Monday 31 December 2007

Review of the Year

It's that time of year to review the last 52 weeks. What have you done? What have you achieved? What have you read? What films have you seen and enjoyed? And also, I suppose, what do you plan to do next year.

OK. The Obvious. I started a blog. I already kept a writing diary myself with what I was sending out and where and what I was thinking about writing. This I find useful particularly if I am changing direction in a piece of writing and later want to trace my own thought process.

I did Poetry Ireland Introductions and Windows Publications Introductions. Both great experiences. I also read at the Boyne Berries launch. I'd like to do more readings. I'd like readings to pay. Poetry shouldn't be restricted to amateur status. I had poem published in Revival Whitehouse Poets, Poetry Ireland, Abridged (NI) and Boyne Berries as well as the Windows Publications Introductions anthology.

Short Stories.
I had a short story included in the Do The Write Thing anthology published by Poolbeg as a result of the competition on RTE Seoige and O'Shea TV show. There was no book launch. (mad) I did some publicity for this too with some local newspapers, which was a interesting experience. The resulting articles never quite say things the way you thought you said them. I feel a little closer to all these media types who moan about being misquoted.
Then I had a short story in the Sunday Tribune. This means I should be up for the Hennessey Award in 2008. Yay!

I got an agent who was very excited about my book. Then nothing. Lots of rejections, nice rejections in the main but rejections anyway. It's still out with a couple of publishers. If they reject, we have to regroup and look for smaller presses I suppose.

I went to the Fingal Libraries Readers Day, a fabulous affair in the airport hotel. Highly recommended. Great for listening to some interesting writers, some I'd heard of and read, some who were new to me. But also for spending time chatting to like minded readers and writers. Hello girls!
I also went to the Dublin City library's Writers day which was a mixed bag but worth going to. I missed the Dublin Writers' Festival which always has interesting readers.
I went to a few book launches and poetry readings too of friends. I'm not too good at networking but I struggle on.
I also taught some classes including a great class on creative writing at the National Gallery using some Dutch interior painting as inspiration.

I read a lot, as usual. Some memorable, most not so much. I listen to books on tape or CD in the car. The library has a limited selection so it means I listen to thing I would otherwise not read.
I've just finished The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford. I love his writing, he's very funny too but it was so dense it took me ages. Some Ian Rankin, Harry Potter, of course, The Wheel of Time, some chick lit of varying levels of interest. Too many of them leave you no room to think or fill in the gaps yourself. A Million Little Pieces was interesting. This was written a non-fiction, recovering from drug addiction but turned out to be mostly fictionalised. Black Swan Green by one of my favourite recent authors, David Mitchell. His childhood was very much like mine in the Midlands. I read some poetry too, magazines mostly and also the wonderful and thoughtful debut Snow Negatives by Enda Coyle Greene.

Plans for 2008 pending for next year.
Happy Hogmanay!

Sunday 30 December 2007

The Academi Cardiff International Poetry Competition

This is a highly prestigious, annual competition.

£5000 first prize, £500, £250 and 10 £50 for runners up.
Judges are Jo Shapcott and U A Fanthorpe, and there is a filter judge too, Tiffany Atkinson who is the first hurdle.
Usual terms, no longer than 50 lines, unpublished etc.
Check the website for a good idea of the type and standard of poem that has won before.
Deadline 1 February 2008
Fee £5 per poem.

Saturday 29 December 2007

How not to lose a competition

These comments are from the Milton Keynes Speakeasy competition. They didn't have that many entries so may be worth checking out next time it comes around.

Short Stories
Generally how to get in the 'No' pile:
Don't follow the rules, e.g. single spacing, use a small/ excessively large font size, use a wierd font type, exceed the word count
Don't have enough tension, reason to turn the page
Ramble around for a while before getting to the point
Be predictable
Use loads of characters, preferably with similar names
Remain unremittingly bleak throughout.

Use a lazy/boring title
Forget about punctuation (not sure I agree with this 100%)
Thou wilt use archaisms
Start with a form but then drift out of it
Repeat yourself, I said repeat
Use metaphors and similes that everyone knows
Be Obscure for the sake of it

Friday 28 December 2007

Small festival funding

The Arts Council has announced funding for small festivals. Lots of these have a literary slant so watch you local papers for information and support them.

Alliance Francaise de Cork (Cork) €4,500
Alliance Francaise Dublin (Dublin) €7,000
Ballymun Festival (Dublin) €5,000
Breaking Ground (Dublin) €8,000
Buncrana: Ar Ais Aris, (Donegal) €16,000
Cairde na Cruite, (Louth), €14,500
Carlingford Community Development, (Louth) €10,500
Carrick-on-Suir Tourism & Economic Development Committee, (Tipperary) €2,200
Christ Church Waterford, (Waterford) €15,000
Clann Resource Centre, (Galway) €3,000
Classicallinks, (Galway) €10,000
Coiste Choilin Sheain Dharach, (Galway) €3,000
Coiste Cruinniu na BhFliuit, (Cork) €4,000
Coiste Ealaion Traidisiunta Ghleann Cholm Cille, (Donegal) €5,000
Conamara Environmental Education and Cultural Centre, (Galway) €6,500
Cork World Book Festival, (Cork) €7,000
Corofin Trad Festival, (Clare) €13,000
Cosgallen, (Mayo) €3,000
Cumann Cheoil na Rinne, (Waterford) €1,400
Different Directions Festival, (Galway) €3,500
Drogheda Borough Council, (Louth) €13,000
Dublin KlezFest!, (Dublin) €2,000
East Wall North Port Development, (Dublin) €5,000
Emergent Events, (Dublin) €10,000
Ennis Book Club Festival, (Clare) €3,500
Feile Chomortha Joe Einniu, (Galway) €3,000
Foram Gaeilge an Chlair, (Clare) €2,000
Friends of Coole, (Galway) €4,000
Gaeilge Locha Riach, (Galway) €3,500
Gaelacadamh Teo, An, (Galway) €6,000
I and E, (Dublin) €7,000
Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, (Waterford €4,000
Iniscealtra Festival of Arts, (Clare) €15,000
International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, (Dublin) €5,000
Itchy Feet Promotion - One Voice, (Sligo) €2,000
John McKenna Traditional Society, (Leitrim) €3,900
John Roberts Weekend, (Waterford) €3,000
New Soundworlds, (Dublin) €8,500
North Beach Poetry Nights, (Galway) €2,000
NYAH Cavan, (Cavan) €12,000
O’ Bheal, (Cork) €2,000
Oireachtas Na Gaeilge, (Donegal) €8,000
Oranmore Community Development Association, (Galway) €2,000
Outsiders Festival, (Limerick) €7,000
Over the Edge, (Galway) €4,500
Rathmines Festival, (Dublin) €4,000
Russell Memorial Weekend Festival, (Clare) €3,500
Scoil Cheoil na Earraigh, (Kerry) €18,000
Sean Nos Cois Life, (Dublin) €7,000
Shannonbridge Festival Committee, (Offaly) €6,000
Solstice Arts Group, (Galway) €1,500
Soundeye, (Cork) €7,000
TASCQ, (Dublin) €4,000
Tech Amergin, (Kerry) €5,000
Terryglass Arts Festival, (Tipperary) €13,000
Three Rivers Storytelling Festival, (Roscommon) €2,500
White House Poets, (Limerick) €7,500
Wicklow Arts Festival, (Wicklow) €3,000

Thursday 27 December 2007

Submission sought for Boyne Berries

The Boyne Writers Group was lucky enough to get a grant from Meath County Council. They are now inviting submissions for issue 3 of their 'Boyne Berries' journal of poetry and prose which will be published in March 2008. They say "Submissions are welcome from Meath, from the rest of Ireland and from abroad." There is a lot of local writing and a selection from outside the county borders.

Submission guidelines
Deadline for submissions is the 31st January 2008.
Poetry: Send no more than three poems. Each poem should be 70 lines or under.
Prose: Stories etc should be 1000 words or under.
Poems and prose should be original, previously unpublished and not currently submitted or accepted for publication elsewhere.

Include a brief biography.
Contributors will not receive any payment for their work but will receive a copy of the issue in which their work appears and may be invited to read their work at the launch of the magazine.

