Thursday, January 7, 2021

Happy New Year

 I thought about doing my usual literary highlights for the year last year, but felt a bit hesitant about it, having been such a weird and hard year for so many, it seems strange to celebrate it as a whole.  Having said that, I've a terrible memory, so for my own sake as much as anything, I have decided to continue the tradition, just with the more sedate title of Happy New Year.  And I do wish you a Happy New Year too, and hope all is ok in your world wherever you are.

So here they are:

10 - I landed a few nice publications last year - starting with online - in the Honest Ulsterman, Wilderness House Literary Review, Fresh Ink. So that was great and encouraging.  The last acceptance of last year was just published today on Coffin Bell - can be read here:  Cold Light – Coffin Bell

9 - Got a story made in to a podcast by the wonderful crew at the white rabbit drama group in the UK - a kids story, so it was lots of fun to listen to their interpretation of it.

https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-ah7zq-e1aa92

8 - First publication on paper in the USA (for some reason paper is more exciting!!) in Issue 5 of Orca Literary Journal, only got around to enjoying the issue in full over the Xmas, so that was great and got to appreciate I was in really good company there.

7 - First publication on paper (and indeed at all) in Australia - Melbourne University used a story of mine in their annual anthology - Antithesis.  I sadly missed the launch of the anthology due to miscalculating the time difference, but the thought of it alone was all very exciting. 

6 - Online course in Short Story Writing with Billy O'Callaghan - this was a joy to do during the first lockdown - it was a bit of light and joy and enthusiasm that really  helped keep me going with the writing, as when the old existential angst was high at the start of all this, I couldn't write at all, found it impossible, so this was a bit of a lifeline to keep my toe in the water.

5 - Fiction at the Friary and on Campus - https://anchor.fm/ucc this is a lovely podcast of readings and interviews by the amazing Danielle McLaughlin and Madeleine D'Arcy and features open mic readings (including one of mine) from their fab live monthly events (which are so badly missed with this whole pandemic thing)

4 - Saturday Stories - this is something my son has taken up - writing a story of a saturday morning, which he reads then for anyone who will stand still long enough - they are dependably funny, a great way to kick off each weekend.

3 -Reading - reading is always important to writing, and though I haven't done as much as I should have this year, I was grateful to get to read some great books, standing out was Doireann Ní Gríofa's "Ghost in the throat" - if you're an international reader - Hi Bug/ Titus/ Rachel - and haven't heard all the fuss, get it ordered, it's bloody beautiful

2 -100 rejections - this was the magic number Billy O'C gave that you have to aim for, I think I may have even got 101, but it's true for him and very motivating to realise that if you get your 100 rejections then you've done your job for the year.

1 - Writing Buddies - I missed my real life local writing group this year, but have found more groups online that have been just fantastic, some with old friends and some with new, (and my local group have even set themselves up now, so I've more groups than every to be going to) but all of them brilliant and all have kept me somewhat motivated and sane for the year that was in it. 

 

Anyway - here's hoping for a creative and beautiful year ahead for us all.

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 - the literary highlights

First of all apologies to anyone who clicked through to here thinking it would be a well informed analysis of the actual literary highlights of this year, instead you'll find this is all about ME, and what's been going on with me, writing wise this year, it's a way to keep myself honest maybe, and to track my progress perhaps.

So 2019, how did it go versus the previous year.

Well, in no particular order...

at Number 10. (and I'm not talking blond headed Prime Ministers)
a Workshop with Aifric McClinchy - my lovely writer's group in Midleton organise writing workshops from time to time, and this is the only one I managed to make this year. (they're open to the public for a ridiculously small fee by the way). Aifric's workshop was lovely and chilled out, and was great to meet some of the member's of Midleton's other writing group.  There are two groups in the town.

At 9.
Midleton writers launching our anthology "Midleton Miscellany", the book included artwork inspired by some of the writing, done by local secondary school students, as well as including some stories from Midleton Hospital residents and the resulting product was a beautiful book, launched in the distillery to much acclaim.

8.
I've continued attending Fiction at the Friary as religiously as Fambly life allows, and have loved it every time, but most especially getting to meet a hero of blogland in actual real life - the fabulous Niamh Boyce, she was exactly as nice and sound as I expected and really majorly inspiring.

7.
The writing. I've managed to somehow keep up the enthusiasm this year and have ground out 10 stories, more or less, I'm focussing on stories all the time and I think that focus is helping a lot when I've such limited time to spend at it.

6.
The rejections. Thanks to advice from the workshop that started me off last year, I've been cherishing my rejections and counting them to see how much more I've been sending out. I've gone up by a factor of ten this year. I'm a bit scattershot at times in my approach, so that might explain a lot of them, but it's something to celebrate.  I've also began trying to send out 2 for every rejection I get, as I've still got less than half of what was recommended previously - if I keep this level up I should have a lot more rejections to glory in next year.

