Monday, January 1, 2024

2023 The literary highlights

I don't have a full top ten list this year, so I'll just call them out, the literary highlights... as they occur to me.

I'm still writing. Most every day. First thing I do, the shed is still working for me. 

Having Covid this year - as per the last post had an unexpected silver lining of getting me into funny song writing... that and being at the Edinburgh festival which we sprung on the kids as a surprise... one of the most magical things of the year.

Got to Tyrone Guthrie in Monaghan again - so grateful to Mr Various Cushions for making that possible by holding down the fort at home to let me away. It is soul nourishment, and a pure joy to be there. 

Got to the Short Story Festival for a magical evening featuring Orlaith Foyle, Billy O'Callaghan and Alexander MacLeod.

Connecting with my many inspiring friends all year - Lubrication corner, Hurts like a pain writers, Swerve, Cork Writers, to name but a few - continues to enliven and enrich me.

There's no list of big awards or anything. I did finish writing the novel I'd been working on for the last few years and plotted and began its sequel. Began to send it out too, but only to far away places that I knew would be unlikely to answer. Tried it in the novel fair too, but no cigar there for me this time. So it might be getting close to the time where I'll have to actually approach people with it here. The fun thing is as book two gets fleshed out, I'm finding things I need to add to number one, little seeds that can go in there, to be allowed to grow up in number two. I have a vague idea of what three might be too, so there's little chance this project is gonna let me go for awhile, however like I said above - the funny song writing is giving me a chance to enjoy the lighter side of things and actually finish the odd thing. 

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Steve Goodie - "how 'bout Another (bunch of) DUMB SONG (s) from STEVE (Goodie) FOR NO REASON?" a review

I recently had some Covid, and during that useless time of foggy-brained lying around on the various couches and beds of my home, I steeped myself in the back catalogue of Steve Goodie, whose show(s) we saw in Edinburgh earlier this year. He had kindly gifted us a cd on our way out the door, which the kids have since memorised (including audience noises) so he was already a bit of an obsession in our house. In my fevered listening, I became even more influenced, and have even begun writing my own silly songs, an affliction I now count as an unusual side effect of long covid - so now I'm even more appreciative of the talent that goes into such things. They are hard to get right.

Anyway to my great excitement he recently released a new album - which I have enjoyed greatly and review below for your insight and enjoyment, go get it on bandcamp, thank me later.

The 177th Album, made in SG’s 130th year is an instantly heart-wrenching, gut-healing classic. McDonald’s is mentioned three times, an admission perhaps that he is, in fact, their long-rumoured secret artist in residence.
Many animals are hurt in the making of this album; sheep, cats, reindeer and gerbils, but the human animal is worst hit. In the searingly honest sleep disorder song, we learn of the nightly torment of the artist. It is hardly surprising then to find him lashing out at colleagues during Allegedly Funny Songwriter – really a cry for help, a way to get his email address out to anyone that might engage. He also takes aim at his own audience in Go F yourself – (a song with the clearest pronunciation of the word “Fries” ever heard in modern music), having used one of them mercilessly in Mic Stand a few songs earlier.
Two song titles feature the colour orange, one for the traditional swipe at his anti-muse, the man he writes most, and the other for a frivolous look at what’s important in life, featuring cats again – the artist’s true views on cats are left unresolved, an ongoing mystery. A ray of hope forms at the end with a nostalgic trip back in time to celebrate getting even with people who can’t cope with excellent shirts. A joyous finish for a rollicking good listen.
This album is so hot the cover should really say “Keep Frozen”, but otherwise no notes. A triumph.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 The Literary Highlights



I can’t remember whether I usually go ten down to one or one to ten on these lists and I refuse to peek at the last post, so here goes.


10. Early in the year I entered the New York Midnight Short Story challenge. It’s expensive to enter, but the money goes partly to charity and you get feedback on your entries, so you at least get something in return. It’s the only competition I entered in the year. It is great fun – the prompts force you to try new things and the deadline makes you complete it. I highly recommend it. This year I got to round two with my comedy caper that had to include divorce and a perfectionist yielding a wonky divorce themed festival that was a front for a criminal couple. I still think the idea might be a runner – MCD – get on to me and I’ll tell you more.

9. I went to Tyrone Guthrie Centre in the Summer, thanks to my agility award from the Arts council, for the heatwave. It was the most delicious experience. The place is stunning and the environment created, the camaraderie with other artists made me more determined than ever to cling on to this part of myself. I felt like a big pretender at first and was only a month into a new job that I was totally absorbed in at the time, so it took a day or two to adjust to it, and realise that I am actually as much an artist as anyone. It was a productive and motivating time.

8. Visitors came while I was away. I was sorry not to get to see them, they are the most lovely people in the world, but it was nice timing as the family were well distracted with them and there was a happy co-incidence surrounding their visit. It necessitated the moving in of a bed into our home office, which meant the eviction of a desk out to the shed. The desk in the shed is now a key attribute in my fight to stay writing.

7. I’m making the shed writing ritual into another highlight. I go there first thing every single day, and guess what, the desk is always there, never piled with laundry or with things missing like used to happen when I used the office. It’s free from distraction, the kids don’t find me there as often, and it was been nothing short of crucial to keeping me in the game rather than letting me get sucked entirely into the new job.