Some of the items published may be included on the magazine website.

by email to: - include text both in body of email and as a Word attachment.
OR by post to: Boyne Writers, 33 Avondale Drive, Trim, Co. Meath - typed, with the author's name on each sheet.

Include an email address and/or mobile phone number where possible.

Friday 21 December 2007

Poetry Readings 2008 - Out To Lunch

The Out to Lunch poetry readings are a twice monthly occasion in the Irish Writers Centre. I've been to quite a few and they are varied and enjoyable. Here are some links on the poets coming up 2008. What better way to spend a Friday lunchtime in Dublin?

January 11 Maria McManus - a lively poet from Strabane, first collection out now called "Read The Dog," nominated for the Glen Dimplex Award this year.

January 25 Padraig J. Daly from Waterford

February 8 Dennis Leonard - Anyone know anything about Dennis?

February 22 Marie Ann Wallace won the Sunday Tribune poetry award (the year I didn't) and is a Catalan poet.

March 7 Anatoly Kudryavitsky is a Russion poet whose heart now is in Ireland.

March 28 James J. McAuley taught a workshop I did for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series.

April 11 Louise C. Callaghan is a Dublin poet with two collections.

April 28 P.J. Brady has a background in theatre.

May 9 Pat Boran a talented poet, always worth seeing.

May 23 Paddy Bushe has published 6 collections.

June 6 Susan Connolly has a number of collections and is from Drogheda

June 20 Gerry Smyth has a number of collections and writes for the Irish Times

July 4 Kate Newman, a Northern Irish writer

July 18 Ted Deppe originally from Minnesota, now livingin Cape Clear

August 1 Gerry Hanberry has an MA from Galway and won the Brendan Kennelly/Sunday Tribune Poetry Competition in 2004

August 15 Colette Nic Aodha from Mayo

August 29 Thomas McCarthy was born in Waterford but is now a Cork based poet.

September 12 Enda Coyle Greene is wonderfully warm and technically brilliant Dublin poet.

September 26 Catherine Phil MacCarthy is a well known poet with a good few collections.

October 10 John F. Deane a well known and respected poet, born in Achill.

October 24 Philip Casey writes poetry, plays and prose.

November 7 Michael O’Loughlin is a well known Dublin born poet.

November 21 Ted McCarthy

December 5 Gabriel Rosenstock writes primarily in Irish

December 19 Patrick Deeley has 4 collections.

All readings are at 1.15 p.m. In The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Happy Days!

Check out the photos on this website
How to speak Norn Iron.
You have to read this. How to be understood in Belfast. I have to practise myself as I'm planning to go there in February for the first time ever (the shame, the shame)

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Some UK Poetry Magazines

Start your new year resolution early, you know, the one about sending out more.

Cadenza accepts poetry and short stories. They also have competitions. For the next competition, the editor, Zoe King says
Whenever I read through a batch of stories entered into the Cadenza competitions, it strikes me that the same errors or weaknesses show themselves time and time again. There were several stories in the September competition which saddened me because with minor fixes, they could have been contenders for the shortlist, and/or the prizes.

In future competitions, I will be selecting five or six stories which fit that criteria, and examining them to see how and where they might be made stronger. I will then write about the process in the hope of enabling writers to improve their work. Entrants who don't want their stories to receive 'The Cadenza Treatment' should say so when entering, otherwise I will assume permission and do the necessary work. Although titles of works will be included in the resultant feature, I won't be revealing author names.

Erbacce, a small press is always looking for new writers. Check out their warning page on vanity presses. Wise words.

Frogmore Papers have been publishing since 1983. They publish twice a year and say
Poems where the form drives the meaning are unlikely to find favour.
Poems written by people who clearly haven't read any poetry since Wordsworth will not find favour.
Prose may be experimental or traditional, but is unlikely to be accepted if it's either very experimental or very traditional.

They have an annual competition, deadline end of May. You can read previous winners to get an idea of the standard.

Magma accepts submissions by email and post.

Mslexia. Writing for women. Highly recommended magazine. Check for forth coming themes. Annual competition for short stories and poetry, deadline 25 April 2008.

Orbis looks for 4 poems or prose by letter or 2 poems or prose by email from overseas.

The Rialto is a serious poetry mag, always looking for new writing. Submit by post. Response within 10 weeks. Pays.

Ugly Tree is looking for online submissions only. Response within 6 weeks.

Monday 17 December 2007

Japanese Warriors

If you're in Dublin between now and 17th February, do pop into the Chester Beatty library in Dublin Castle and take a look at the Japanese woodblock print exhibition, 100 Aspects of the Moon. It's wonderful. The artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) did a series of a 100 prints all with some link to the moon with myths and legends, history and contemporary society. Interestingly you can see hints of modern day Japanese cartoon styles from Pokemon through Yugiyo to the Anime my kids are addicted to.

The Haiku tradition is in the prints too; the moments captured are often the moment just before a momentous occasion, or just after. There is a lot of poetry in them. You see Warriors in full battle dress contemplating the next day's war plans and composing some lines about the moon or a songbird. Wonderful. And I wonder how much Haiku or other poetry is being composed now in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The prints were cheap when produced and often used as wrapping or packing paper. The collectors Else and Joseph Chapman gathered the 100 in good nick over the years and donated them to the Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of New Mexico, USA, another highly recommended museum next time you're in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sunday 16 December 2007

R.E.M***Everybody Hurts (no Amalia,you were not alone)

This is my desert island disk song. I got it wrong earlier!

New Novel Writing Competition

The Mail On Sunday announced the winner or the 2007 novel writing competition.

Roland Vernon's novel, A Dark Enchantment, was admired by all the judges for its evocation of a wild and beautiful part of 19th Century Greece and the complex emotional lives of its inhabitants, both the indigenous Greeks and the unconventional English settlers. A historical drama with a love story at is heart, his novel vividly describes what can happen when worlds and cultures collide. Transworld will publish A Dark Enchantment on its Black Swan imprint in April 2008.

They announced the 2008 competition too. Closing date Wednesday, 2nd July 2008. See Transworld guidelines.

Entrants: aged 16 or over, resident of the UK or Republic of Ireland. Entrants must not have written a novel published under a valid ISBN.

Prize: 6 shortlisted entrants. The Publisher will offer the winning entrant a publishing contract with Transworld Publishers, a division of The Random House Group Limited, and an advance in the sum of £30,000 (Prize). The Publishers will publish the winning work in the spring of 2009.

Entry: complete work in the English language of not less than 80,000 words and no more than 150,000 words and a synopsis of the work in the English language of no more than 600 words

Friday 14 December 2007

Writing exercise - metaphors

Dead Metaphors
Dead metaphors are clichés - they are the ones that everyone knows and have been used so many times that they are just a part of everyday language, e.g.

Stone cold
A heart of stone
Apple of my eye
Boiling mad
Steer clear
Bear fruit
Hatch a plan
Difficult to swallow
New and emerging writers work is commonly riddled with them. Of course, the first time these were used, they would have been arresting - something new and apt. Now they have become stale - and have little fresh impact. They are part of our clichéd language - they communicate but not as powerfully as something freshly minted. Collect as many as possible from reading and noticing each other's speech. Make a list. Use these for a writing game by taking them literally, e.g.

I felt stone cold -
My arms were rock
And my legs were granite.

She was the apple of my eye -
But someone took a bite
Out of my sight!

Geraldine was boiling mad -
Steam came out of her mouth!

I hatched a plan -
It is only just able to walk
And needs bottle-feeding daily.

This sort of language play helps you look anew at language you may be using without really thinking about its meaning.

Inventing Metaphors
First of all, identify something that you want to create a metaphor around - for instance - the stars. Now think of something that is like the subject or something to do with the subject - they shine, glitter, are like tin-tacks, like diamonds, like jewels, like fiery eyes. Now use an idea to make a metaphor, remembering not to use the word 'like', e.g.

The stars are shiny glitter.
The stars tin tacked to the night.
The diamond stars shine.
The jeweled stars.
The fiery stars eyed the world

Notice how one simple way is to:

Generate a simile - the stars are like diamonds.
Omit the word 'like' - the stars are diamonds.
Move the noun in front of the image - the diamond stars. Dylan Thomas uses this technique in his writing!

Extending the metaphor
This is much easier than you may imagine. Take a simple simile, e.g.

