Saturday, November 15, 2014

Writing the balance



A submission opportunity for female writers - This information is from writer Paul Mc Veighs Blog - 'In the last few months we've published some brilliant books, including Katy Brand's first novel Brenda Monk is Funny, Julie Burchill's Unchosen and Salena Godden's memoir Springfield Road. But of all the books we've published to date, just one third come from female authors. We know we're not alone in this and research has shown this gender imbalance is widespread across the publishing industry:

Women are over 50 per cent less likely to submit their work for publication than men, according to a survey by Mslexia. The VIDA count cites major journals and literary magazines where women make up a quarter or less of the writers published. The Guardian reports fewer female authors reviewed in Britain's major books sections. That's why we've launched Women in Print - to publish interesting, challenging female authors in larger numbers than before.

This month we're launching four exciting new projects from female authors and there's more to come so stay tuned for updates. At Unbound you choose which books get written - discover our latest authors and decide which ones you want to see in print. As part of Women in Print we're looking for bold new ideas for fiction and non-fiction books. If you're a woman with a manuscript (or a book idea) we want to hear from you. Throughout November we'll be gathering new submissions from female authors and the best three will appear on our site in the New Year. Submit an idea, pledge your support and spread the word.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Some Poems, some Harry Clarke...


Happy Monday :)

'I was Swallowed by a Harry Clarke Window' and other poems of mine have just been published on Poethead. The Harry Clarke poem was inspired by a particular window in Kieran's College, Kilkenny and literally written on the spot as I gawped in awe... The poem was originally three pages long  and I edited it down, and down, to a pretty short poem.You can check it out here.

Poethead is a great site run by poet Chris Murray, 
who also curates an index of Contemporary Irish Women Poets.

I love Harry Clarke's glass work, photos never ever ever do it justice. The panel above is a section from The Eve of Saint Agnes inspired by the Keats poem. It can be seen in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. He also illustrated Perraults Fairy tales, Faust, and Poe's tales....



 


OK, back to the writing dungeon.... :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Creative Writing Workshop in Moone

I'm facilitating a creative writing workshop in Croi Anu Creative Centre, Moone, Co Kildare on Saturday 8th November. From 2.30 - 6pm. ( 30 euro per person) The workshop is filling up quickly but there are still some places left. The theme for the workshop is renewal, so we'll be rustling up some inspiration to sustain your writing during the winter months. Suitable for anyone writing or interested in writing.You can book by phoning 0851376271 or emailing niamhmboyce(at)eircom(dot)net

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

24 Hours for Gaza


Ever think that clicking like and share just isn't enough?

Here's a chance to do a bit more, and have fun at the same time. I'm offering two writing workshops in Dublin this coming Sunday to help raise some funds for '24 Hours for Gaza' - there are many other artists, writers and photographers involved - all offering exciting workshops. Both adults and children are very welcome.

It will be a great weekend of art, music, readings, workshops in Stoneybatter Guild,and all for a very good cause. There will be a donation/entrance fee of only €10 per head. All proceeds to help John Cutliffe’s efforts to get supplies/aid to those most in need as a result of the crisis in Gaza.

This will be my last blogpost for a while, I'm entering into my own back to school phase  - with the second draft of a novel to complete by November I need every spare second for my writing.  So off to hermit ville for a while, see you on the other side :)



Monday, August 25, 2014

Creative Writing Workshop


I'm teaching a Creative Writing Workshop this November 
in Croi Anu Creative Centre in Moone, Co Kildare. 

Expect an afternoon full of writing - I'll be focusing on the theme of renewal, renewal of our inspiration, our energy and our delight in writing. The workshop is open to beginners, middlers or old hands...all you need is a notebook and a pen. Croi Anu is a beautiful purpose built creative space so I'm really looking forward to working there. Click this link for directions. And here are the details!

Saturday 8th November : 2.30 - 6pm : Cost 30 Euro
Places Are Limited: To Book - 0851376271

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Me and My Shadow


Elena Duff's exhibition - Me and My Shadow - will be launched in the Toradh Gallery in Ashbourne, Co Meath on Tuesday 26th at at 7pm and all are welcome. I was delighted to be invited to launch this exhibition as I first came across Elena's work when her gorgeous illustration was published in Boyne Berries Magazine alongside a poem of mine. 

