Sebastian Barry in Conversation with Joseph O’Connor

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.”  

 

 

 

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A reading with Danny Denton

“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/

 

Ryan Molloy Collaborates With Martin Dyar

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.

 

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/flight-of-fancy-composer-ryan-molloy-on-collaborating-with-poet-martin-dyar-1.3647680

 

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Know the team behind The Ogham Stone (post #2)

As promised, we are back with a series of interviews with the members of The Ogham Stone team. Enjoy the spread and please watch this space next week for more!

Yao Tang says:

  • What are your reasons for doing this MA?
    I enrolled into this MA for improving my level of English and studying literature for my own work.
  • How do you feel about doing the Ogham Stone Project?
    It is a little difficult for me, as a foreigner, but I feel comfortable because the members of our team take care of me very considerately.
  • I know it’s early days, but do you have a favourite bit of this project? What is it, and why do you like it?
    I like to share the highlights of some poems with my teammates. They told me some unique meanings of words only suitable for the very situation mentioned in the poem.
  •  What are your hopes for the project?
    I hope I can know what a real Irish magazine is like. In China, magazines are not popular any more.

Tracy Culleton says:

  • What are your reasons for doing this MA?

So many. The first is that I feel the lack of ever having had formal 3rd level education and am finally healing that lack now. The second is that although I have been studying this craft for all my adult life really, you never know what you don’t know, so looking for guidance and direction from it. Also, this wasn’t my reason for doing it as I didn’t realise it would be an element, but finding great value in studying so much English literature too, which was another gap in my knowledge

  • How do you feel about doing the Ogham Stone Project?

To be honest, I wasn’t originally thrilled to say the least.  It seemed a distraction from writing and learning about writing. I know both writing and publishing are the same industry, but they’re different ends of the industry. Having said that, I am really enjoying working with Carrie and also the others on the Communications Group, and it is very interesting to see the process from the other side of the desk

  • I know it’s early days, but do you have a favourite bit of this project? What is it, and why do you like it?

My favourite bit is the way we can, as a team, influence the shape of the Ogham Stone, but literally (as in design decisions) and metaphorically. The Ogham Stone is in its early days and so we are on the ground floor of creating something that promises to be very exciting.

  • What are your hopes for the project?

I hope that we can do a good job, that is professional and business-like but which also contributes to the cultural landscape of Ireland, and of creative writing, in even a small way.

  • What skills and interests are you hoping to bring to this project?

I have some experience in organising websites and a small business, so I think that’s the place I’m best located in.

Conor McCarthy says:

  • What are your Reasons for doing this MA?

I love writing and have been studying it for the past four years. I see this as a chance to grow my portfolio and meet successful authors.

  • How do you feel about doing the Ogham Stone project?

I’m excited to have a chance to put my name to something that will appear in print and to help others achieve the same.

  •  I know it’s early days, but do you have a favourite bit of this project? What is it, and why do you like it?

I’ve loved reading all of the entries and experiences the diverse voices and styles of the authors.

  • What are your hopes for the project?

That we’ll create something that will endure and give a platform to some very talented writers.

  • What skills and interests are you hoping to bring to this project?

My experience in fiction writing and love of the short story.

Grainne O’Brien says:

  • What are your reasons for doing this MA?

I just decided it was time I make writing my priority for the year. The MA program is a wonderful opportunity to do that.

  • How do you feel about doing The Ogham Stone project?

I think it’s a wonderful, chaotic idea. We will create something together we can be proud of. It can be a humbling experience to see how much work goes into something like this and the range of talent that is out there. And writers can always use a bit of humbling.

  • I know it’s early days, but do you have a favourite bit of this project? What is it, and why do you like it?

The magazine is a space for us to see the ‘other side’ of the process. You see how many submissions we get. Now you can understand why publishers and agents can’t take on everyone. So many people have a voice. So many want to be heard and we just can’t publish them all.

  • What are your hopes for the project?

That it’s gets published with everyone still alive.

  • What skills and interests are you hoping to bring to this project?

