around Dublin while Molly’s with yer man.

                  Hours tapped out on the clocks around the city. Who winds them?

                  Hours before you’ll be back in Eccles Street. You may as well have a sandwich.

                  Hours watching the Liffey ebb in and out, a throwaway little remarked upon.

                  Hours writing letters to your aunt, asking questions about the city you left.

                  The hours you’ve spent on this stretch of the North Circular Road, which lacks a tram service.

                  Hours you spent thinking, Bloom.

                  Hours you spent writing Bloom.

                  Hours walking the streets of Dublin on an empty stomach.

                  Hours surrounded by coffined thoughts.

                  Hours walking barefoot on the strand.

                  Hours in Trieste listening to the babble.

                  Mornings listening to the soft flop of porter gushing in the pub cellar.

                  Moments with your nose whiteflattened against the window pane.

                  Moments remembering the voices of the dead.

                  Days of rage.

                  Days when you look at the rising waters and think: this can’t last.

                  Days walking down Broadway.

                  Days when you sit on the slow train, looking out across the Meadowlands.

                  Days spent talking about the 1960s.

                  Days when you can’t tell wrong from right.

                  Days you spend as a maths teacher in New Mexico thinking about the Weather Underground.

                  Afternoons when you put everything off until the following morning.

                  Hours spent catching up with what you put off yesterday afternoon.

                  Hours you wasted trying to think of what to write next.

                  Hours that you can’t account for. What happened between the

                  Hours of ten and eleven on the morning of the twenty-seventh of February 2013?

                  Hours that you spent playing guitar.

                  Hours copying cassettes at double speed on a hi-fi.

                  Hours spent reading the NME.

                  Hours browsing through racks of CDs and piles of records.

                  Hours clearing the attic, throwing out the stuff you accumulated over the years.

                  Days listening to Joy Division.

                  Days listening to Warsaw because you’ve run out of Joy Division.

                  Days listening for signs of Joy Division in New Order.

                  Mornings when the wind whips wheelie bins along the road.

                  Mornings when you should have left the house ten minutes ago.

                  Mornings when your ears are ringing from last night’s gig.

                  Mornings when the afternoon creeps up on you.

                  Mornings when the night stays with you, as you piece together your half-remembered dreams.

                  Mornings spent avoiding the news.

                  Mornings watching oddly scheduled American sitcoms.

                  Mornings when the streets are empty and the city seems uninhabited.

                  Moments you have met before in a dream.

                  Moments spent thinking of things you’d like to have done, but can no longer do, like visit Seamus Heaney or go drinking with Brendan Behan.

                  Moments soaking conkers in vinegar to try and make them tougher.

                  Moments when you find out that soaking conkers in vinegar is pretty useless.

                  Moments when you swim without armbands for the first time.

                  Nights in the summer that never really get dark.

                  Nights when you watch the blinking lights of aircraft circling the city.

                  Nights worrying if the bogeyman is going to come and get you.

                  Afternoons when you’re anxious about your deadline.

                  Hours at airports, anxiously waiting for your flight.

                  Hours wasted.

                  Hours when you wish you hadn’t stayed up all night.

                  Lost hours.

                  Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours that you can’t account for.

                  Mornings: routine, unconsciously timetabled.

                  Mornings when you wake up feeling old.

                  Mornings that make you think of other mornings.

                  Mornings grinding coffee, making porridge, taking vitamins.

                  Mornings when routine collapses, and you’re resigned to being late, so you have another cup of coffee.

                  Days on the wagon.

                  Lobster days.

                  Days when my father returns from a trip to Dublin with Bewley’s fudge.

                  Last days.

                  Days chasing ghosts.

                  About the Authors:

                  Philip Terry is currently Director of the Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Essex. Among his books are the lipogrammatic novel The Book of Bachelors, the edited story collection Ovid Metamorphosed, a translation of Raymond Queneau’s last book of poems Elementary Morality, and the poetry volumes Oulipoems,Oulipoems 2, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, andAdvanced Immorality. His novel tapestry was shortlisted for the 2013 Goldsmith’s Prize. Dante’s Inferno, which relocates Dante’s action to current day Essex, was published in 2014, as well as a translation of Georges Perec’s I Remember.

                  Karl Whitney is a writer of non-fiction whose first book, Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin was published by Penguin in 2014. In 2013 he received the John Heygate award for travel writing. He has a BA in English and History from University College Dublin, an MA in Modernism from University of East Anglia, and a PhD in History from University College Dublin. He is a Research Associate at the UCD Humanities Institute.

