Vienna Short Story Conference

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I attended the 13th International Short Story Conference at the University of Vienna last week and was thrilled to hear that a story I entered into the conference short story competition received honourable mention along with Adnan Mahmutovic, Bosnian-Swedish writer; winner Lisa Smithies. I enjoyed Lisa’s talk on closure in the short story. The judges were: Bharati Mukherjee and Clark Blaise. Bharati Mukherjee gave an impressive reading at the Literaturhaus event.

The prize money will be a welcome injection of funds into my bank account after an expensive week…

Vienna was stunning, exciting and exhausting (due to being glutened on the first night!). I wouldn’t have missed it for anything and the conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow writers from Ireland and all over the world. I read my work, introduced others, heard some stimulating readings and learned from the panel discussions on myriad aspects of the short story form.

 

Vienna Irish Embassy reading

Vienna Irish Embassy reading, taken by Ron Davis

 

Vienna Irish Embassy audience

Above, my reading at the Irish embassy in Vienna, along with Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Alan McMonagle, Billy O’Callaghan, Evelyn Conlon and Madeleine D’Arcy. Thanks to Ann Luttrell, Maurice A. Lee and Ambassador James Brennan.

I was heartened by Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer prize winner who praised my story after I read at the embassy, saying it was ‘full of yearning’. (Interestingly Adnan Mahmutovic’s work is described as ‘stories about longing and survival’). Further encouragement came from fellow Irish participants Billy O’Callaghan and Alan McMonagle sitting on either side of me after I read, from other established writers in attendance, from non-writers too, and I am grateful for their generosity. As most writers know, positive feedback from readers and listeners is invaluable.

 

Vienna after reading w M Mirolla

Above, chatting with Michael Mirolla with whom I shared a reading and Q&A. The generous and diligent Sandra Jensen was our introducer and did a fine job, researching our work and taking time to read a story of mine beforehand.

Here’s some pics of the city itself:

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The Giant Ferris Wheel…tracing the steps of Harry Lime in the flim, The Third Man

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Rathaus building at the end of my street

 

Vienna, Parliament (2)

Vienna parliament building

 

Vienna, Mozart

Couldn’t have a Vienna post without Mozart…

 

Vienna, Tram, Superman

Superman ‘begging’ on a U Bahn

 

Vienna, old trams

Loved these old trams which ran like clockwork as did the U Bahn underground system. Got pretty hot down there – 35 degrees one day.

 

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Vienna Schloss Gardens

Doing the tourist bit at Schloss Schonbrunn, the opulent residential palace and gardens

I feel very lucky to have been invited to attend and again big thanks to Maurice A. Lee conference director, Sylvia Petter writer and co-director, and Ann Luttrell organiser of the Irish contingent.

 

 

The Goodness of Men

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Hellkite Cover I’ve admired Geraldine Mill’s work for a long time now. I first came across her writing when her story ‘Lick of the Lizard’ won the millennium Hennessy New Irish writer award. Her winning story became the title story for her debut collection of short fiction published by Arlen House in 2005. I reviewed that collection here.

Hellkite, Geraldine’s third short fiction collection published recently by Arlen House, is a powerful and original work that explores the goodness of men, and the cruelty, sometimes indifferent, sometimes hellish, of women to men. There’s a lively, imaginative playfulness in these stories and the abandoning wife in the opening story is further developed in the final story, which allows an exploration of the humanity of the hellkite and frames the collection beautifully. Below, in this review/interview, we explore the many strengths of Geraldine’s collection. 

Valerie Sirr: The idea of a collection of hellkites for a book of short fiction is wonderfully inventive. How did the idea come to you? Did you come across the word somewhere, an image? Was it an emerging theme in your work?

Geraldine Mills: The collection didn’t start out like that at all. There was never a moment when I said I was going to write a book about cruel people or about men who have been cruelly treated by women. Like most writers, it is not the way I work. I go with the gut instinct of what is chipping away at my imagination; what will not give me peace until I start to give it some attention; until the image begins to hold.