My teacher is like an... eagle.

Turn this into a metaphor by removing the word like. Now think about what eagles do and just extend the sentence further, e.g.

My teacher is an eagle swooping around the room, hovering over his students, diving down on innocent prey and demolishing them with the terrible grip of his talons.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Christmas Dreams

I went to a literary Christmas dinner last night in town. It was quite literary at the start but degenerated somewhat...!
I had half an hour to kill so went to Marks And Spensers. It doesn't feel like Christmas if you haven't been to M&S and I hadn't been in ages. So I was in the changing rooms, the only one in any cubicle and over the tannoy came "The store is now closed; The Store is now closed" in a sepulchral voice. I was completely naked at the time.
Lights started going out. I had visions of being locked in M&S for the night, missing the dinner and the kids not noticing I never got home! I went out in record time (getting up at the time I do these winter mornings means I am an expert at dressing in record breaking time) The store was still kind of open, assitant milling around talking about going to the pub.
I said to the sales assistant, "I thought I'd get locked in. It wouldn't be so bad," she said. "There's some really nice pyjamas on sale and a food hall downstairs." With all those M&S ads on the telly, selling food as sex, that woud be like a wet dream, locked in M&S foodhall overnight!
Happy Mince pies!

Tuesday 11 December 2007

reading challenge

Here's a reading challenge for next year. Pick six books - one from each of the following categories...

A book with a colour in its title.

A book with an animal in its title.

A book with a first name in its title.

A book with a place in its title.

A book with a weather event in its title.

A book with a plant in its title.

Here's some ideas.
Colour - The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
Animal - Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
First Name - The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell or Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Place - Brick Lane by Monica Ali or Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Weather - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell or Sunset over chocolate Mountains by Susan Elderkin
Plant - Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson or The Broken Cedar by Martin Malone or The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

What about you? Any recommendations? Anything you plan to read?

Monday 10 December 2007


Actually I realise that Sunday Miscellany has only had the piece posted yesterday since the end of July so there's hope yet. They ask for 6 months to consider. Though it's really a summer piece. Ah well. Must see about sending them some poems. Problem is they consider stuff for that early in the morning with restrictions. No sex (obviously) or violence or death (unless it was a long time ago) or contentious or anything from the dark side. They prefer things with an Irish slant too (obviously) and not too many of my poems fit these restrictions.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Pieces not accepted by Sunday Miscellany #5

Croquet and Cribbage

The sounds of summer this year are interspersed with the yells of kids piling outside to make the most of any sunny spell. Then piling back in again as the skies open up and the rain pours down. In my family, the sound of summer always included the clack of croquet balls on mallets.
Croquet was apparently invented in Ireland in the 1830’s. It has the image of a delightfully serene and well-mannered lawn game, played by elegant ladies and gentlemen in blazers and boater hats. In practise, it is the most vicious and malevolent game you can imagine. There is no elegance in roqueting your son’s ball into the dahlias for the third time. There is no sophistication in whacking your ball the full length of the lawn, to get your mother back for the inadvertent peel through the hoop.
When I was small, my family would make the long cross-country journey every few months, to stay with my grandparents. They had retired to a bungalow in the country. Every spring, Granddad brought out the croquet set from the shed, with a great sense of occasion. My grandparents were keen gardeners and their large, sandy beds were bursting with vegetables and scented flowers. The wide lawn was regularly rollered and kept as smooth my granddad’s Brylcreamed hair in anticipation of the game. We spaced out the hoops around the edges and whacked the final peg in the middle. We played singly or paired up to hit our balls around the lawn. Old scores were settled, new ones were raised and many dahlias gave up their lives in the interest of sporting fun. The first person to hit the peg at the end wins; this is called pegging out.
When the croquet set was put away from the winter, we would light the fire and take out the cards. Granddad was a bit of a card shark; he could deal as smoothly as a croupier and sometimes winked at me for no apparent reason as he dealt my hand. Grandma never had that impulse to let a child a down gently and went full out to win, whatever it took.
My favourite two-handed game, Granddad taught me was Cribbage. This seventeenth century game is the only card game I know that was invented by a poet. Sir John Suckling, was also a soldier, handsome and generous and independently wealthy to boot. This most unusual combination of attributes took its toll on him, and he committed suicide with poison in 1642. I don’t know how good he was as a poet, but you certainly need to keep your wits about you, playing his card game. Cribbage is scored by moving pegs around the holes in a special board. The associated vocabulary is poetic. Scoring is called pegging, the spare hand is called the crib. If my card skills and luck ever combined to let me beat my grandfather decisively, it is called a lurch. I was more often the one being lurched. Another rule gives an extra point for a Jack of the dealer’s suit; this is called one for his nobs. If you overlook a score, your opponent has to say ‘muggins’ and then takes the score for himself. The winner is the first to get his or her peg around the board twice and is said to have pegged out, just like in croquet.
Over the years, the card games at my grandparents diminished and eventually were put away. My dad became the one to bring out the croquet set from the shed in the spring. Granddad took to sitting on a shooting stick, to rest between turns and my mallet skills improved considerably. Granddad was the first to peg out. He died at the end of the croquet season, when I was eighteen. My grandmother pegged out herself a few years ago. My parents now have the croquet set and the cribbage board. Last summer, we rollered the lawn and introduced my husband and kids to the perfidious game of croquet. Next winter, I’m planning to brush up on the rules of cribbage.

Friday 7 December 2007


Interesting article in the bookseller. Worth checking out. Jewels of the Cyber-slush pile.

Sponsored by the Arts Council England , this project is designed to encourage and support unpublished authors as they develop and improve their work. The site, which is fully automated, asks writers to upload opening chapters of between 6,000 and 10,000 words, or short stories.

The authors then provide reviews of other site members’ work, in return for reviews of their own chapters; the writing is rated using a scoring system based on eight elements of a novel, such as storyline and characterisation. Each month the top five highest-scoring are given a free critique of their work from a professional agent, publisher or published author, and also enter YouWriteOn’s bestseller chart.

Note to self - open to voting rigging by writer's closest friends.

Each month, the Top 5 new writers receive a free critique from editors for leading literary agents and publishers, including Curtis Brown, Orion & Bloomsbury.

Four literary agencies will consider highly rated chapters on
The William Morris Agency, Bonomi Associates, Curtis Brown, The Christopher Little Agency as well as publishers Orion and Random House.

One such book, originally called The Emperor’s Elephant, by Doug Jackson, was critiqued then Jackson spent several months rewriting, and was taken on by literary agent Mark Stanton at Jenny Brown Associates in Scotland, who sold the work to Simon Thorogood at Transworld as part of a six-figure, two-book deal. The book is now called Caligula and is due out from Transworld next July.

Scott Pack at The Friday Project bought children’s book The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke after it was on YouWriteOn; two other writers from the site are being represented by agencies Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh; and manuscripts have been requested by Little, Brown, Orion and agency Christopher Little.

The publisher HarperCollins is now developing its own peer-review website for unpublished writers. Would-be authors will be asked to submit all, or at least 10,000 words, of their work so that it can be reviewed by other writers or those looking for talent. The site,, is provisionally scheduled to go live in February 2008.

Apart from being a good marketing exercise, this means the publisher doesn't have to work through an agent, usually more lucrative for the publisher.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Strokestown International Poetry Competition

Strokestown Poetry Competition is prestigious and well paid. Unusually, the judges read every entry, not just a filtered shortlist. I've never got anywhere with it...

Prize Fund of €20,000 as Strokestown International Poetry Competitions.

Deadline: 31 January 2008

The Strokestown International Poetry Festival has launched its poetry competitions for 2008.

Judges: Peter Fallon, George Szirtes and Vona Groarke will be the judges for the international competition for a poet in English. Gragir Dill and Christopher Whyte/ Crisdean MhicIlleBhain for Irish or Scottish Gaelic. Margaret Hickey for political satire.

Prizes: English 4,000 for the winning poet, with 2,000 and 1,000 for second and third, and 450 for other shortlisted poets. Same for Irish or Scottish Gaelic. Various brown envelopes for political satire.

Prizes are awarded at the annual Strokestown International Poetry Festival which runs from 2-5 May 2008.

Entry forms are available from Strokestown International Poetry Competition, Bawn Street, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon or online, link above.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Writing exercise

I've been researching some new ideas for writing workshops in anticipation of some teaching early next year. This exercise works as well for kids as for grown ups.

