Friday 30 October 2015

dlr Arts Office Opportunities

dlr Arts Office invites applications for a storyteller in residence for December 2015 to November 2016.

It is a part-time residency which will allow time for the storytellers own work. In addition the residency will offer engagement and interaction with local communities in the creation of a new story/stories for the west of the County and a cultural exchange to Turkey.

Closing Date: 19 November at 12 noon

dlr Arts Office is delighted to invite applications for Arts Grants for activity taking place throughout 2016. Funding is available for events and projects, participation and learning, professional development, arts practice support and arts access.

For more information and to apply please click on this link.

Closing Date: Monday 2 November 2015 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

'On The Nail' Literary Gathering

The Literary set in Limerick have a monthly gathering called On The Nail.

The November 2015 'On The Nail' Literary Gathering
Tuesday 3rd Nov 2015 @ The Loft Venue @ The Locke Bar, Georges Quay, Limerick. Start 8.00pm sharp!
This month guest readers are poet and short story writer Noel King and poet Matt Mooney.
They also have a special authors' books table to peruse. (Perhaps for Christmas?!)
Further information email
To view videos of previous reading go to:

Monday 26 October 2015

Dublin Book Festival - Live Interview on Arena Radio 1

This year the Dublin Book Festival has a over 50 events with nearly 100 authors and contributors taking part over four days in venues throughout Dublin. Smock Alley Theatre will be the festival hub, where they will have the majority of events and their magical Winter Garden with its bookshop, cafe, Children’s area and Grown-Up Reading area.
There will be events for everyone; from fiction to crime, poetry to politics, 1916 Walking tours and a discussion on the people of the 1916 Rising, events for budding authors, music and a lot of fun! The children’s and schools’ programmes are all free of charge. Book now!

But much more importantly, I'm going to be there, reading. (Reading!) And chatting (not nervously, no) And on the radio (RTE Radio 1. Arena, my fav arts programme) Live (nervous? moi?!)
I'm on the authors' page for Friday 13th November. 7pm. And the programme. Be there before 6.50pm as it's broadcast live and they lock us in and lock latecomers out.
I'm in conversation with Sean Rocks talking about my debut poetry collection, The Space Between published by Doire Press. There will also be writers Reggie Chamberlain-King, Frankie Gaffney and Danielle McLaughlin, none of whom I've met before. Looking forward to it. Details here. Get your tickets now. It's free too so I'm hoping to see a packed house of friendly faces.  There's music too from by The Healing and The Matthews.  It's in the main theatre in Smock Alley, a lovely venue.
If you can't make it, do listen on the radio and let me know how you think it went.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Interview with Writer ER Murray

Hi Elizabeth and welcome to emergingwriter. Congratulations on your book, The Book of Learning. How did you first get into writing?

I had a wonderful primary school teacher who brought poetry and stories to life. As a result, I always wrote as a child – I’d write epic poems full of evil and witchery, or observations of nature (I lived in a council estate) and poems about the unfairness of life. When I was seven, I’d tell anyone that would listen that I wanted to be a teacher or a poet. I eventually became a teacher – it was my first job after completing my studies - but the writing had stopped completely by the time I went to university. I was the first in my family to go to university and I paid for myself, so I was working full time as well as studying and writing didn’t figure in the overall picture. But my love of reading always stayed, and by the time I reached the age of 30, my desire to write returned.

I started with a blog and some poetry, moved on to short stories, and then tried writing a novel using the NanoWrimo challenge. That initial draft was complete rubbish, of course, and it wasn’t something I wanted to continue with – but I felt such an immense sense of achievement that I hadn’t felt for a long time. By now I’d moved into the online poker world, so that I could travel and earn a good wage, but climbing the career ladder and earning big bucks didn’t give me anywhere near the satisfaction I felt from writing a book-length piece of prose. Something about the longer format and the depth you could travel with your characters attracted me, and I haven’t looked back since.

I was head hunted for an online poker job in Dublin, and when I arrived I fell in love with the country and the writing community. It wasn’t until I reached Ireland that I even considered being an author as an option. And it wasn’t until I went to an Inkwell workshop that I contemplated being able to write a book that was publishable. After a few drafts and redrafts, I was hooked, and it wasn’t long until I was giving up my job completely and focusing on my writing.  

I learned plenty about attention to detail, consistency, and the impact of being concise. Without even realizing it, this definitely fed into my creative writing at the beginning; my prose grew automatically tighter, and I got used to a critiquing environment so I never felt precious over my own creative pieces when they were being commented on by others. Another invaluable lesson learned was about branding – it’s important to be consistent in the way you address yourself and your book. And working in such an industry has given me a rhino hide for the business side of book publishing.  
Online poker? Really? I’m intrigued. What does a writer for such a company write about? Can you write at work and then come home and write your own book at night?
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I played lots of poker (I like games), because you have to understand it to be able to work in the industry, but I started out as a trainer in a big company. At university, I worked in betting shops as the job was well paid, and combined with my teaching experience, I managed to move in a new direction – and I also got to live in Spain. Like with most corporate jobs, I moved companies and climbed the ladder, moving into the editorial and social media departments. Finally, I ended up as Lead Writer for the (then) world’s second biggest online poker company, Full Tilt Poker, based in Dublin.  

