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 She was the Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year in 2012 and her unpublished poetry collection was highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Award 2013.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:
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
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
Apres Parispr
Tiny Roomspo
Waiting for Johnpr
Airport bus to the city centrepo
The three dimensional travellerpr
A tale to tellpr
My Raypr


C Murray

Fancy being inspired? Poethead, a poetry blog run by C Murray, features a wonderful poem by Moyra Donaldson,  The Goose Tree today. The blog also contains a wealth of information on contemporary and historical poetry by women, including an index of Contemporary Irish Women Poets

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Stony Thursday Book

The Stony Thursday Book, one of Irelands longest running journals,  is seeking poetry submissions from local, national and international poets for its next issue. Submissions are being sought in both English and Irish.

How to Submit:
- Each poet should send no more than 6 poems.
- Submitted poems must be previously unpublished.
- Submissions are being accepted by email and by post.
- When submitting poems in hardcopy please write your name and address on     each page. Please mark envelopes: ‘The Stony Thursday Book 2014’.
- When submitting by email please reference ‘TSTB 2014’ in your subject line.

Send poems to:
The Stony Thursday Book 2014, Arts Office, Limerick City & County Council, City Hall, Merchant’s Quay, Limerick
Or by email to: 

Closing Date for Submissions: Friday 8th August 2014

 Note on the Editor:
This year's editor is Peter Sirr. Peter has published eight collections of poetry with Gallery Press, including The Thing Is, 2009, winner of the Michael Hartnett Award, and a Selected Poems, 2005, also published in the US by Wake Forest University Press. He is also active as an editor, critic and translator. He has written drama and columns for radio, and Black Wreath, his first children’s novel will be published by the Irish publisher O’Brien Press in 2014. Currently, as well as writing, he teaches Literary Translation in Trinity College Dublin. He is a member of Aosdána.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Madwoman in the Attic

The Paris Review Interviews are a great resource if you love reading about other writers, which I do. I'm reading  'Women Writers At Work - The Paris Review Interviews' at the moment and was struck by Joyce Carol Oate's interview - here's an extract...

Interviewer: Do you find emotional stability is necessary in order to write? Or can you get to work whatever your state of mind? Is your mood reflected in what you write? How do you describe that perfect state in which you can write from early morning into the afternoon?

Oates: One must be pitiless about this matter of “mood.” In a sense, the writing will create the mood. If art is, as I believe it to be, a genuinely transcendental function—a means by which we rise out of limited, parochial states of mind—then it should not matter very much what states of mind or emotion we are in. Generally I've found this to be true: I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so. Joyce said of the underlying structure of Ulysses—the Odyssean parallel and parody—that he really didn't care whether it was plausible so long as it served as a bridge to get his “soldiers” across. Once they were across, what does it matter if the bridge collapses? One might say the same thing about the use of one's self as a means for the writing to get written. Once the soldiers are across the stream . . .

You can read the interview, and others online at The Paris Review 

I'm over at Lisa Redmond's Blog - The Madwoman in the Attic - today 
chatting about the writing process, my favorite writers and books. 
Thanks to Lisa for inviting me over and letting me ramble :)
You can read the post Here

Friday, June 6, 2014

Irish Literary Review

I was interviewed recently by Catherine Higgins-Moore of the The Irish Literary Review for their summer issue, we talk about the writing process, editing, and how to keep going. You can read the interview HERE. There are lots of great poems and stories in this edition, and they accept submissions from all around the world, you can find the submission details here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Battle of the Books!

I'm very excited to be judging this new competition from the organiser's of the infamously fabulous Swift Festival! The Battle of the Books is a new international writing competition (open to poetry and prose) and is organised by the Swift Festival in Trim, Co Meath, Ireland. And, unusually, previously published work is accepted! The deadline is July 1st, so get sending!

Theme:Travel is the theme of the competition, but the interpretation of ‘travel’ will be very wide indeed... In other words, anything goes – as long as it has some mention/whiff/suggestion of travel. It can be pure fiction or memoir or any other genre of writing. Humour is not essential but it certainly won’t do an entry any harm. Entertainment is highly desirable.’

Deadline: Tuesday 1st July, 2014.
Poems: minimum 40 lines, maximum 60 lines.
Prose: minimum 800 words, maximum 1,000 words.
Entry fee: €5 per entry or €10 for three entries.
Prize: €500

For further details and to enter - click the Festival Website *HERE*

Monday, May 12, 2014

Author Interview - Marion Reynolds

Marion Reynold's debut novel 'A Soldier’s Wife' was one of the winners of the 2013 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair Competition, a compelling historical novel, it has been described as 'a dramatic exploration of love, loss, resilience and divided loyalties.'

Welcome to the blog Marion. A Soldier's Wife is set between 1916 and 1922, and was partly inspired by your grandparents and their experiences -can you tell us a little about that? 
When I was growing up, I realised that there were many contradictions in their lives. They were always very pro-British but their children were nationalists and Republican. My grandmother had a relatively privileged upbringing as the daughter of the lodge keeper on Lord Lucan’s estate in Castlebar and lived a glamorous life in India  but returned to a frugal life in in a small house in Dublin.
My grandfather spent fourteen years serving with the Connaught Rangers in  India and fought in Flanders  during WW1 where he was awarded a medal for bravery, yet he never talked about it. On Remembrance Sunday, he wore his medals and a poppy in spite of the protests of is family.

How did you approach your research - did you do it in advance or as you wrote?
I started by researching my grandmothers life through the census and newspaper articles which I found in Castlebar library. Then I researched my grandfather’s military records and discovered things that I hadn’t known. For instance, family lore always said that he escaped without a scratch during WW1. I discovered that he had been wounded twice and posted missing once. I love history so knew most of the background to the Lockout, Easter Week , the War of independence  and the civil war. However, I had to check the accuracy of my knowledge all the time. 

Author Marion Reynolds

 I imagine being from Dublin you were already very familiar with the historical background, but was there anything that surprised you during your research?
One of the things that surprised me was the number of women who were involved in the fight for Independence and the Civil War. They have been airbrushed out of history to a great extent. A good example is Elizabeth Farrell who carried the white flag when Pearse surrendered. A picture taken at the time shows Pears and a British officer and Elizabeth who was almost hidden by the flag. All you can see of her is her feet. In later years when that picture is used her feet are airbrushed out and she is not mentioned. 

A very symbolic example Marion. I've included the photographs below, more on Elizabeth Farrell can be found at The Women's Museum Of Ireland

The elimination of Nurse Farrell

Is place important in your writing?
I didn’t realise how important place was to me in my writing until started this book.  The action in Dublin all takes place in areas that I knew as a child such as Parkgate Street and Infirmary Road. I never lived there as an adult but I recall every lamp post  and doorway with great clarity. I lived near London for eleven years and never wrote a word while I was there. I think it was because I was no longer in a place that inspired me.

And, what are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a sequel to “A Soldier’s Wife” which takes up the story of the family in the 1930’s and includes one member of the family being involved in the Spanish Civil War. It might sound like I am interested in war but I am only interested in the terrible way that war divides families  and communities.

Have you a favourite inspirational writing quote?
I use this quote the beginning of my book. It is from Paul Ricoeur, the French philosopher.
History begins and ends with the reciting of a tale. Our future is guaranteed by our ability to possess a narrative identity, to recollect the past in historical or fictive form.
I think that quote explains why I write historical fiction.

It certainly does, thanks Marion and best of luck with your debut. A Soldier's Wife can be purchased HERE