The word waiter
Brian Moses once write a poem along this line that involved a 'word waiter' who could serve up only a certain number of words. This can be used for short burst writing, haiku, letters or news items. The randomness of the selection adds a challenging edge that often forces creativity beyond the predictable. The word waiter might serve up a character, place and dilemma for storytelling. Here are some possible starters - but ask the participants and add many more ingredients!

Character Place Dilemma
woodcutter hairdressers finds an alien
farmer station loses money
princess bus stop finds a cave
adventurer cinema sees a fight
heroine castle kitchen is trapped
Billy old bridge steals something
Jo chip shop is chased
teacher wooden tower gets lost

Monday 3 December 2007

Awfully expensive literary lunch

8 December 2007 at 12.30 p.m.

Author Luncheon in the new Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire on December 8th at 12.30. The guest speakers will be Man Booker Prizewinner Anne Enright, economist and bestselling author David McWilliams, and Paul Howard aka Ross O'Carroll Kelly. Tickets cost 50 euro and can be purchased from Hughes & Hughes Dun Laoghaire (01) 202 0010.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Editing/Cutting - Learn From The Best

There was a fascinating article in Saturday's Guardian (unmissable reading for anyone interested in the arts) on editing in relation to Raymond Carver.
This American short story writer and poet died in 1988. His writing is wonderful, sharp, pignant and sparse and again unmissable reading. And it's the sparseness that's under discussion here.

His widow, the poet Tess Gallagher who spends a lot of time in Ireland, has brought out a new version of his collection "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" published in 1981. The difference being, similar the director's cuts of Blade Runner amongst others, Raymond Carver's writing was heavily edited by his editor Gordon Lish. This publication is the stories as written before Gordon Lish worked on them.

Lish, an editor at Esquire magazine and Alfred Knopf as well as a novelist in his own right, made major changes to many of the stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, cutting about half of Carver's original words and changing more than half of the endings. Gallagher, who was closely involved with Carver's later work, plans to reverse many of Lish's changes. Her plan is publish the results under a title Carver originally gave to one of the stores, Beginners.

Carver wrote to Lish in 1980, before the collection was published, and after he had met Gallagher, asking him to do everything in his power to stop the book from being published.

"If the book were to be published as it is in its present edited form," he wrote, "I may never write another story, that's how closely, God forbid, some of those stories are to my sense of regaining my health and mental well-being."

Lish ignored Carver and the changes he suggested. The book went on to cement Carver's reputation as the poet of American suburban despair.

According to William L Stull, who has edited several posthumous Carver collections, Lish cut some of Carver's stories by half (others say up to 70 per cent), removing flashbacks and interior reflections.

So here is the end of "One More Thing" from "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" L. D. is a drunk. Maxine, his wife, is obsessed with people's star signs. The story is largely dialogue, pointed up by "L. D. said", "Rae said", "Maxine said". Anything more expressive is seldom permitted to reach the page. Eventually, L. D. is making his way "out of this nuthouse". The final three paragraphs of "One More Thing" - and of the collection itself - read like this:

"L. D. put the shaving bag under his arm and picked up the suitcase.

He said, 'I just want to say one more thing.'

But then he could not think what it could possibly be."

The original manuscript of the story that Carver submitted to Gordon Lish has several comparatively long-winded paragraphs ending with

"It came to him with a shock that he would remember this night and her like this. He was terrified to think that in the years ahead she might come to resemble a woman he couldn't place, a mute figure in a long coat, standing in the middle of a lighted room with lowered eyes.

'Maxine!' he cried. 'Maxine!'

'Is this what love is, L. D.?' she said, fixing her eyes on him. Her eyes were terrible and deep, and he held them as long as he could."

Which do you prefer?

Saturday 1 December 2007

Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards 2007

How many of the books on the shortlist have you heard of, let alone read? I've heard of Kevin Barry, There Are Little Kingdoms from the Stinging Fly Press as some people I know rate Kevin highly. Haven't read the book though.
The non-fiction book John Stubbs, Donne: The Reformed Soul (Penguin) is supposed to be good though. I remember a girl I shared a house with at college falling head long in love with John Donne and his lush sentiments and words. Helen Pickering, if you're around, get in touch.
I've met Maria McManus, Reading the Dog ( Lagan Press) who is a lovely, lively poet from the North. Daljit Nagra, Look, We Have Coming to Dover! (Faber and Faber) has had lots of accolades.

With a total prize fund of €45,000, the annual Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards offer unprecedented support and exposure for emerging writers in a range of genres. Awards were made to the best first book published by an author within each of the following five categories: Fiction, Biography/Non-fiction, Children’s literature, Poetry and Irish-language (all genres).

Shortlists for this year’s awards were:

Kevin Barry, There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press)
Jane Feaver, According to Ruth (Harvill Secker)
Nikita Lalwani, Gifted (Penguin/Viking)
Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (Penguin/Viking)
Mark McNay, Fresh (Canongate Books)
Vijay Medtia, The House of Subadar (Arcadia Books)

Catherine Bailey, Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty (Penguin/Viking)
Rob Gifford, China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power (Bloomsbury)
Ed Husain, The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left (Penguin/Allen Lane)
Rory McCarthy, Nobody Told Us We Are Defeated: Stories from the New Iraq (Chatto & Windus)
Will Morrison, Between the Mountains and the Gantries (Appletree Press)
John Stubbs, Donne: The Reformed Soul (Penguin)

Children’s literature
Sharon Dogar, Waves (Chicken House)
Lyn Gardner, Into the Woods (Random House)
Rowland Molony, After the Death of Alice Bennett (Oxford University Press)
Sarah Mussi, The Door of No Return (Hodder Children’s Books)
Andy Stanton, You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum! (Egmont Press)
Jenny Valentine, Finding Violet Park (Harper Collins Children's Books)

Tiffany Atkinson, Kink and Particle (Seren)
Annie Freud, The Best Man that Ever Was (Pan Macmillan)
Maria McManus, Reading the Dog ( Lagan Press)
Daljit Nagra, Look, We Have Coming to Dover! (Faber and Faber)
Nell Regan, Preparing for Spring (Arlen House)
Clare Shaw, Straight Ahead (Bloodaxe Books)

Tony Bromell, Rian mo Chos ar Ghaineamh an tSaoil (Cló Iar-Chonnachta)
Mícheál De Barra, An Bóthar go Santiago (Cois Life)
Máirín Ni Laoithe Uí Shé, Sin Iad na Rudaí (Coiscéim)
Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin, Bibeanna: Memories from a Corner of Ireland (Mercier Press)
Gabhán Ó Fachtna, Bás is Beatha ar an Bhóthar Chreagach (Coiscéim)
Seán O'Connor, Seán Ruiséal agus Iníon an Oileáin (Coiscéim)

Each category winner received a prize of €5,000. The Glen Dimplex New Writer of the Year 2007 was chosen from the five category winners and received a further €20,000.

And the Winners are:
John Stubbs has been named Glen Dimplex New Writer of the Year 2007 for his book Donne: The Reformed Soul, published by Penguin/Viking.

The winner of the Fiction category was Hisham Matar for his book In the Country of Men ( Penguin/Viking); the Children’s Book category was won by Sarah Mussi for The Door of No Return ( Hodder Children’s Books); the Poetry prize went to Annie Freud for The Best Man that Ever Was ( Pan Macmillan); while the prize for best Irish-language book went to Mícheál De Barra for An Bóthar go Santiago ( Cois Life).

The judges for this year’s awards were: Kevin Crossley-Holland, Maire Cruise O’Brien, Philip Cummings, David Goodhart, Kerry Hardie, Dermot Healy, Michael Longley, Christina McKenna, James Ryan and last year’s Glen Dimplex New Writer of the Year, Alice Hogge.

Friday 30 November 2007


Check this out. Poets on strike. Hilarious!

Feeling low today. My agent hasn't talked or emailed in a month. I am struggling to find time to write. Bits at pieces in stolen time.