Elena sculpts small figures which border between lifelike and doll-like as subjects. These inanimate models pose within different scenes creating an alternative world, which she describes as 'similar to ours, childlike, but yet grown up.' Her art is rich in symbolism, both personal, and archetypal.  


Welcome to the blog Elena - the symbolism in the pieces for this exhibition bring to mind fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel... can you tell us more about your work - what inspires you?
I like to describe my work as loosely based around the theme of ‘fairy tales for adults’. I’m interested in the inner life, emotions, recollections, dreams and most importantly the imagination – imagination being a quality nurtured in children but unfortunately not so much with adults. I’ve had people, for instance, tell me that they hated the film Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger because “it’s stupid, people can’t fly”. I’m the opposite, I’d happily suspend all disbelief in the hope that there was another hidden, invisible world out there with people flying all over the place!


None of the works up to this point have been based around specific fairy tales, I use my own life and experiences to generate scenes which I feel best represent what I’m trying to get across. However, while not based on existing stories. I hope the narrative element within my images and sculptures taps into a universal need to have stories that function as allegories, warnings or learning tools.


If you look at many of the standard fairy tales and folk stories they can be rather gruesome – the ones unaltered for modern-day audience that is. I like that there is a contradiction in fairy tales between the palatable and the unsavoury elements. A well known example would be the sweet gingerbread house containing a murderous witch or the cute little billy goats cutting open the wolf, putting stones in his belly and sewing him up again. I find I’m drawn to this dichotomy between outward beauty and something more disturbing, rather like a sudden minor key note heard in a musical piece.



Why Why Why Delilah

In “Why Why Why Delilah” I was imagining the female having Samson’s hair and thus strength. It’s wrapped around her like a protective cloak complete with camouflage. When wearing it she would merge into the starry blackness of night, making her invisible. The question of whether the hair is a protective cloak or smothering overgrowth is left purposefully vague. Similar themes and motifs reoccur over and over again in the stories we tell ourselves, long hair of course most readily associated with Rapunzel, her blinded prince no longer injured in most modern day versions of the story.



Clinging Vine


“Clinging Vine” is one of a number of small pieces in the exhibition. A male head has his mouth covered by a disembodied hand, his neck likewise is in the grip of another hand. Around this central focus roses nearly obscure the face and arms. This piece was created to depict how some couples falsely portray their relationship to the world as rich, warm and beautiful and happy, but behind the facade the power dynamic and emotional manipulation tells a worryingly different tale (or rather doesn’t, if one half of the couple is too fearful to speak out and ask for help). You mentioned Sleeping Beauty and while I would never describe my work as socially conscious, or overtly political this little work does speak somewhat about the little spoken often terrible treatment of men at the hands of some women.



Serpentine


I recently returned from living in Berlin and while it is a city containing a surprising abundance of trees, in the winter when they all died much of the city turned to a damp urban grey. This piece Serpentine, started life in response to that. The figure has black eyes, wide open from 24 hour city life, is dressed in her regal purple coloured dress, with unnaturally coloured hair. I envision her as stumbling back to a more earthy life, ripping her fishnet tights en route, getting snagged along the way, but going forward nonetheless.


I like that image of her moving from one life to another, it has an underworld feel to it. You work with miniature doll like figures Elena,  which you also photograph and paint - can you tell me how this came about?
The doll figures evolved from thematically similar works which were entirely drawn on paper, cut out and placed within similarly drawn and cut out paper scenes. As soon as I moved from pen and ink on paper to using clay, fabrics and colour I knew I had found my artistic niche.


