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

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 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 /phone Monica at 087-6414185 /email

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.