It's copywriting essentially, so you'd write about how to play different types of poker games, promotions & competitions, email templates, legal terms & conditions, poker strategy, famous player profiles, blog posts about poker events, advertising slogans, articles for poker magazines etc. It's a completely different form of writing and I found it easy to switch to creative writing, though I used to get up at 5 or 6am to write before work rather than afterwards. But I did what everyone tells you not to do and left the career to concentrate on my writing. That was five years ago and I haven't looked back - I still freelance, to pay the bills, but it's on my terms and the writing always comes first.  

Tell me about your book

The Book of Learning is the first in the Nine Lives Trilogy, and it’s about 12 year old Ebony Smart. After her grandpa dies, Ebony is sent to Dublin to live with an aunt she’s never heard of and she soon discovers that her new home, 23 Mercury Lane, is full of secrets. Learning that she is part of an ancient order of people who have the power to reincarnate, Ebony also finds out that a terrible evil threatens their existence. With just her pet rat, Winston, and a mysterious book to help her, she must figure out why her people are disappearing and how to save their souls, including her own, before time runs out …

What age group is the readership? Do you expect crossover to adult readers?

The book is middle grade, which means a readership of 8-12 years olds, but I am expecting a crossover with the younger end of the Young Adult market. I’ve had great feedback from 13-year-old boys, which was a nice surprise. I thought the book would be young adult when I was mulling the idea over in my head, but as I started to write and got to know the characters, it soon became pretty clear that the protagonist was 12 years old. As children and teens like to read about protagonists that are either the same age or older, this placed the book firmly in the ‘middle grade’ category for publishers/booksellers. However, the book does have depth and contains some big ideas, so I believe it’s suitable for anyone who likes a good story.
Where did the idea come from?

The idea came from a combination of things; the characters niggling at me in my head, an interest in other cultures, and a lifelong fascination with death – it was always something I was aware of and interested in, but never scared of. As human beings, death is our one certainty, but it’s also the one thing we pretend isn’t going to happen! I think how society deals with death shows so much about its culture. I wanted to talk about death in a book for children, and I also wanted to create an exciting, adventure story – so the reincarnation idea was the perfect backdrop for both.

Do you find yourself having to modify your language or references for the middle grade reader ?

I haven’t modified my language or references for this book. The language is quite sophisticated and suits the story; it’s slightly dark, slightly gothic, and hopefully it’s pitched just right. I concentrated on writing the book I wanted to read at that age (and now – I still read lots of children’s literature).         

Yes, me too. How long did it take you from starting to publishing?

The idea started six years ago but it took five years from starting to write that idea down to getting a published book in my hand. I did what everyone said not to do and left my job to write. I’d saved up enough money to last me about a year, and I made sure I had some clients for backup freelance work – but I was very driven to succeed and thought it would be a much quicker process. I guess I had to believe this to take such a risky plunge. I completely overhauled my life to follow my dream and when I secured an agent after a year of writing, I fell into the trap that many fledgling writers fall into: I thought that getting an agent meant an instant book deal. But I was wrong.

An agent is a wonderful entity and I would never have got here if it wasn’t for mine, Sallyanne Sweeney. An agent gives you support, helps with editing, and gets you to the top of slush piles. But an agent cannot guarantee that a book deal will turn up right away. They will, however, support, guide, and back you 100% every step of the way. There were a few near misses with The Book of Learning and I decided to work on something else for a while. It turned out to be the right decision. I completed another book (Caramel Hearts, due March 2016 with Alma Books) and now both books have found a home – in fact, I signed both deals within 6 months of each other. After the first deal was signed, it took just under a year for the book to be published. This is pretty standard in the industry.

So the quick version is – one year writing alone, another year editing with an agent to get the manuscript ready for submission, some near misses on submission, and then a year and a half ignoring the manuscript’s existence until I dusted it off in 2014 and secured a deal. One year later, it’s a book!

Did you try it out on real YA readers?

I do try to use beta readers within the intended age group, but my list of potential young readers is small - hopefully this will grow! Luckily, I have lots of great writer friends who will read tricky sections for me, but mainly I work with my agent, Sallyanne Sweeney, or my editors.

Why did taking a break from one book to write another one help the first book to get published? What was happening to the first book in the meantime?