There is an episode of the Simpson's that some readers might be familiar with, where Lisa’s science experiment involving a tooth in a petri dish leads to the unexpected creation of life, in microscopic form. The inhabitants worship Lisa as their god and creator (and fear Bart who pokes them killing thousands, as the devil). On some level my little figures are similar. I form them from clay, dress them and place them within environments which (had they consciousness) they may or may not want to be in. In that sense I am in utter control, the god of my own little world and the doll-like figures are at my mercy. On another level playing with dolls is a strange reversion into childhood, perhaps an escape from the strains and demands of adult life into an imaginary world.
These little figures feature both in my small three-dimensional piece but also as the subject for paintings. I like the idea of taking a figure which is in reality the size of my hand and painting it large as if it was a subject worthy of such scale. It’s a little ridiculous and is a bit of a wry gesture on my part. The paintings take the myth-making aspect of the scenes I create one step further, almost like a court painter ensuring important events are captured on canvas for posterity, despite those stories and events being entirely fictional and the people within them merely dolls.

So, what are you working on next?
In the future I hope to experiment and create larger sculptural works but which are composed of multiple smaller elements, along with dioramas depicting scenes which include multiple characters. I’ll also continuing to use my creations as subjects for my paintings.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Book Of Tom


So I've been working on this book, a memory book.

It was compiled by me, but the contributors are mostly friends and relatives who cared about Tom English. We published it ourselves through Lulu.com. It was surprisingly easy. The book is pocket sized, and contains poems, stories, tales, blessings.

Tom was many things, among them -a musician, a rebel- rouser -and my uncle. He died last October and I guess this is how I'm commemorating him.

I carry the book in my bag -  there are plenty of blank pages in there - because there's always more to say.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How To Write A Novel Event

Have you ever wanted to write a novel? How do you get it out of your head and onto the page? How do you handle structure, dialogue and plot? And once it’s written, what is the best way to get it published?
In tandem with the major ongoing series in The Irish Times, two award-winning young Irish writers join Sinéad Gleeson of The Irish Times for an intimate discussion in one of Kilkenny’s most beautiful 16th-century houses. Colin Barrett, who was born in Canada and grew up in Mayo, has just won the 2014 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award for his first collection of short stories, Young Skins, published by the Stinging Fly Press in Ireland and Jonathan Cape in the UK. Niamh Boyce's debut novel The Herbalist won Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2013. She was the Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year in 2012 and her unpublished poetry collection was highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Award 2013. Free but ticketed, this event is on Saturday 9th August at 11.00 - you can book Here. Sinead Gleeson's How To Write A Book'' series has been running in the Irish Times over the past few weeks, here's this weeks feature on editing . I was interviewed for the 'research edition'which you can read here.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Orbis Literary Journal

 



Orbis is a long-standing quarterly international literary journal, based in the UK, and edited by Carole Baldock.  Associate editor (Book Reviews): Nessa O'Mahony.
 
In every issue: poems, prose, articles, reviews, letters, featured writer section.
Plus the Orbis Poetry Index: magazine reviews, news items, competition listings.

Poems from the magazine are submitted annually to the Pushcart Prize in America and the UK’s Forward Prize. Although few UK Small Press publications are able to offer feedback, Orbis provides proofs with editorial suggestions.
 

It's also one of the few magazines to offer payment, via the Readers’ Award (results and readers’ feedback in each issue): £50 for the piece receiving the most votes, plus £50 between four runners-up.

Submission is easy....
 

By post:
Four poems; two prose pieces (500-1000 words). Please enclose SAE with ALL correspondence. Overseas: 2 IRCs.
Via email, Overseas only:
two poems/one piece of prose in body – no attachments

Copies of Orbis may be perused online at the Poetry Library website: 

And here's the Facebook Page   



There's also... the jam- packed- with- writing -opportunities  Kudos Magazine who are running a special offer to celebrate the 100th issue.
It’s an excellent resource for those interested in UK publication - it features competitions, small presses, festivals, literary events etc... and you can check it out Here



Friday, July 18, 2014

Short Story Award

 

Got a story? The international Sean O Faolain Short Story Prize is open for entries - first prize is €2,000 (approx $2760/£1640) , publication in Southword and a week in Anam Cara Writers centre. Deadline is July 31st, you can find out more Here


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waiting for the Bullet






Madeleine DÁrcy's short story collection is called Waiting for the Bullet.Its published by Doire Press and its fantastic. After reading it I hunted her down for some questions...