I'm thinking about jacking in the contract. It doesn't pay huge and can be boring. It can be interesting too and I enjoy the contact. I don't use much of my terrific brain capacity though or skills built up over years in multi-nationals. My 15 year old child could do my job. I don't know what to do. Maybe I could try 4 days a week. They turned me down for a permanent job I was well skilled for from a few years ago. Not even interviewed. I'm used to rejections being a writer but when you get a rejection, it's not you personally that's getting rejected but that particular piece of writing. When you are rejected from a job, it's you, the person they are rejecting.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Desert Island Disks or songs to play at my funeral

This one always does it for me. (Shamelessly stolen from another blog)

Also the dying song in La Boheme. My first opera was La Boheme at the Covent Garden Royal Opera House at the proms as a student. I didn't know the opera so didn't know what happened in the end. I was devastated. Devastated and thrilled that I could be devastated by an opera.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Who won the Patrick Kavanagh?

The 2007 Award was presented to Conor Carville who resides in London. His family orginate from Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan and Keady in Co. Armagh. Dr Carville lectures on Professional and Creative Writing and Irish Studies in St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham.

Second place went to Connie Roberts a native of Tullamore, Co. Offaly who now resides in New York. I don't think she's the same artist who works in Iowa of the photo.

Third place went to Grace Wells from Nine-Mile-House, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary.
She is the Literature Officer with South Tipperary Art Centre based in Clonmel.

Judges for the 2007 competition were distinguished poets, Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan.

No one I know then. Good luck to the winners and I look forward to seeing their collections out in the near future.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

More blogs

More blogs worth checking out:

Bookeywookey has lots of poetry and opinions.

The Journal of a Writing Wolf a ladywolf who writes and enjoys fantasy.

Moo-Dog The amazing adventures of Terence McDanger.

Tales from the Reading Room

Get On With it blog is wittily written by Karen Clarke, a writer and librarian in England

Lady with a Laptop blogs about lots of writing projects.

In Search of Adam blogs about her new novels.

Chicklit Writer is another Wannabe writer's weekly diary.

Julia Buckley is working on her first novel but has a tendency to proscrastinate and pretend to bake.

The Yorkshire Pudding Club (killer title!) is the blog of a newly published author Milly Johnson.

Nathan Brasford is a US literary agent with Curtis Brown and has lots of interesting information, funnily enough, agents.

Obheal has details about readings and open mics in Cork city. Check it out!

Over the Edge showcases literary events in Galway.

Deconstructive Wasteland is a poet blogger.

Monday 26 November 2007

The People's College short story competition

The People's College is based in Dublin. The writing facilitator is the writer Susan Knight. Ask youself is a 10 Euro entry fee worth a gamble for a possible 25 Euro book token and publication or a possible prize. I don't have any short stories suitable to enter at present as I am concentrating on the novel. The last story I wrote was an adaptation of a chapter, so I wasn't cheating. Actually it was a good character building exercise. (My character, not me!)

Entry Fee: 10 Euro for the first entry, 5 for subsequent.
Prizes:First prize €500, second prize €300 and third prize €200. Runners-up book tokens.
Deadline: 28 Feb 2008
Result: late Spring
Judges: novelist Mary Rose Callaghan
Restrictions: usual stuff, original, unpublished, anonymous, less than 2,500 words.
Contact Details: PEOPLE'S COLLEGE, 32 Parnell Square,Dublin 1. Tel: 01-8735879
Email:, web:

More importantly, who won last year?
First prize of €350 to Alyn Fenn for her story The Saddest Girl in the Whole World
Second prize of €250 to Evelyn Walsh for Taraxacum Officinale
Third prize of €150 to Geraldine Mills for Waiting for the Fall

Unfortunately the winning stories are no longer on the website but I am familair with Geraldine Mills and she's a terrific writer.

All these stories are published in Ink What You Think, the 2007 in-house anthology of the People’s College Creative Writing Workshop.
There were in addition 6 runners-up, who have each received a book token for €25.
Nuala Ní Choncúir for Jackson and Jerusalem
Wes Lee for Advent
Joe McKiernan for The Rain and the Roses
Marie McSweeney for How the Dust Settles
Cathy Sweeney for Secrets
Debbie Thomas for Beyond

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Pieces not accepted by Sunday Miscellany #4

Another Piece not taken by Sunday Miscellany.
Moving in Irish Circles

My grandmother, Dorothy Driscoll was Irish, or that’s what I was always told. She raised her family to be proud of their Irish roots. Rebel songs and sentimental ballads were sung in the house. Intricate yarns were spun when they visited their huge family of relatives in the East End of London. I never met her; she died long before I was born. She married a Kent man before the First World War and raised a family of nine children, the second youngest my mother. Dorothy was a practising catholic but the nearest catholic church was a train ride away in Maidstone. She only went to mass once a month and most of her children were baptised at the local Church of England church.

Family legend said the Driscolls came from Cork. They emigrated to England sometime after the famine and found work digging the London underground as Navvies. I think of them when I’m in London and descend on those long escalators to the Piccadilly line, the deepest and first to be dug.

Her Irish roots must have been in her mind when my mother travelled with her future husband and his parents to West Cork in 1959. They ambled in a horse-drawn caravan and along the narrow roads, stopping in the small towns. They visited pubs and stone circles and set up camp in the fields. My parents bought their engagement ring in a jeweller’s shop in Bandon. My grandmother, though raised Church of England, dabbled with the catholic church and, ever the chameleon, started to speak with a stage Irish brogue which mortified my mother and probably confused or amused the locals. She insisted on stopping to genuflect at every roadside shrine, holy well and grotto. This was did not slow them down as they were only travelling at four miles an hour.

The photos they took on their little box Brownie show a different world to today. One picture in particular intrigued me when I was young. It was a donkey cart with milk churns parked outside a pub in a small town called Rosscarbery. I considered it the absolute dark ages.

When I met and married a young, brown-eyed engineer from that town in 1988, we thought the family had come full circle. The photos were brought to Ireland to show the new in-laws and my parents visited West Cork for the second time. We found the original jeweller’s shop in Bandon and showed them the ring. We drank in the same pub in the same square in Rosscarbery and talked about coincidences. My mother recalled watching a picture show in the parish hall, filmed around the locality. Whenever somebody in the audience came on the screen, they stood up and took a bow. My father-in-law had seen it many times. It used to be shown every summer. I wonder where that film is now.

Recently I became interested in genealogy, an art, not a science as I discovered. I traced my grandmother Dorothy Driscoll’s birth not to Ireland but to West Ham in Essex on the east side of London. I was disappointed. I could no longer claim to be available for the Irish football team. Dorothy’s mother, Emma, whom my aunt swore spoke with a strong Irish accent, turned out to come from Burton on Trent. Believe me, a Staffordshire accent is as far removed from the West Cork accent of my in-laws as a glass of Guinness is from Burton ale. It’s still the same language but that’s about it.

Emma Driscoll was a fervent mass-goer but she was baptised and raised Church of England. Dabbling with the church seems to run in both sides of my family.
Struggling through old census forms and birth certificates, deciphering the faded scrawls from more than a century ago, I pieced together the generations of Driscolls moving around the East End. Emma’s husband, my Great Grandfather was Edward Driscoll, a gas stoker born in West Ham; his father Edward senior, a shoemaker, born in Ireland. I struck lucky using a marriage certificate and the 1861 census in Bexley Heath in Kent. Edward Driscoll was born around 1837 in Ardfield, county Cork, only 4 miles from Rosscarbery. Another Irish family circle has been completed.

Monday 19 November 2007

Greetings Cards?

This one from my new buddy, Vanessa.
British company Wishing Well are looking for submissions for their wide range of cards. As usual, do your research and check their range before sending something. They do get a lot of submissions so be patient, but if they like you they will get in touch and agree a fee.

They say:
We buy a wide selection of wording for our cards including jokes, complimentary or cheeky humorous verse, sentimental and inspirational verses. Jokes ideally are hilariously funny with great sendability, covering the regular old favourite subjects to more topical matters.

Verses can be rhyme or prose but need to flow well and be easily readable first time. They can be anything from 4-24 lines but the majority we use are 8, 12 or 16 lines. Try not to be too specific, it needs to sound personal but in reality must have a wide appeal.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Submit now, not in January

Bits and pieces. I've reached 4,000 hits on the blog. Wow. I wonder how many stopped to read?