I shelved The Book of Learning because I was serious about getting published. I had taken this book as far as I could, and I wanted to work on something new. I’d been editing and rewriting with my agent, and I felt it was time to move on. I wanted to write something fresh – a young adult novel this time - and my new idea was niggling at me. Only when I finished Caramel Hearts ready for submission did I even look back at The Book of Learning again. When I reread it, I still loved the story and believed in it. I removed one word, and we sent it on submission also; that’s how I got two book deals within six months of each other. The break helped me stay motivated and increased my faith in my ability to write. There was also an element of timing. If Mercier had read my manuscript two years back, they would have still been invested in Alan Early’s wonderful Arthur Quinn books, so they probably wouldn’t have had the funds to take on another middle grade trilogy.

What would you do different, if anything, if you knew then what you know now?

The one thing I would try to do would be to enjoy the process more. I heard lots of writers say this, and I smugly thought – ‘yeah, right, easy to say when you have a book deal’ but it’s true! I was so focused on trying to get published, I sometimes forgot to just enjoy the journey. It is difficult, with all the ups and downs of the submission process, but the ultimate reason you write is because you love it. Try and remember this and you’ll find the journey to publication much easier.  

How are your launches going? I enjoyed the one in the Gutterbookshop.

I had two launches, one in the Gutterbookshop in Dublin and one in Whyte Books in Schull – both were a great success and it was humbling to see so many people come to support me. It was such a wonderful feeling, and something I’ll never forget. The reaction to The Book of Learning is important to me, and thankfully, it’s been really well received with great reviews from readers of all ages – from 8 to adult. This is truly amazing and makes every minute of writing completely worth it.

Thanks Elizabeth and the very best of luck. You can see Elizabeth at one of her upcoming events:

October 29th, Ardagh School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Literary Fright Fest, Workshop for 11-14 years
November 12th, 10.30am – ‘The Magical World of Senses & Storytelling’ at Dublin Book Festival

Elizabeth Rose Murray writes short fiction, and novels for children and young adults. She lives in West Cork, where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and enjoys plenty of adventures with her dog, Franklyn. The Book of Learning (Mercier Press) is the first book in her middle grade Nine Lives Trilogy, with Book 2 due August 2016. Her debut young adult book Caramel Hearts (Alma Books) will be published March 2016. You can find out more about Elizabeth on her website, or chat to her on twitter @ERMurray, facebook or instagram.

Thursday 22 October 2015

The cover for my debut Poetry Collection, The Space Between

Drum Roll Please......

I'd like to show you the cover for my first poetry collection, The Space Between which will be published by the lovely people at Doire Press next month.

The image is from a photo of a Venetian mask at my parents' house. It's a mask for a plague doctor based on a commedia dell'arte character called Il Medico della Peste. 

I think it's a striking image but I also like that it indicates the performer and the audience and the space between them. There is a space between a poet and the reader or listener, and also a space between the voice of the poet and the person who is the poet. So the 'I' in a poem and the 'I' of the poet. Don't assume they are one and the same. There is a space between!

Thanks are due to the ever patient Lisa at Doire Press for the layout.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Watch this space for more announcements of the launch and other upcoming readings. Keep an eye out for it on real shelves and books stores and lots more on social media over the next while.

If there are any festivals, events, venues and the like that would be open to me reading, please get in touch. Or you would interview me or host me on your blog.

Contact details are on the sidebar.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Competition

Deadline: 30th November

1st Prize €1000, a week's residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, publication in Southword
and a trip to Cork.
2nd Prize €500 & publication in Southword
3rd Prize €250 & publication in Southword
Ten runners-up to be published in Southword and receive €30 publication fee.

2016 Judge: Patrick Cotter. The judge will read each and every entry himself.
Entry fee of €5 per poem or €20 per batch of five

Sunday 18 October 2015

Banshees in Print

Banshee is open for submissions until the 31st October.

Banshee is a new print magazine (yes, actual print, not just online) Issue one was well received with some lovely launch events. Its published twice a year, April and September.

They're taking non-fiction essays – personal, cultural, political – as well as short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. The best thing to do is to visit their website at, read ‘about’ us, check the submission guidelines, and follow them.

And they pay a small contributors fee. Yes, actual money.

You can purchase issue #1 or a one- or two-year subscription from the website, or pick up a copy in a number of bookshops, including Waterstones Cork, Hodges Figgis, Books Upstairs, Liberties Upstairs, Blackbird Books, and Dubray Grafton St.

Read the fascinating interview with the 3 editors here on

Thursday 15 October 2015

CUISLE Poetry Festival, Limerick

Limerick Poetry Festival has a packed schedule.

Thursday 15 Oct
10:30pm - The Granary Library Poetry Masterclasses
1pm – Hunt Museum Readings by Mary O’Donnell and Knute Skinner
6pm - The Granary Library Launch of The Stony Thursday Book: Editor Mary O’Donnell
All are very welcome to attend. The Stony Thursday Book is one of the longest-running literary journals in Ireland. It was founded by Limerick poets John Liddy and Jim Burke in 1975 and celebrates its 40th Anniversary Edition in 2015.

