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.