                  Launch of Wicklow Literature Programme with Words Ireland February 17 2016

                  Mermaid Arts Centre Thursday 25 February, 2016 at 6pm


                  Words Ireland is delighted to announce the development of a new literature programme in partnership with Wicklow County Arts Office and supported by the Wicklow Library Service.This programme will involve readings, public events, mentoring schemes, workshops and masterclasses with some of Ireland’s leading writers, poets and illustrators. 

                  It will be launched at Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray on Thursday 25 February at 6pm with guest speakers Michael Nicholson and John Ryan, both of Wicklow County Council (scroll down for full invite details). 

                  Wicklow is home to a wealth of writing talent and this programme will seek to celebrate those who are established, while nurturing the next generation. Wicklow enjoys an extremely rich literary heritage and has inspired celebrated writers such as WB Yeats, Derek Walcott, Mary Lavin and Seamus Heaney, to mention just some. In more recent times, contemporary writers Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright and Paul Howard have found much inspiration in the county. 

                  Thursday 25 February is Wicklow Literature Day when the new programme kicks off with a range of activities: a workshop with local award winning illustrator Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick at Greystones Library in the morning (now sold out), followed by a panel event based around the best-selling children’s book Once Upon a Place, early evening in the Happy Pear, Greystones, and a mentoring showcase featuring local writers at the Mermaid Arts Centre, which will be preceded by a launch at 6pm.

                  The writers include: Caroline Bracken, Evelyn Conlon, Emer Fallon, Justin McCarthy, Sinéad O’Loughlin, Michelle Read, Philip St. John and Grace Wells.

                  Wicklow writers and book lovers are encouraged to attend.

                  Later in the year the programme will feature a writers’ mentoring scheme, a special reading project for children in libraries and a number of live literature events. Highlights will include a masterclass with Ireland Professor of Poetry Paula Meehan at Bray Library, a reading with short story writer Claire Keegan at the Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely and a series of workshop and in-conversation events with Wicklow writers including Jane Clarke and Liz McManus in libraries throughout the county.

                  Director of Services with Wicklow Council Council, Michael Nicholson commented:

                  'The County Wicklow Literary Development Programme 2016/17 led by Wicklow Arts Office in Partnership with Words Ireland and with support from Wicklow County Library Service - is a significant arts development initiative for the county. It will offer people of all ages, throughout the county, a wide range of options to develop their skills in the craft of writing and to discover the pleasure of reading through an excellent programme of readings, workshops and masterclasses.'

                  The richness and diversity of literature in Wicklow will be celebrated throughout the county and for all ages. Writers and readers are encouraged to check out their local libraries where they can sign up to be included on the county database and to share their ideas for the programme. The aim of the programme is to provide effective resources for the literature sector and to encourage a passion for writing and reading throughout the county.

                  Words Ireland is a recently formed grouping of seven literature organisations, which is working collaboratively to provide coordinated professional development and resource services to the literature sector. This three-year partnership with Wicklow County Council will allow us to organise workshops, readings and events across Wicklow for writers, readers, literature professionals and literature enthusiasts.

                  For more information on Words Ireland see and for more information on Wicklow County Arts Office please visit

                  Further information from:  Tel (01) 678 9815

                  Announcing the recipients of the IWC / Anam Cara bursaries February 17 2016

                  The Irish Writers Centre and Anam Cara Writer's & Artist's Retreat are delighted to announce that Réaltán Ní Leannáin and Simon Ó Faoláin are the recipients of two one-week residencies to take place later this year. 

                  These residencies will afford the two writers time and space to complete their current creative projects which are being written in the Irish language. 

                  The recipients were selected by a panel comprising writers Anna Heussaff and Jack Harte, and Valerie Bistany of the Irish Writers Centre. Jack Harte commented on the residencies by saying: 

                  'A week in Anam Cara is a huge boost to any writer, and the affirmation that it implies is hugely important too.'

                  We would also like to thank Sue Booth-Forbes of Anam Cara for her generous patronage of these two writers and wish them an enjoyable and – most importantly – creative stay! 


                  Realtan Ni Leannain     Sean O Faolain


                  Special Discounted Rate on Selected Courses February 10 2016 1 Comment


                  Irish Writers Centre



                  If you've missed out on joining a Spring 2016 course, it's not too late to sign up and the course will be discounted accordingly. Offer available for a limited time only. 

                  Although the courses in question have already begun, the course facilitators are confident that those joining in late will be able to catch up on any class work missed. The courses being offered at discounted rates are as follows:

                  This is a great opportunity to catch-up without breaking the bank. Those interested should contact the Centre on 01-8721302 or email 

                  The discount rates are based on how many sessions have been missed. Students will be unable to join courses after the third session.