So, for me, yes, it is the image, a picture that lodges in my subconscious and grows there until it demands to be fleshed out. The starting point of the collection was ‘The Centre of a Small Hell’ which was broadcast on RTÉ when it was shortlisted for the Francis MacManus competition. The idea for that story came after a friend of mine showed me a hunting table belonging to her father who had just died. That piece of furniture immediately grabbed my attention and as with the most rewarding parts of writing, the characters Bernard and his wife Margaret became flesh. It was then up to me to search out the words that might adequately paint their lives on the page.  Deciding to bookend the collection with Margaret’s death scene came about much later in the process.

I find with each collection that I am writing blindly, not seeing much before me. I am well into it before I see a pattern emerging and it was the same case with this one.  After I finished ‘Frost Heave’ and ‘Every Piece of Ivory a Dead Elephant’ I found that I was telling the stories very much from the man’s point of view, not knowing why that was. Only as the collection got more depth was I able to see a pattern emerging which was ‘the goodness of men.’

As I looked for more stories I was able to see that this theme resonated even in the very short story ‘The Devil’s Dye’. In this piece of flash fiction, Eliza’s father is the one who gives her the courage to go on despite the hardship of her young life. The final story ‘Feeding the Wolf of Lies’ was also an important one to include in it as there is an attempt at seeking atonement which comes too late. I was able to salvage the title Hellkite from an unsuccessful poem I had written a few years earlier. It is what we writers do, salvage, steal, unearth.

VS: There is a wide range of styles in the collection from classical realism in some instances to the comical surrealism of Fionn MacCumhaill appearing in a Dublin supermarket (‘Drinking his Strength Back’) and the Angel Gabriel turning up on the moonlit trampoline of an Irish garden (‘The Best Man for the Job’) to the darker Kafkaesque absurdity of a hopeless man’s metamorphosis into a pig (‘Foraging’). Even your traditional stories often read like tales, for example ‘Centre of a Small Hell’ – like an old Irish tale, ‘This Street with Looking-Glass Eyes’ with its echoes of Hansel and Gretel, ‘The Call’, with that vivid swan imagery, ‘Once Bitten’ – an unnamed man hovers between past and present love. Have you ever made a conscious decision to move away from social realism?

GM: Never. I go where all writers go; I sniff out the story and like a blood hound follow it until I can root it out of its covert. I am certainly attracted to the surreal and the power of story. I also believe it is important to write what gives me the greatest fun and contains the greatest primordial energy. Maybe it says something about my need for new things, not to stay in the one spot too long or I will atrophy.

Every story a writer starts is like starting from the beginning again so I am always working in the dark; I never know what I am doing until it is almost done. I don’t set out with a plan. After getting the image, I run with it until it takes on its own life.  There may be a battle, there will be a battle until the story comes or it doesn’t. The easiest ones are the ones where I hear the voice of my character in my head and they carry the story for me, such as ‘The Best man for the Job’. With this Angel Gabriel story, I was lying awake late one night in Cape Cod suffering from jet lag and I saw the image of the archangel swinging back and forth in the darkness. I transferred him to the trampoline at a later date so Jimmy could join him on it.

The Hansel and Gretel story was written one blistering afternoon in Cordoba when it was too hot for me to go sightseeing. My husband was going to visit a castle and I asked him to bring me back great stories. My own request had given me a new starting point, a first line. I immediately grabbed it and went through the revolving door of the hotel to its coolness and started writing. I had the first draft written by the time he came back. A wonderful exhibition I had seen by the photographer, Helen Levitt, in Madrid the week before was still there in the back of my head and that informed the looking glass scene at the end. Mad or what!

VS: Whether your stories are social realism with contemporary references to austerity measures and redundant men, or experimental stories like those already mentioned, they seem to me to be deeply felt. Is ‘truth’ in fiction something that matters to you?

GM:  In the preface to Creatures of the Earth, John McGahern wrote: Among its many obligations, fiction always has to be believable. Life does not suffer such constraint and much of what takes place is believable only because it happens. The god of life is accident. Fiction has to be true to a central idea or vision of life.

For me the story has to feel true; it has to have authenticity. Even though nearly all my fiction has little or no personal truth in it, when I write I subvert most details to satisfy the narrative I am writing. I have to believe it. I have to see it all happening as if I have lived it. I have to see Bernard taking the sledgehammer to the hunting table, I have to see the archangel swinging his legs on the trampoline, or Fionn MacCumhaill eating spag bol.