5.
From the well. I got a story into Cork County Council's From the Well anthology this year, "Are Fish Ever Happy" Delighted with the kind mention of it in the introductions too.

4.
A reliable first reader, I have a very kind and widely read Aunty, who I have just begun to employ this year as my reliable first reader, she is astute, kind, and not unlike myself so I find her feedback often makes a lot of sense to me. I'm hoping she'll put up with me for another good while yet.

3.
Really nice PFOs from high places, great to get the encouragement that what I've been doing almost made the cut at times.

2.5
An amazing writing weekend away with old friends, a brilliant recharge and fun times. Much needed and hope to repeat it.

2.
The time I made the cut - with an appearance in Southword 37 of my story "Expecting Art" - was absolutely thrilled with this.

1.
Being invited to read at the Cork International Short Story Festival at the launch of Southword 37. Reading in a beautiful theatre, with said First Reader Aunt in the audience along with proud parents, and writers I really admire. Such a thrill to do and a real highlight too to attend the rest of the festival and listen to other great writers.

So overall a pretty good year, here's hoping 2020 is inspiring and productive to all my readers, (Hi Bug & Rachel!X)

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 - the literary highlights.

Well another year over.

I write a diary, which, much like this blog has been very neglected of late, like very very, like I didn't even write in it since 2016, I just discovered. I normally try to write on it towards the beginning of a new year, end of an old year. But that's just an aside.

And now, for the main event.  The literary highlights of 2018, for me.

1. I started back writing. I think I can officially say this, as I'm now confident that I'm back, since starting back around May of this year for reasons that will shortly become clear, and writing fairly regularly since. 

2. Reading poetry in a meadery, invited by the lovely Emerging writer, I had a lovely time reading in Kinsale Meadery with the poetry divas.  I brought the kids with me, and though they were very well behaved, I can tell you, 4 years and poetry readings are not actually the best of friends.

3. Mathew Geden's workshop - as part of Midleton writer's group I got to attend Mathew Geden's lovely encouraging poetry workshop, I'm not writing poetry at the moment, but many of the skills are transferable, and he was a great teacher.

4. Culture Night, Midleton.  The lovely thing about this evening in Wallis's pub in Midleton was the local history on show, also that my fab Aunty and Uncle from Barbados were there and I got to say a couple of poems in front of them, kinda nerve-wracking too for that.

5. Fiction at the Friary.  Finally got to this event for the first time this year having wished myself there over several year.  Was not disappointed.  I made 3 events.  Thomas Morris, which I blogged about, also Tania Farrelly and David Butler, who were absolutely fab and fascinating on a sweltering summer's day, and finally Kevin Power, who was hilarious and brilliant, and it was lovely to see him. These events are great too because of the free books you can win just by reading at their open mic.  I read twice. Two Books. Ching Ching.

6. A trigger.  Billy O'Callaghan's short story workshop. Another one with Midleton Writers, this happened in May. We spent a spell binding afternoon with Billy generously sharing his approach to, and love of story telling.  He reminded me of some of the things I love most about short story writing, and I started that very night applying his lessons.  I've written almost 6 stories since, a big increase on the previous 7 years of 0 finished stories.

7. Encouragement. One story from years ago I had given in to Billy as a pre-read. He gave everyone a page with feedback at the end. He said lovely things about my writing. Definitely a big part of what is keeping me going in the journey.

8. Some Successes. Sent said story to the Irish Times for New Irish Writing, and they wrote me a very kind decline where they said it was strongly considered.  I then took a prompt from Fiction at the Friary to write a story including the river Lee somehow.  This story was one of three they selected as winners of their competition.

9. Benefits. Two lovely things that came with the win was the chance to get some feedback from the writers who run Fiction at the Friary - Madeleine D'Arcy, and Danielle McLoughlin.  It was great getting direct feedback from such talented writers.  The second lovely thing was a very enlightening drama workshop on how to read your work with Corca Dorca Theatre Director, Pat Kiernon - this was a half day that got me thinking more about writing but also scared me a bit as it showed how well things can be read, and made me want to use it well.

10. Big Moment.  The big moment of the year was the culmination of the above where I got to read my winning story at the Cork International Short Story Festival. It was terrifying.  There was a lovely, very appreciative audience, and we got some great feedback, I was delighted to get to go first as well, so I could properly enjoy my fellow winners Olivia Fitzsimons and Deirdre Kingston doing their thing. One of the favourite hours of the year, definitely.

