Thursday, 22 December 2016

Some free-to-enter writing competitions in 2017

Most writing competitions charge an entry fee, and as long it's reasonable, that's understandable - there are, of course, costs involved in running them. Still, some are expensive to enter, or the costs can build up if you are entering a few. However, there are occasional free competitions available – often funded by commercial organisations. So, here are a few free-to-enter short story competitions I’ve come across recently – and one that also asks for poetry entries.

Monday, 12 December 2016

North West Words Christmas Arts Night Thursday 15th December 2016

The Christmas event from North West Words runs this Thursday evening, and rounds off their monthly arts nights for 2016. The featured reader is a local writer, Evelyn McGlynn, with her childrens' book 'Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland'. Music is from the Colmcille Gospel Choir. 

It starts at 8pm in Cafe Florence, Letterkenny. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Gerard Beirne workshops on writing process at Carn Lodge, Ramelton, Co. Donegal

This is my first blog post in what seems like a very long time. I'd stopped blogging and writing fiction so that I could concentrate on finishing a doctorate. I can still scarcely believe that I’m through on the other side of that; needless to say, I’m both relieved and grateful to have completed it. My project was about the teaching of writing in higher education academic writing centres. I combined both my professional and personal interests in writing to sustain me through the process.   

With that in mind, I was really pleased to participate in a series of creative writing workshops with Gerard Beirne just days after finishing my dissertation. They were in Carn Lodge, Ramelton, Co. Donegal and were organised by Denise Blake and Maureen Curran. Little did I realise the connections I’d make with Gerard’s suggestions around writing fiction, and particularly with his concentration on writing process. 

Ideas around writing process play a large part in how many academic writing centres teach academic writing to student writers in different disciplines. Gerard Beirne's workshops reminded me of how the process of writing is similar across  many different forms of writing genre and style - including both academic and creative writing. The process approach is based on the premise that professional writers use processes that involve various forms of drafting and re-drafting. In other words, good writing is not penned, or typed, in one mighty draft from the mind of a genius writer; rather, good writing comes from time spent on drafting and re-drafting - from a first attempt through to a series of re-writing tasks.

Gerard explained, over three sessions (on poetry, fiction and publishing), that each drafting should be focused on predetermined tasks designed to improve the writing.  He then outlined some exercises that aid drafting. In the fiction session, he recommended (among other things): interrogating our choice of point of view, including consistency; and also, analysing fiction into constituent scenes to question their purpose and effectiveness. Instead of getting us to practise our writing, he asked us to think through our writing process. He then challenged us to reflect on how effectively we have been re-drafting our work. Do we practise good writing strategies, or do we simply repeat poor practices?  Do we have a rationale for what we re-draft, and do we work effectively at our drafts? The sessions I attended were on fiction and publishing, and they were enlightening, enjoyable and informative.     

What I particularly liked about Gerard’s philosophy was an idea that I share i.e. writing skills can be taught. We may all start at different levels, and we may each reach different levels, or destinations, but we can all practise and improve our writing skills. What that means in terms of writing success probably depends on what we value as success. More importantly, there are conventions, guidelines, processes and ideas, that if shared, and practised, can help to improve our chances of becoming successful writers (whatever that means to us).

I would highly recommend both Gerard  Beirne's approach and his workshops.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

It's the first week of December so check out Visual Verse's prompt for the month

I discovered Visual Verse while I was meant to be writing this July. This journal releases a visual prompt on the first of each calendar month. Writers set themselves a challenge to respond in an hour and in 50-500 words. One or two writers provide leading pieces to get the ball rolling and the issue is live. The editors invite you to submit your pieces and publish these throughout the month. There follows a rich and by its nature, imperfect, exploration of the image.
I submitted 'Turning Point'  in July in response to this image by Oscar Keys.

Turning Point

What is the sea’s invitation?
Come see blue, it says, Come and I’ll show you grey.

These changing skies are the wind’s gift,
each passing hour a flickering slideshow.

Seabirds glitter, tilt and soar
are ruckus, tear, uproar

until eyes, ears, heart, soul of me answer:
Step back, they say, slip this blindfold.

Maureen Curran

Is is perfect? No. In an hour you really only have a good draft of a work in progress, not a finished piece. I wonder if my insistence on keeping ruckus was a good idea as a reader may think I spelled raucous incorrectly. Incidentally, I don't like what they did with the layout upon publishing, losing my 8 line, 4 stanza structure. Still, I valued the exercise, and there are occasions when a  good shove in a direction we weren't heading is just what we need.
It's the first week of December, have a look, take an hour out from the seasonal preparations and see where this image from Julien Menier takes you. I might meet you there.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Poem - Am I Right?

Sepia toned, she faces the camera, with a turned down smile:
Challenges me to guess her secret
That my father never told me
Nor showed me her likeness while he was alive.
Her wavy hair nearly covers her left ear;                                                                      But goes only half way down her right                                                                   
Her long neck is emphasised by a blouse 
With a collar hardly above her shoulder
Pulled together with a decorative chord
Knotted in fashionable bow
                                     Above four shiny white buttons
                                     Bisected by a pearl necklace.
                                     She was obviously important to my father:
                                     Stored in a tin box of his memories
                                     Could she be his mother who died when he was twelve?

And with little imagination, and a change of hair,
Despite our different sexes,
I can see my younger self:
Believe she must be my Granny Griffiths.

But, could this woman have been a despatch rider in the war,
Who frightened the shite out of her husband
As a passenger on her motorbike?
Would the wearer of a string of pearls
Have been a worker in a rubber factory?

Her self-assured school ma’am look
Of somebody who might be only thirty,
But has wisdom beyond her years,
Nods like an infant teacher to a child,

                                     And says, “Yes!”