Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Sunday, 29 December 2013

My stories published at The Derry Review website and The Weary Blues

I'm deighted to say that I've two pieces published very recently online.  My story Myself Alone was published last week on The Derry Review website here  and  a flash fiction called Cooking for the Dead at The Weary Blues  here.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Happy Christmas


Happy Christmas from the Garden Room Writers, and thanks for stopping by and reading our blog.

(Christmas tree image - Mazeo's clipart from Openclipart)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Some more recommended readings in short fiction, poetry, letters and more

Here are more ideas for online readings over the festive season - a few first issues even. And below some beautiful, hard copy, hold in your hands literary magazines.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

My story With Matchsticks Not Money in The Linnet's Wings Winter 2013

I'm delighted to say that my short story With Matchsticks Not Money has just been published in the Winter 2013 issue of The Linnet's Wings here

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Some online readings - for the festive season perhaps.

Here are some ideas for reading short stories and poetry in online literary journals over the festive season.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The beginnings of enthusiasm...

I remember vividly the first book of short stories that ever came my way. I was a  teenager, on holiday from London, accompanying my mother on a trip to her childhood home in Dunlewey. The cottage was empty. Her parents had died decades earlier; their ten children had all emigrated and made their lives elsewhere. My uncle used to come for the summer when his children were young, but now he rented it to a judge from Dublin who came for occasional fishing trips.
A neighbour from the village kept the key for my uncle, and as the judge was not in residence he came with us so my mother could look inside the place where she grew up. Paddy Maire Mor was an old man then, but he would have witnessed the sadness of death and emigration that my mother's family had gone through, and he was aware of her feelings as she moved through the little cottage. As if to distract me from her melancholy, he drew my attention to a shelf of paperbacks by the door, and urged me to take one. I hesitated, not wanting to deplete the judge's holiday reading, but Paddy was insistent.
I have the book beside me now: "The Sphere Book of Modern Irish Short Stories", published in 1972, edited by David Marcus. I remember reading the stories from start to finish, an indiscriminate consumer of pages, unaware of the reputation of many of the writers. Some resonated with me at the time. I knew that Liam O'Flaherty's 'Going into Exile' described an American Wake like the one my mother remembered in the cottage in the 1930's when her eldest brother and sister emigrated, and I could recognise the tensions in Edna O'Brien's 'Cords': a daughter at home in London with a mother ill-at -ease there.
It's only now I recognise how this book was a launching pad for my enthusiasm for the Irish short story. In years to come, I sought out collections by Michael McLaverty and Brian Friel, having grown to love their stories in this collection. It was here I first read John McGahern, in an unforgettable and strange portrait of his father called 'The Bomb Box'.
I've returned to the stories over the years, and it's only recently that some have yielded their riches to me. Elizabeth Bowen's  'A Love Story; 1939' stands out now, but left my younger self unmoved. How could I have overlooked Mary Lavin's 'Happiness'? I joyfully rediscovered its complexity and emotional power during a recent browse, and it sent me on a quest for more. I'm delighted that I could order 'Tales From Bective Bridge' from Faber Finds, and even happier that it has just been delivered.
The book I acquired so long ago is still spurring me on and leading to new discoveries and pleasures.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas with North West Words

This Thursday evening it's the Christmas event at North West Words, Cafe Blend, Letterkenny. We are in for a treat with readings from  the poet, editor of Boyne Berries, and Boyne Writers' group member Michael Farry.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Manchester Writing for Children Prize 2014

Find details of the first ever Manchester Writing for Children Prize 2014 here.
Also, details of the Manchester Poetry Prize and the Manchester Fiction Prize can be found here

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Get on yer bike and visit Lumiere Derry

Wow is Derry buzzing! There are four nights of Lumiere ending tonight 1st December, and the city is packed and full of fun.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Advice and resources on writing short stories

Sometimes writing advice really hits at the right time, and you read something about writing process that seems so true. In the beginnings of starting to write, I found it difficult to appreciate much of the wisdom on process. With hindsight, I do believe that writing publishable work is something that is learned gradually through trial and error, and mostly through some success and much rejection (damn it!). Here are some resources providing advice on writing short stories that I've found useful.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Interviews with the marvellous William Trevor

If you are like me and enjoy the writings of William Trevor, this is for you. I'm always keen to read anything that this masterful writer has to say about his craft. He is up there as one of my favourites. Recently, I've come across two instances of interviews with him that I found really enjoyable, and not surprisingly, very insightful on writing process.

An interview with The Paris Review from a few years ago here 

Also, since his recent and well deserved award of the inaugral Charleston-Chichester Award for a Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction, there is an exclusive audio interview with him available at Thresholds website here  

Respect Mr Trevor, respect.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

North West Words in November - another great night planned

The last Thursday of the month means North West Words in Cafe Blend Letterkenny. And, there's another great line up this month. I'll be there.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Letters Page - issue 2 out soon and a call for submissions for issue 3

The Garden Room Writers have a special interest in The Letters Page  edited by Jon McGregor and a team from The School of English in The University of Nottingham. Our own GRW Ann Hull had a letter in the first issue. What a lovely idea, hand written letters only. To look at issue 1 see here 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Shelley Tracey Creative Writing Workshop in Co. Down

The Write to Belong: finding your place
in the family of things
Saturday 30th November, 2013 10.00-4.30
The title of this creative writing workshop is based on the last lines of Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Manchester Children's Book Festival...save the date!