I already have a literary magazine called Silver Apples. I’m quite enjoying having so many people to chat to about this project. I just want to produced the best quality magazine we can and more importantly ENJOY doing it.

Stephen Murphy says:

  • How do you feel about doing The Ogham Stone project?

I’ve spent a good part of the past few years writing and performing across various stages, but I’ve also edited books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. I’m currently in the poetry committee with partial responsibility for what will eventually go in to the Ogham Stone, and in many ways it’s similar to my previous years spent judging various poetry competitions that I won’t name for fear of offending anybody who might have entered but didn’t win..

  • I know it’s early days, but do you have a favourite bit of this project? What is it, and why do you like it?

My favourite parts of the project so far are both the grit involved in putting it together, and the standard of entries we’ve had the privilege of reading. The volume of submissions was enormous, so to whittle it down hasn’t been easy, but between the lot of us it’s generated huge debate over what should make the grade and what shouldn’t, all the way down to what makes some poetry stand out from the crowd more than others. The conversation has been lively and informative, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the final poems are.

  • What are your hopes for the project?

My hope is that eventually we’ll manage to work our way through the massive amount of work we have ahead of us to put together a book that can stand the test of time. So much of modern living is fleeting and instant, so if we can capture something timeless and present it to the world I’d be delighted.

Lauren Preston says:

  • How do you feel about doing The Ogham Stone project?

I have been published in a few literary journals, but this will be the first time I am getting to work behind the scenes. I am eager to bring my knowledge of being a writer to the position of being an editor. I think I will have a sensitivity as well as an understanding of what kind of quality the literary journal requires

  • What do you like about the project?

So far I have enjoyed the team of readers in the Fiction / Memoir group and our ability to work well together.

  • What are your hopes for the project? 

I hope the project will produce a quality literary journal that can be a satisfactory outcome for both the editors in the class and the writers and artists who bravely submitted their work.

Ashley Bentley says:

  • What are your experiences coming into the project?

I contributed to the production of an online historical journal about the Irish immigrant experience in Australia last year.

  • What is your favourite part about the Ogham Stone project?

The structure of the project, for example: there has been no confusion about the allocation of responsibilities (As of yet, anyway)

  • What are your hopes for the project?

Quality over quantity is important in an exercise like this, and I don’t think people should be burdened with awkward responsibilities just because they have experience in that area.

Ciara Gordon says:

  • What are your experiences coming into the project?

I’ve done public relations for different events, so I have experience in the area of Communications, but none for the actual journal itself!

  •  What is your favourite part about The Ogham Stone project?

I’m really enjoying getting to see different perspectives from others in my group, and getting to see how a literary journal comes together.

  • What are your hopes for the project?

I hope that this experience will be equal parts enjoyable and successful for everyone involved in it, and that the launch nights will go well!

Kevin O’Connor (who likes to keep it short!) says:

I was the reporter for a community magazine “Ballinasloe Life” for 7 months, so I have experience in printing and writing for magazines
My favourite part (only part) so far is reading the submissions. It’s fun to read other people’s stories.
I hope the project wont rob me of too much sleep over the course of publication!

By Mayuri Goswami

Colum McCann Update!

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Because of strong interest we have moved our guest speaker, Colum McCann, into a larger venue for the public interview at UL this coming Wednesday, 5th November, at 5 pm.

It will now be taking place in Lecture Theatre KBG 12 in the Kemmy Business School. We hope to start promptly at 5 pm. All are welcome. Come if you can. Bring a friend or colleague. A reception will follow the interview.

Hope to see you all there!

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

Calling all Non-Fiction Writers!

nonfiction-820-3001The Deadline has been extended to 12th of November! So Submit to The Ogham Stone!!

We’ve received the largest amount of submissions EVER and they are still coming in! If you want to make history with us then send us your creative non-fiction!

Submit your writing to us before the NEW deadline of November 12th. Check out our submissions page for all the details: https://theoghamstoneul.wordpress.com/submit/

Go on — write about real life!