Laureate for Irish fiction, Sebastian Barry, visited UL last Thursday. He spoke in conversation with head of Creative Writing MA and bestselling author, Joseph O’Connor, at the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance.
The evening involved a reading from Barry’s novel, Days Without End; a historical book full of lyrical language that won the Costa Book of the Year award and was inspired in many ways by his Grandfather. This reading was an intense theatrical performance as he brought the words to life for the audience.
Sebastian Barry has written many novels with the powerful first-person voice, including The Secret Scripture. In adapting or finding a strong voice, he spoke of the importance of listening to the stories of those around us, and noticing how one story can often be told with different perceptions; this divides character.
Barry and O’Connor spoke about how their personal lives can inform but also disturb their writing. According to Barry:
“The first rule of a novel is to be beautiful”.
He claimed knowing too much about something can often be dangerous or limiting with fiction writing as it’s important to also break beyond what we know. Both O’Connor and Barry spoke about the ‘impossible freedom of the theater’ and recalled on their own experiences visiting the Abbey Theater. Growing up, the theater was a dominant part of Barry’s life and thus impacted his style of writing largely.
Alongside his writing, they discussed all he has done in the community since being appointed ‘Laureate for Irish Fiction’ by President Higgins. He spoke of his involvement with migrant communities, as his aim is to bring his stories and book clubs to those who can’t come to him.
He described his experience working with prisoners in Mountjoy, and those in mental hospitals in Dublin. The saddening heartfelt words he heard from one lady were:
“No one knows we’re here.”
This sparked conversation about refugees in direct provision centers, communities Barry aims to share his book clubs with. As discussed, it’s important to know and have access to marginal groups so even if we can’t make a difference, we can have a better understanding.
Melatu Uchu Okorie, author of ‘This Hostel Life’, spent seven years in direct provision and spoke of this on a podcast with Sebastian Barry. Melatu’s book was chosen for UL’s 2019 ‘One Campus, One Book’ and she’ll be visiting the University this Wednesday the 13th of March.
The evening drew to a close pondering today’s young generation and how unique styles and themes are emerging from successful young authors. Both O’Connor and Barry agreed that young people in Ireland have set a high standard for first novels. The discussion ended on the concern that burdens many writers of financial struggle, on which Barry commented:
“How do artists survive their poverty? Mysteriously, mysteriously.”
On the 5th of December, a range of experienced publishers and agents visited the university to talk with the MA in Creative Writing program. This was an enjoyable end to the semester at UL.
The day kicked off in conversation with Alan Hayes, a successful independent publisher for Arlen House, Galway. Alan has published many authors such as UL’s Donal Ryan and Martin Dyar. Alan claims his journey into the publishing industry was a ‘fluke’ and all worked out by chance, as he developed his interest in the field after studying at NUI Galway. His main word of advice for the students was “sell your writing, not yourself“, as he emphasized the importance of the writing itself rather than publishing something for the sake of being noticed and seen. This was an important point that many often lose sight of nowadays, with bookshops promoting the biggest names and trends.
Editor and writer, Brian Langan, was in conversation with Donal Ryan. They both discussed the relationship they have as editor and writer, and the challenges they often face. They described this as a three-way relationship between writer, editor and the book. Langan explained how making edits and offering feedback can be quite challenging, so it’s important for the editor to always be passionate about the book. Both Ryan and Langan stressed the importance of keeping the audience/reader in mind when re-drafting a book.
Marianne Gunn O’Connor is literary agent to writers such as Cecilia Ahern, Pat Mc Cabe, and Mike Mc Cormack. Marianne discussed the importance of failure in life, as one learns to succeed through their response to failure:
“Failure is the fuel, and success is the breaks.”
If she sees something in a writer, she will stick with them. This was the case for Mike Mc Cormack who faced many obstacles and refusals when attempting to publish his work. Mc Cormack, whom was once described as a “disgracefully neglected writer“, won the Dublin Literary prize and the Goldsmiths prize, for his novel Solar Bones. Marianne is “looking for a person, not a book” when choosing clients, as who she works with and their connection is important.