Friday 16 Oct
1pm – Hunt Museum Limerick Ladies at Lunchtime Readings by Terri Murray, Bridget Wallace, Beth Dennehy
6pm - The Granary Library Readings by Stanzas, Emerging Poets and Young Writers Group, Caleb Brennan and Shane Vaughan Limerick Poet and Cuisle Co-founder: Mark Whelan
10:30pm --The Granary Library Readings for Schools and Yeats Tribute

Saturday 17 Oct
1pm – Hunt Museum Readings by Tim Cunningham, Paul Sweeney and Richard Halperin
2:30pm - Hunt Museum Remembering Yeats: Tribute in Film and Readings
All welcome to bring favourite Yeats poem

Sunday 18 Oct
2:30 pm - Hunt Museum Readings and Book Launches: Louis Mulcahy, Brendan Cleary and Paddy Moran

Full festival programme and participant details at:  

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Poets to Check Out - Paula Meehan

Paula Meehan reads her poem "The Pattern"

Monday 12 October 2015

Launch of the Hibernian Writers Anthology

The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work is an anthology of poetry by the Hibernian Poetry group. This group is bursting with talent so this anthology will be well worth a look.

20 October 2015 19.00
Teachers’ Club 36 Parnell Sq. Dublin

The collection will be launched by the poet and publisher Macdara Woods with some reading from the contributors. All welcome.


Published by Alba Publishing

Thursday 8 October 2015

Baileborough Poetry Festival and Workshop

I'm teaching a poetry workshop at Baileborough Poetry Festival this Saturday so please sign up here and show up if you are anywhere near Cavan. It'll be great. And an absolute bargain at €15 for 3 hours including tea and coffee.

Bailieborough Poetry Festival 2015 – Programme of events

Friday 9th October: (Murtagh’s Lounge, Main St.)

18.30 Official launch of “Behind the Lines” Anthology by LitLab. Introduced by Myles Dungan and Julia Rice O’Dea.
19.45 A Wilde Night by Patrick Walsh.
20.00 Poetry reading by Michael Farry.
21.00 Open mic.

Saturday 10th October:

10.00 Poetry workshop* – Kate Dempsey. (Bailieborough Library)
14.00 Competition prize giving – Michael Farry & Honor Duff (Bailieborough Library)
14.00 – 17.00 Special poetry-themed afternoon tea in Bailie Hotel on Main Street.
16.00 Literary walking tour of Bailieborough with John Ed Sheanon- (starts at Bailieborough Library)
19.00 Open Mic. Featuring writing/ arts groups. – (Murtagh’s Lounge)
20.00 Poems and stories by Patsy McDermott – (Murtagh’s Lounge)
21.00 Poetry reading by Tony Curtis.

Interview with writer, Roisin Meaney

Hi Roisin and welcome to How did you first get into writing?

Short answer: I entered a competition when I was 18. Part of the entry involved finishing a sentence in 10 words or less. The first part of the sentence was "I would like to win a Ford Fiesta because.....' I ended it with ' father won't let me drive his.' I won a Ford Fiesta.

Long answer: When I left school I went to Training College (just after winning the car) and in due course I qualified as a primary teacher. After 9 years of teaching I felt like taking a break but didn't know what to do. A cousin suggested I try to get a job in advertising 'because you're good with words.' He was referring to all the other sentences I'd finished after winning the Ford Fiesta, which had resulted in my winning a lot more: two holidays, a hotel break, a bicycle, a watch, a sweater, a dairy foods hamper, a set of crockery and enough air miles to fly to San Francisco and back. I took my cousin's advice and wangled a job as advertising copywriter in an agency in London. I worked there happily for three years and then returned to the classroom. While I was in London I began to think about writing a book, but it was to be another decade before I took another career break and flew - yes, to San Francisco (remember the air miles?) where a brother of mine lived. There I wrote my first book, not having much of a clue about what I was doing, just telling a story and hoping for the best. It ended up winning a 'Write a Bestseller' competition and was published by Tivoli Books in 2004 as The Daisy Picker.

What a great story in itself!  How does writing full time compare to teaching?

Impossible to compare, although I did love teaching, almost as much as I love writing. But being a full time writer brings so much flexibility that teaching couldn't offer, like being able to work in my pjs - even to bring the laptop to bed for the day if I feel like it, or relocating to wherever I want to write - anywhere the sun is shining, or setting my own working hours - my insomniac tendencies often have me awake before 5.00am, so my working day could start then and finish by lunchtime.

One thing full time writing doesn't deliver is the company of children, which of course I had in spades during my teaching days, so to compensate I tell stories once a month to 'smallies' in my local library, and I also visit schools and libraries and chat to kiddies about life as a writer. Teaching had a lot to recommend it; every day I experienced the joy of having a gang of little ones to nurture and look after, but on balance, I'm happier as a writer, and feel very blessed to be making my living doing what I love most.