A date for your diaries...the Manchester Children's Book Festival will take place from 26th June to 6th July 2014. The festival is held every two years and run by Carol Ann Duffy's team at the Manchester Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University. The programme will be announced in January. I also just discovered the festival blog here. Apologies for the generous advanced warning, I realise we haven't even had Christmas 2013 yet, but would hate anyone to miss out on what I am sure will be a superb festival.

Man With A Movie Camera - an outdoor showing at Ebrington Barracks, Derry

Some things are just super cool, and you'll go and see even in the cold and damp Derry air. So, this Saturday I headed into the big smoke (North West style) to see a showing of Man With A Movie Camera as part of Cinema City.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Two new websites devoted to the short story in Ireland and the UK

I've come across two new websites recently that have just started up and are devoted to the short story. They have comment, resources, interviews, news etc... all around the wonderful form of short story.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Francis MacManus Short Story Competition 2014 open for submissions

Gee, I've entered this competition so many times! And no, I've never got anywhere in it. I'm not giving up though - try, try, try again. The shortlisted stories are all broadcast on RTE, so there are lots of opportunities from it. And podcasts of past winning and shortlisted stories are available  here  They're well worth listening to.

Rules for submission are available here (to enter you need to be born or resident in Ireland).  It seeks hardcopy posted submissions only with a strict word limit of 1,800 - 2,000 words. The deadline is 31st January 2014, and results are not published until June 2014, so it does take a long while before hearing any news.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

National Short Story Week 11th - 17th 2013

This looks good, a national short story week designed to promote that lovely form. There's a website of resources here  a blog here  with tweets @ShortStoryWeek

At The Story Player here  you can even listen to a range of short stories online.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cinema City in Derry throughout November

This film event is ongoing in Derry with film showings at Ebrington,  some of which are outdoors, and also at the Nerve Centre. A lot of the showings are free, but even those with an entrance fee are at a very good rate. There's lots of great film on, and other cinema related events, and it continues throughout the month. Programme available here   

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Some upcoming deadlines in November and December

Wow, the winter seems to be here now in Donegal, heavy rain tonight. Wait a minute, don't we get that in summer too. I shouldn't complain really, we'd a great Donegal summer this year.

Well, to cheer ourselves up, what about a few approaching deadlines, and ideas for submitting over the rainy season (no snow, please!). Here are some upcoming submission dates.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

My story Fallout is in Number Eleven

I'm very pleased to say that I've a story included in issue 3 of Number Eleven, an online literary journal. It's available here For further details of the journal see its Facebook site  and its website 

Number Eleven is edited by Graham Connors and publishes short story, flash, graphic novel artwork and illustraion, all quarterly. Submission details from the website here

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Storytelling in Ramelton (8th - 10th November)

There's a very interesting looking storytelling festival upcoming soon in Ramelton, Co. Donegal (8th-10th November). The details are below, and there's a facebook page for updates here

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween musing

Some Halloween fun over at the website of  'The Penny Dreadful', that literary magazine of repute, who have announced the winners of their competition to tweet a seasonal horror story. You can read the top ten here  (including one from yours truly) and many congratulations to the worthy winner, Laura Jane Cassidy.
I was travelling back from a trip to England today, so I'm not joining the fun at tonight's North West Words event in Letterkenny. Instead, I indulge a Halloween habit and re-read the prologue of John Burnside's stunning memoir, 'A Lie About My Father'.
Burnside is a staggeringly gifted writer of poetry, short stories and novels. His first volume of memoir opens with a haunting reflection on Halloween:
'I was brought up, not necessarily to believe, but to allow for the possibility that the dead come back at Halloween; or rather, not the dead, but their souls: whether as individual wisps of fading consciousness or some single aggregated mass, it didn't matter. All I knew was that soul was there, in one of its many guises: ghost or revenant, breath of wind, figment of light or fire, or just some inexplicable memory, some snapshot filed away at the back of my mind, a picture I didn't even know I possessed until that moment.'
This is perfect prose for the season, and I never tire of reading Burnside, and then reading again more slowly and with appropriate attention. It is always a rewarding experience. If you would like to know more, the Scottish Poetry Society have some background and poetry on their website.
Happy Halloween...

Friday, 25 October 2013

My story Helpless in Crannog 34

My copies of Crannog arrived today. That’s always good news, but this time I’m excited to say that one is a contributor's copy, so I’ve a story published in Crannog 34. It's called Helpless. I’m so sorry to miss the launch in The Crane Bar, Galway. I hope everyone has an enjoyable evening of fabulous readings.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

North West Words Arts Night Next Thursday

Halloween with North West Words - you could bring out the horror fiction for the open mic. Or, horror poetry, is there such a thing? We might find out next Thursday in Cafe Blend, Letterkenny 8pm onwards.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

No Jury No Prize and the Garden Room Writers


in the London Street Gallery, Derry.

23rd October until 6th November 2013

     Our envelope designed by Nick Griffiths

                      Sample page

 To view the entries from the other members of the group,
 why not call into the Gallery and also see lots of other exhibits
 from all over Ireland.