Closing the day, Sarah Davis Goff, from Tramp Press, was in discussion with Joseph O’Connor, head of the MA in Creative Writing program. Tramp Press is an independent publishing agency run by Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen. Since being launched in 2014, they have published award winning authors, such as Mike Mc Cormack and Sarah Baume. She discussed the importance of the quality of writing when selecting a piece. Tramp is always looking for diversity and promoting gender equality. The Q&A was concluded with Sarah reading a piece from her upcoming novel, Last Ones Left Alive.
“Write the story that you want to read”
As UL Frankenweek drew to a close on Halloween eve, we were lucky to be joined by upcoming Cork author, Danny Denton.
Frankenweek kicked off on Monday the 22nd of October and has offered great writing workshops, readings and screenings related to the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Denton read an extract from his new novel The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow. It has been described in a review by The Irish Times as “A grim dystopian Ireland that is all too believable”. The plot revolves around ‘The Kid in Yellow’, who stole the babba from ‘the Earlie King’. The novel is set in a post-digital future and could be viewed as an Ireland without limits; where all of the problems the country is facing such as homelessness and addiction are amplified beyond control.
Denton’s reading was followed by a discussion with UL writer in residence, Donal Ryan. Ryan pointed out the obvious presence of the rain throughout the entire novel and how it’s almost a character in itself. Denton spoke of his admiration for texts/films where it’s raining throughout, Blade Runner was one of the examples he referred to.
In discussion, Denton spoke of the challenges many writers face when redrafting and trying to write a story to please an audience. His main advice to the room was to “write the story that you want to read”, as that’s what he did after years of attempting to write something the public would love, illustrating how it’s impossible to please everyone.
He described writing as a “craftsmanship” and stressed the importance of a daily writing routine. Denton’s hard work paid off with this modern authentic novel that’s now shortlisted for an Irish Book Award.
You can click on this link to vote for the best books of the year and be in with a chance of winning a 100 euro book token : https://www.irishbookawards.irish/vote2018/
Trying to find some places in Limerick that celebrate literature, storytelling, and writing? Look no further!
Narrative 4 fosters empathy by shattering stereotypes and breaking down barriers through the exchange of stories. They host storytelling workshops and many other events in the city.
Stanzas: Poetry, Prose & Art is for emerging writers to express themselves, develop their craft, and meet interesting, like-minded people. They host monthly open mic nights, have an audio magazine, and host a festival every July.
Limerick Writer’s Center supports Limerick-born and Limerick-based writers through readings, workshops and publishing activities. They have three writers groups and occasionally arrange sessions with publishers.
Buaine na Gaoithe takes place in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance this Wednesday, the 10th of October, at 6 p.m. Composer, Ryan Molloy, will collaborate his new song cycle for soprano, flute and harp with a collection of poetry from UL’s writer in residence, Martin Dyar.
Martin Dyar is welcomed to the faculty of the 2018 Creative Writing MA; where he will work closely with many of the students involved in the production of the Ogham Stone throughout the year. Dyar is particularly known for his well – received collection of poems, Maiden Names.
Ryan Molloy talks to The Irish Times about what aspect of Dyar’s work appealed to this project:
“I also found in his poems an identity and a use of imagery that connected with me strongly in musical terms. When the opportunity to write a song cycle arose via an Arts Council commission award through the singer Francesca Placanica, Martin was a natural choice to collaborate with.”
Ryan Molloy has adapted many poems to music in the past; he finds a text that resonates with him then begins to “unpick it musically, the text gradually revealing the music inherent within it and, somehow, within myself”.
Molloy and Dyar met a number of times before they began writing in the summer of 2017. They explored common grounds that could be found in both of their art work, then used Molloy’s music to “amplify” Dyar’s writing. Common themes both discovered, which will be illustrated in Buaine na Gaoithe, include “heritage, family, nature, landscape and light”.