Where do you do your writing?

Here's where I write: the kitchen table, in all its higgledy-piggledy glory. (The book on the table was pure chance - I'm sending it off to someone today.)

I know you sometimes head off with your laptop. Does that help your writing, do you think? Or just your headspace?

I think it helps with both, Kate. It’s good to be away from distractions of family and friends - and a bonus if wherever I'm heading doesn't have wi-fi! - and I always feel the writing is turned up a notch when the surroundings are unfamiliar, and my routine as a result somewhat changed. I love going somewhere sunny, not because I'll be lying out in it, but even looking out at a blue sky does me good, and I feel perks up the writing too.

Do you have a writing group or a reader?

No writing group, no reader. I'm a bit precious in that respect, hate showing it to anyone until I surrender the completed first draft to my editor and agent simultaneously. I'd be iffy about letting a group read it, in case they all came back with different verdicts - and I'm not sure that I'd trust the judgement of a single reader either.... As it is, my editor and agent each give me feedback, so I have two sets of notes to work on for draft two, which I feel is plenty.

I guess your editor and your agent are your readers then! How did you get this agent?

My agent, Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates in London, was recommended to me by Vanessa McLoughlin, the brains behind which is a wonderful go-to for all things writerly.

Didn’t you have an agent before her? I'm interested in how you got your first agent.

My first agent came on board after I got the publication deal, so I'm not sure that'll be of any use to any writers out there! I won the two-book deal and then I thought 'I'd better get an agent' and I emailed Faith O'Grady, who had recently taken on Judi Curtin, a friend of mine who'd finished her first novel a few months before mine. Faith took me on, and handled my first six or seven books, after which I felt it was time to ring the changes - I wanted a London-based agent because I thought it might put me in a better position with the UK market, and Sallyanne is actually Irish so knows the Irish market well too, which is ideal.

What tips would you have for writers with a novel in progress?

Best tip I think I could give is KEEP AT IT. If I had a cent for everyone I've met since I started writing who said 'I'd love to write a book if I had the time' I'd be rich. If anyone REALLY wants to write a book, they'll find the time, and they'll keep on finding the time every day until the book is written. Roddy Doyle wrote Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha when he had a full time teaching job AND a toddler or two on the scene. I have to discipline myself all the time to keep writing when a book is in progress. Mind you, having a deadline from a publisher definitely helps!

Another tip would be to read. I firmly believe you can't be a writer unless you're an avid reader - genre immaterial - but amazingly, I meet people who don't read but who want to write. Can't understand it.

What have you read recently that you'd recommend?

I enjoyed Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, and The Green Road by Ann Enright - shades of the wonderful Let the Great World Spin, I thought.

I enjoyed Elizabeth is missing too. Kate Atkinson is on my list. I've read everything she's written.

I'm a huge fan of Kate Atkinson, and did enjoy A God in Ruins, but I'd have to say I preferred Life After Life, which I thought was stupendously good.

All women. Do you find yourself discriminated against much or pigeonholed as a woman writer?

Discriminated/pigeonholed.....hmmmm, probably pigeonholed more as a chick lit author than a female author, thanks in no small part to the book covers, which are NOT of my doing! In fairness I'm not writing literary fiction, but I'd love if there was a middle ground between the two.... My readers are predominantly female, of course, but the odd male crops up from time to time in my inbox! Can't say I've experienced discrimination, no. (Although I sometimes suspect I'd have better luck getting publicity if I lived in Dublin and was around for all the bookish events that take place there.)

Yes, there’s a definite flavour of book covers that scream chick lit. Can you give us one or two pieces of advice you wish you'd known when you were starting out?
  1. If you get a publishing deal, your publishers will choose your book covers, not you. The sooner you realise this, the happier you'll be. They also write the blurbs. I've learned to accept this. It took a while.
  2. You need to put almost as much energy into marketing your books as you do in writing them, even if there is a dedicated marketing person working on your behalf too. Someone who has not written a book will NEVER be as invested in it as the person who wrote it. You need to become a publicity slut, and befriend journalists, booksellers, librarians and anyone else who can help to sell copies, or spread the word about your books. You also need to shout about the books (in a nice way) on social media.
I think you do a great job on social media.

Social media - the bane of my life, spend far too much time on it! But it is good to get the word out.....

Do you also write short stories? What about poetry? Plays? ever dabbled?

Never tried short stories, wouldn't know where to start! Poetry ditto - a mystery to me! I have thought about writing a play or a screenplay, have done a few courses/workshops, wrote an episode a few years ago of a TV drama I was planning, an adaptation of one of my novels.....but my agent showed it to one or two who weren't interested, and the momentum was lost. Might resurrect it sometime.

