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July 29, 2014
Like I say – I'm gathering questions. What is it you've always wanted to know about the writing process, blogging, poetry (I'll definitely need help with questions about poetry), novels, short stories - let me know. If I don't have the answer (which is highly likely), I'll ask someone who does.
July 20, 2014
I decided that I'd enter some competitions in 2014. It was a challenge to myself as I'm not confident about competing.
I always worry that even my best story, when read in comparison to others, will be shown to be weak and half-baked.
That is still possible, and probable in some cases, but I don't fear it anymore. My step of bravery into the scary world of competing hass served me well; so I can't complain. I was runner up, in a comp that insisted on hilarious nonsense :) You can read about it here. And a wonderful prize that I'm so proud of here. It has encouraged me to press on and so, I've got an entry into The Bridport Prize, which I'm really happy with. (And an entry into the RTÉ Guide/Penguin comp which I am NOT happy with. But there you go.)
I used to think that, getting nowhere in competitions meant I was rubbish; but what it really means is, I have to work harder. And of course, the truth is, 'if you're not in, you can't win.'
Contemplating a bursary application I thought I should put together a writing CV, but I don't have much to put on it. It's a bit of a catch 22. You have to be fairly established to get most bursaries. And I could do with one to concetrate on writing, and accomplishing stuff with that writing, which in turn would build up my CV... :) But I get it. You can't have every Tom, Dick & Shakespeare applying for these things.
Two things have occured to me about the competition/awards things.
1. I don't think any of my funny, lighthearted stories would get anywhere.
I reckon difficulty, hardship, loss, struggle, and bad weather seem to make it to the higher echalons of short lists and prize winners. It has to be dark and different. Is it snobbery, or is it that it has to be high brow to be seen as literary fiction? Is humour easier to write (I don't think so), and therefore less worthy of a prize? Am I wrong and it's just I haven't read enough comp winners?
2. If I want to write a dismal ending I just need to put emmese pressure on myself to finish on time.
Honestly, I was submitting to a competition then realised the story I was polishing had been published a couple of years ago. So with only 4 hours to go, I grabbed something else 'out of a drawer' and finished it quickly. I just let it go where it was going and followed it. By the end, all but two of the characters were dead! That's what you get for hanging out with crime writers.
Anyway, I've a couple of lovely sad stories almost ready to submit to other things. I'll keep the funny stuff for volume 2 of The Long & The Short of it.
Would love to hear your opinion though. Can funny stuff win a big prize?
July 8, 2014
July 6, 2014
You'll find the background to this exercise by clicking here ;)
I took part in this workshop at the Hay Festival in Kells yesterday.
1st version - promt "I looked over the bridge..."
I looked over the bridge, and my heart sank. It was Richenda Morris-Boucharde. Too late to pretend I was going in another direction. I had to cross.
I hate Richenda Morris-Boucharde, as her mother insists on calling her. She is pretty, clever, popular, great at singing, and very very nice. She is generous, always shares, and never jostles to be first. She just always is first.
She is sooooo nice and soooo annoying.
"Jenny, hi how are you? You weren't in school on Friday. I was so worried. Were you ill?"
Richeda Morris-Boucharde was genuine in her concern but not over-bearing.
2nd version - post card
it happened again. No matter where go, Richenda is there. All nice, and smiles, and geunie concern. She was on the other side of the bridge as I was crossing. I was off school on Friday cos of the late night we had at my brother's wedding.
She was really worried that I didn't go into school.
You were right, she really is that nice. But I was right too, she really is that annoying.
Miss you, Jen
3rd version - text message
Bumped into Richenda M-B again. You're right she really is nice. But really is annoying too. J :) x
4th version - poem
stands over the bridge like a guard
concern on her friendly face
the nicest girl in the place
To NOT thump her, is becoming quite hard!
July 6, 2014
I spent so much time enjoying the Hay Festival in Kells yesterday that I didn't have time to write more than a few tweets that you might have seen if you follow @amowriting
I went to three different sessions. I’ll tell you about the first and third now, as they were both on the similar themes. Later I’ll tell you about the middle one, which was ‘The Google Debate’. A great discussion and Q&A chaired by Cathal Mac Coille, presenter of Morning Ireland on Irish radio. More of that later...