Hemingway also had something to say about it: Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as if it would truly be.

It has to ring true for me so the reader will be carried on that truth.  Otherwise it doesn’t see the light of day. The stories that I discard don’t have that ring of authenticity.

VS: Your poet is very much in evidence from your unusual word choices – ‘haem’, ‘grallocked’, ‘pangolin’, ‘latchico’ (which I haven’t heard in years), ‘gilly’, ‘grackled'; your striking symbolism, imagery, pathetic fallacy; your ear for language rhythms. The opening to ‘Drinking His Strength Back’ reminds me of Ginsberg’s ‘A Supermarket in California’. Do you ever use a story image as an inspiration for a poem or vice versa?

GM: As you know, the only tools a writer has are the words and they have to be the right ones. The short story is as tight as poetry and for me the joy is in getting the right word, getting the lines to flow with the rhythm of a poem; to make it the very best it can be. I have certainly started off something as a poem that ended up as a short story and vice versa. ‘Thwarting Zeus’ in my last short story collection was a poem in my very first collection ( Unearthing your Own, Bradshaw Books, 2001) which was inspired by my friend and fellow writer Eileen Casey’s daughter sitting beside me when she was barely able to talk, looking up at me with her beautiful eyes and telling me that I smelled of swans. Out of the mouths of babes! Such an imaginative line had to be given as much space as possible and warranted both poem and story as I wanted to explore it to its limit.

I have always loved the short story genre and never planned to be a poet but when my children were very young often the only way I could get down an idea was to distil it into a poem. I was fortunate enough to get the attention of Bradshaw Books after winning their poetry competition and they went on to publish my first two collections. After that Arlen House approached me and invited me to submit my short fiction. Arlen House has published my last five collections so I have been extremely lucky in the dedication of these two independent publishers.

Writing poetry makes you a stickler for ensuring that you chose the right word and that you don’t waffle. That the image is strong enough to carry the narrative; that you are giving it all the attention it needs.

VS: There is a primal earthiness in your writing. Nature, animals and the animal in human nature permeate this collection (‘Centre of a Small Hell’, ‘Frost Heave’, ‘The Devil’s Dye’, ‘Apidea’ and your final story, ‘Feeding the Wolf of Lies’ – the poignant bird imagery and the gecko that briefly echoes the lizard from your first book). In ‘Every Piece of Ivory a Dead Elephant’, once again the absence of animal connection breaks a marriage. What writers or poets might have inspired you in this regard? Do you live close to nature, or did you as a child?

GM: There is something very heartening about a reader getting it; discovering all the nuances and the symbols hidden within the text. You have certainly given the collection a very close reading and you have picked up on all the little symbols that are there. Yes, I grew up in the country in county Galway in what was the country then. Behind our house was a small hazel wood. When I think back to that time, I realise that those woods reared us. We were not so much feral as hunter-gathers that scavenged briars and branches throughout the growing season. We were out in them at all times, our mother only calling us in when it was time for bed. In fact in the summer we  didn’t even go in for meals but stood at the edge of the wood and shouted into her to bring us out a piece of bread which she dutifully did. We lit fires in the woods, roasted gooseberries on them, cracked nuts with stones, bruised our mouths with blackberry juice.

We were allowed to run wild, to live in moss and ferns. Just to smell moss now brings me back to that time of wildness. I spent a lot of time playing with snails, we made them race across the front step, climbed into walls and across the tops of gates. It was what we knew best and I felt totally at home among the trees and the birds. Moving to Dublin in the 1970s was great for 20 years but the lack of space and trees had me crossing the Shannon in 1992 where I lived in a mobile home every summer without electricity or running water until we finally built our own house and I moved back permanently in 1995. Here the scent of moss is never very far away. So, yes it’s a big part of me.

Writers who inspire me are another day’s work. I suppose everything we read informs us in one way or another in what way we want to write or not, as the case may be. I keep going back to Eduardo Galleano’s The Book of Embraces given to me by friend and short story writer, Alan McMonagle. It’s a book that blends poetry and parable, history and autobiography. I particularly like the surreal drawings attached to the text. I could write stories on those alone.