 The Turner Prize exhibition is now open at Ebrington Barracks
 until January 2014. See here

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Just published poem (and its companion)

This poem is published in the latest Poetry Bus, launched last Monday at O'Bhéal in Cork. I still haven't seen a copy of it, I have a feeling its going to cost me a tenner to do so. Teach an Fhile was written a few summers ago in Gréagóir O'Dúill's house at Gortahork. I'd signed up for the first weekend workshop I did at the Poets' House in Falcarragh. Saturday was spent on a writing exercise in the morning out of which I got Googling Cottages, subsequently published in the Stony Thursday Book in 2010. Saturday afternoon we workshopped poems. At the end of that long and productive day we went to visit Gréagóir's house. It is an old cottage with a flag floor and a grassy street, I came away with a head full of stories and the smell of turf smoke in my hair and I wrote Teach an Fhile when I got home and put my wee'uns to bed.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The power of lists in short story writing

I read an article from Brain Pickings recently on Ray Bradbury's thoughts about the value of lists to creativity here. It reminded me that I'd read a similar idea on the Irish Writer's Centre blog a few month's back from Emma Leavy here. I've used the idea since in a short story. In particular, I thought about what might be present in the main character's handbag, a list of items that would be revealing. The story isn't published yet, but I'll keep you posted. Fingers crossed for lists.

The Story Lizard - who could resist it?

I came across this link recently from The Poetry Divas Daily. It's an article called 8 Tips For Creating Great Stories From George R.R. Martin, Junot Diaz, And Other Top Storytellers. It's full of great advice on storytelling, and I love the illustrations. Have a look here  

Friday, 18 October 2013

Tweet a horror story for Halloween

A writing challenge for Halloween - deadline 30th October 2013.  The Penny Dreadful wants tweeted horror stories, extreme and brief. Hashtag #PDHorror, tweets to @DreadfulP. The top ten selected tweets will be published on their website see here

Friday, 11 October 2013

No Jury No Prize at London Street Gallery, Derry - Garden Room Writers will be there

London Street Gallery, Derry is open for submissions to exhibit at No Jury No Prize see here  and  here I'm pleased to say that the Garden Room Writers have decided to produce a collective work comprised of prose and poetry to exhibit. We're working away for the deadline 15th October (this Tuesday). Photos to follow (when we've finished the artefact)! I must say, it was a pleasure to work together at our meeting on Wednesday on what to submit. All will be revealed soon, and it will be on display October 20th to November 6th in the London Street Gallery as part of the Derry City of Culture and Turner Prize excitement. We'll be proud to be in there and part of it all.

There's still time to join in with all sorts of media. Deadline this Tuesday 15th October - hand in your exhibit to the gallery during opening hours. All work that meets the criteria (see website link above) will be exhibited.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Patrick Ness

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time (a rare occurrence) when I happened to be in Manchester during the Manchester literature festival. After scanning the superb and extensive programme one name jumped out at me - Patrick Ness . Having just read A Monster Calls, a book which I believe should be sold with a packet of tissues, or at the very least a warning to wear waterproof mascara while reading it, I did not hesitate to book my ticket to attend an interview with the man himself.
Talking about his most recent books, The Crane Wife, an adult book inspired by a Japanese folktale, and More Than This, a YA novel, Patrick Ness discussed ideas such as differing perspectives of the truth in a story, kindness versus niceness as a subject and the use of conflict in a story.
The evening was open, relaxed, entertaining and informative. I came home with many nuggets of advice about writing, most of which can be found in this very useful writing tips page (actually, possibly the most useful, comprehensive and honest list of writing tips I have come across).
To compliment the evening the Bookshop Band from Bristol began and ended the evening with original songs inspired by some of Patrick Ness's books.
If you ever get the chance to attend an evening with Patrick Ness I have three words of advice for you...don't miss it!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Poets' House Series

There are two workshops running at the Poets' House next weekend and a reading by Greagoir ODuill. I have said it before, I have always left the Poets' House workshops with a better poem than the one I arrived with and sometimes with a new poem begun. Set in the countryside outside Falcarragh, the Poet's House is a forty minute drive from Letterkenny.

Four poets, a movie and an opera

This week I was in the audience at five different events. On Sunday I listened to poets Afric Mc Glinchey and Mary O’Malley with the Donegal Camerata at the Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon . The reading was part of the Donegal Bay and Bluestacks Festival. The same evening I went to Century Cinemas with John and some in-laws to see Rush, Ron Howards splendid film about the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda that culminated in the 1976 season. On Thursday Ann and I went to the Verbal Arts centre in Derry to listen to Colette Bryce read. Friday I brought my mum to the Balor theatre in Ballybofey to see North West Opera’s fabulous Merry Widow. Last night I was in the audience at St Cecelia’s school in Derry to hear Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson. 

