Monday, 8 August 2016

Bath Children's Novel Award

The Bath Children's Novel Award is now open to submissions. The website also has very useful and interesting interviews with past winners, runner's up and shortlisted authors. The closing date is the 20th November and the entry fee is £22.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Tea, Coffee, Chocolate x Haiku

Tugged handfuls of mint
Infuse in boiling water
Honey sweet sunshine

Mahogany tones
Laptop logs me in slowly
Oil on wood panel

Marshmallow sticky
Flake disappears in suede swirls
Chalky last mouthful

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Time to write

I'm just home from a fabulous two weeks visiting my brothers in Canada with my mum. This was the trip I won last year in the Irish Times Generation Emigration Flying Visit competition. I promised myself over the two weeks I was going to write and write and write. Although I did a lot of reading, I wrote exactly 17 words. On the back of a receipt. This didn't disturb me because the summer still stretches out in front of me and some thinking time is good. Enjoying my brothers' hospitality, inevitably I thought of the good times growing up in our too often mad home and how our wicked sense of humour, penchant for a colourful vocabulary and utter love from and for our mum sustained us then and continues to keep us strong.

So, home, my theme this six months really. I've spent some time away and am returned to it now, rested and recharged. I sat down to write yesterday and read more; the latest Crannog, the latest Spontaneity, a few papers I'd missed when I was away, checked out what submission opportunities are open. Somewhere in the midst of that I typed the 17 words and you know a poem followed. A few drafts later, but still brand new, here it is:


There was living too
voices rising, sweary banter and food,
endless tables of food, second helpings, second sittings
and laughter, there was laughter,
the good of it rose in us and we carried it like light.

I know it in the bearing now, here
in this late night chat and breaking out in song:
new belief in the fact of survival, in love.
Chasidy, me, Brian, Peter, Aidan, Mum, John in Canmore, Alberta

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Caterpillar Story For Children Prize 2016

The Caterpillar Story For Children Prize 2016
Hi everyone...see link above for details of the Caterpillar Story For Children Prize 2016 to be judged by Mark Lowery ....deadline September 30th...get scribbling!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

New Series of Workshops with Denise Blake at Carn Lodge

Denise Blake has just announced a Spring series of workshops from her home Carn Lodge in Ramelton. These begin on the 12th April and run for six Tuesday evenings. 

It was at a series of these workshops that the Garden Room Writers met way back in 2009/10.
We learned to explore our creativity, our voices, our writing ambitions in a safe and encouraging environment. Denise's facilitating style is gentle and respectful and she brings many years of writing and facilitating experience to the table, as well as good coffee and a warm welcome. When the workshops ended we decided to see if we'd manage to keep meeting and keep writing and here we are six years on, meeting, writing, reading and publishing.

It's much easier not to write in a vacuum. As a beginner writer you have a yard stick, you have peer encouragement, you generate ideas by bouncing your own ides off others'. 

When people ask me about joining a group, or beginning to write I direct them to a workshop and to North West Words. There you will meet people in the same boat, interested in writing and maybe looking for writers to hook up with. The major advantage is that these opportunities are managed; crucially, there is time to find out if you can work with the people you meet there. 

If you want to begin writing or return to it after a break, try these workshops with Denise, see where the pen takes you. 

Monday, 4 January 2016

Composition. Choosing. Grand Plans.

Today I'm thinking about the various ways we compose.
Mum took part in a creative writing class this winter - she's been writing her thoughts and reminiscences since and  they've blown me away with their clarity and focus. Mum writes carefully in beautiful hand writing. I know she thinks very much of writing as 'composition', the term used for the essays she wrote in school.
My sister-in-law invited me to read and respond to her draft novel over the holidays. This was an eye-opener and a privilege. I've never before had access to behind the scenes on that kind of scale. I'm staggered by the work that has gone into her novel already: the research and plotting and redrafting that has brought it to this fine, though not final, version. I'm excited to see what happens next: where will the redrafting take her?
My brother in Madrid has sent me the outline plot of a musical theatre piece he has written the music for, so that I might give him feedback on the story. How special an opportunity to observe and be involved, even in a tiny way, with the workings is that?
John met a client this morning and now is sketching alternative layouts and drawing up the plans for the project. While I was in chatting to him in the study (tea-ferrying) I heard some of the response on the radio to a photo published in the Manchester Evening News. This is the photo by Joel Goodman they were all talking about and wow, is it a study in composition?

Have a read of some of the commentary in the Guardian here

I'm obviously conscious of composition when I work on my poems. What goes in, in what order, what shape does the poem have on the page, when is a poem finished? I've gone back on poems and reopened them after a year or more of letting them sit, I'm not untypical in that. Sometimes I've put them back as they were in a previous incarnation. 
Then there is the matter of composing a representative selection of poems. That might be for a reading; in which case I look at what's gone down well before, where and when the reading is taking place, some new poems. 
This has been my writing work over the past couple of weeks. I've been choosing poems for submission for the Prebooked Reading at Cork International Poetry Festival and for my latest attempt at Poetry Ireland Introductions. The submission has been made to Cork, and I'm almost settled on my poems for PI.
Most exciting and challenging of all though: I've  been working on assembling my poems into a draft manuscript, selecting poems, ordering them in some sort of logical sequence. It's the biggest thing I have ever done with my writing. It calls for composing on a big scale, sitting back from the poems and reading them with an editor's eye and with a potential reader's eye as opposed to listener's ear. It means looking at the narrative as far as there is one in the selection. It means swinging between confidence that I write well and massive doubt.
So I listed what I felt were the best, then the next best, then the next best. If I had any doubts about the truth of a poem it didn't go in, if I saw workshoppiness in the DNA of the poem it didn't go in, if I saw lazy it didn't go in. I left out three that have been published in reputable magazines. 
I put in some poems I continue to champion despite rejection by reputable magazines. I included my first published poem among them. A Deer on Meenaroy was published in Revival in October 2010. It's been interesting looking back, satisfying to see the development of my writing, admiring for the most part composition decisions I made over the years.