VS: I know you’re interested in art from your previous cover choices and you have an intriguing painting ‘Death in Florence’ by Pauline Bewick on your cover. You couldn’t have found a more apt image for your book. I love the ‘Alma Fetish’ story behind Bewick’s inspiration for the painting. Could you tell us a bit about it and how you came upon it?

GM: I was thrilled to be able to use the painting by such an esteemed artist. As you say it really sums up the collection. Arlen House is known for the beautiful books it publishes especially Bewick: The Seven Ages and Kelly Reads Bewick. They are collectors’ items at this stage and I am a fortunate to have copies of them. With Hellkite I was very clear that it had to be a very strong marriage between the text and the image. In choosing a new cover, I seek out new art work; go to exhibitions to see if I can find an appropriate image. It was the same with this one and when I went through Bewick’s art and discovered Death of Florence I knew it was the one. Nothing else came close to it in terms of how it captured the essence of the stories and what I wanted to portray.  It was much later that I saw it was part of the opera inspired by her work and the life of Alma Mahler.

VS: Hanif Kureishi recently commented in a Guardian article that most of his graduate students did not know how to tell a story. No matter what style of story I’ve read in Hellkite, there is always the sense of being in the hands of a writer who has a keen awareness of the power of a well constructed narrative. There is great dramatic tension in your disturbing title story, among others. Some of your stories, though they are mostly modern rural Irish voices, have speech idioms and phrases ‘as Gaeilge’ and local lore that remind me of the traditional seanchaí passion for the art of storytelling. For any writing students who might read this interview, what would your advice be about storytelling, or how important is it to you?

GM: I have a card on my computer desk which asks me three questions when I sit down to write a story. What story do I want to tell? Who do I want to tell it? How do I want to tell it? That’s what it comes down to. If I can get these elements working together then I feel I am onto something. I keep going back to those questions if I find myself in a quandary. The story telling is a major part of the process. I want to tell it to someone and tell it so that he/she can see it happening before his or her eyes. That is why it has to work on every level. It doesn’t have to be a big story. In fact, the genre is built on a something small that brings about an awareness of change in the character and the reader. The story has to hook me in order for it to be continued on in the imagination of the reader. It’s not enough to have a good story if the writing doesn’t stand up and equally no good if you have well constructed sentences and no plot. The alchemy is in the melding of the two. Everything has to click into place –  character, point of view, conflict, ending – like the tumblers on a vault door for the door to open. ‘What if’  is the carrot or stick that keeps me  moving the story forward.

VS: Your short story collections and poetry have been taught at the University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University. You teach in NUI Galway. Do you find that mentoring inspires you to write, or do you put your own work on hold. while teaching?

GM: There is a balancing act to be achieved when you write and teach. It can be very time-consuming working with other people’s short stories but very rewarding when you see where the story needs salvaging and you can bring the story to another level.  Most of what I have learned about writing is by the hard graft of getting it wrong myself, understanding where it has gone wrong and learning how to put it right. Reading the masters in the genre is another way to see how it is done, but you really only learn by doing.

The advantage of mentoring is that you become sharper at editing because you are watching all the time for dud notes, for punctuation that affects the rhythm, a dubious point of view, a story that starts on page two. It sharpens my own writing and I see it as a plus both in terms of  what it brings to my writing and being able to earn money doing something I love. It also makes me write. How can I, in all reality, be critiquing someone’s work if I am not writing myself? I have to be up-to-date with new styles and not be a Luddite, stuck in the past. It also makes me much more disciplined. I will often do my own work first, knowing that the teaching will have to get done at a later stage. If I do it the other way around my own writing will be side-tracked into some other chore.

VS: You’ll be reading at the next Cúirt Festival in Galway (Cúirt Literary Brunch). Your Hellkite stories have appeared in the prestigious Willesden Herald New Short Stories 6 among other places and have been broadcast on RTE. Do you enjoy the promotion, performing side of writing?

GM: For me the writing is the driving force. Recently, I came across a quote from the songwriter David Crosby where he was talking about song-writing. He said ‘If you don’t have a song, all the production in the world is just polishing a turd.’ I am inclined to agree with him. The work has to stand up to scrutiny, to endure. The greatest fulfilment for me is the finishing of a story to the best of my ability. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than someone coming up to me after a reading and telling me that they like my work. To touch even one person with what you have written is a great achievement I believe.

