Finding the Best Place to Write

writing-427527_640Years ago, indeed, so many years ago that I would prefer not to reveal the actual date, I went to Spain to write a novel. I had the perfect place in mind – a small village, not too far from the Mediterranean coast. It would be a stone-built village, with narrow medieval streets, surrounded by olive groves stretching to the beach and a glimmering cobalt sea. I would take up rooms above a friendly bar/restaurant where I would have meals of hearty stew served by a beautiful cdarked-haired girl who wanted to improve her English. In the evenings, after a hard day’s writing, I would converse with garrulous old fishermen, full of stirring tales of the sea. Naturally, these would provide me with the raw materials for a novel which would stun the literary world.

Such a village did exist, once.   But I never went there. Instead, I took up residence in a tiny eighth floor flat in Barcelona, squeezed between the tourist haven of the Sagrada Familia church (the one with the spiky towers) and the all night ambulance station of the local hospital. Barcelona was and is the city that never sleeps. And neither did I. The message from the myriad bars and restaurants that I frequented was – life is for living, not for scribbling about. My novel, needless to say, did not get written.

7946581522_f7233274beWould I have written the book if I had stayed in my quiet village? Is there an ideal place to write?

Virginia Woolf’s prescription was simple. “A room of one’s own” was all that was necessary, while Stephen King offers some practical advice on what you should do with that room. “If possible,” he says in his wise manual On Writing, “there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”

On the other hand, JK Rowling said the best place to write is in a café. “You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement,” she said. But then she had to write in a café – she was too broke to heat her flat, and could not bear to write Harry Potter in fingerless mittens. Incidentally, the café where she penned the first of her astonishingly successful books is now a place of pilgrimage for Potter fans. Last time I was there, an entire team of Italian footballers were being noisily photographed next to a poster of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. No longer a quiet place to write, then.

Truman Capote and Toni Morrison recommended motels as their favoured location to write, while Marcel Proust insisted on a cork-lined room. Other published writers have claimed to do their best work in the car, the bathroom and even the local church.

Looking back on my sojourn in Barcelona, I am pretty sure that my problem was not where I had chosen to write. I simply wasn’t ready. When you are ready, you’ll know. As Ernest Hemingway replied when asked this perennial question, “The best place to write is in your head.”

~ Patrick Kelly is a journalist and writer. He has lived in Barcelona and London. He is now studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.

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Thoughts One Has While Writing a Novel

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This is going to be great, like Joyce, except better than Joyce – more readable. Clever but enjoyable. Touching. Compelling. I can’t wait for my first interview on Oprah’s Book of the Month Club. My characters taught me so much, you know. They really had a life of their own. Some lines just came from God, you know. I wrote that line and thought: “That was a good line”.

Actually, this writing thing’s harder than it looks. Maybe this won’t be Joyce. I’ll settle for, like, Nicholas Sparks. He made lots of money at least. I’ll be rich and famous from these words. I can’t wait for my book to be made into a film. I can’t wait to win my first Oscar.

How many words have I written today? Phew that’s loads. Time for some coffee.

I think I’ll give myself a week off. Just ‘cos.

Oh Jesus, what did I write last week? That makes no sense at all. What are my characters doing? Just walking around talking to each other? Are my characters even characters? They’re just words on a page. Is that sentence even a sentence? What tense am I in? What tense am I supposed to be in?

I think I’ll remove that comma. There. Much better.

I think I’ll put that comma back in. There. Much better.

Actually, this is kind of Joycean.

Actually, this is nowhere near Joyce, or even Nicholas Sparks. It’s probably more along the lines of the Teletubbies. If I could write something half as coherent as the Teletubbies I’d be doing well.

Somebody publish me!

~ Niamh Donnelly

Torn Ogham Stone Logo 1The Ogham Stone editors would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

We are very excited about this coming year because our second edition will be released in just a few weeks! Our design team has been working day and night to create a faboulus journal and we can’t wait to share it with all of you!

Our promotion team is finalizing the details regarding the release event in Febuary and those wishing to attend are welcome!

The realse date will be announced in the following weeks so keep an eye out on our website and if you haven’t already followed us on Twitter and Facebook, the links are below!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theoghamstone

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Many thanks from The Ogham Stone editors and have a wonderful new year!