Here's to 2016 and all it brings to the Garden Room Writers, to the Donegal scene, to you! 

A Deer on Meenaroy

We meet ourselves on the road,
versions of ourselves at least.
In a car we once drove
the same rush we used to be in  
full headlong into the turns that took us from
Milford and Ardara and set us in one place.

After twelve winters, we are driving home
from your father’s wake. I watch you sidelong,
reading your face in the orange dash light.

Then, just beyond your window, he is there
fractional in the shadows, I say
Deer, did you see him John? He was beautiful
but tired eyes on the road ahead, you’d missed him.

We feel his company later when we read
Memory of my Father
fished out of an old schoolbook
because it was whispering itself all day.
You shut the book suddenly
That’s enough of that.        
Like a smile beguiles a gag reflex,
the slap of the book cover
dissolves the lump in your throat.

In our darkened bedroom
you tell me again about the time
your Dad and you were driving home
and you met a deer on Meenaroy.

The deer, tonight, anchors the random things:
faith, fear, vacancy.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

North West Words is this Thursday 26th November in Cafe Blend

It's that time of the month again - the last Thursday and North West Words.

The deadline for the NWW two poetry competitions are also this week on Friday 27th November 2015. One competition is for English poetry and the other for Irish language poetry. See details and entry requirements on the NWW website 


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Along these Lines - two poems

Me and mum at Ardara Show last summer
After a weekend of organising workshops for North West Words and talking to many people about how they write I was thinking of the value of workshops, of stimulating writing out of exercises. I’m not very good at writing ‘live’ like that, I suppose few people are; but when I read back over my work from the session and allow the theme time to settle with me I often find there is a poem.  So, two workshop inspired poems.

Monday, 22 June 2015

NWW Arts Night June 2015

So, this Thursday is NWW Arts Night, and there's a great line up of writing talent as usual. Two Belfast based poets, Colin Dardis and Geraldine O'Kane, are reading on the NWW stage for the first time. Colin and Geraldine also run and co-host the Purely Poetry event in the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. 

NWW starts at 8pm in Cafe Blend, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Thursday 25th June.

Colin Dardis is a poet, editor, creative writer tutor and arts facilitator, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His work has been published in numerous anthologies, journals and zines throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA. Colin runs Poetry NI, in which he is the editor of FourXFour, an online journal focusing on poetry from Northern Ireland. Pen Points Press, a poetry micro-press founded by Colin, launched at the Belfast Book Festival 2014. He also runs Purely Poetry, an open mic poetry night in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast. Colin is also the online editor for Lagan Press. Colin’s Poetry chapbook, ‘Döji: A Blunder’, is out now from Lapwing Publications.

Geraldine O’Kane is originally from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. She has been writing poetry since her teens, and has had numerous poems published in magazines, anthologies and online e-zines such as BareBack Lit, FourXFour Poetry Journal, Illuminated Poetry Ireland, Allo Trope, Short, Fast and Deadly, Poetry Super Highway, The Lake and more. Her first pamphlet “Quick Succession is available to purchase via Pen PointsPress. She is co-host and regular reader at the Purely Poetry open mic nights in Belfast. She is editor of Panning for Poems

Also featured is crime writer Charlie Garratt. He was born in Manchester and worked for many years as an engineer in England. Married to author and Donegal woman Ann, the couple moved to Mountcharles in 2006. Charlie joined a writers group in Donegal and began to write fiction.In 2015 his first murder mystery novel A Shadowed Livery was published by Grey Cells Press and is nominated for The Crime Writers Silver Dagger Award.

And, of course, there's the Open Mic. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

NWW Writing Weekend 24th-26th July 2015

This year, in July, is the 3rd North West Words Writing Weekend in Co. Donegal. I've attended every one and enjoyed it immensely each time. The weekend opens on Friday 24th July with readings  in Cafe Blend, Letterkenny and continues with workshops on Saturday and Sunday 25th and 26th.

This year the workshops are in the particularly lovely setting of Carn Lodge, Ramelton. I'm looking forward to an extra special weekend of writing and meeting writers. This event has always been distinctive for its relaxed and congenial atmosphere.

As in previous years, there is a great line up and variety of writing workshops covering a range of genres: fiction (including crime writing), poetry, memoir, and there is also a drawing workshop. Facilitators are Niamh Boyce, Moya Cannon, John MacKenna, Brian McGilloway and Winifred McNulty. For more details see NWW website news  and  workshop details  Niamh Boyce also has a workshop post on her blog at A Writer's Blog

For bookings email Maureen Curran at or by post to North West Words, 54, Thornberry, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.