I did a poetry reading last night in a church, which was interesting. Reading from the pulpit with a candle and great acoustics. I read 3 poems, a mix of styles finishing on a blinder, mad one. The other readers were a mixed bag, some funny, some fiction, some intense, some self-referential. One great shape poem, a mirror poem similar to a couple i;ve read before by Julia Copus, which are great. I'll have to experiment with that when I get some time.

Time. it's all about time. Working full time leaves little time over. I'd like to take some days over Christmas but it seems selfish to lock myself away from the family and festive goings on. But when else is there?

By the way, read the line above. Submit your stuff now. Apparently there is often a lull coming up to Christmas and then a glut after Christmas when everyone goes through their new year resolutions and Starts Sending Out at last. Good thinking.

Saturday 17 November 2007

Old Anthologies - Giving up?

I was reading some old anthologies the other day and when reading through the contributers' names I was surprised to realise how few I recognised.
The first anthology was from 1993.
The only names I recognised were Pat Boran, Mark Roper, Sheila O'Hagan, Ted McNulty who died in 1998, Mario Luzi who died in 2005 and the editors. What's happened to all the rest? Have they given up writing? Are they still scribbling? Have they all died? What's happened to Janet Shepperson, Robert Drake, Fay Marshall, Mariana Marin, Kitty Fitzgerald, Fabio Doplicher, Howard Wright, Janessa Fox-Roberts, Simion D, John Siberry, Sabine Wichert, Franco Fortini, Augustin Ioan, Geraldine Mulgrew.
OK, so some of the names are still in the game but what I mean here is that I'm in this type of anthology now. What I don't want in 5years time is for someone to be flicking through the dusty book and asking themselves what happened to me.

Thursday 15 November 2007

Strokestown Poetry

The well known, well regarded annual Strokestown poetry competition is now open for entries.
Usual rules except this is for slightly longer poems - unpublished poem in English not exceeding 70 lines.
Prizes of €4,000, €2000 and €1000. In addition there will be up to 7 commended poets
who will be invited to read at the festival for a reading fee and travelling expenses totalling €450.
Judges: George Szirtes, Peter Fallon, Vona Groarke

There's a similar one for Irish or Scots Gaelic.

Also backhanders of €500, €100, €80 and various other sums will be passed under the table in brown envelopes, for light, witty satirical verse on the subject of Irish politics, or other burning topical and/or social issues of the day.
Judge: Margaret Hickey

Entry fee €5 (or £4 sterling, or $5) per poem.
Address: Poetry Festival Office, Strokestown, County Roscommon
All poems must be the unpublished, original work of a living author. Poems must not have been previously published, self-published or published on a website or broadcast. (which is why I don't recommend publishing poems on blogs etc)

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Cork Literary Review/Bradshaw Books Poetry Collection Competition

OK, I can't read this. It says:

Cork Literary Review and Bradshaw books are running a competition for a poetry collection, 25-35 poems, anonymously submitted, unpublished as a collection,
Put your contact details on a separate piece of paper.
Deadline 31 March 2008
Fee: 35 Euro. Cheques made payable to Cork Women's Poetry Circle Ltd
Editors: Sheila O'Hagan, Eugene O'Connell, John W Sexton

Cork Literary Review
Poetry Manuscript Competition
Bradshaw Books
c/o Cork Arts Theatre
Carroll's Quay

021 450 9274

Now 35 Euro is quite steep for an entry fee. And in my personal opinion, Cork/Munster based poets are more favourably viewed. The CorkLit scene is known for being pretty insular.

Bradshaw books. Who have they published. Chuck Kruger. Geraldine Mills Tony O'Dwyer, Michael McCarthy , Roderick Ford, John W Sexton, Tommy Frank O'Connor etc etc

I can't seem to find out if this ran last year, who won.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Arts Council of England, South West poetry competition

Here are details of a free competition being run by The Arts Council of England, South West. It's free. What have you got to lose?

Prize: £500 cash. Winning poem published on the Arts Council website.

Subject: Food, nature or the South West and should be no longer than 250 words.
Judges: Patricia Oxley, editor of poetry journal Acumen, Sally Crabtree from TipofyourTongue in Penzance, and Arts Council England, South West's literature officer Kate Offord.
Deadline:30th November 2008.

Enter online at

Monday 12 November 2007

RTE Arts Show

Since the demise of the rather good Rattlebag on RTE Radio 1, and the failure of the last night 11th Hour radio show, put down to lousy scheduling, we now have a new one.

RTÉ Radio 1's new dedicated arts' programme, The Arts Show, will be broadcast for the first time on Monday, 5th November. The broadaster is playwright Vincent Woods and it's on for an hour each weekday evening from 8pm.

In the first few weeks, The Arts Show will be looking at the writings of Kate O'Brien and Philip Roth, the life of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and the poetry of Seán Ó Ríordáin. Author Robert Harris will be discussing his favourite book and Vincent will be talking to writer Ken Follet and to Sandra Smith, translator of the novels of Irene Nemirovsky.

So quite a lot of literary stuff, worth tuning in. They have it available online too.

The reviews have been pretty dreary. Apparently the programme is not allowed the scope of, say, Front Row on BBC Radio 4, which can cover both serious bleeding edge art installations and the latest, shot 'em up blockbuster film. The slots are too long and too turgid. Give them a while to find their feet. Last week had two slots I was very interested in. Eilis Ni Dhuibhne's new novel, 'Fox, Swallow, Scarecrow' and Red Kettle's new play based on the book 'Riddley Walker' by Russell Hoban' in Waterford. Let's hope it tours.

The production team is:

Sian O'Gorman - - 01 208 2412
Aoife Nic Cormaic - - 01 208 3265
Kevin Brew - - 01 208 2445

To contact the programme email:

Sunday 11 November 2007

Pieces not accepted by Sunday Miscellany #3

Another piece not taken by Sunday Miscellany. Checkpoint Charlie.

Before The Wall came down, I travelled to Berlin with my father. We wanted a European adventure together to get to know each other as adults. We drove from Holland where I lived at the time and spent the night in Hannover near the East-West border crossing. We were directed to stay on the autobahn, no stopping, no turning off until we got to West Berlin. My dad had, how shall I put it, an unreliable bladder in the mornings. He was petrified he would be caught short on the 2 hour journey and be shot by the roadside in an embarrassing position. He must have gone 17 times between getting up and leaving our guesthouse and once more at the border crossing.

The conversation as we buzzed down the concrete autobahn was a little stilted, exploring our newly modified relationship. This was the longest we’d been together without my mother or someone else to dilute the company but we got to West Berlin without incident. The next day, after a hearty Bundesrepublik breakfast, we walked down to The Wall. It was covered from top to bottom with paintings, heartfelt but sometimes banal verses and general ‘Gerhard wos ‘ere’ type graffiti.

Checkpoint Charlie was a collection of dour and unwelcoming reinforced prefabs. The route through the compound was zigzagged, designed so you couldn’t see what was round each corner. There were mysterious rooms off to the side and unsmiling soldiers in fur hats watching us. They made us wait a long time while they wrote in laborious longhand every last detail from our passports in a huge ledger. They checked each page for visas and other indications of our despicable western bourgeoisie. Eventually we were satisfactorily processed and after changing our 25 Bundesrepublik Deutchmarks to 25 Deutsche Demokratische Marks, we were let out into the cold spring day. In the West, the trees were starting to green and bulbs to poke shoots above the soil but in East Berlin, all was still in hibernation as if somehow the seasons were affected by the political border.

We went first to the Pergamon museum and gorged ourselves on the fabulous blue-tiled gateways and enormous statues liberated from Babylon in the twenties. Then we went for lunch in a municipal canteen. There was no gorging here. The only thing on offer was a stodgy stew and dumplings with unidentifiable grey meat and no flavour. It was served by scary, scowling ladies of the same girth from shoulder to knee. It was very cheap. We were left with about twenty-two marks each to squander.

We wandered down the wide Unten dem Linden avenue and stared at the Brandenburg Gate. The chariot atop faced East and flew the East German flag. The Wall from this side was an unapproachable double barrier of unblemished concrete, in contrast to the colourful Western side.