Theatre of the Absurd

a_TOTA_06For most people, going to the theatre is a pleasant, culturally enlightening and stimulating experience. The majority of modern theatres are salubrious environments with comfortable seats, pleasant ambiances, and places where theatrical devotees can avail of food and beverages. People who attend the theatre are looking to be entertained and with this in mind, they take their seats comfortable in the knowledge that an entertaining night awaits them at their favourite theatre.

However, followers of theatre of the Absurd, encounter a vastly different theatrical experience from other theatre aficionados. Innovative playwrights developed absurdist theatre in the 1950s in show houses across mainland Europe with France being the foremost place of origin for the new theatrical form. Theatre of the Absurd is concerned with depictions of the human condition and in most cases; it depicts it as being meaningless. Characters appear to be lost with their lives have no sense of purpose or direction. Important theatrical devices such as time, place, language and identity break down in Absurdist theatre. In staging absurdist plays, directors use minimal staging and refuse to give their plays a meaningful plot. Babbling and incoherent dialogue characterises absurdist plays. Typically, plays of this type revolve around dreams and in many cases the characters experience nightmares of terrifying nature.

Samuel Beckett is perhaps the most well know originator of theatre of the Absurd. His play Waiting for Godot is a prime example of an absurdist play, which Beckett aired at the Theatre de Babylone, in Paris 1953. The play centres mainly on two characters Vladimir and Estragon and Beckett’s play utilises the aforementioned features of absurdist theatre such as lack of plot, timeline, place and language. Overall, there is minimal moment in the play and the primary characters Vladimir and Estragon appear to be stuck in a physical, emotional and psychological time loop. Most importantly, Beckett’s plays highlights the meaningless of life and the human condition in the wider context of international warfare, corrupt governments, consumers driven societies, dishonest societal institutions and intrusive corporate companies.

1311984754_740215_0000000000_noticia_normalTheatre of the Absurd distorts and unsettles the viewer. In the absence of recognised theatrical devices, strange events on stage unnerve the audience, as they do not know what is coming next or how to react to what the actors are doing. For Beckett, this is the exact reaction, which he wanted Waiting for Godot to create. He did not want to produce a visually pleasing and rounded realist play. Rather, Beckett wanted to jolt theatrical devotees out of their everyday lives and experiences in order to force them to confront the negative aspects of the human condition, the disturbing elements of contemporary society and the dehumanising nature of corporate businesses.

Attending an absurdist play such as Waiting for Godot is certainly a unique experience that will leave a lasting impression on the viewer. Therefore, the next time you are considering a pleasant evening at the local theatre, instead of going to a mainstream play that gives you a recognised theatrical structure, why not go to an absurdist play. Such plays challenges you in so many ways while forcing you to engage in an active manner with the material that you are witnessing.

~Pádraig O’ Loingsigh

Dear Writers

thank you note

Dear Writers,

Thank you to everyone who submitted to the 2015 edition of The Ogham Stone! The poems, stories and pieces are in and are currently being read by our editorial team.

We hope to be in contact with all those who submitted to our magazine in due time.

Thank you once again and we will be in touch soon!

Sincerely,

The Ogham Stone Team

“How am I going to read this?”

ulysses[1]The words James Joyce and Ulysses typically fill most readers with a sense of dread and trepidation. Ulysses has gained an almost mythical status with most critics agreeing that it is one of the foremost literary texts in the English language. They base this lofty argument on the innovative way in which Joyce constructs his text. In addition, the standard of language, which Joyce uses throughout the book, sets it apart from most text. Despite a relatively simplistic plot line, Joyce masterfully constructs an interweaving text that highlights his subjects in new and innovative ways. In addition, Joyce inserts a myriad of textual references, which encompass centuries of various texts making it a truly multi-contextual and internationally timeless work. Apparently, James Joyce once said that his multitude of textual reference gave it a riddle like quality that would take critics centuries to unravel thus ensuring his immortality.