The performance, including five songs/poems, invites the audience to immerse themselves in the world of both words and music. As noted by Molloy, “It’ll be peaceful and tumultuous at once. And that’s the purpose”.
Click on the link below to read Ryan Molloy’s interview in full.
This piece, in no way discourages anybody who wants to write, but instead looks at the creative ways that both aspiring and established authors make money.
The publishing industry is at the vanguard of our increasingly gig-like economy. Writers have had to diversify their income streams for years with teaching gigs and side-hustles. Rather than framing this as a negative, this article looks at the positive ways in which jobs both related and unrelated to writing can impact the writing life. Like getting you away from the blank page.
Warning: This article actively encourages the art of the hustle.
2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
To celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th anniversary, we are launching a competition in association with Frankenweek@UL, which runs from 22nd– 31st October.
If you think you could be the next Mary Shelley, keep reading…
The Ogham Stone welcomes submissions of writing in the category of horror/ghost story. The prize is €100 for the best overall piece as well as publication in The Ogham Stone 2019.
Judges: Martin Dyar and Matt Hayward
- Submitted work should be unpublished and original
- Poems should not exceed 40 lines
- Prose should not exceed 2,500 words
- Entries should be submitted as an MS Word document (.doc or .docx) with numbered pages. The title should be clearly indicated on the first page. Please do not use your name or include identifying information in the document.
- Authors are limited to 2 submissions only.
- There is no entry fee
- All submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Friday 30th of November 2018
- Submissions that fall outside of the guidelines will be disqualified.
Small Print: Judging will be carried out blind. The decision of the judge is final. We cannot offer feedback nor enter into correspondence with authors about their work or about the final decision. Canvassing will disqualify. The winner will be notified before the announcement is made.
Book Launch: Peripheral by Faye Boland
– poetry with a power to connect –
Peripheral by Faye Boland is the author’s debut collection of poems to be formally launched at Tralee Library in Co. Kerry on Saturday, 22 September, starting 2.30pm.
Faye Boland’s poetry has been described as “a happy combination of musical lyricism and intellectual subtlety” by well-known Irish poet and novelist, Brendan Kennelly.
The poem from which this collection takes its title was Overall Winner at the 2017 Hanna Greally International Literary Awards, organised as part of the annual SiarScéal Festival in Co. Roscommon. It is also from this that the present volume results, as the prize, on this occasion, was for the winner to have his or her book published professionally by The Manuscript Publisher, an Irish-based publishing services provider.
In her citation of Boland’s winning entry, the adjudicator at the awards, Mary Melvin Geoghegan, drew attention to the author’s “economy and freshness of language”, which she describes as “riveting – words forming as scaffold to arrest the eye and ear” –
Poet, Eileen Sheehan describes Boland’s poetry (“recounted from an eclectic range of perspectives”) as charting “a restless search for home, for purpose in an era when people feel increasingly disconnected from their own sense of worth.”
So, where does one find that sense of self-worth? Our ability to connect is one place to start looking or so this collection of poetry might appear to suggest: the ability to receive and to acknowledge human distress signals, rather than trying to shut them out. Also, from the pleasure to be found in the mundane, reminding us that we are all somehow connected, no matter how dispersed and disparate our lives become.
Peripheral by Faye Boland is published by The Manuscript Publisher. It is on sale now and available to buy online, as well as from other outlets. RRP €12 plus P&P.
The book will be formally launched at Tralee Library, Co. Kerry on Saturday, 22 September, starting 2.30pm.
Shakespeare’s deep thoughts
of life death mourning
longing and homosexual love
the surly sullen bell
as vile as the world is wise
of vilest worms as penises
and v’s as vaginas
‘tis the uncertainty of
hell and the afterlife
and of life without that boy
that breaks my heart.
Iva Yates teaches creative writing and English literature at the University of Limerick. She composed this poem based on her experiences teaching & discussing Shakespeare’s sonnets