1. You mentioned Agatha Christie (in the collection), and all your stories are suspenseful. Is the unraveling of the story something that happens organically or do you address that in the final edits, in terms of revelation?

I’d like to sound ultra-competent and tell you that the ‘unraveling’ is planned in advance or organised in some way. In fact, what really happens is that I start writing something on a piece of paper. Then I type it up and keep going.
When I get a bit fed up of typing, I print out what is essentially the first draft and it’s usually terrible – a right mess.
Then I scribble all over that first draft in all directions and it looks even worse – words crossed out, sentences with circles round them, arrows pointing in different directions – like a deranged mind map or a weird word-jigsaw. I then save that file and redraft the whole thing. I juggle stuff around and rewrite it all. I redraft and re-edit and ponder and faff around. I often discover that I need to re-start the story much later in time, so the first page is often quite different to the original first page. However, strange as it may seem, the bones of the story are usually there right from the beginning, hidden in the midst of the very first haphazard draft.
As regards suspense, I don’t deliberately set out to create it, but thank you for your question; it has taken me right back to my childhood visits to the musty little library in our small town.
My mother often took me to the library with her, when I was a pre-schooler. My older brother was in school and my father was at work. We were ‘blow-ins’ and knew no one in the town at first. It must have been lonely for her. She borrowed heaps of books, mostly crime fiction by writers like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. She read Georgette Heyer novels too, and loved everything by PG Wodehouse. I’m pretty sure I could read before I was three years old. I zipped through the children’s section very quickly and then started reading the books my mother borrowed, even though half the time I couldn’t understand quite what they were about.
Even after I started school, I still went to the library for more books to feed my reading habit. I read anything I could lay my hands on. As a consequence, my language got a bit odd. I was probably five or six when I announced one Christmas that I was ‘on the horns of a dilemma’ – but all that was puzzling me was which chocolate bar to choose from my Cadbury’s Selection Box. Even more embarrassing was the time we had some visitors and one of them asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told the assembled adults that I intended to be ‘The Belly of the Ball’. I meant ‘The Belle of the Ball’ but I had no idea that there was a silent ‘e’ at the end of ‘Belle’.
Well, I’m wandering a bit now, aren’t I? (yes, feel free to!)I’m trying to figure out an answer to your question as I go along. Perhaps all the reading that I did as a lonely child has embedded itself in my work, but if so, the results are coming out all askew. I’d love to write a murder mystery, and given all the stuff I read as a kid, you’d think I’d be able to manage it, but I can’t seem to push myself to write to a formula; not yet, anyway. At the moment, I’m more interested in discovering some kind of emotional truth; something that anyone can recognize, because it’s not hidden in complex sentences or ornate language.

2. No its not hidden, and theres a lot of adultery, which is always fascinating. Is this an interest of yours, or to put it better - is it something you are attracted to exploring?

A. I wish I didn’t feel the need to explore the subject of adultery. It’s a painful subject for me, but I keep coming back to it. I have no desire to be judgmental. People fall in and out of love; relationships change. It’s not adultery per se that fascinates me, but the motivations and thought processes involved.
When I was much younger I worked as a criminal legal aid solicitor in London, so I dealt with dishonesty quite a lot. However, I failed dismally to see the vast and complex array of lies that paraded around me in my personal life. All that is in the far distant past now, thank goodness, but the duplicity – and my failure to see it, for a long time – shocked me. Adultery is a complex thing and involves so much more than sex or love, doesn’t it? As well as lies, there are all sorts of things going on: greed, money, addictions, revenge, egotism, self-destruction, a need for excitement, a need to prop up some kind of self-image, fear… I’m useless at telling lies myself. I can’t see the point. I find it much simpler to tell the truth.

3. Yes, I felt that lies and secrets are pried open in your writing. I was particularly struck by the first story- it felt like an opening statement,  as if it was telling the reader -'this collection wont be hiding any of our nations secrets, these stories will contain the things, and people, society averts its eyes from...'?