On each occasion when the lights dimmed and the mobile phones were silenced (or not) I knew I was in for a treat. I first heard Afric read at NWW when she and Paul Casey made the trip north from Cork in 2012. Her Lucky Star of Hidden Things had just been published and she read from that. It’s a gorgeous book of Africa, of motherhood.  Last week she shared some poems from that collection and some new poems. I hadn’t heard Mary O’Malley before and when she finished her set I was eager to hear more.  The audience was quite small and the intimacy of the wee auditorium (which has a name but I can’t remember it) at the Abbey Centre made listening an intense experience where there was little respite for reader or listener and the musical interludes were welcome.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

New opportunities for writing and art based submissions in the North

In the last few days I've come across a few new opportunities for both writing and art based submissions from Northern sources. I've listed them with their links below. There are some exciting new inititives, good luck to all involved. Submissions are not restricted to those from the North of the country.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Some submission deadlines in October and November

So, we're deeply embedded in the autumn season now. How about curling up with a magazine, or indulging in some ezines? Or, if you've work to submit, here are a few ideas for magazines and ezines with submission periods now open.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Letters Page Launches

Well, even though I wasn't there when the Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham University pushed the send button at 4.30pm this afternoon, I was really quite excited when the first edition of  'The Letters Page' arrived in my inbox.
This is a new literary journal edited by their writer-in-residence, Professor Jon McGregor. Not only does he have the time to send us loads of informative postcards (see previous blog entries) but he has also overseen the production of a correspondence-themed literary journal with the written letter as its primary form. All the submissions were handwritten and posted in the traditional way, with envelope and stamp. They have been transcribed, but extracts have been reproduced and sprinkled throughout the pages, so you get to see what Colum McCann's handwriting looks like.
I came across the Tumblr blog that Jon was running about the topic of starting a new literary magazine about this time last year, and I was instantly drawn in. It felt like listening to a man alone in a room talking to himself. Why start a literary journal? Weren't there enough already? Look at the pitfalls, the problems, the potential difficulties... I was hooked. It helped that he ran a competition to win a book of George Saunders short stories. I ended up writing him a letter.
A year on, and that letter is rubbing shoulders (pages?) with Magnus Mills, Claire Wigfall and the aforementioned Colum McCann, amongst others. It is a fine journal. You can download it by going to the website which also has details of how to sign up for a newsletter and submission details for the next issue. Rumour has it that Kevin Barry has posted his letter. You should too.

Short story publishing day at Irish Writers' Centre 2nd November 2013

Calling all short story writers looking for publishing opportunities. The IWC are running a day long event on 2nd November about publishing short stories and related information. See details here  There are many well known short story publishers and writers contributing to what looks like a very good and interesting day. Doire Press editors John Walsh and Lisa Frank are participating. These two busy editors came to share their knowledge with us in the North West back in July this year. They participated in North West Words Writing weekend as panel members and workshop facilitators. Personally, I benefited greatly from their tips, guidance and advice. One tip was to create a public profile - so here we are folks, the Garden Room Writers gone public.     

Friday, 27 September 2013

More - a poem in Boyne Berries 14

I had to give the launch of the latest Boyne Berries magazine a miss last night to attend NWW where the Errigal writers gave a tour de force reading. I am delighted that Kate Dempsey, guest editor for this issue, chose my poem 'More' for inclusion. I'm looking forward to my copy arriving in the post next week. Thanks Kate and Boyne Berries. I say it to anyone who listens and here I go again - subscribe to small magazines, support the work they do.
'More' is fairly self explanatory. It's a mid life poem, a light hearted, full hearted love poem for my quiet man who now thinks I'm the kind of woman scold's bridles were invented for. Enjoy.



We ought to enjoy each other more

while we are still young (youngish),

not presume to be lithe always,

able unclip a bra with one hand,

able to reach my hand under your arse,

down the back of your leg.


We ought to burn more midnight oil,

talk more in the dark,

watch the room fill up with

moonlight and become undark,

appreciate the way a glimmer seeps

around the skylight blind.


If one of us can’t sleep

we shouldn’t care, instead

waken the other

say I can’t sleep.

Listen to our house stretch and

contract, our children breathe.


We ought to start tonight,

 bring a whisky to bed

 like we did
 the night we moved in.


Maureen Curran

Donegal Creameries North West Words Poetry Prize 2013

We had the official launch last night before the wonder women that are the Errigal writers took the stage. Their reading was a real treat, together 18 years, Denise kept telling me it was important for them as a group to read together, I feel it was just as  important for NWW to invite them. It was a happy coincidence that the winner of the first Donegal Creameries North West Words Prize, Averil Meehan of the Errigal Writers was there to help us launch.

Here is the poster with entry details and rules:

Donegal Creameries North West Words

Poetry Prize 2013

Prize €250 and perpetual Donegal Creameries North West Words Poetry Cup


Information Rules and Conditions of Entry

This prize is open to anyone over the age of 18 as long as the poem is the original work of the author submitting it. Entries must not have been previously published in any media, self published, broadcast, and /or won any competition. Only poems in English are being accepted for this competition.

The maximum number of poems per entrant is 3.

Send your poem(s) along with a cover letter with name, address, and phone number and/or email address, and title(s) of each poem submitted. Please do not put your name or personal contact details on the same page as the poem(s).

Post entries to North West Words Poetry Prize 2013, 54 Thornberry, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.  On-line submissions will not be accepted.

Entries must be received by the closing date - Friday, 15 November 2013.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Donegal Bay and Bluestacks Festival 2013 - 26th September to 6th October

This is the 13th year of this festival in South Donegal. See event brochure here  The festival covers a range of literary and musical events, workshops and exhibitions, from both local and visiting artists. On Friday 27th September the recipient of the first Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Bursary will be announced at a special night in celebration of the late poet.