I am delighted to be reading at Cúirt with Geraldine Mitchell and Edward O’ Dwyer.  The promotion side of things is not my strong point but I am always happy to accept an invitation such as this and to be reading in my own home town. American audiences have been hugely responsive to my work so it is always a great boost to read in Connecticut or Seattle. I also love to read at smaller festivals around the country because that is where you can pick out the pulse of people’s interest in literature.

A short story reading is a bit more difficult than a poetry reading. If you choose to read the wrong short story you could lose your listener soon after the first line. With poetry you can better gauge your audience and change tack if the first few poems don’t keep their attention. A short story doesn’t have that same opportunity and you make sure you chose a story better suited to the ear than the page so that listeners can see the story unfolding before their eyes.

I still believe that the work should be the yard stick but it is a different world now and it is important that in this social-media age to let the world out there know of new work and promote it at every opportunity. So Valerie, I appreciate very much you taking the time to structure these very interesting questions. I really enjoyed answering them and thank you for posting them on your blog.

VS: Thank you too, Geraldine, and congrats on another impressive collection of work. Best of luck and Beir bua!

 

Geraldine Mills VS Blog

Geraldine Mills

 Geraldine Mills Biographical Note:

Geraldine Mills is a poet and short fiction writer. She has had two collections of poetry published by Bradshaw Books, Unearthing your Own (2001) and Toil the Dark Harvest (2004)

Arlen House has published her short story collections Lick of the Lizard (2005) and The Weight of Feathers (2007) for which she was awarded an Arts Council Bursary.   She is a recipient of a Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship for her third poetry collection An Urgency of Stars published by Arlen House in 2010.

She has won numerous awards for her fiction, including the OKI Award, the Moore Medallion and the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition.  She has been a finalist in the William Trevor Short Story Competition and has been shortlisted six times for the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition. She was the Millennium winner of the Hennessy/Tribune Emerging Fiction Award and the overall winner of the New Irish Writer Award for her story ‘Lick of the Lizard’.

In 2011 she toured the United States where she launched a poetry collaboration with New England poet, Lisa C. Taylor, titled ‘The Other Side of Longing (Arlen House 2011) and presented the prestigious Gerson Reading at the University of Connecticut. Her short story collections have been taught at the University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University.

She is a mentor with NUI Galway and is an online tutor in the short story with Creative Writing Ink. Her recently launched Hellkite (Arlen House) is available at Kennys Bookshop, Galway.   Geraldine’s website

Creative Writing Classes Start Next Week

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Valerie with students

Valerie with students

My creative writing night classes start again next Wednesday, January 22, at People’s College, Parnell Square, at 6.15pm. Course description here. Gallery of rogues from a previous year pictured above!

Contact details for People’s College: 31, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Tel: 8735879, email: info@peoplescollege.ie

I’m also giving a creative writing class at Crumlin College of Further Education beginning Monday, January 27th for ten weeks. Registration takes place on the night, rather than online, and a few people are already signed up by phone or by dropping in to the college. If you’re a beginner or if you’ve already done some writing, you’re welcome to come along. Class begins at 6.45pm and ends at 8.15pm.

Contact details for Crumlin College: Crumlin College, Crumlin Road, Dublin 12  Tel: 01 454 0662

I look forward to seeing some new faces as well the familiar ones. Some of my students’ successes can be found here. Hover on ‘mentoring’ tab for references etc. Several students have won City Of Dublin VEC Creative Writing Awards, run annually for CDVEC colleges across Dublin. And students from both Crumlin College and People’s College have gone on to win prestigious writing awards outside of the colleges. Some have set up blogs you might like to follow:

http://susancondon.wordpress.com/

http://doreenduffy.blogspot.ie/

http://trishnugentwriter.wordpress.com/

http://janeymackenstreet.wordpress.com/

New poem in The Poetry Bus

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PB5

PB5

The Poetry Bus Magazine is going from strength to strength thanks to the dedication of its editors Peadar and Collette O’Donoghue who have once again produced a wonderful issue (PB5) packed with new work from established and emerging poets and artists – there’s some stunning art work in this issue. And it comes with a CD of readings from selected contributors along with a track from Roger Gregg’s Serpent In The Bee-Loud Glade.