Anyway - grateful to be back "at it" and hoping it lasts.  Wishing you loads of creative success for the coming year.

x

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fiction at the Friary -

Went to see Thomas Morris at the Friary bar today, a very enjoyable occasion, the pub is quirky, cramped, intimate, the sound isn't great, but the people running the event are  more than sound enough to make up for it.

Thomas read 3 new pieces, having enjoyed his "we don't know what we're doing" collection of short stories colleciton, I was delighted to hear new work, and his diatribe on scarf wearing in response to Colum McCann's advice to writers was pretty hilarious.  He had a touching piece about a mother & son coming to terms with a transvestite dad, and an excerpt from his Encylopedia of fictional historic rats which I think my son would have enjoyed.  There followed a very interesting Q&A where Thomas gave some interesting insights into his work and the challenges of the writer with a big successful first collection.

So they gave out pictures of rats and places as a writing prompt - I got a white lab rat and the oval office, here's what I wrote

"I hear he keeps a trained rat on his head, trained by elite navy seals, rotated and rested on a regular basis.  There's a whole swarm of them, they're kept behind the curtains when they're off but when it's show time they leap on to the big patchy surface, in under the scruff, legs and arms fit into special grooves carved into the skull and they tell him what to say:
Rocket Man better watch out.
I'm a very humble genius.
Arm the teachers.
Some days the rats obviously get distracted, they don't quite behave and they forget to tell him anything.  So the first man falls silent.  His words accurately reflecting the quietness of his head, the money worshipping slump, the yucky fixation on self.
They are the days the media calls him presidential and the rats get scolded by whoever is pulling the strings.  The master of ceremonies, a mini maestro of the planet gets cranky if the puppet comes across as normal.
His job is pure entertainment after all, distraction and delusion.  Fail to grab the headlines and you give them space to think.  Ratings, it's all about the rat things, little arms pull the levers, tiny hands twitching at power, pink eyes delerious with rage."

There followed a delightful and brief enough open mic, the crowd tending to drift away as dinner time approached, topics varied from intrusive HR enquiries, failed alcoholic dragons, to ruined weddings, bitter vengeful crazies, and nude men in drumshambo.

A most interesting afternoon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Head clutter and the real world

So I'm kind of hooked on twitter recently.  Follow me, do!

I'm not going anywhere, but you can follow me all the same.

I'm following lots of people, which is confusing when they go different directions, (kind of like my toddler neice and nephew at a wedding one time when I was left minding them and they both went opposite ways and I was like the wizard of oz scarecrow all twisted out of shape trying to point myself the two ways at once)

worse though is the hyper imminence of news.

There's so much sad things happening, and meanie pantses and I feel so UUurhghghg - wishing I could do more to make things better overall. 

anyway - let me know if I can do anything for you, anything at all, using my new found sphere of influence in the bewildering sphere of twitlands perhaps, or even something more mundane, the only criterion being that it has to be positive, take less than 4 mins and approx 300 cals to accomplish, and it should be something I'll get amazing kudos for as well as the soft and fluffy glow of feeling better about the world....

I need to limit my time in twitland though, I really do.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Things to do on a quiet holiday

Buy a 750 piece jigsaw, and nearly break your back to get it done, rename it the 749 piece jigsaw, predictably enough, even though it was sellotaped closed - it was bought for 2 euro second hand.

Take the scooter and slip it through puddles when the road is dry to draw black lines that fade when  you go far.

Get a bouncy ball and make it bounce from the path onto the large rock, it should be possible, but it's not.

Take panorama pictures with people moving on purpose so they appear twice and sometimes with extra limbs.

Go on a hundred walks, long and short.  Mainly short.

Read all the books.

Drink all the wine.

Eat all the chocolate.

Visit the home of the Táin Bó Cúaine and marvel at Méabh and the amount of men she managed to marry, though only one of them has made it onto her wikipedia page.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On winning my first poetry comp - a night at Ó Bhéal

Long term readers of this blog will find it hard to believe that my brilliance in poeting has gone widely unprized - as in prize giving ceremony - as in recognition by winning of a prize... all these years.
But now, all that has changed.  Thanks to the lovely people at Ó Bhéal last night, the weekly poetry night that I have just made it to, after 6 years in Cork, and their fabby doo five word challenge.  Myself and Emerging Writer both had a go.

The words we were given were - Body, Ship, Planet, Palm, Avalanche -

and with only 15 minutes and the odd Sup of wine, I came back with this to scoop top honours and a free drink from the bar



The reader of palms was overly calm
as he sold me a planet of riches
he spoke of the lambs and how serious qualms
could be fed to a pallet of witches

So I stepped on the ship & intended to slip
to the east when the avalanche landed
But my body was tipped, on the side of my lip
& the feast was like nothing intended

like a terrible something was bended
& into the mist ever ended

the palm reader, I promptly unfriended



I was actually v honoured to win, and surprised to get it really, because some of the others were seriously good as well, and everyone seemed to know each other - so I thought naturally a long termer would get the honours, but a good punch line always produces a whoop or two, and the MC Ciarán is a good and fair adjudicator, at least according to me...