A. I’m so glad that ‘Clocking Out’ gave you that impression. I long to express some kind of truth.
I felt so confused as a child. When I was eight I wanted to be a nun and by the time I was twelve I wanted to be a prostitute. I had no idea what either of these professions entailed; it seems as if I thought life was some kind of weird fancy dress party. Mind you, my sex education consisted of being given a book called ‘Dear Daughter’ by Angela MacNamara, so it was no wonder I hadn’t a clue. The real information I needed certainly wasn’t readily available in the Ireland that I knew, in the 70’s and 80’s.
In my day you couldn’t even have the conversation that led up to the conversation that should have been happening in the first place, if you get my drift.
The nuns made me stand in the corner during religion class in secondary school, for asking too many questions. I was particularly bothered about the ‘fact’ that unbaptised babies ended up in Limbo. In my imagination, all those tiny babies floated around in space, all cold and lonely among the stars – I couldn’t bear it. How could God let something so cruel happen? Why should those babies be consigned to Limbo just because they weren’t baptised? It wasn’t their fault.
Astoundingly, when I came back to Ireland in 1999 I discovered that Limbo had been abolished, in my absence. No one had thought to tell me. I felt a bit cheated, to be honest.
There were many reasons why I left Ireland, but escape from all the double-think and double-talk and double-standards was certainly one of them. The treatment of the 24-year-woman at the centre of the Kerry Babies case in 1984 was shocking. Nell McCafferty gives a very clear account of the case in a book called ‘A Woman To Blame’ (Attic Press, 1985, reprinted 2010).
Now, in 2014, the recent revelations about the Tuam babies bring all my nightmares about Limbo back.

Of course, not everyone toed the line and I really admire the people who stayed in Ireland and campaigned about the issues that I felt strongly about: divorce, contraception, abortion, gay rights, sexual violence, etc.
But has anything really changed here in Ireland? The case of Savita Halappanavar was appalling. It made me want to leave Ireland again. We need to get our priorities straight. It seems ridiculous to me that there’s so much public discussion and debate about GAA matches and whether Garth Brooks will play in Croke Park or not – and so little time to talk honestly about the things that are truly important.
I’d have been no good in politics though. I’m very suspicious of knee-jerk reactions and, frankly, people who shout too loudly on all sides of every equation scare me. And though I have no time for organised religion, I totally respect everyone’s right to practice their faith. Nothing is straightforward. Life is complex. There are no easy answers. Well, I don’t have any. All I have are questions. Limbo may be abolished but many questions remain to be answered.

4. I know what you mean, the Tuam Babies Case makes me want to leave this country. Your writing feels quite honest Madeleine, clear-eyed... where do you think that comes from? How, do you think, you can tell so well, the story of a gay man who has to keep his grief a secret while attending a parent’s funeral?

The story ‘A Good Funeral’ was inspired by many different tales of home-coming, which I heard from friends both straight and gay. Coming home, even for a short while, especially to a small town in Ireland, is fraught with invisible tensions. There’s the interaction with one’s own family, the way your local community views you and that gulf between your own existence in that world and your life outside it.  So it’s not just the story of a gay man but also the story of the returned emigrant, of hypocrisy, of greed and of loss.
Out of all of the characters in ‘Waiting For The Bullet’, Luke, in ‘A Good Funeral’ is probably my favourite. He truly loved Bernard, and I firmly believe that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I know that’s a cliché, but clichés often contain the truth.
I was pondering on the first draft of this story one day but instead of doing any work I deserted it and tootled down town instead. I bumped into a friend, Fiona, in Patrick Street outside the bank and we stopped to chat. Somehow, the conversation turned to funerals. That’s when she said, ‘Ah sure, a good funeral is better than a bad wedding’, thus gifting me with the title. I’d never heard of that phrase before and I loved it.
Of course, weddings and funerals are always good fodder for a writer. My favourite ‘bad wedding’ in fiction is probably the title story in Walk The Blue Fields by Claire Keegan.