We tried to spend some more of our money in a department store. The pickings were slim. My dad pointed out the contrast to the store we had visited on the Western side. Kaufhaus or KaDeWe as it was known was opulent beyond anything we knew. They had American jeans, a rainbow of tropical fruit and an oyster and champagne bar. In the East the offerings were drab and utilitarian. I bought nutcrackers and some paper flags of Eastern block countries. I hung them in my living room until long after every flag had become obsolete, every flag but Cuba. My dad bought a leaden loaf of bread and a bar of communist chocolate that tasted like brown Shredded Wheat.
We still had 20 DMarks left after this shopping spree. A grey man in a grey raincoat approached us and offered to change some more. So this was what the black market looked like. We declined.

That left beer. This was good and strong but, alas, also very cheap. If we were to spend our remaining dosh on drink we would be swimming back to the West. We made a good effort however and staggered arm in arm through the tank barriers of Checkpoint Charlie before it closed for the night, father and daughter, East meets West, our own wall tumbling between us like a portent for the future.

Saturday 10 November 2007

Willesden Sunset - short stories

I wonder how easy it is to run your own writing contest? Lots have judges I've never heard of. And usually the judges only get a few entries, the rest are filtered by the unnamed organisers. A grant application, a few emails to writing newletters and website, a thoughful name and Bob's your uncle. Poetry would be easier, less reading.

The humorous website Willesden Herald is looking for short stories of an irreverent nature and offering £5000 to the winner. Word count is only limited to the 'highly variable attention span of our editorial team'. Winner, 9 runners up and 4 commendeds will be published in a new anthology (optional.) Entry is free. Judge Zadie Smith.

Friday 9 November 2007

Longford Writers Groups Festival

Writers Group of the Year Award 2008

One of my writers' groups entered this last year (I'm greedy and have two) and we got highly recommended. A nice plaque. We meet in a posh hotel every month so don't have anywhere to put it. We were considering asking the hotel if they would be interested in putting it on the wall but it would classh with the modern Irish Art currently displayed.
The competition was a good focus though on where we are going as a group. Worth considering.

deadline: 14 December 2007

As part of the second National Writers Group Festival, the Longford Arts Office is pleased to invite entries for the Writers Group of the Year Award 2008. This award is open to writers groups in Ireland (including Northern Ireland)and is unique in that the places are decided not only by the quality of the writing submitted, but also the successful functioning of the group. The adjudication panel is Jean O'Brien, Leo Cullen, Martina Devlin and Kevin Higgins.

I wonder what successful functioning of the group means?

"Women with clean houses do not have finished books." - Joy Held

Thursday 8 November 2007

News from Dublin City Libraries

I sent an email to Dublin City Libraries to say thanks for organising the great Writers' Day and they sent back the following.

We are planning to do another one next year - most likely the first Saturday in November. You may be interested in another couple of events we are planning - a session on crime writing and another on writing for children. These will be in Dublin but in association with the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry. The crime one will be at the end of January & the children's one in mid February. Dates are not finalised but keep an eye on our website as we will post the events there as soon as they are confirmed.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Authors and Artists Introductory Series 7

Why not go along and support your local writers and artists?

Thursday 8 November @ 8.00pm

Edited by poets Heather Brett and Noel Monaghan, Windows Publications will launch 15 years of the anthology and workshop with an Authors and Artists Introductory Series 7.
The Norman Villa Gallery, Salthill, Galway
T: 091 533594 E:

Tuesday 20th November @ 6:30pm

Poetry Ireland in association with Windows Publications presents the Dublin launch of Authors and Artists Introductory Series 7 showcasing the work of emerging (there's that word again!) poets, fiction writers and visual artists with Wendy Mooney, Phil Young, Tom Conaty, Kate Dempsey, Michelle O'Sullivan and Aoife Casby.
Unitarian Church (aka Damer Hall) 112 St Stephen's Green West, Dublin 2

Thursday 22nd November @ 6:30pm
Poetry Ireland and Dedelas Press presents the launch of Snow Negatives the first collection by Enda Coyle-Greene who won the Patrick Kavanagh award in 2006. Introduced by Mary O'Donnell
Damer Hall (aka Unitarian Church) 112 St Stephen's Green West, Dublin 2

Lots more poetry events on the Poetry Ireland link.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

William Trevor Short Story Competition

Short story competition - very expensive. I wonder how many entries they get and whether it is a money-making thing or what?

1. Maximum of 3,000 words.
2. Entry fee € 20.00 per entry. Bank Drafts only should be made payable to William Trevor Short Story Competition.
3. Entries must not have been previously published.
4. Anonymous. : please use the official entry form that can be downloaded from
5. Typed using double spacing, two copies.
6. Awards will only be made where a satisfactory standard is achieved. (interesting)
The 6 finalists will be notified by letter/email on or before 30th April 2008.
The prizes will be presented at a ceremony, in Mitchelstown, on Saturday 24th May 2008.
The adjudicator is William Trevor.
Closing Date Friday 30th November 2007
Entries by post only to: William Trevor Short Story Competition, 37 Upper Cork Street, Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland.
1st Prize: €2,500 plus laptop computer

Monday 5 November 2007

From Inspiration to Publication. A writers day with Dublin City Libraries

Good writers day with Font International literary Agents and Dublin City libraries. Hope they do it again next year with new faces.

• Lia Mills, the author talked about journaling.
• Karen Gillece talked about keeping a diary. She wrote My Glass Heart and left a comment on my blog earlier so it was great to meet her in the flesh. A lovely person.
• Aine McCarthy talked about F-R-E-E writing as in the morning pages idea.
• Garbhan Downey, an editor from Derry, talked about writing non-fiction articles for newspapers mainly. The first thing he thinks of when reading a submission is whether it will land him in court. Look for a gap in the coverage. Have perfect spelling and grammar. Remember the rule, ‘Nobody ever reads the second paragraph,’ so spend 50% of your time on the first paragraph and the headline. Make it something to be enjoyed rather than endured.
• Susan Knight talked about the short story and plugged the magazine Mslexia which I adore. ‘Read like a Thief’
• Dominic Taylor from the Whitehouse Poets Revival talked about Blogging as a means of self-promotion and marketing.
• Orna Ross (another hat of Aine McCarthy) talked about the 7 stages of writing the novel.
o Preparation. Free writing, drifting ideas and images, chasing an idea around the page. Reject nothing at this stage. Read.
o Planning. Keep your mind open but start to focus. What is your book going to do? Slot the writing into your daily life. Make time for it. Keep reading.
o Germination. Let ideas take root. Think or scenes, characters, setting, phrases, set pieces, time, places. Read books written the way your want to write.
o Working. This is when you start writing. Apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair. 1st draft only so keep your inner critic boxed away. Finish what you start then leave it.
o Deepening. Ask yourself: What else can I say about this? What else would my character feel or do here? What else might I have missed? Why does this scene happen? Does it move the story along? Is this really how it was? Is it clear? Are there connections?
o Shape and Order. Think of the reader. Is it clear? What is the structure of this book? Begin to let it go.
o Completion. Edit, polish, copyedit, fine tune.
• Paul Kilduff talked about non-fiction. Look out for his book about cheap airlines, 'Ruinair' next year.
o Take first steps. Get writing
o Be clear about your subject matter
o Be passionate if not obsessed about your topic
o Demonstrate expertise and credibility
o Read in your genre. Can you do better?
o Read about writing
o Write non-fiction as if it is fiction. Have story, characters. Show don’t tell.
o Know the point of your book
o Be commercial
o Be fashionable
• Mia Gallagher, the author, did some fiction writing exercises (which didn’t work so well in such a large group.) An interesting exercise to write a 3 sentence story using words that all start with the same letter. I had E. It was a stretch!
• Ita O’Driscoll from Font International Agency talked about an agents’ job.
• Patricia Deevy from Penguin Ireland talked about a publisher’s job. She hasn't bought a book for over a year. Why are manuscripts rejected?
o Writing that isn’t good enough/doesn’t stand out (for the right reasons) The writer’s voice isn’t coming through or there isn’t a Unique Selling Point.
o The writing is lovely but there’s no story or the story runs out before the book does.
o It’s a lovely story but the writer can’t write.
o The book/writer is not promotable or credible.
o A gut instinct says there’s something off. There’s passion missing, needs authenticity and conviction.
• Eoin McHugh talked about publishers/book buyers and the commercial aspects or book placement which was sobering.