There were about 25 of us at the ‘Storytelling Workshop’, facilitated by the lovely Paula Leyden. Originally from Africa, she now lives in Ireland and you'll find out all about her and her books on her website. There was a wide age range in attendance, with children from the age of 9 or 10, to some ladies that I would say were probably around 60. It was even a surprise to Paula that there was such a range – and she seemed a little nervous that the workshop would cater to everyone. I don’t think she needed to worry though. All ages seemed to get what she was saying and there were some great contributions from across the age range.
The process she took us through, reminded me of one of the first workshops I attended on writing, in Carousel Creates with Catherine Brophy. Where we took a childhood memory, re wrote, changing details and POV etc.
Paula asked us to write a short story, beginning with the words, “I looked over the bridge…’ Then we were to write the same story on a postcard – capturing the essential detail of the story with fewer words (and yes we all got real post cards to write on). Then we had to write it again but as a text message, again drilling down to the essential kernel. And THEN… (I loved this bit!), we had to write it as a poem! Paula said that if ever she is struggling to continue a story she will close the work and try to write a poem about it, as it helps her to concentrate on the words.
As I walked down the road afterwards, I got chatting to a couple of ladies, one of whom mentioned that she had joined a writing group some years ago but was very intimidated by the ability of all the other members, so she left. She said that Paula’s workshop had given her hope; hope that maybe she could actually do this. She thought she might try the writing group again and see how she got on.
Had I been the facilitator I would have thought I’d struck gold right there.
To run a workshop and have someone leave, feeling confident that they might be actually be able to write when previously they thought they couldn’t? Well that’s the prize as far as I'm concerned.
In the afternoon I went to the ‘How to Write a Book’ session. Chaired by Sinead Gleeson with guests, Welsh poet, musician and novelist, Fflur Dafydd and Irish crime novelist Eoin McNamee.
My highlight of Eoin McNamee's thoughts was his comments on voice and narrator. He said he met someone who made unusal instruments. They knew the sound they wanted to make and set out to make and instrument to make that sound. McNamee used it as a picture of how to decide on POV etc. Find the voice your story needs and then create the work that will make that sound.
Having lived in Wales for a time and being married to a welshman, Dafydd's accent and gentle lilting tones were beautiful to hear. What I remember most about her contribution was when she was talking about researching setting. "Sometimes the research can lead you somewhere else... if it lights up on the page it will bring breadth and depth to your story."
This was a very interesting session for me. I didn’t learn anything ‘new’ in a sense. Please don’t get me wrong – I do not for one minute believe I know everything there is to know about writing. But in a sense – I do… let me explain.
What I’m finding as time goes on is that all writers when giving advice, are saying the same thing. They are saying it in a number of ways, and/or quoting someone else saying it. In the case of McNamee and Dafydd, they had different emphases on how they deal with the discipline of writing, or what they do when they get writer’s block, what their priority is when they are dealing with plot, setting, characters etc. The combination of the two was a wonderful illustration of the great diversity in writing styles, work practises and preferences.
However, when they talk about ‘writing’ and 'being a writer' they said what everyone else says.
When someone asks me, I say something like, “put your bum on the chair and get the words on the page”. I think that’s how it was first said to me up in Carousel Creates. The advice given to us yesterday was, sit down and do the work - you can edit rubbish but you can’t edit an empty page.
I’ve heard that one numerous times and in different ways too.
Many writers have and will, put far better words on the page than me, but all writers start with the same blank page and the instruction to get to work. After my couple of days in Kells, I know now what I have to do…
You can read my efforts from the Paula Leyden workshop here; and my thoughts on ‘The Google Debate’ are on the way.