You have a good ear for dialogue. Maybe a radio play would suit you? With a new novel, how do you start? Do you start with a plan? Know where you are going from the start? Or only a rough destination and strong characters?

I start with a plan, but the actual plot would be fairly sketchy - deliberately, so I have leeway. I'd also write bios for the main characters, and a bit of background for the story.

How much of the next book would you like have done before  your current book is launched?

My new book, I’ll be Home for Christmas, is launched in mid October by which time I hope to have made some inroads - 20K words or so - into the next, but it varies. First draft takes between six and eight months generally, depending on how much research I need to do.

Anyway, if you had to choose one book out of your twelve (wow, prolific!) to represent you, which would it be and why?

Oooh, tough question, like asking a mammy to choose her favourite child - but if I was tortured to within an inch of my life and made to pick one it would probably be Something in Common (2014). It was the one that caused me the most grief in the making, and the one I was most proud of in the end - and maybe that's how mammies feel about the child they secretly favour!

Thanks very much, Roisin. Roisin Meaney’s new book I’ll be Home for Christmas is due out from Hachette on 15th October. Look out for some early festivities.
I'll be Home for Christmas
I'll be Home for Christmas

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Interview with poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Welcome Doireann Ní Ghríofa to emergingwriter.
1st question: How did you first get into poetry?

A wonderful anthology was gifted to me in my teenage years. Edited by Niall McMonagle, it was titled  'Real Cool - Poems to Grow Up With' and the cover featured a teenager wearing the sort of tall Doc boots that I would have coveted in my grungey days of the mid-1990s. 

The selection leant towards Irish poets: Paul Muldoon,  Rita-Ann Higgins, Paul Durcan, Brendan Kennelly, but it was here too that I first read poems like Sharon Olds's 'The Moment', Denise Levertov's 'Leaving Forever' and Adrienne Rich's 'Aunt Jennifer's Tigers'. A particular poem that blew my teenage mind was 'The Pattern' by Paula Meehan, a poem that I am still in awe of. I wasn't writing poems yet but with this book, my mind was split open to the wonders of poetry. Beware giving this book to teenagers - it's a gateway drug.

I’m not familiar with Real Cool. I’ll have to look up some of those poems. Well chosen by Niall then. So what happened next? Did you just start writing away for yourself? When did you start sharing?
I didn't begin to write for many, many years after that, not until after I'd finished college, gotten a job, had my first child. I was a voracious reader all along though, and I think that really tunes the ear to language. I was 28 writing my first poem and like many people, for me, it was grief that sparked that initial writing impulse.
I began to write every day and before long I had a poem or two published in journals. Then I was shortlisted for the Emerging Writer Award at the Oireachtas literary awards, which was a great boost. I kept writing daily until I had a manuscript and then I sent it to the publisher of my favourite poet, Biddy Jenkinson (Coiscéim), fully expecting a rejection. I was thrilled when the editor, Pádraig Ó Snodaigh, rang me to accept my work and that manuscript became my first book of poems, Résheoid. Another book, Dúlasair and a bilingual chapbook,  A Hummingbird, Your Heart  from Smithereens Press followed and then I started writing in English. Dedalus Press published Clasp, my first book of English poems, earlier this year. At the moment I find that poems are coming to me in Irish again...

So you started writing in Irish? How much of your life was in Irish?
Much of my primary and secondary education as well as my work life has been through Irish, so it was natural that my first two books (Résheoid and Dúlasair) were both in Irish too.

Where did you grow up?
I'm a proud Clarewoman! I led a very bookish childhood in Clare, many of my fondest memories relate to the library in Ennis. Edna O'Brien was a writer that I would have been very aware of as I grew up. She was often spoken about and I read her books in fascination. I understood from a young age that this was a woman of bravery, that a life in writing demanded both courage and grit. Not a bad lesson to learn early!

I've often wondered about the difference when writing in two languages. Do some themes/images/memories fit better in one language than the other? Do you write exclusively in one language for a while and then, for whatever reason, switch?
In terms of the shift between languages I've often wondered the same thing, but I'm afraid it's as much of a mystery to me as it would be to anyone else. For a long time I wrote exclusively in Irish, then I wrote bilingually (with a first draft growing simultaneously in Irish and in English); I also spent a time writing only in English and for the past while my poems have been only in Irish. This is more troublesome as I've never had the privilege of a translator so writing solely in Irish means that I'm creating a lot of translation work for myself in the future... but self-translation is an interesting exercise, it requires me to examine my work through a different gaze,  to deconstruct and reconstruct it again. Translation is always a challenge.