In many cases, Ulysses may seem daunting to college students whom their lectures require them to read. Often students will get to chapter three (Proteus) and give up as the effort of deciphering the text becomes too much. On the other hand, students who continue with the text despite its difficulty experience a phenomenal sense of achievement when they finish it. In many cases, students see it as a badge of honour having successfully read one of the most difficult texts in the English language. Equally, students and readers who finish the text often see their achievement as a badge of cultural capital placing them in a small and select cultural group that share a common interest.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Ulysses is a most difficult read and students often ask the question: “How can I successfully complete this book?” There is no one correct answer to this however, readers can utilise a series of qualities and strategies that can use to help them complete Ulysses. Patience is a virtue but in the case of Ulysses, it is a necessity for any reader who wishes to finish the book. The text is difficult and readers need to be patient in terms of completing it. Furthermore, understanding a text is a core objective for most readers however; in the case of Ulysses, most readers on initial reading will not fully understand the text. It is important for readers to be comfortable with this and instead focus on taking what they can from the text and this will certainly help them to finish the text. It is extremely wise for reader not to confuse the author with the text. The narrator in a text does not necessarily represent the author. However, most creative writers will draw on personal experiences, cultural and historical contexts in forming their narratives. It is reasonable to argue that James Joyce was no different in this regard. Therefore, readers who have an adequate knowledge of Joyce’s biography will have a better chance of understanding the text. Read! Read! Read! Certainly, a well-informed reader will have a much better chance of understanding Ulysses than a less well read individual. Because of Joyce’s myriad of textual allusions, a more sophisticated reader will be able to notice the multitude of references that Joyce makes throughout Ulysses. On a practical level, having a dictionary close to hand is useful when reading Ulysses as the reader can use it to look up the many difficult and unusual words that Joyce uses in his text. Finally, take time reading Ulysses. If the reader is under a time constraint, they will certainly struggle to complete the text. Instead, take plenty of breaks while reading it as the time away from the book will help to clear the readers head giving them a fresh perspective when they return to it.

Lastly, and most importantly, try to enjoy perhaps the greatest book in the English language and share in the tremendous sense of achievement that fellow readers garner from finishing Ulysses

~Pádraig Ó Loingsigh

Listening vs Reading: The Rise of Audiobooks

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In our house, we’re well-versed in the world of audiobooks as they saved our family holidays.

I love to read books (well, duh) but my husband doesn’t.  He just never really got into it – his boredom threshold falls around the size of the average newspaper article, which he reads in abundance.  Essentially, his digitally-trained brain can’t cope having to read 100,000 words before finding out ‘the point’.

My favourite thing to do on holiday is to find a beautiful view and a comfortable seat and settle down with a great book.  On our first holiday together I found myself unable to get past a single paragraph without being asked how it was going / did I see the kid with the ball / was I too hot.

And so we discovered many years ago that this was a problem we would have to overcome or I was going to drown him in his holiday beer.

The solution? Audiobooks.  I downloaded books I thought he would like (Wolf of Wall Street was a big hit, followed by biographies of Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs), charged up his Iphone and let him off

The only problem is that audiobooks are rather expensive.  Roughly €20-30 each, which is understandable when you consider the book’s value in itself, with added production and narration costs.  Enter Audible.com, which sounds rather convoluted but is in effect, a subscription service.  You pay a monthly fee and depending on which tier you’re on, you get at least one book a month.

The only downside for me is the lack of learning.  As I’ve barely a toe on the first rung of a writing career, I like to read great writing so that I can learn from it and hopefully imbue a tiny droplet of those writers’ talents into my own work.  I do feel that listening rather than reading impacts this, as I can’t fully appreciate the structure, the language, the skill.

I find I most value audiobooks when travelling.  I get terribly car-sick so have never been able to read in the car or on a bus.  Now, however, a journey to Dublin equals at least six or seven chapters.  And, when flying, they’re good to block out at least 90% of the ear-torture inflicted by the relentless purveyors of scratchcards, perfumes and bus tickets. Which is always a good thing.

So for now, I think I’ll stick to mixing it up, listening and reading. What about you, have you given audio-books a try?

~RM Kealy

The Writing Process

Writing_Process_Flow_ChartRegardless of your abilities, experience or expertise, the writing process fills most people with apprehension. Writers often ask themselves questions such as how am I going to plan my writing project? In addition, will I be able to form a coherent narrative? Finally, what strategies will I use to proofread my work? Writers need to look at writing not as some sort of destination but as a process. Only by doing, including constant refinement and adaption can writers improve their style. Writing is an individualist act and each writer will use a different approach to writing. In some cases, writers may not be sure of the distinct phases that make up the writing process and it is without doubt helpful for writers to be aware of these stages when indulged in the act of writing.

Stage 1: Structure

Another name for this stage is planning in which the writer will effectively plan what they are going to write. Like all the writing stages, this is an intensive process, which challenges the reader to utilise a wide variety of skills including research, writing, brainstorming ideas and topic formation. Writers who do not pay adequate attention to this stage will have difficultly later in the writing process, as their project will lack direction.