July 4, 2014
Already I wish I could stay in Kells for the whole weekend. I have met a fascinating bunch of people. Almost all of them seem very excited to be here. I say almost all, as there are a few individuals who are looking very serious and dour - one can only guess that the more high-brow writers and readers than I (my brows being firmly fixed near my ankles), are inwardly enjoying themselves.
I got to share about social media today, and hear from three other Emu Ink authors. We're just some of a number of people who have self-published using the services of Emu Ink. All very different - and all very happy with our publisher :) It was great to hear snippets of work from other self-published writers, and cheer them on in encouragement.
Winner of 'most interesting encounter of the day' is a conversation I had with a lady who had booked her accommodation well in advance, only to find out just before leaving her home in Galway, that she had booked to stay in Kells, Co. Kerry. There are 4 Kells(es) in Ireland - not the only thing I learned today. During our chat we were joined by a very jolly chap who is part of the 'Return the Book of Kells to Kells' lobby. I signed his petition. I never fared well out of 'finders keepers' anyway.
He was very vehement in his commitment to the cause. I was going to interject with the woes of the woman beside me, and how his sign might benefit from some clarification of WHICH Kells he'd like the book returned to; but he was off collecting more signatures before I could say, "there are 4 of them I'll have you know!"
The highlight of my day was hearing Donal Ryan read from his two novels - 'The Spinning Heart' and 'The Thing About December'. He was very entertaining, very down to earth, and a little bit vulnerable; telling us about his nervousness when writing sex scenes. Writing them means he may one day have to read them. He went a little red as he told us that his late grandmother, he believes, can still hear every word he says.
In reading a section from 'The Thing About December' he said, "skip, skip, skip" as he omitted some obviously risqué details, with another slight flush in his cheeks. He later said of the novel that it is "an acknowledgement that I didn't do more to get in between the bullies and the bullied." There seemed to be genuine empathy in the room with him. How could you not be endeared by him and to him?
We ended the day with a trip to the Spire of Lloyd, an inland lighthouse beside a famine burial site. I had time and quiet to pause and ponder this small piece of Kells history, and wondered if maybe a bit of history is being made this weekend.
Who knows what's next for Kells... maybe a return of the famous book? If such an agreement is forged, we can only hope it's not sent to Kerry by mistake... yer man better hang on to those petition signatures just in case :)
July 3, 2014
The Hay Festival in Kells is off and running; already there are tweets and blogs posts zooming around about how great it has been so far. I’m really looking forward to speaking at the Emu Ink bookshop. But more of that in a bit…
From what I’ve heard, many local businesses have got into the spirit of the event with book-themed window displays. I’m fortunate to be benefiting from one of the number of local residents opening their doors to some of the many visitors to Kells; turning their homes into temporary B&Bs for the weekend.
This will be my first time to visit Kells; coming from Tallaght in South County Dublin, we travelled further south for holidays and rarely headed north/northwest of the Dublin City. So I’m on my virgin voyage to Kells tomorrow.
Being a plonker, I haven’t booked anything yet but I’m hoping I might get to hear Donal Ryan, sit in on Paula Leyden’s story telling workshop and/or hear ‘The Google Debate’. But either way I’m looking forward to the experience of being there and of course the chance to join with other Emu Ink authors to share about writing.
The Kells Book Shop will re open for the weekend under the banner of Emu Ink; a company based in Dublin but run by a native of Kells, Emer Cleary (nee Mulvaney). I self-published my first collection of short stories with Emu Ink last December and am delighted with the professional, friendly service, and the encouragement I’ve received. Emer and Brian go above and beyond to give self published authors like myself, every opportunity for success. And I’m delighted to be one of the speakers on their list of events at the Hay Festival Kells.
Tomorrow Friday 4th at 1pm, at the Kells Bookshop on Newmarket Street, I’ll be talking about the importance of social media presence and engagement for writers. I hope to encourage writers to have a more active online presence, without it taking up half of their week, or surrendering all of their privacy. Other Emu Ink authors will talk about different areas of writing, there'll be readings and a workshop for children. Click here for full details of the Emu Ink events; and click here for the full Hay Festival Kells programme.
If you're there make sure to come and say hello :)