5. So, what are you working on at the moment?
I’m the scholarship student on the inaugural MA in Creative Writing in University College Cork. It’s brilliant to get such a great opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it.
At the moment I’m writing a radio drama for my thesis. Once I’ve completed the MA, which runs until 3 October 2014, I plan to return to a novel that’s been in the pipeline for a while.
Everything I do involves story-telling. I want to write about real people and the strange things they do, hopefully with both kindness and black humour.

6. Finally, I love quotes - have you one or two favorites that keep you on track and writing when you may feel like throwing in the towel?
When things aren’t going so well and I need to put things into perspective I like this little poem:
Comment
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea; 
And love is a thing that can never go wrong; 
And I am Marie of Roumania.
(Dorothy Parker)
And I love this quote:
Women are like teabags; they only realise their own strength when they’re in hot water. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
On writing, when I feel a bit stuck I like to remember the following:
Every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. (Jean Luc Godard)
A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from. And by those he has walked away from that cause him remorse. (Arthur Miller)

Raymond Carver’s essay, ‘On Writing’ is available on-line, and well worth reading for the wealth of wisdom contained therein. One of my favourite sentences is:
But if the writing can’t be made as good as it is within us to make it, then why do it? In the end, the satisfaction of having done our best, and the proof of that labor, is the one thing we can take into the grave. (Raymond Carver)
And for general day-to-day living, here’s my favourite quote:
You can only see with your heart; what is essential is invisible to the eye. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Thank you for your answers, and so many good quotes, and best of luck with your MA Madeleine!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Battle Of The Books Award Night & Winners

The Battle of the Books took place last Saturday - it was a wonderful night, very light in mood with plenty of irreverant commentary from mentors Farry and Higgins. The standard of the shortlisted work was very high, we were highly entertained and moved by the readers. Here are some pics from the evening courtesy of renaissance man Paddy Smith. 
The Mentors - Micheal Farry & Peter Higgins


Winner of the Battle of the Books 2014 Angela Finn


Winner of the audience prize Mark Doyle with Paddy Smith MC


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Battle of the Books Judgement Night!



 Judgement Night is tonight in The Trim Castle Hotel at 8pm!

The shortlisted writers will read, I'll give my comments, and later announce the winner - the audience too will vote for their own winner who will receive the €100 Audience Prize. 'Helpful advice' will be delivered by the two mentors who will champion each of the shortlisted writers. 'Any similarity between Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets and our two Mentors, Peter Higgins and Michael Farry, is not entirely coincidental.'  It's 5 Euro entry,  and you can get tickets Here

Battle of the Books is part of The Swift Satire Festival, which is on in Trim, Co Meath over this weekend - you can check out all their events Here

Monday, July 7, 2014

Battle of the Books Shortlist

Congratulations to the shortlisted authors! All ten are invited to read at The Battle of the Books in Trim Castle Hotel on Saturday 12th July at 8pm and when winner of the €500 prize will be announced. The titles of the shortlisted works are published on the Festival Website

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Battle Of The Books Longlist 2014





Here's the 2014 Long list for the Battle of the Books! The Shortlist will be published Monday 7th July. Congratulations to everyone listed, and thanks to everyone who entered - the standard of entries was exceptionally high. For more details check out the Festival Website.




Title of piece


Prose or Poetry
Time you won’t get backpr
The maggot as medicinal devicepr
Mary Poppinspo
Diary of an exhibitionpr
The Siege of Ushuaiapo
Foxfirepr
Pygmalionpr
The Letterpo
The Lunch Datepr
Other Driverspo
Las Vegas in the hills of Donegalpr
Carphone, 1992pr
Mattys maiden Voyagepr
Ah man you should’ve seen herpr
Preparations for the journeypr
Untying the knotpr
If I was your wifepo
The Good Sonpr
The Wonders of Egyptpr
Worksearch Journeypr
Rainbow nationpo
Bewleyspo
Apres Parispr
Hildapr
Tiny Roomspo
Waiting for Johnpr
Airport bus to the city centrepo
The three dimensional travellerpr
A tale to tellpr
My Raypr