Where do you write mostly?
I write everywhere, Kate, everywhere! I don't have a writing room, I don't even have a desk, but I'm always writing, filling the quiet little moments of each day with words. I'm of that tribe of writers who write in the spaces around small children. I write in the car doing the school run, on the sofa, in the garden, in bed before I fall asleep, whenever I get a couple of minutes alone. My favourite spot to write at the moment is the kitchen table, a moses basket with sleeping baby at my elbow. My writing time is fragmented and scattered but I make it work because I have to. I hope I'll continue to write for many years, I'm curious to see where it will take me next! 
Your first English collection Clasp has been very well received. You have a lot of fans on my twitterfeed! How did it come about and what has happened since?
Thanks Kate, I'm glad to hear that people are enjoying my writing.
Beginning to write poems in English was like starting all over again in many ways: building up a record of publication in journals, seeking feedback on my work, giving readings, etc. It took a while to establish my work in English to a point where I had a manuscript of poems that I thought worth submitting. By mid-2013 I felt ready and consulting my bookshelves, I saw that many of the poets I most admire were published by Dedalus Press - Paula Meehan, Billy Ramsell, Grace Wells, Theo Dorgan, Macdara Woods, Jessica Traynor, Enda Wyley and so many more. My manuscript was accepted in November that year and I was over the moon. Pat Boran at Dedalus Press is such a wonderful editor. As a poet himself, he has a great ear for the pulse of a poem and a very keen eye. I learned a lot through the editing process. I feel extremely lucky to work with him; I've nothing but great things to say about Dedalus Press! The book itself has been widely reviewed and I've been very pleased with the response.
Clasp was only published a few months ago, but in the meantime I've been working on new poems (many as Gaeilge so far). I've also been focusing on a translation project, working to bring the poetry of Caitlín Maude to a wider audience. I've translated many of her poems and it has been both inspirational and exciting, delving into her writing so closely. So far I've placed her poems in Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, Translation Ireland, Modern Poetry in Translation and on RTE Radio One. She's a wonderful poet, and I'm very pleased to champion her work. It's a privilege to be allowed to do so and I'm very grateful to her family for permitting me to work with her poetry.

I don’t know anything about Caitlin Maude or her poems. What can you tell us about her?
She was a fascinating woman, a gifted poet, playwright, actress and sean-nós singer. She died tragically young in 1982, leaving a substantial body of Irish poems. TG4 broadcast a wonderful documentary by Aoife Nic Cormaic several years ago which is available on YouTube

You have managed to get a lot of reviews.
My only strategy with reviews is simply to release the book into the world and cross my fingers. Whatever will be, will be. I find that there's a lot to learn from a review, different readings of the book can illuminate the work in a new way. Reviews are a gift (although they can sting, and when they do it's best to suffer in silence!) Dedalus have been brilliant in terms of distributing the book for review. I'm so grateful to each of the newspapers and journals who chose to review my work, particularly as there has been so much written of late on the difficulties for women writers in having books reviewed.

Your collection was accepted in November 2013 but published a few months ago? Is that normal?
A year and a half to two years between acceptance and publication would be standard across most genres in publishing, as far as I know. For me, that time was spent developing the manuscript as a whole and strengthening individual poems, sourcing cover art, arranging the mini book-tour around various literary festivals, etc. Time well spent. Congratulations on your own forthcoming book!

Thanks, The Space Between is coming out with the lovely people at Doire Press soon. It’s slow to hatch.
It sounds like you've given your book time to mature Kate; that can only be a good thing. Doire Press have published such vibrant collections - I particularly enjoyed 'Keeping Bees' by Dimitra Xidous and 'In a Hare's Eye' by Breda Wall Ryan. I'm looking forward to reading 'The Space Between', I have your chapbook from Moth Editions so I know your work well! Congratulations!

Thanks very much. OK, last question. When I was struggling to choose which poems to put in my collection and which to leave out, someone said to look at each poem, and decide that if someone selected this poem as the one to remember from the whole collection, would you be OK with it. So, which poem from Clasp would you choose to be the one you would be happy to be the only one that someone would remember?
What an interesting final question, Kate! Hmmm... I have a soft spot for 'The Horse under the Hearth' (in The Irish Times here) It's a poem that audiences respond very positively to both in the book itself and at readings, so it engages on the stage as well as on the page. I absolutely love engaging with audiences through poetry readings, it's such a pleasure, so it's vital to me that my poems resonate in both private and public settings.

Thanks Doireann for agreeing to be interviewed. I particularly enjoyed the sequence of Cork City poems in Clasp. 
Thanks for such an interesting interview, Kate, and the best of luck to you with 'The Space Between'!
Clasp is available to buy online at Dedalus Press or at your favourite independent bookshop. Thoroughly recommended.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual poet, writing both in Irish and in English. Among her awards are the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary 2014-2015. Her website is here.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Interview with writer Tanya Farrelly

Tanya Farrelly
Hi Tanya and welcome to emergingwriter. How did you first get into writing?