Monday, 23 September 2013

More North West Words and Errigal Writers

This Thursday night at 8pm in Cafe Blend Letterkenny there's more from North West Words. The featured writers are Errigal Writers. They have so many poetry collections, Sunday Miscellany readings, and competition wins between them that my mind boggles. They variously write poetry, prose, flash, radio drama, memoir pieces, songs.... and much more, I'm sure. This should be a night to remember. I'll be there.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Irish Writers' Centre Autumn 2013 Creative Writing Courses

The Irish Writers' Centre has announced their autumn courses for 2013 here. The Centre is located on Parnell Square, Dublin, and is involved in lots of different writing based initiatives. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Shortlist for The Irish Times Legends of the Fall competition annouced today

Ten writers have been shortlisted for the recent Irish Times competition. The names are available here  The winning story will be published in the paper's Weekend Review as the final story of its series on Saturday 28th September. Also, the ten shortlisted stories will be available to read from Monday 23rd September at irishtimes.com/books

Friday, 20 September 2013

Culture Night 2013 - Friday 20th September

It's here, tonight, Culture Night, and there are lots of events running around the country for free. I'm delighted to be reading in Cafe Blend Letterkenny with NWW and Kevin Higgins, Maureen Curran, Eamonn Bonner and Leo Boner. But there are lots of events in Donegal and elsewhere. See the Culture Night  website or your local press for details (for Letterkeny events also see an article at Donegal Now). It should be good night all over Ireland. Enjoy.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A North of Ireland magazine showcasing poetry - FourXFour Poetry Journal

This magazine of poetry is called FourXFour Poetry Journal and is edited by Colin Dardis, a poet himself. It is in its 4th issue with two further themed issues. There is a facebook page, and all digital magazines are available here on ISSUU. Have a look. In each issue, four poets are showcased who are mostly either living in, or are from, the North of Ireland. See Colin's own website here he's doing good work - thumbs up Colin!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

North West Words and Culture Night

If you're in and around Letterkenny on Culture Night this Friday 20th September, why not drop into Cafe Blend from 8pm? Great food, drink and poetry - and maybe some very short stories too - hard to beat. I'll see you there. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Text poetry workshop by Shelley Tracey

A big thank you to Shelley Tracey for her text poetry workshop in Derry last Saturday as part of the CultureTech festival. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and fun poetry experience. What more could I ask? Shelley has a website about text poetry here  Look out for future workshops - or, send a poem by mobile phone, and brighten someone's day. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Some upcoming magazine and ezine deadlines for September and October

What better way to motivate yourself to write this autumn than a glimpse of a few  upcoming deadlines? Here are a few magazine and ezines with submission periods now open. They are also lovely to read.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Hugh Doherty, History Man

Hugh Doherty called to the house yesterday, bringing a gift of the third book in the History Links project, 'Forging Friendships'. Although I have many books waiting in the 'to read' pile, this went instantly to the top and I finished it in one sitting.

I am so grateful to Hugh, because I enjoyed the book enormously and recommend it to anyone with an interest in Donegal and the North-West, and the way of life lived here during the mid-20th century.

In short, evocative chapters, the people who lived through these times remember, recall and recreate their past..their work, their education, their beliefs, their adventures. It is full of lovely photographs as well. Hugh himself contributes a chapter about the gardening work he did at Drumhalla House, Rathmullan when Lady Margaret Stewart owned the property. My aunt worked there for the previous owner, General Bush. (I wrote 'Shadows of the Big House' about this for RTE's Sunday Miscellany; see the section of this blog that links to our work online.)

Donegal is full of stories. As writers and readers, we are privileged to listen to each other and celebrate lives such as these. Hugh was attentive to my 93-year-old father's story, spending a happy afternoon at home with us last year. He was a patient and appreciative listener. It is a comforting memory, as my father died only months later. Hugh celebrates and cherishes the history of his own family, known to all around here as the Bankers, on his website http://www.dohertybanker.com/ It is well worth a look if you have connections with the Rathmullan area, as he covers a lot of historical and geographical ground.

You can read more about the History Links project on their website here

Friday, 13 September 2013

Roald Dahl Day

Today is Roald Dahl Day everybody! One of the very first books I read was The Twits. I loved The BFG and as for The Witches...well, I still watch out for people who may spit blue ink...What is your favourite Roald Dahl story?

Frank McGuinness: well known Donegal writer publishes his first novel

The well known Donegal playwright, Frank McGuinness, has published his first novel with Brandon press, see here  He is currently writer in residence in UCD. His novel is called Arimathea and  is available from Brandon (imprint of O'Brien Press).

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Jon McGregor, The Letters Page & Four Postcards That Ended Up In Donegal..

All good things come to an end, and the last of Jon McGregor's letters in our hand-written, interview-by-post has reached destination Donegal. We've been highlighting his second novel, 'So Many Ways To Begin', because of its Donegal setting, and hopefully readers locally and afar will be inspired to read this rather wonderful novel: resonant with themes of emigration, identity and the changing nature of work, crammed with memorable characters and complex relationships, subtly conveyed and beautifully written.

There is good reason for conducting the interview by post, apart from giving me a break from bills and junk mail. In postcard number 4, I disingenuously asked Jon about his latest project, and he replied:

" 'The Letters Page' is a new literary journal in letters, published by the University of Nottingham, exploring the idea of letter writing as a literary practice and a personal writing form. Our first issue, including letters from Colum McCann, Magnus Mills and one Ann Hull...."

I'm stopping there because the link he gives to the brand-new web page doesn't seem to be up yet. I'll tell you instead that he prefaced the reply above with the phrase, "Ha! Funny you should ask..." thus exposing my artifice, as all good writers should.

