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

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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.

Truth, Fiction and my Grandmother’s Diary

4892370217_0ee2dee629_zThe truth is a strange thing in fiction. We students of the MA in Creative Writing are becoming familiar with the idea that fiction needs to be more believable than reality – that grey, unfathomable world.

I imagine most writers see the fictional world as superior to the real one. We are closer to our characters than to the people we touch and see. Fiction’s truth comes from empathy; whereas reality’s truth comes from fact and we would much rather empathise than be knowledgeable.

And, of course, every act of writing is an act of fictionalizing – that passing through language into the world of subjectivity. And this is the main reason truth eludes not only fiction writers but everyone who speaks or even sees; all of us subjecting the world to interpretation: passing it through the medium of language and the soul.

But that does not mean we don’t owe a duty to the truth, or at least to the capital ‘t’ ‘Truth’ when we are writing fiction.

It is (actually) easy to dismiss reality when you hear about the man who woke up at his own funeral or when the woman next door has a baby without ever knowing she was pregnant or when you run into your first cousin walking down the street in Kolkatta. The joke: “you couldn’t write this stuff!” becomes mantra, because the reality is simply not that believable.

But the best writers haven’t lost sight of truth and are not afraid of it, no matter how ridiculous it is. They know how to tell all of it and tell it slant.

My grandmother always kept a Diary. Sometimes an entry would just be a word or two: “Mary’s debs” and other times there would be a full entry recounting a day trip to Dun Laoghaire, the first day of a new job, thoughts, feelings, hopes for the future and so on. It’s not always proper to read someone’s (secret! shh!) diary but I do remember sitting in my Grandmother’s living room once and she had her hands folded on her lap as my aunt read out an entry where her daughter moves to France. We were wide-eyed with intrigue; pleased to be included in this secret world. And my grandmother didn’t mind much, all those years later.

And the intrigue that most people have for these (secret! shh!) documents made me think about the truth and the ways in which we release our private little truths. Because I think diaries are important. I think they can help us unravel our confusion about the world. And I think people don’t keep diaries enough these days. We are consuming media at an extreme rate: we blog, we create profiles and persona and characters for ourselves. We instagram our photos and filter them and fictionalize our lives. But we are losing touch with the things that bring us close to who we are.

Writers who keep diaries know themselves. They write the truth about themselves in ugly ways. Anyone who’s ever written a diary entry will know how it feels to read back years later and cringe. But the cringe factor is invaluable when it comes to fiction. Writers who keep diaries write fiction which expresses an intangible truth; a cringey truth; a truth which makes readers say things like: “is this about you?” which, no matter how frustrating, is a huge compliment.

~Niamh Donnelly

Calling All Artists

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The Ogham Stone Journal is looking for dynamic and bold artwork from artists around the world.

If you would like to be featured in the second edition of The Ogham Stone please submit your work to oghamstoneul@gmail.com

Deadline is November 2nd at 6pm

Call for Submissions

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If you’ve got words or pictures, we want them!

The Ogham Stone, the University of Limerick’s literary and visual arts journal invites all writers and artists to submit work for a stunning publication due out next February.

M.A students in Creative Writing and M.A students in English have come together to mastermind this journal, which they promise will be cutting edge. Already they have bagged new work by Donal Ryan, author of The Spinning Heart, to feature in this edition of The Ogham Stone and Joseph O Connor will provide the forward.

There is no time to delay. Closing date for submissions is 2nd November, 2014.

E-mail your prose, poetry and non-fiction to oghamstoneul@gmail.com

For full submission guidelines, see https://theoghamstoneul.wordpress.com/submit/

Go on – you know you want to!