We then saw Linda Ibbotson & Sarah Byrne doing their thang.

It was super.  Linda is a visual artist also, and it shows in her work, bringing us to the Jardin du Luxembourg and back to Kinsale - she read beautifully.
Sarah, for me, was a revelation, she does something with criminals and victims of crime during the day, (almost like a superhero), then comes out and unassumingly slays audiences with gentle gin soaked hangover poems, as well as some darker ones, breaking up the lines with deft little additions

"I held the mouse's little brown body (I didn't really)"
or having said that Light & Fire are not the same thing, saying "I bet you're glad to have that clarification, it's good to get that one cleared up"

I've just joined her mailing list.  Anyway - great to know that Cork has a serious share of talented folk  around the place.

Friday, May 12, 2017

How is it not Friday yet, oh wait

So I was going to write a post yesterday about what a long week it has been, and how could it not be Friday yet - and how maybe it was friday somewhere else in the world but it really needed to be Friday here yesterday because I was, frankly, ex haus ted. 

So tired was I that I forgot to post the post about it, and now I'm too late, because it is Saturday.  No actually it's Friday.

I'm sorry, I'm a bit tired.

I was so tired on the train on Wednesday I wrote quite a garbled excel related email to a colleague that merited the following response which I really felt deserved wider reading

"Niamh,
 
I am sure that when you penned this email, it all made sense. However, in its transit via cyberspace it appears to have become, unfortunately, corrupt. I once tried to read Ulysses backwards. That was a similar experience."
 
I really wish he would start a blog.  The above mail had me in stitches.
 
Anyway enjoy the weekend all y'all

Monday, May 1, 2017

Here's the sun

Is it that time of year again? there were hailstones only last week, and ice on my car.  Now I feel like I could almost go out and buy an iced coffee, but not really.

The 3  year old's birthday party was  yesterday, only decided really what we were doing about it on Thursday night, being hopelessly disorganised... So texted around, invited people, most of my friends are pretty dignified people, so only committed to maybe making it - not sure, but they'd try, because they had possible other plans for the bank holiday weekend, which was totally understandable and fair enough, but it did leave me in a bit of a sticky position, half of the possible attendees were unconfirmed... anyway I won't bore you (too  late you say), happy ending, they almost all showed up, there was much merriment and screaming and running around, and very very few tears. The nearly 6 year old had bumped his head before the whole thing while playing "being invisible" which of course requires him to walk around with his eyes closed, so I was glad there was no further drama for the day really - that was plenty.

We spent much of today just getting over it all, lolling around the house and garden (not laughing out loud - at least not all the time, that'd be weird), it's annoyingly nice all day, so that any minute spent indoors is a minute of guilt, she says as the cartoons play in the background - yes I'm sick of bug hunting I'll admit it.

I do love the little one though, the threenager. (of course I love both of them, but since it's her big day I'm gushing a bit).  She is so stubborn. (I do not have a clue where that comes from).  She is fearless (ok so I stole that out of beauty and the beast, but she watched that, so she is pretty hard to rattle too),  She's always had a real ease in the world about her, as if she's a woodland creature from a disney film and everything is always just wonderful.  She is super kind to big bro - donating the caterpillar face off the cake to him yesterday so he'd be happy.  She's cool as a cucumber, she needs hugs less than I do, but when she does give one out it's amazing.

Anyway, gushing over, nothing to see here.  Smusheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Innit

Myself and Mr VC got to go to London for a couple of days last week, just for a break, it was, I can reveal exclusively here, the best trip to London had by any parents of two young monkey bootses so far this month, bar none.

Some random highlights included:

  • The amazing Foyles book shop
  • Finding Van Gogh's Sunflowers while looking for a coffee shop
  • Seeing Agatha's Mouse Trap in the Salubrious St Martin's Theatre
  • The Elgin Marbles that are not in fact marbles at all
  • The genuine friendliness of the Londoners.  I often go there for work, but rarely stop to talk to anyone (except the people in the big fun meetings I go to), so it was an eye opener how nice they all were, we didn't meet one unfriendly person, and even got a free plastic bag from a big supermarket who shall remain nameless.
  • Having a train all to ourselves because it wasn't really supposed to be going from that station but yerman said "Not officially - but hop on there anyway" and even the driver still talked to us as if he had a full train.

Other than that, the house is full of Chocolate here. Hope all y'all had a good Ishtar.