If you look here there is information about the first issue and how to subscribe to the newsletter. It will also tell you how to submit a letter of your own, for publication in the next edition. I hear that Kevin Barry is doing so. Why don't you write to The Letters Page? I did, and look what happened.

Submissions have to be handwritten on A4 paper. If you think that's tough, look at the picture below and marvel at the amount of writing Jon fitted onto these post-it notes...

I would like to thank Jon McGregor for all his good-natured and courteous tolerance..

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Jon McGregor takes a week to get from Nottingham to Donegal...

......I mean, of course, his letter, postmarked 3rd September, which has just been delivered. Although Jon has been here too, you know. He doesn't just pluck these novels out of the air. He researches. He couldn't have written 'So Many Ways To Begin' without travelling the highways and byways of Donegal, and a fine job he made of it.

It is a book with a strong sense of place. As well as Donegal, he skilfully portrays Coventry and Aberdeen. The book also has a wide historical and social sweep, but it is the characters who dominate. In postcard no.3, I asked Jon how he maintained the balance between characters and relationship, and the portrayal of historical and social change.

He responded by emphasising that this was always going to be a domestic novel. The main character, David, is adopted. He works as a museum curator. We track his life as son, husband, and father.
'The bigger, historical themes/concepts seemed to nudge in later,' he writes.
I love this phrase, for the heart of the book is never overwhelmed by the ambition of its themes. As Jon concludes, '..the personal is the political; the domestic is the grand narrative.'
In 'So Many Ways To Begin', he nudges us gently into acknowledging the truth and depth of this.

Sincere thanks to Jon McGregor for his cooperation with this interview by post. There is one more postcard to go. A full version of the interview will be printed in North West Words magazine.

Burning Bush 2 - poet interviews and praise for NWW

Burning Bush 2, the online poetry magazine, has a series of interviews with contributing poets on their website. The interviews are available here and you can also read the latest issues of the magazine online. So far they have questions and answers from Kevin Higgins, Susan Millar DuMars, Afric McGlinchey, Kimberly Campanello, Brian Kirk, Patrick Chapman, and Steven Murray. In each instance, they have asked the poet to recommend one regular poetry event, both Kevin and Susan have recommended North West Words at Cafe Blend, Letterkenny. So, well done Eamonn Bonner and the NWW team for the thumbs up - well deserved.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Poetry Project - Finale Competition Deadline

The Poetry Project has been running all year, sending out poetry and accompanying videos to inboxes. The project is almost over, but they have a competition to complete, deadline 16th September 2013. One poem from these competition entries will be chosen as the final poem of the project. See here for  details. The poem entered must be in response to one of the videos from the project, available now at the website here

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Being open to criticism and the role of drafts

Something strikes me more and more, year on year, as a writer and a teacher and a student. That is, the importance of being open and positive about reader critique of your writing, and the role of drafting and proofreading in your own work. Both are vital to good writing, I think. Good writing takes time, work, and many drafts, it is not generated spontaneously. And, it is often enriched by accepting reader feedback of strengths and weaknesses from experienced readers.  

Here are two links that reminded me of this recently:

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Gathering Poem - a national call for poetry

This is a new one on me - kind of like the poetic equivalent of a conga dance! I'm working on a project at the minute that involves collaborative writing, so I find this interesting - a poem that is to be created by Irish poets in Ireland, or abroad. All Irish are welcome to submit. 

For Claire Messud fans who also write excellent short stories

The Indiana Review is currently running a fiction competition with Claire Messud as the final judge. Presumably that means she reads the selected shortlist. It's a short story competition with a generous word count of 8,000 words. Anyway, details are available here It costs $20 to enter, but that includes a one year subscription (I assume this means to the Indiana Review). The Indiana Review is a biannual literary review that usually costs $20 for the two issues, so the entry fee is good value.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Donegal poets: The inaugural Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Centre Poetry Bursary.

Are you a poet from, or based, in Donegal? Then you may be interested in the opportunity that arises from an inaugural bursary offered by 13th Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival (September 26 – October 6 2013).

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Jon McGregor gives us one hundred and one percent!

When I wrote here last time that Jon McGregor was a busy man, I didn't know he would be judging the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award 2014 before the second postcard had arrived! But there you go...

Fiction course set to run in Ballyshannon soon

Monica Corish emailed this info to me today. I did two courses which I really enjoyed with Monica a few years ago in the Regional Cultural Centre. She has read at NWW, as has her co presenter on this 10 week course, Tom Sigafoos.

 Writing Fiction: a Ten Week Intensive Course
with Monica Corish and Tom Sigafoos.

Where: The Old Credit Union Building, Ballyshannon.
When: Tuesdays from October 8 to December 10, 7:30 – 10 pm.
Cost: €120, or €100 if payment received in full (by cheque, PO, PayPal) by October 1.
Places on the workshop are limited, so early booking is essential.

For info and to book, go to www.monicacorish.ie /phone Monica at 087-6414185 /email tomsigafoos@gmail.com.

The course is based on "The Writing Book: a Practical Guide for Fiction Writers," by the award-winning Australian novelist Kate Grenville.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Davy Byrnes Short Story Award 2014 - it's back!