6. I read at Munster Literature Centre’s Cork International Short Story Festival in October. It was my third time getting the opportunity to read at it, and the kids were very impressed to see my photo in the brochure. It’s a great festival with brilliant events throughout. That same day I heard a feast of flash fiction, which is really such a different discipline, but so yummy. Also saw the wonderful Wendy Erskine and Alan McMonagle whose book “Psychotic Episodes” I’m really enjoying right now. So grateful to Patrick Cotter for the invite again.

5. Have kept in touch albeit a little sporadically thanks to GAA, with my lovely writing friends in Cork, who I met through the fantastic fiction at the friary (which I hope against hope will be back in some form… say it ain’t so!). They have done fantastic things this year in writing, amazing illustrated poetry, organising incredible literary events up the country, and going back to full time education too. They are an inspiration and their writing is fantastic, so I look forward to hopefully seeing a bit more of them next year.

4. The kids had a lot of activities for the year – sort of because we’re playing catch up on covid, getting them out while we can. This is giving me lots of time sitting waiting for them in cars, which is productive writing time, so I’m excited about that.

3. I’m also still in touch with the wonderful Dublin writers who I love and who are dear friends. One of them has begun work on a fascinating novel that I’m waiting on with bated breath. Another won the prestigious highly commended prize at the Johnathon Swift competition – always a precursor of great things. Another has her debut novel coming out next year on the exact anniversary 101 years to the day of Ullysses. Triona Walsh’s Snowstorm, you heard it here first (unless you’ve already heard the buzz building). It’s gonna be huge.

2. I’ve learned first aid. It’s not exactly a writing highlight, but is a life skill, and while I hope I never have to use it, it’s something for the cv, so I’m throwing it in here. I know it’s tenuous but the list is pretty pathetic/ thin these days – the new job has been almost all consuming, so I’m constantly trying to balance life and it, and this is an example of something it has given back for all that balancing. It has been a challenging year from that point of view and I feel the one ahead will be tough too.

2.5 Twitter getting really bad can only be a good thing. Just need someone to buy insta and make that rubbish as well, so that I spend less time online.

1. I’m still writing. Plugging away. Got a first draft completed of the novel, have gone through it once, now going through again by character/ changing tenses/ highlighting dialogue, a lot of busy work while the big issues in it simmer in the subconscious and hopefully emerge solved shortly so I can fix it into something that might be readable (this usually takes 8 drafts in a short story – so we could be here a while). The process is enjoyable though, sometimes lifesaving, it’s an escape and a therapy. A secret delight I can dive into – one thing that’s all mine and really helps keep me sane. So I’ll keep going at that, so I will, and you cannot stop me, don’t even try….


Hope wherever you are/ whenever you read this, you have something with equal meaning and truth in your life, that feeds your soul and makes you know it’s all worthwhile.


Happy new year to you wherever you might be.



Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 The literary Highlights

 Hard to believe another year is almost done. Hope everyone has had as good a festive season as possible so far (It's not over yet!!!) 

As is my tradition, hereby find my 2021 highlights in terms of writing life. 

1. Entering the NYC Midnight Short Story competition - they give you a character, a genre, a subject - and a deadline to get your story done by - the deadlines get shorter with each round. It's hefty enough cost wise to get in, but I found it so much fun and inspiring, that I'm doing it again this year.  They give feedback within each round too which is fun.

2 Getting accepted to go to Annaghmackerig - I have heard magical things about this place, so will be super excited to go there to write - sometime Summer 22.

3 Winning a mentorship from Munster Literature Centre with Billy O'Callaghan. A workshop with Billy got me back to writing a few years ago, so it was super special to win this and get to pick his brains in a one to one setting. He was really so great, totally inspiring, encouraging and really thought provoking. Such an honour.

4 Great to get to a physical launch this year and see people in person, it was to see the launch of Madeleine D'Arcy Lane's "Liberty Terrace" collection which is a super warm book about Cork lives. It was amazing to meet Madeleine and other Fiction at the Friary friends at the event. A very special evening.

5 Physically meeting some Zoom writers. I had joined an online group in which I only knew one member up to last year, and got to enjoy lots of great writing by them via the internet, so it was a lovely writing highlight to meet them in person this year.

6 A friend convinced me to apply for an Agility Award from the Arts Council and an award was granted to me, to do some writing. I'm still a bit shocked, but delighted about it.

7 I moved jobs this year. Not exactly a writing thing, but after 10 years in one company (almost two of those within my own house), branching out into a new industry and getting to go out to work every day again has felt like a shot in the arm inspiration wise. Meeting grown ups, seeing a bit of drama, getting to chat, it's all so much better than sitting at home with a mountain of boxes clogging up the writing room.

8 Got accepted to an online workshop given by Caoillinn Hughes, which was pretty magical. She's very interesting and had lots of thought provoking things to think about. It felt like she delivered a 3 week course in a morning, so it was pretty full on, but brilliant.

9 The reclamation of the office has allowed for set up of a Reading Nook - ie two bean bags and a stack of books, that has been a lovely place to pass a bit of time reading - instagram records the high points of this.

10  Keeping going - I've been encouraged by the successes of the year, and have been devoting a lot of energy lately to one big project, which is hard enough to keep at, if you've ever taken on big projects you probably get me. It's been up and down, but I'm still showing up for it most days, and intend to keep at it too. So that's a win too.

Wishing you an inspiring and amazing 2022, if there's anything you are doing daily for the first 100 days to make your life better, do let me know, am looking for ideas...  

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.

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 - 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.


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.