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Paul Lynch in conversation with Donal Ryan to discuss his new novel ‘Grace’.

Limerick-born, prize-winning author Paul Lynch was recently in conversation with Donal Ryan at Narrative 4, Limerick on the 8th of September to discuss his new novel ‘Grace’. Paul is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, Red Sky in Morning, The Black Snow and the recently released Grace. Paul has been frequently and rightfully compared with the likes of Joyce, Beckett and Connor McCarthy.

‘Grace’ is an epic tale about a young girl’s life during the Great Famine. It has been described as a sweeping novel about a young girl, Grace Coyle’s journey across Ireland during the Great Famine. She is a fourteen year old girl who is sent out into the world by her mother, who cuts off her hair and tells her that she is the strong one now. She is joined by her younger brother Colly and together, they set off on the journey of their lives during Ireland’s darkest times. The book was widely praised by renowned writers of the country such as Edna O’Brien, Emma Donoghue, Donal Ryan and Belinda McKeon. The book also garnered critical appreciation in the US.

Donal started off the event by introducing Paul and listing his numerous achievements, particularly in France and several other parts of Europe. He then read out praise for the novel, a few quotes as listed below.

The Washington post called this novel , a “moving work of lyrical and at times hallucinatory beauty”.

“A gifted Irish author.. This is a writer who wrenches beauty even from the horror that makes a starving girl think her “blood is trickling over the rocks of my bones”. – Kirkus, starred review.

Paul then read out a short excerpt from his book. When questioned about his style of writing, Paul says that, “It’s a combination of many different things…It’s a combination of experience.. of years and years of reading and thinking what you are reading. It’s a combination of art and the music within you. You don’t quite know where it comes from. It’s there.. and you get better at controlling it.. better at directing it to sound how you want it to sound…”

Paul then went on to describe a little bit about his journey in writing his first novel and thinking about the setting for Grace, how it had all begun and how the pieces fell into place gradually. He says that a lot of research went into shaping the plot. He also addressed the way his books are perceived as being ‘difficult’ and he said that they seem that way to his audience because  they deal with places that the reader does not necessarily want to visit.

Paul also read out a sequence from his book that was set in Limerick before moving on to the Q and A session where Paul provided the audience with articulate responses regarding his writing experiences and process. This session marked the end of the thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring event.

By Mayuri Goswami.

The Ogham Stone 2015/2016 – We’re Back!

The Ogham Stone, the University of Limerick’s literary and visual arts journal, is getting ready for your submissions for the Spring 2016 edition.

The Ogham Stone, the University of Limerick’s literary and visual arts journal, is getting ready for your submissions for the Spring 2016 edition.

Last year, almost seventy pieces were accepted for publication, including short stories, flash fiction, poetry and artwork. They featured alongside an introduction by Joseph O Connor, Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at UL and multiple-award-winning Irish novelist, as well as a short story by Donal Ryan, author of The Spinning Heart, long-listed for the Booker Prize, Guardian First Book Award winner and recipient of the European Union Prize for Literature at the London Book Fair in 2015. The 2014 journal was an eagerly sought-after item, with a voracious demand for copies.

The Ogham Stone is quickly becoming a valuable platform for new writers and artists, local, national and international, to bring their work to a wide audience. We are particularly proud of our connections to the local creative communities in Limerick and last year featured work from writing and art projects active in the city, including The Heart of Limerick anthology and the ARTiculate competition.

This year, as well as accepting fiction, memoir, poetry, visual arts and photography, our new team are happy to announce that we will be seeking short graphic novels and creative non-fiction also.

Our call for submissions is imminent so browse our submissions guidelines here, buff and shine your offerings and watch this space for further details.

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.

Thoughts One Has While Writing a Novel

writing-with-pen

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

“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

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!

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

Flash Fiction Wanted

flash-fictionDon’t forget that our editors here at The Ogham Stone are interested in all types of great writing, and they know that sometimes the best things come in the smallest packages.

Made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s short-short story ‘For sale: Baby shoes, never worn’, flash fiction is increasingly popular, with thousands of national and international competitions each year. The concept is about maximising the impact while minimising the word count, and it can make for some powerful fiction.

Can you tell a great story in just 250 words? Do you have a short and sharp piece of fiction in your portfolio?

If so, submit your piece to us before the deadline of November 2nd. Check out our submissions page for all the details: https://theoghamstoneul.wordpress.com/submit/

Go on…flash your fiction in our direction!

Writing Through the Digital Noise

candle_Candle_light_4010I’m writing this during a power outage.  It’s just me, the dark and the last gasps of a dying laptop.  It’s actually perfect, because I have nothing else to do except write, albeit for just thirty-three remaining minutes of battery life.  I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table for an hour now with just the flickering flame and sickly sweet scent of an aromatic candle burning next to me.

I haven’t been able to fuss over having my writing desk set up just right, as I can’t use it.  There are no distractions as my phone is dead and the wi-fi is down.   I can’t do any housework, I can’t cook, I can’t make tea and I can’t even listen to music.  There is no noise, not even the vague electronic hum we normally don’t even notice.   The only sound is my tapping and the ticking of the clock on the wall.

So far, in just an hour and a half, I’ve written two thousand words.  That’s the same amount I normally write in a full day. A good day, at that.

It reminds me that successful writers are the ones who manage to somehow put themselves in this same place every single day.  They have the ability to ignore their telephones, their televisions, their social media apps or indeed any of the myriad digital distractions available.  They just sit down and write, as if there was nothing else in the world they’d prefer to do.

It makes me think how much easier it must have been to produce a body of work years ago, before our lives became so busy with such….noise.

It’s easy to imagine Charlotte Bronte sitting down to write one day and emerging some six weeks later with a solid first draft of Jane Eyre.  She had little to do all day except watch over her recuperating father, and lose herself in a world of romance on the moors of Northern England.

Not so long ago, I attended a talk given by the novelist Belinda McKeon, author of the excellent and highly acclaimed novel ‘Solace’.  Endearingly modest, she spoke emphatically about having to find the time, space and motivation to write in the modern world.

She knew that droplets of time had to be somehow wrung out of every day.  However, she was also very honest about the challenges of retreating from the endless barrage of modern distractions – Twitter, emails, texts, Facebook, etc. – to be able to write.

She also said that if she hadn’t completed a Masters in Creative Writing, she may never have finished her book.  It was a wonderfully refreshing lecture, a frank admission that this successful author faces just the same motivational challenges as the rest of us.  She also gave us some real, tangible advice; download an app called Freedom. It blocks your internet for a set amount of time, giving you little to do but actually get words down on paper.

Whenever I go abroad, I love that I can get some work done – real work, physical words and pages that pour from me as I have no internet, little TV and only as much telephone as the intermittent signal will allow.

That, and tonight’s power cut is a lesson.  I need to install that app, sit down with my laptop at the kitchen table and just get on with it.

~ Rachael Kealy