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Strokestown Poetry Festival 2017

We all packed into the car and headed west for about two hours at the weekend. We arrived at the uber friendly poetry festival that is Strokestown. Simon was shortlisted for the festival’s international poetry prize. 

We had a lovely time of it the organisers were welcoming and there were some very cool events. I even got to attend one! I went to the Cyphers Magazine launch which was based on the theme of the writer and founder of the mag, Leland Bardwell. Some of the contributers read their work and Leland’s son relaxed us with some poignant recordings of their mother reading from her own work. The setting for the festival couldn’t be better! Strokestown House is just divine and they set up a well stocked poetry book shop in the grand dining room.
Thank you, Strokestown! 

Crannog Literary Magazine 44 Spring Launch in Galway

I am heading down to the very cool city of Galway to read a story of mine, Bog that is to be published in the Spring issue of Crannog Literary Magazine 44.


I have practised my story like a good student and am really looking forward to listening to the other readers and their stories and poetry. All three of us are going down so it will be nice to spend some time in the city and perhaps a walk on Salthill.



Heading off to see Ballyturk in a few weeks. It’s a re-run of Enda Walshes mad play and it’s meant to be mad…;)

Really looking forward to it. Have great a couple of reviews that all say that it’s quite possible to not have a clue what’s going on yet enjoy it too

Happy 2017, Winter Pages Volume 2 and Donal Ryan kicks off my first bookclub!

Happy New Year!

Gosh, I don’t even care about the whole New Year’s Even thing but I do like the tidiness that comes with a brand new day on the 1st of January and when the supermarkets take all of the nonsense away off their shelves and start preparing for Easter or Halloween or something.

Christmas is an excellent time for getting the reading done. The open fire. The glass of fizzy minerals to sip on. The chocolates. They all add to that reading feeling. This Christmas Day I received 2 books. It is a strange one, surely my gifts should be 100% book related. Don’t all of you know I LOVE reading? My husband knew and my writing group homie knew. Therefore, I received a huge copy of the mustard-coloured Winter Papers Volume 2 annual. It is fab. It is made up of artwork, interviews, fiction and poetry. It is a true fest. Despite the fact that Kevin Barry is one of the editors(with Olivia Smith), there is no new fiction from him but it might be a bit egotistical if he did that, I guess and I think he is not that way.


The second gift I received was the Mslexia Writing Diary for 2017. Full of prompts, sections to write my personal details in(I love this!), interviews, recommended reading and prompts, it is a real writer’s gift. It is simply gorgeous and will be used and is being used already!

I treated myself to Donal Ryan’s new novel, All we shall know. I have a problem remembering the title always of this book. I keep thinking it is “All that we shall know” or “All that is left behind” or simple “All”  The novel is narrated by a pregnant lady and it is broken up into weeks. I am at 20 weeks already and Donal, as per usual is compelling, full-on with his strong language and depressing all at once. It will catch you by the first paragraph. I am reading this for a book club I set up in work.


Plenty to keep me busy and out of trouble anyway. I also keep calling the Kevin Barry annual by its incorrect name of Winter Pages. It is Winter Papers!

Hope you had a good one!



Writing workshop with Anthony Glavin at Penfest 2016

Last weekend I was one of the participants at Anthony Glavin’s workshop on the short story. Anthony is very well-known in the area of short story so I was eager to hear what he had to say. He kept us extremely busy throughout the day, writing, writing and writing.

The workshop was full, 13 participants! But, there was plenty of time for discussion and critique from Anthony despite this.


Thanks to Anthony Glavin and the Penfest organisers in the Carlow Library, Fiona and John for another successful Penfest!

Over the Edge at Culture night in Galway

Heading to one of the best cities in Ireland on Friday-Galway, of course. This Friday is Culture Night all over Ireland and Galway are celebrating it with one event-The Over the Edge open mic for fiction and poetry readings in Kenny’s Bookshop from 4 p.m.

Simon is reading from his poetry collection there as well as Karl Parkinson and Elizabeth Reapy so it should be a great evening.
I have had a story long-listed and will be reading some of it too at the fiction open mic so it is all fun and games if you want to hear me read.
See you there, maybe.

Writing Groups:West Cork Literary Fest 2016:Danielle Mc Laughlin, Marie Gethins&Bairbre Leahy

Writing Groups:West Cork Literary Fest 2016:Danielle Mc Laughlin, Marie Gethins&Bairbre Leahy

Danielle McLaughin seems to speak a lot about her writing group and how it helped her immensely and still does. She is obviously very talented and very published but her two writing group colleagues are on the up and up having being published and short listed for almost every prize going too!

Danielle McLaughlin, Bairbre Leahy and Marie Gethins talk up the writing group movement

Danielle McLaughlin, Bairbre Leahy and Marie Gethins talk up the writing group movement

How do they get the time and what can we learn from them? Here are my notes from the discussion, this is what works for this group, Danielle was keen to point this out but if I can get any bit of the style and writing skill she has, I am willing to listen up carefully to her!