Sunday 4 November 2007

Short Story and poetry outlets in Ireland

I was thinking about the Poetry Ireland introductions series that is looking for poets with an established body of work in recognised magazines. They don't specify which magazines to consider. Now there are more poetry outlets in Ireland than short stories. The best list is from Poetry Ireland.

Short Stories
There are very few, fewer pay. There are competitions from time to time of varying degrees of recognition and with varying styles. If at all possible check back copies of the magazine or competition to see what type of story they take. A story that fits in to The Stinging Fly would be unlikely to be taken by The People's Friend. I have an earlier entry about 'Women's Magazines' short stories.

Sunday Tribune. Once a month, the first Sunday of the month. Ciaran Carty choses a story 2,500 words or under. All 12 entries are put forward the following year for a Hennessey Award. Fairly literary, a mixed bag, can be funny or urban or rural, or glum, modern or traditional. Ciaran Carty, Sunday Tribune, 15 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

Crannog magazine looks for prose as well as poetry. < 2,000 words.

Cork Literary Review. The details for this are vague. Most of the online information is out of date. Cork-centric but some great writing.
Same for Southword, also out of Cork. Both published by Tigh Fili/Bradshaw Books. Looks like they accept submissions at the start of the year.

Irish Pages from Belfast is a bit high-falutin' for my taste.

Stinging Fly has a regular magazine for which they seek admissions of prose and poetry, Jan-Mar only. They also have a 2008 anthology for which they are seeking submission between now and 14th December 2007.
Urban, risky writing does well.

is an online magazine out of Galway Arts Centre. The deadline for the January-March 2008 edition is Friday 16 November 2007. The maximum length for prose is 2000 words and 75 lines in total for poetry. Call me old fashioned but I prefer my journals on paper.

Prestigious Competitions include
The Cork based Sean O'Faolain short story competition where the winners are published in Southword.
The RTE Francis MacManus Short story award which looks for submissions of short stories for Radio every October. Free to enter.
There's also the Fish, which I don't rate highly though others love. It's expensive.
And the Molly Keane from Waterford, although these stories are never published, just win some money.

Otherwise, go to the UK or USA. That's all I can think of. Have I missed something?

Thursday 1 November 2007

Feile Filiochta Poetry Competition

Competition Rules
Poem(s) accepted by EMAIL ONLY to
There is no entry fee.
Attach entry form (found on the website) and poem(s) separately to the same email.
Write your name on the entry form only, not on the poem.
Please include the title of the poem(s) on top of each page.
Entrants may submit up to 4 poems in each language category in their age group.
In the junior categories entrants must be under 12 or under 17 on the closing date of the competition.
Poems must not have been published prior to entering the competition and should not appear in print, on a website, self-published or broadcast in any form before announcement of competition results. They must be the original work of the author.
The list of prizewinners and winning poems will appear on the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Libraries website in early March 2008. Winners will be personally notified by February 2008.
Entry forms available online in Gaelige, English, Deutsch, Français, Italiano, Cymraeg, Espãnol, Gàidhlig na hAlbann, Svenska and Polski.

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Poetry Ireland Introductions

Poetry Ireland is inviting submissions for the 2008 Introductions series. The series is designed for emerging writers with a track record of publication in reputable journals and magazines, who are working towards a first collection.

A short biography and covering letter accompanied by a selection of ten poems is requested.
Poems may be previously published or unpublished.

Applications should be marked Introductions and sent to Poetry Ireland, No. 2 Proud's Lane, off St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2.
Selected applicants are usually informed within two months and, depending on the number of submissions, approximately 15 poets are selected each year. This year it was 20)

It's well worth while doing, get your name around. You also get to do a workshop and they pay a small fee for your reading.

I think they should also publish a pamphlet with a sample of the poets chosen. They get great crowds at the readings.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Pieces not accepted by Sunday Miscellany #2

Betty Likes Ham
Another piece not taken by Sunday Miscellany

I am not a dog person and my husband is not a cat person. He wheezes like a broken bellows when we stay with my parents. They own or are owned by two elderly black and white cats. At home, we have managed a happy compromise. Betty is a beautiful tortoiseshell cat. She belongs to our neighbours but she pops in to check on us once or twice a day, more on the weekends. I say check on us but really she is checking on the state of our fridge.

She sits outside the kitchen window, looks pathetic and half-starved and does one of those silent meows. I know it’s silent because her actual meows could easily penetrate double if not triple glazing. Someone leaps up to let her in and she saunters by as if she had all the time in the world, which she probably has. Really. No job to go to, no school, no bills to pay. Who wouldn’t be a cat? She sniffs around for evidence of interlopers, rubs a few legs, table and human then stops at the fridge. She gives us her Puss in Boots gaze and says, quite distinctly “Ham?” Someone relents and give her a few scraps of cold meat. She hoovers it up and lets us stroke her, purring loudly. The children practise picking her up which she tolerates, she kills the ping pong ball in the corner for a few minutes and then asks politely to be let out. It’s a perfect setup. No hairs left to make my husband wheeze, no vets bills, no cat food to buy, injections to worry about, just a cuddle and a purr and off she goes.

Or so we thought.

Last summer, our neighbours went on holiday for two weeks. Someone was coming in to feed Betty every day but that wasn’t enough for her. She needed more than that. She was round our house every hour of the day. If you left a window open for more than five seconds, there would be a brown furry flash and she’d be in the kitchen saying “Ham?” If I opened a door, she would scurry in. Once we went out and left her locked inside. She had a little sleep and then, when she was ready to leave, set off the burglar alarm. The neighbour who came to check nearly jumped out of her skin when Betty made her getaway.

One afternoon when I was in the garden I heard her calling. Loudly. I looked around. She wasn’t under the strawberry nets, lurking near the bird table or any of her other favourite places. The mewing continued. Perhaps she was stuck somewhere or injured. Eventually I spotted her. She was upstairs standing in the spare room window shouting at me to get a move on and open the fridge. I chucked her out.
But worst were the nights. One particular night at around 3 a.m. we awoke with a start to find her shouting beside our bed. I lugged her downstairs and chucked her unceremoniously out of the back door which someone had left wide open all night.
The next night she was back. First she tried mewing outside my son’s bedroom window but he can sleep through anything. Then she jumped up to the porch roof and on to my daughter’s sill. She sat outside and shouted “Ham?” until my daughter had to retreat to sleep in the spare room.

Then somehow she jumped onto our bedroom windowsill. She jumped in through our top window, pushed the blind out of the way and scattered everything off the windowsill. She landed on the carpet, very pleased with herself and had a quick wash. I had to admire her persistence and versatility but I chucked her out the backdoor anyway and shut the window. For the rest of the fortnight, we slept with the windows shut and my daughter stayed in the spare room. We never told the neighbours.
Betty avoided us for a week but soon came back. We forgave her and went back to our routine. Betty is our daily feline fix. And there will always be a little piece of ham in our fridge for her.

Monday 29 October 2007

This piece was broadcast on BBC7

Know Your Place - The Sandias
A piece broadcast on 'Know Your Place' on BBC Radio 7

Years ago, I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the real South West where cowboys still walked the streets and drove out onto the mesa in dirty pickup trucks with gun racks. The chilli was hot and the buildings made of adobe; it was hot in the summer and it snowed in the winter.

From my window I could see the Sandia mountain range, the tailbone of the Rocky Mountains, the spine of the American Mid-West. In pueblo Indian mythology the mountains were sacred. Dots of ponderosa pine clung to the top ridge like pips in a watermelon. Above the west face swung the tramway, taking seasonal carloads of skiers and walkers up from the foothills to the peak. At 10,000 feet, the altitude stole your breath but the view was worth it; the city stretched out over the Rio Grande and to the desert beyond. The slopes below were protected and home to geckos, rattlesnakes, roadrunners and bears.

I used to drive to work along Tramway, the road that traced the foothills past the tramway station and on through Sandia Indian Pueblo. Some mornings I would glimpse a coyote bounding away or dodge tumbleweed as big as a car blasted along in the spring wind. Driving home again at the end of a long day, the Sandias came into their own. As the sun set, the dark slopes changed slowly from grey and black, through blood red to scarlet and glowing pink.

I think of these times when I cut Sandia watermelon triangles to share with my daughter who was born there that winter. And I think of my daughter when I sit in my hire car on Tramway and watch the colours change one more time.