As a very young child, I was an avid reader, and I guess writing was a natural progression from that. I remember writing stories when I was in primary school, and this passion continued right through secondary school, encouraged robustly by an eccentric English teacher by the name of Austin Stewart who was very much our Mr Keating from The Dead Poets' Society! He used to write comments like "potential novelist" on my short stories, and it was on his advice that I submitted and had my first story published in Woman's Way back in 1999.

How lovely to have a teacher saying things like that. Tell us a bit about your first published story. 

My first published story was entitled 'Serial Lovers', which Woman's Way changed to 'Heartbreakers.' I wasn't mad about that, but was excited enough to dismiss the change as insignificant when I received a copy of the magazine in the post. I hadn't actually been told that the story was accepted. Oh - and there was a cheque, too! Much the same thing happened with my story 'Shadows' when it appeared in The Sunday Tribune. I was on a Sunday drive with my mother in Wicklow and went into the a newsagents to get the paper. I'd always gone straight to the New Irish Writing page, and this time I opened it up to find that my story was up for the Hennessy!

Up for the Hennessy! When was that?

That was in 2002, which was the year when writing really took off for me. I was shortlisted for the Francis MacManus Awards that year, too, so it was a really exciting time. I then, reluctantly, took time out from writing as I returned to college to do a degree in Literature, and then a Masters. I was working full-time and studying part-time, so I had to shelve my writing for four years! When I finished the MA in 2007, I decided that I'd had enough of studying other people's work. It turned out NOT to be the end of academia though - when the recession hit in 2009 and my teaching hours were cut, I took the opportunity to do a PhD - but this time my studies were in Creative and Critical Writing. I wrote a novel as part of that doctorate, which I'm currently re-editing! 

Why did you return to college for your degree? You say reluctantly. What was the urge?

I was not reluctant to return to college, but reluctant to stop writing.
At that time, I was a member of a writers' group in Tallaght library. On a few occasions the facilitator couldn't turn up, and he asked me if I could facilitate the class. It was this that made me realise that I had a passion for, and seemed to be good at, teaching.

Are you in a writers’ group or workshop? Do you have a reader?

I don't have a reader, per se. There are some people whose opinions I really value, and I would show those people drafts of my work.
I was in a group for about 5 years when I began writing. Now, teaching creative writing is my way of reminding myself of the important elements. I've done lots of workshops in the past, mainly at Listowel Writers' Week. Some of them were extremely beneficial and others less so. I think the best workshop I ever attended was one on the novel facilitated by Gerard Donovan - the author of Schopenhauer's Telescope and Julius Winsome. The most valuable thing I learned from that course is that a writer doesn't have to record time. In my first attempt at writing a novel, I found myself trying to fill the character's every moment. I did ridiculous things like sending the character to the cinema for a few hours before the next crucial part of the story happened. Oh dear! :P The best training anyone can do though is reading!  I don't understand people who want to write, but don't actually read fiction.

Absolutely. Where do you write?  What is your writing process?
Tanya's workspace

I'm lucky enough to share my home and writing space with my fiancé and fellow writer, David Butler who you are also interviewing. David and I write in the same room. His desk overlooks Bray seafront, while my writing area is the living room table! We generally put aside a number of hours to write, and then the only sounds in the room are Lyric FM in the background, and, hopefully, the clack-clacking of two keyboards. The sound of David pounding away at his laptop is enough to get me writing as I know that in a few hour's time, he will ask me what I've done. No pressure!
I try to write as often as I can. Currently, I'm rewriting so the momentum is already there. With stories it's different. I might jot down an idea on the go and then come back to it, or I might just sit down at the blank screen until some image presents itself to me. I'm very much a perfectionist when it comes to the short stories, I won't leave a paragraph until I feel it's right.  I rewrite as I go, and so very often when I reach the end of the story, it's already a final draft. Writing a novel is different, you can't afford to be as precious when it comes to getting the language right - not in the first draft.

That sounds like a very mutually supportive environment. How lovely. What are you working on now?

I've just compiled my short stories for a collection. It's called When Black Dogs Sing and is coming out with Arlen House next year.
I've also been re-editing a novel based on feedback I received from agents. I spent a lot of time comparing and mulling over various comments. For example, one agent said that she loved the book, but was not convinced by the last quarter. On reflection, I think she was spot on and I'm working on rectifying that right now.

I know you do some teaching. Have you some classes ongoing?

Yes, I teach creative writing courses for adults in Ballyroan and Tallaght libraries, and for teens and juniors in Clondalkin library. The next course due to start is a 10-week one in Ballyroan on October 1st. The focus is on short stories and over the ten weeks we cover all aspects of story writing. Each class is dedicated to one element, for ex: character, dialogue, setting etc.

Any links for your courses?

Do you have any links to published writing?

Here are a few of links...
You need to scroll down on the Crannog one...
Thanks Tanya. Good luck with your writing.