Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Blessed by writing experiences this week - NWW Writing Weekend

I've been looking forward to this last week in July for a long time. So far, in the middle of the week, I'm just blown away by all I've learned and enjoyed about writing. 

Last weekend was the North West Words Writing Weekend held in Cafe Blend and the Radisson Blu, Letterkenny. All this week, I'm at the very first Summer Writing Institute at NUI Maynooth. I think I might just explode with delight before the end of it all. My head has been filled with so many lightbulb moments... more about the  NUIM experience in another post.

The NWW Writing Weekend is in its second year, and since I know a number of the organisers, I'm well aware of the time, energy and sheer enthusiasm that drives it. Thank you to all involved, and particularly Maureen Curran who works so hard to make this such a worthwhile event. It was a marvellously enjoyable experience... from readings and music to workshops on both poetry and fiction.  

Because I write fiction, I attended those workshops rather than the poetry based ones, but I also heard wonderful feedback on the latter. Kevin Higgins read for us on Friday night and was entertaining and provocative as ever. Gerard Smyth, poetry editor for The Irish Times, ran an all day workshop on Sunday and read for us on Saturday night. I'd never heard Gerard read before and I thoroughly enjoyed his poetry.

On Sunday afternoon, there were readings by Denise Blake and Jenni Doherty, and music by Patricia Morris. I missed this unfortunately, but for a full report see the lovely review at North West Culture  There was also a children's reading event following on from Malachy Doyle's workshop on Saturday. Malachy read, as did Annalisa (one of our own Garden Room Writers), and there was a magician and face painting... fun, fun, fun.

On Saturday, I attended the fiction workshop by Susan Millar DuMars. I've been at one of Susan's workshops before, but I came back for more. It was very enjoyable and productive and all started with choosing a button. Then in the afternoon, I went to Averil Meehan's workshop on flash fiction where she built us up to writing a story in five minutes and taught us some essentials of flash. Both workshops were fun and inspiring, and were filled with a mixture of new and more experienced writers.

The Sunday workshops were day long. I had the pleasure of attending Mia Gallagher's sessions. I'd heard her read an extract from her latest novel on Saturday night, and wow was it a performance. She swung with ease between a Dublin and a County Down accent, I'd rarely seen work read with such enthusiasm and grace. Her workshop was intensive, but very useful and informative. She has such a wealth of experience on fiction writing, and particularly the novel form. The workshop was centred on a number of pieces of work submitted in advance, and I learned just as much from listening to the feedback given to others, and the questions she answered, as I did from her feedback on my own work. It was just filled with information, positive energy and respect for the writer. She taught us to ask question after question about character, but not leading or 'fix it' questions, rather questions that allow scope for the writer to decide.    

I would so highly recommend all of these workshop tutors to any of you interested in writing advice and practice.

Once again, thank you to NWW for such a valuable contribution to writing and the arts in the North West. This writer is very happy.

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