The journal is beautifully produced on high quality paper and the quality of the work is impressive too. I’m proud to have one of my first poems published here along with so many talented poets. Names familiar to me include Niamh BoyceMelissa Diem, Alan McMonagle, John Saunders, Oran Ryan, Stephanie Conn, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Kate Dempsey, Ann Fallon, Liz Gallagher, Afric McGlinchey, Michael J Whelan, Karl Parkinson, Micheal Gallagher, Knute Skinner, Liz Quirke, Richard W. Halperin, Noel King, Brian Kirk, John MacKenna, Alan Jude Moore, William Wall.

Check out the brand new site of The Poetry Bus who are now publishing grimoires (a ‘grimoire’ is a book of magic) of poetry, art work and photography. The first grimoire published by the The Poetry Bus is Fiona Bolger‘s, The Geometry of Love between the Elements and is another example of high production values and quality content.

Fiona Bolger's Grimoire

Fiona’s book is available here and from The Winding Stair Bookshop in Dublin. You’ll find Peadar O’Donoghue‘s collection of poetry Jewel (published by Salmon Poetry) there too as well as PB5.

Get your ticket on the bus by submitting for the next issue!

New story in Wales Arts Review

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Cover Image

My story ‘Pete’ is included this special issue of Wales Arts Review celebrating the short story. Thanks to John Lavin, editor, for inviting me to contribute a story along with a piece on a recent favourite of mine by Czech writer Ivan Klima.

There are interviews here with Rachel Trezise and Will Self.

Read fiction from Shena MackayKaty Darby, Nigel Jarrett, Chrissie GittinsGary Raymond, John Lavin and Nuala Ní Chonchúir. 

In Favourite Short Stories authors Patricia DunckerMatthew FrancisAlison Moore,Stevie DaviesNuala Ní ChonchúirNigel Jarrett, Kate North, Tyler KeevilJim MorphyJimena Gibert and Chris Cornwell all talk about a work of short fiction that means something to them. Senior Editor, Gary Raymond, reflects upon Saul Bellow’s ‘The Bellarosa Connection’Adam Somerset discusses Somerset Maugham’s unduly neglected, ‘The Alien Corn’, and Georgia Carys Williams writes about the influence of Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper. Elsewhere, acclaimed novelist and short story writer Cynan Jones contemplates his on-off love affair with the short story and takes a look at a selection of his favourite pieces. And in recognition of this week’s announcement that William Trevor has been awarded The Charleston Trust/ University of Chichester inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in Short Story Writing, John Lavin contributes this issue’s long form essay, an in depth look at what is perhaps the essential Trevor story: ‘The Ballroom of Romance.’

Dylan Moore, looks at Bernardo ‘Atxaga’s prize-winning, genre-defying ‘short story collection’ Obabakoak.’ In ‘New Short Story Collections’, acclaimed novelist and short story writer Jon Gower looks at the new books fromMary-Ann Constantine, Adam Marek, Eduardo Halfon and Hassan Blasim. Carl Griffin’s examines the connections between poetry and short fiction, in Stephen Dobyns: Finding the Short Story in the Poetry of a Novelist and Richard Gwyn’s dreamlike, short-story-like prose poem ‘The Days.’

Lots of great reading for any short story aficionados out there!

Sign Up For Creative Writing Classes

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My creative writing night classes start again soon:

I’m facilitating a creative writing workshop at People’s College, Parnell Square, starting on Wednesday October 9th at 6.15pm. Course description here. Gallery of rogues from a previous year pictured above!

Contact details for People’s College: 31, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Tel: 8735879, email: info@peoplescollege.ie

I’m also giving a creative writing class at Crumlin College of Further Education beginning Monday, September 30th for ten weeks. Registration takes place on the night, rather than online, and a few people are already signed up by phone or by dropping in to the college. If you’re a beginner or if you’ve already done some writing, you’re welcome to come along. Class begins at 6.45pm and ends at 8.15pm.