Here goes:

Writing groups:

  • should try to have similar abilities within-don’t have a mix of beginners and more advanced. Or even wriiters at the smae point of the writing journeys.
  • should be closed and small enough of up to 5 max.
  • should submit their work to each other to be read at least twice and fellow group members read, mark up and give critique on the hard copy and then talk through at the meeting. Otherwise, the feedback is not considered or measured and potentially can damage a writer’s thoughts. I totally agree with this one.
  • transcend genres
  • transcend personal tastes of the writers.
  • need to attend regularly. Absenteeism is not cool or useful.
  • meet regularly.
  • should have few aims:improve writing, support rejections, celebrate successes.
  • need to understand how to give and take feedback.
  • Savage and nasty criticism has no place as does the “It’s lovely” or “I do not like it” or “Poetry is not my thing” If you have something to say, offer a suggestion with evidence of whay you lke or do not like.
  • Do not offer ways in which the writer can change or write the story, though tempting. The “how” is up to the writer.
  • Take care when giving feedback, take time to formulate thoughts.
  • Do not tell the writer what to write about, the subject matter is up the writer Do not tell the writer which stories to write.
  • Start with what is RIGHT about the writing. Writers ofetn do not know what is good about their own work and might delete this if not told!
  • Be aware of your own personal biases or likes or tastes in writing.
  • Do not read work our-complete waste of time. Spend the few hours critiqueing the writing NOT the writer!
  • When you receieve feedback, Listen! Be open! Listen! then you cna improve! Improvements are needed in EVERY single piece of work(Danielle believes this, therefore it is true!)
  • Don;t interrupt, listen to the feedback. Don’t be defensive or argue. Be polite.
  • Every submits work and everyone takes feedback. This helps the group dynamics.
  • Danielle showed a story of hers from her collection that benefited from her writing group. They suggested changes in the title, the opening, awkward phrasing, superflous words and phrases, poor word choices, imagery, language registry, general story confusion and times where Danielle was taking the reader out of the story by going bac to the past when the story was moving in the present action.
  • No one member should have the limelight and keep trying to retain your own voice as we don;t want 5 exact same writers.
  • It is about mutual trust and respect, you should feel honoured that someone has shown you their work so respect that and respect their opinion though you may not agree. Go and think about it instead.
  • Sercret to success-shared aims and similar skill set in writing.

This was a different type of talk, it was very interactive with lots of audience members asking questions. I am really looking forward to reading more of Danielle, Bairbre and Maire’s writing. Thanks for this.

Belfast Book Festival 2016-whoop!

We are heading off on a road and family trip to the very cool city of Belfast today. Simon is reading with his Doire Press mates in the Crescent Arts Centre tomorrow and my Mum and I are going to eat fish and chips on a constant basis and hopefully get time to hop in a black cab and have a black cab tour of the city.


Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris 2016: Best talks to go to on the Sunday

Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris 2016: Best talks to go to on the Sunday

From the 10-12th June, the amazingly lovely and pretty Festival of Writing and Ideas will be launched on the very pretty town of Borris in Co. Carlow.

I’ve been to many, many lit festivals and Borris is absolutely in the top two to visit in Ireland. (Bantry is the runner-up this year, IMO) The FOWI (Festival of Writing and Ideas) 2016 is in its 5th year. We have been to every single one, the first was small but so nice and this year it is big but absolutely keeping its edge and uniqueness. It is spreading into the town/village this year with some events taking part in pubs and the Step House Hotel. Brilliant move.Borris House

I am going to name-check a few events that you really should make an effort to go see if you are in the area of Carlow on the Sunday, 12th of June 2016. I have also a small article on what to see on the Saturday on the blog.

Early start at 11 with the Granta New Irish Writing editors along with Sara Baume, Lucy Caldwell and Donal Ryan in the chapel. I am really enjoying this magazine at the moment so this talk should be good.

You will have about half an hour to breathe, drink coffee, eat sweet things and then saunter over to the Book Tent where Tom Morris has a curated reading hour with Claire-Louise Bennett, Gavin Corbett, Lisa Mc Inerney, Deborah Levy and Rivka Gachen. Lisa has just won the Bailey Prize and Deborah Levy just rocks along with Tom’s wonderful short story collection, this is going to be most excellent. Get in there and buy some books after!

Don’t leave the Book tent though as there is a @Two poets@ event with Simon Lewis reading from his just launched poetry collection, Jewtown and American poet, Rachael Mennes will respond. Should be interesting. Both of these events are free.

Borris House

At 1:50, in the Bookshop there is a reading from the guys at the Long Gaze Back anthology with Sinead Gleason.

Throughout the day, you will have lots of book signings in the Book Tent so it is the place to gaze at authors from afar trying not to look like a stalker!

At 3:30, Donal Ryan will talk to Vincent Woods about his craft and the boundaries between traveller and mainstream society. I’ve read a short piece of Donal’s upcoming novel and it is going to be great.

These are my tips for the Sunday. You can choose to ignore me and just sit in the grass and frolic and saunter around Borris House. I’m easy like that.



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