Yes, it's back again! Get ready short story writers. The Davy Byrnes Short Story Award is running with a 2014 deadline, and it has a whopping great maximum word count of 15,000. The judges have been announced as Anne Enright, Yiyun Li and Jon McGregor. The deadline is 3rd February 2014, and the prize, as always, is a big one - €15,000 for 1st prize, and €1,000 for 5 runners up. Open to Irish citizens and residents of the 32 counties only. The story must be in English. For more details see here on The Stinging Fly website.

Raising awareness through writing

Here are three writing based initiatives I've noticed recently that seek to raise awareness of health issues.Two are short story competitions and one is a magazine.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

For the poets - Paul Casey on small poetry presses in Ireland

I've just found this interesting and informative post from Paul Casey about small poetry presses in Ireland. It's on the blog of the Cordite Poetry Review see here Poets take note. It includes ten presses all around Ireland, and answers a range of questions about their history and what they publish.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Seamus Heaney

The first Seamus Heaney poem that I read,  and still one of my favourites, is "A Kite for Michael and Christopher" I was maybe 12 years old and preparing for a Speech and Drama exam. My piece was Edwin Morgan's poem about lovers eating strawberries, but the one I loved was the Heaney poem being drilled into a classmate. While Morgan's speaker urged his lover to let the storm wash the plates while they, I now assume, had better things to do (who picked that poem for a 12 year old to recite?) my heart was with Michael and Christopher urged to take the kite in their hands.
From the very star of my career I have taught Heaney poems. They are a pleasure to read with students, to let them handle. 

Jon McGregor: The Donegal Connection

Jon McGregor has written three fine novels and a superb collection of short stories.  He has attracted critical acclaim and prestigious awards for his short fiction and novels alike, but his second book, "So Many Ways To Begin" has links with Donegal. Jon kindly agreed to tell me more, answering questions on postcards that were handwritten and sent between his office in the University of Nottingham, where he is Professor of Creative Writing (Writer in Residence), and my Donegal home. It seemed like a good way to communicate with Jon as he is also editor of  'The Letters Page', a literary journal which takes correspondence as its theme, launching this month. He's a busy man....

Here is the first postcard:

"So Many Ways To Begin" is structured in short chapters, each bearing the title of an object or piece of ephemera that has played some part in the life of David, the main character. At the recent North West Words Writing Weekend in Letterkenny, Lisa Frank of Doire Press gave an excellent fiction editing workshop and told us she has studied and admired the structure of "So Many Ways To Begin", and recommended it to the participating writers.

The very first scene of the book depicts a hiring fair in the years before WWII, and introduces us to Mary, a young Fanad woman. When I asked Jon about this, he described the hiring fair as '..a startling piece of history for those who don't know it.' They are a fading part of living memory here. As a child, I heard my uncles tell stories of walking from their home in the mountains to the hiring fair of Letterkenny, working for wealthier farmers in the east of the county when they were hardly more than children themselves. With empathy and insight, Jon McGregor recreates the harshness of the times.

"So Many Ways To Begin" is a wonderful book. You should read it, if you haven't already. If you hurry, you can finish it before Jon's second postcard arrives and you'll know next time what we are talking about when we talk about home, emigration, the changing nature of work, loss, choice, fate or Anna (the most treacherous female museum curator in the history of fiction!)

(A full version of this interview with Jon McGregor will appear in a future issue of North West Words magazine. Keep an eye on this blog for further information and the postcards to follow...)

Tributes to Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013)

To mark this day, here are some links I came across from reading tributes to Seamus Heaney. The radio podcasts may only be only available for a few days.

Seamus Deane on growing up with Seamus Heaney (The New Yorker) see page 54 here
Videos of Seamus Heaney reading some of his poems (Irish Times) here
Poetry Please, BBC Radio 4 (podcast)  here
Arts Extra Tribute, Radio Ulster (podcast) here
A lovely post from Belinda McKeon in The Paris Review here
Colim Tóibín in The Guardian here
Eileen Battersby in The Irish Times here

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Big Proms Bear Hunt

If you are settled and cosy at home on this blustery Sunday afternoon BBC Radio 3 will be playing live at 4pm 'The Big Proms Bear Hunt' from the Royal Albert Hall with storyteller Michael Rosen, illustrator Tony Ross, the Liverpool Philharmonic Children's choirs and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I shall be tuning in...

Oscar Wilde: Are you a prose writer who might be inspired by him?

Bohemyth is a bi-weekly online journal run by a team based in Dublin. It is described at the website here and has an open submission policy, so there are normally no deadlines. It publishes short stories (max 2,500) and flash fiction (max 700) see here  for submission policy.

They are currently looking for submissions for a special Oscar Wilde themed issue - short stories, flash, one act plays and photography. See here for more details. For this themed issue there is a deadline of the end of September.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

A New Ulster - a new magazine

This new magazine called A New Ulster had its first issue in October 2012, and is now in its eleventh issue. It is available on the website here, and can also be purchased in pdf or hardcopy. It takes submissions of poetry, artwork and prose, for details see here 

Friday, 30 August 2013

A very sad day with news of the passing of Seamus Heaney

We were very saddened to hear this morning of the death of Seamus Heaney. He was a truly great Derry man and Irish man, and we are privileged as a nation for the magnificent legacy he has left us in his poetry. May he rest in peace, and sincere condolences to his family and many friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Donegal winner of the RTE Guide Penguin Short Story Competition 2013