Stage 2: Drafting

Depending on the writer, the drafting stage can be quiet difficult. For many a blank screen fills them with dread as they struggle to get something written down. When this happens, free writing is a useful entry point into your writing. Free writing involves writing something. Anything that comes into your head write it down be it your shopping list for tomorrow, a schedule of the bills that you have to pay. This may seem a pointless exercise and individuals may ask what does this have to do with my History essay? However, the more you write regardless of the topic, the more ideas it will stimulate. The key point to this stage is that drafting is a fluid stage that you will be modifying at a later stage. There is no fixed number of drafts that a writers need to go through in order to produce a credible piece of work. All that writing critics can say on this is that it takes as many drafts as the writer believes necessary albeit within the time constraints of the writing project.

Stage 3: Revising

Having produced a series of drafts it is time to bring all your ideas into one piece of writing. In some case, paragraphs and ideas that you thought were applicable will no longer be necessary. In some case, this stage will highlight deficiencies in the writer’s draft, which will require further development. Linking paragraphs is a crucial part of writing and this is an area, which writers need to look at in the revising stage of the writing process. “Do my paragraphs make sense?” If so, “Are they in the correct order or do I need to switch them around?” Questions like these are important to consider, as they will stimulate the writer into deeper refection concerning their writing.

Stage 4: Proofreading

As will all stages in the writing process this is a crucial phase. However, in many cases writers in the proofreading stage can overlook this exercise. Having completed an ardours writing task, some writer may fall into the trap of complacency in the proofreading stage. However, without due attention in terms of proofreading an excellent piece of writing can suffer. Writer need to address Spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, punctuation, presentation, and capitalisations in this stage. If not an A, paper can quickly turn into a mediocre B at best. A major problem with the proofreading stage is that the writer is overly accustomed to the work. Writers cannot see errors which other can because of their closeness to the project. Therefore, a productive method of proofreading is to give your work to friend, peer, or family member to read through. Because if their detachment to the writing they are more likely to pick out error in the work. Finally, reading aloud is a productive proofreading exercise because verbalising the work will help the writer to recognise any errors in terms of sentence coherence and meaning.

Remember writing is a process so keep writing and best of luck. Most of all enjoy!

~By Pádraig Ó Loingsigh

Why Stories Give Life Meaning

once-upon-a-time1As my two-year-old daughter begs me for another story, it makes me think about the power of stories in our lives.

The child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, maintained that children’s fairy tales speak directly to the human subconscious, helping children to make sense of a chaotic world. This is because fairy tales and folklore have essentially been distilled in the telling, from one generation to the next. The verbal aspect of telling stories to children being of huge importance as each story is tweaked according to the immediate reaction of the child.

However, fiction is important to adults too. The universal importance of fiction to human beings can’t be denied.

We are immersed in stories in our daily lives. There are the anecdotes we share with each other every day, our favourite novels, TV shows and songs, not to mention daily news feeds through social media and increasingly the creation of fictional worlds in gaming. It’s something marketers have noticed some time ago – selling their products with a story is hugely effective. Even when we sleep, our brains are creating dream stories.

However, it is not simply a matter of entertainment or escapism. Modern studies in evolutionary psychology show that humans depend on the construction of narrative to exist. We narrate to create order in a chaotic world. Our ability to ‘spin a yarn’ is not some accidental by-product of evolution. It is essential to our survival. In the race for the ‘survival of the fittest’, the tale-telling humans won. It’s more than the educational aspect of sharing vital information; our ability to imagine that something might be painful or a bad ‘idea’ protects us from danger. Imagining what the future will be like keeps us moving forward. What would we be doing right now, if we couldn’t conjure up a fictional tomorrow?

In this digital age, the rise of clubs such as The Moth Club proves that there’s still an appetite for the old fashioned art of verbal storytelling. The gathering together of a group to share stories is much more than a social event. It is well known that the sharing of stories (and even the writing of stories that no one may ever read) is therapeutic. The cathartic effect of group storytelling is already well known. Many Arts therapists use a method called ‘the six-part story’, to facilitate a sort of indirect and nonintrusive communication of experience. Narrative therapy helps people to write – and if necessary redefine – their own life story and to defend their personal story rights. The story we believe about ourselves has a huge impact on our mental health.

The global organisation, Narrative4, believes that sharing stories has the potential to be life changing. I plan to learn more about it Wednesday, November 5th here in UL. In the meantime, I’m off to read my little girl another story.

~Linda Fennelly