Contact details for Crumlin College: Crumlin College, Crumlin Road, Dublin 12  Tel: 01 454 0662

I look forward to seeing some new faces as well the familiar ones. Some of my students’ successes can be found here. Just hover on ‘mentoring’ tab. Several students have won City Of Dublin VEC Creative Writing Awards, run annually for CDVEC colleges across Dublin. And students from both Crumlin College and People’s College have gone on to win prestigious writing awards outside of the colleges. Some have set up blogs you might like to follow:

http://susancondon.wordpress.com/

http://doreenduffy.blogspot.ie/

http://trishnugentwriter.wordpress.com/

http://janeymackenstreet.wordpress.com/

Interview with author Louise Phillips

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The Dolls House 3005The Dolls House (watch the trailer) is the brand new crime novel from Louise Phillips. Today’s stop on Louise’s blog tour tells you all about the new book and includes some great tips for aspiring crime writers. 

Valerie Sirr: How does a crime writer go about getting an introduction to the Irish Police Force for help with research as you have done?

Louise Phillips: The simple answer is to ASK. I got a lot of my initial information from a crime writing workshop I attended a couple of years ago. I asked questions of detectives, forensic experts, and also people working in the State Pathologist Office. After that, and having done as much research as I could, I approached a detective from Rathfarnham station. Surprisingly, detectives and other professionals working in the Irish Police Force are well used to being approached. A writing friend of mine phoned her local police station recently and asked if she could visit a cell as she wanted to get a concept of what it felt like to have a prison door close behind her. They were really supportive, and she was delighted when they brought her around the cells and locked her up! It added authenticity to her narrative. I would say approach tentatively, and professionally. Be patient as they are busy people, and research as much as you can beforehand. Don’t waste a detective’s time by asking them something you could easily find out on Google!

VS: Readers have taken a liking to your Criminal Psychologist, Dr Kate Pearson. Do you intend to continue developing her for future novels?

LP: The character of Kate Pearson has a way to go yet, and it’s interesting as a writer the concept that you can develop a character over the course of a number of books. It allows you dig deep and to use subtlety of insight, having time on your side. Crime writing is gripping, and often fast paced – nothing exists within a crime novel unless it has to be there! The other interesting aspect about Kate is that she is very much the puzzle solver, the missing piece in the jigsaw, and brings psychological insight into the ‘WHY’ of a killer acting in a particular way. In both novels, RED RIBBONS, and THE DOLL’S HOUSE, the story is told from a number of perspectives, the killer, the criminal psychologist, and the principle protagonist. I hope by writing the stories this way the reader becomes the quintessential fly-on-the-wall, seeing things that the varying voices in the novels, don’t always see.

VS: Looks like you had a lot of fun with your book trailer. How much input does a publisher have with making trailers or is it up to writers to do it on their own initiative, like you did?

LP: If you’re an International bestseller, I’m sure there is expert help available, but by and large, an enormous amount of publicity is down to the author themselves, and with modern technology, the use of iphones for example, it’s easy enough to create your own trailer. It’s important to remember that the market is a very crowded place, and anything you can do to make others aware of your work is beneficial, and it was great fun to do. The last twelve months have been an enormous learning curve, and I hope I don’t stop learning anytime soon!

Buy the book on Louise’s website here or on Amazon.

LouisePhillips

Louise Phillips

ABOUT THE BOOK

“Middle-aged male, multiple stab wounds, found drowned in the canal. You have my number. Call me.”

This is the message criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson receives one cold Saturday morning from Detective Inspector O’Connor, spoken in his usual curt manner. The middle-aged male in question is Keith Jenkins, the host of a popular TV programme, and as Kate and O’Connor begin their investigation, they find themselves faced with more questions than answers.

The past . . .

Following her mother’s recent death, Clodagh has begun to explore her past – her memories of her father, who died in a mysterious accident, and the dark tragedy that seeped through the cracks of her childhood home. When she begins to visit a hypnotherapist, scenes from her childhood begin to take shape, with interjections from a sometimes sinister cast of dolls.

. . . is waiting . . .

As Kate continues to investigate the disturbing details of the vicious murder, she is drawn closer to Clodagh’s unsettling family history. What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connects them to the recent murder?

Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate. And the killer has already chosen his next victim…

THE DOLL’S HOUSE has been described by crime writer, Niamh O’ Connor, as ‘chilling, mesmerising. Gets under your skin and stays with you,’ and by Myles Mc Weeney of the Irish Independent, as, ‘A gripping, suspenseful story, peopled with well-drawn characters…’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Dublin, Louise Phillips returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. That year, she was selected by Dermot Bolger as an emerging talent. Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTE Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition.

Her bestselling debut novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Irish Book Awards. The Doll’s House is her second novel.

www.louise-phillips.com

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New Poem in the Lampeter Review

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Delighted to have my poem ‘The Creases in John McCormack’s Shoes’ included in the latest issue of The Lampeter Review, the journal of the Lampeter Creative Writing Centre of The University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. I’m very happy to feature alongside the wonderful poets and writers listed below. Thanks to the editorial board which includes Dic Edwards, John Lavin and Ros Hudis and special thanks to Ros Hudis, editor of Issue 7 for including my work.

Lampeter ReviewAn earlier version of my poem was commended by poet Thomas McCarthy in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition run by the Munster Literature Centre and that was great encouragement for me too as I have always admired his work.

Submit prose or poetry to the Lampeter Review here

New poem in anthology for Michael Hartnett

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Hartnett book

My poem ‘hartstown haiku’ is included in a new anthology of poems dedicated to Michael Hartnett: edited by James Lawlor and published by Revival Press in conjunction with Limerick Co Council. The anthology will be launched by Paula Meehan in Limerick this Saturday, 27th April, at the The Red Door, Newcastle West, during the festival Éigse Michael Hartnett.

I began writing poetry this year, though I’ve read and studied many poems over the years. I wrote ‘hartstown haiku’ after reading Hartnett’s ‘inchicore haiku’ published in 1985. It contains 87 haiku and senryu written according to the 5-7-5 format, the first collection of haiku and senryu by an Irish poet. Many English language haiku poets write free-form haiku. I wanted to celebrate Hartnett’s haiku and to try to echo his insights into contemporary Dublin working class life. I’m delighted and honoured to be included by James.

The anthology includes work by many contemporary poets and among the well-known poets featured are Seamus HeaneyMichael LongleyEavan BolandTheo DorganPeter FallonEiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Pat BoranPaula Meehan, and Paul Durcan. Not forgetting, John W SextonEileen Casey, Eleanor Hooker, Nuala Ni Chonchuir and many others who I’m looking forward to discovering in the book.

Michael Hartnett
 

Read my story on Long Story, Short Literary Journal

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Image by patrick_warner

Thanks to Jennifer Matthews, editor, for her great introduction:

‘Balan’ brings us into the mind of a young man whose confidence outweighs his skills of perception, whose understanding of his family and his place in the world is about to change drastically. This tale is in turns funny, heart-wrenching and startling: an honest examination of the first days of the recession from Hennessy Award-winning writer Valerie Sirr.

The Long Story, Short, created by Jennifer Matthews, poet, writer and editor, is a literary journal that publishes a short story every month, favouring tales that take their time. Longer than flash; fewer strings attached than a novel.

Here’s Jennifer’s manifesto: ‘We are an exclusively online publication, publishing new stories on a monthly basis. Only one story will be published at a time, for optimal opportunities to promote the most current author’s work. This format, rather than multiple stories across 2 or 3 annual issues, reflects contemporary reading habits, and provides the readership new material on a regular basis. The Long Story, Short literary journal aims to provide authors a link to their work on the web that they’ll be proud to share, and readers a quality source for stimulating and engaging literature.’

I’m proud to have my story featured in the journal along with many excellent writers, whose stories are available by scrolling down here. Jennifer is an encouraging and conscientious editor and a pleasure to work with.

The site features original photography, and the photograph of the young man above caught the character of ‘Gerry’ uncannily accurately. It’s just how I pictured him. Thanks to photographer Patrick Warner from Montana, USA.

Thanks to Gerry Beirne too for scooping it on to his brilliant site Irish Literary Times where you can find regular updates on what’s current in Irish Writing.

There’s a very interesting article here on why you should send your work to literary journals like Long Story, Short:

The Importance of Literary Journals and Short Stories (whatifyoucouldnotfail.typepad.com)

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