Congratulations to Trisha McKinney (from Donegal living in Dublin), who has won the 2013 competition for her story Soft Rain. The story is published in the RTE Guide, and available to read online here  Congratulations also to those shortlisted.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Writing competition deadlines

There are a few competition deadlines for the end of this week as it's also the end of the month. These are a mixture of poetry, short story and flash competitions. Entry fees and submission details vary, and many take email submission. So, read the entry requirements carefully at the links below. They vary considerably in requirements and in entry price (from free upwards). For even later deadlines see our competition page.  Apologies for the text size below - I could not get the font button to behave!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

North West Words

North West Words is a monthly reading series that takes place in Café Blend on the last Thursday of every month. Burtonport poet, Eamonn Bonner set the series in motion in the spring of 2010. There was already a tradition of Café Blend being used as a venue for poetry readings, book launches and music events so it was the obvious home for the series.
A typical NWW event will have a published author, maybe with a book launch, an emerging local writer, a local musician. There have been poets, fiction writers, dramatists, memoirists, local historians, travel writers. We have had poetry in English, Irish, Spanish, Russian. On occasion a particular writing group will present a group reading. Audiences are warm and appreciative. Pauline and her staff at Café Blend serve teas, coffees, wine and food all evening.As well as the support we get from Café Blend, NWW is also supported by Eason and Click Computers in Letterkenny. The County Arts Office and DLDC have also supported NWW at various times but largely the operation runs on donations for a raffle from the audiences each event.
North West Words publishes a quarterly free magazine which is distributed across Donegal. There has been a schools poetry competition each year and last year the first Donegal Creameries North West Words Poetry Prize for adults was launched. Since its second year NWW has gone on the road around the county presenting events in Falcarragh, Buncrana, Burtonport as part of the Earagail Arts Festival and local festivals.
In July this year NWW ran a weekend of readings workshops and discussions and we plan to do something similar next year.
Why do I say we? A team of people work to bring NWW events and two Garden Room Writers are on that team, me and Nick Griffiths. So there is an overlap. I look after extra events like the competitions and the writing weekend and Nick is the man behind Poetry for Spaces, more about that soon.
This Thursday local Historian Helen Meehan launches her book about Ethna Carbery/ Anna Johnston Mc Manus; poet and wife of folklorist Seamus Mc Manus. Donegal Town poet Anna Colhoun joins Helen in the reading and there will be music from Mary Ann Mc Donnell. There will also be an Open Mic.

Monday, 26 August 2013

New magazines of writing for children

Magazines for children's literature and illustrations seem to be very rare unfortunately. So, it is a pleasure to see two new Irish magazines devoted to writing for children. So, whether you want to find readings for your children, or submit your own writings, have a look. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Reading winning competition entries

It's not often that winning entries to writing competitions are published online. There are, I know, advantages and disadvantages to this for writers. Though, I find it is very useful as a writer to read winning entries. Below are two recent examples of competitions where the winning entries are now available to read on the website. Congratulations to all the winning writers.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Some upcoming deadlines

I can't quite believe that the school holidays are almost over. This means for me that writing time is seriously reduced. I've been writing away over the summer and sending off stories to a range of journals and ezines.  I'm due to get word back soon on submissions - fingers crossed. 

Here are some ideas for upcoming deadlines:

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Outside Lidl- how I wrote the poem

Outside Lidl

My hand is crushed by a proud Leaving Cert mother,
we congratulate ourselves on her daughter’s success.
Parting, she tells me her heart is breaking after her.

I drive from the car-park
back to the day of my own results.
I duck below an up-and-over door,
clamber over boxes
and box shaped plastic,
to where you are checking off items on a delivery docket.

You set the clip board down, breathe deeply,
put two steady hands in front of you on the shelf.

How you had wanted me to get away,
how life had made you fierce,
my ninja mother fighting on all fronts.

Women haunt their daughters’ rooms this evening
folding clothes, arranging their things on the table.
I love you for all the grief you never allowed yourself.

The time of year made me think of sharing the story of this poem as my first post on the GRW blog. I have the fortune to teach near where I live so I often meet students and parents as I go about my business. Three years ago this week I met a lady in the Lidl car park and we had a chat about her daughter’s results and plans. I remembered my own results day and how my mum reacted when I told her. I put my thoughts in my notebook that evening and the poem isn't substantially different from the first prose draft.
I wanted to make the poem sound like I was sharing the story of it with my mum over a cuppa so it is very direct and addressed to mum. I tried to suggest the flashback, the physical motion of ducking under the up and over door to the store at the back of our shop and the introduction of the real subject of the poem by the different line layout in the second part of the poem.
The poem sat for a while in a work in progress folder. It was a hard poem to share, especially with mum because I didn’t want to diminish her reaction in comparison with the other mum in the poem’s reaction. Once I found the ninja mother image I was happy. My mum is a fighter, a disciplined, resourceful, canny woman.
The last line may be sentimental but I suppose when I finally did let her read it that was what I wanted her to understand.
Outside Lidl was published this Summer in Skylight47.

Heritage Days and CultureTECH

This week is Heritage week and there are lots of events running currently around the country including in  Donegal. Information is available here 

Hello and welcome

Having spent a year blogging privately, we have decided to go public. We are so pleased that on this same day our friend and mentor Denise Blake is celebrating her inclusion in the new Sunday Miscellany book September Sundays. See New Island here  for details of the book, and Denise's website is here