Bantry is the only place to be for the writer who wants to…write!
This is our third year attending the literary festival and it is, without doubt, our favourite of all the lit fests we have attended in Ireland. Ths year was different too, we were bringing our lovely toddler boy, M-boy with us and were staying in a lovely little apartment on Slip Lawns, a ten minute walk otuside Bantry.
There would be no open mics.
There would be no all nighters raving and cavorting through the streets of Bantry and there would be no week-long writing workshops.
But, instead we got a trip on the ferry to Whiddy island, two trips to the lovely beach at the end of Bantry Harbour, a toddler group at Cafe Organico and some really special family meals outside Stuffed Olive and dining in the lovely and very child-friendly and understanding O’ Connor’s Restaurant. We even got two separate days in the beer garden (with Emrys being on his best behaviour) of Ma Murphy’s Pub. Win!
Simon went to the Theo Dorgan, Sarah Howe and Jo Shapcott poetry event and I attended Danielle McLaughlin, Maire Gethins and Bairbre LEahy speak about their writing group, what to do, what to avoid and how to make them work and keep working. I will post separately about this.
Simon is reading tomorrow morning at 11 in the Bantry Bookshop and we are excited but sad as we have to leave the gorgeous Bantry straightafter.
WE are heading off to Bantry tomorrow for some of the West Cork Literary Festival 2016. WE are renting a little apartment in Bantry and going to catch the beach, some readings and eat some fish dinners!
I am hoping to catch Danielle McLaughlin and her talk with her writing group members on writing groups. Simon is hoping to catch Theo Dorgan and Simon is also reading at the Bantry Bookshop at 11 am on Wednesday, 20th July.
I use the word “hope” as the lovely Emrys boy will be with us and ready to hit the beach and any available playgrounds! Say hi for a cuddle or high five!
It’s been amazing how busy my year has been. From hanging and learning at writing festivals and workshops to attending launches and lots and lots of reading and reviews in between.
I’m going to start right back at the start of 2013. Yes, you’ve guess it. I’m starting my rozz.ie review of 2013 in… January
My Christmas present from my husband was a holiday to the city of Bath from. I was looking forward to lots of reading! We stayed in a gorgeous country house hotel up in the hills above the city. During the day, we saw the Jane Austen Museum, the Roman Baths and spent too much money in Mrs B’s Reading Emporium-the most fabulous of fabulous bookshops. I got a great recommendation there for a three-part novella/short story collection by Italian author, Pietro Grossi. I devoured it and reviewed “Fists” on the blog. Back at home, The National Emerging Writers’ Programme released a set of DVDs in conjunction with writing.ie. February
A Rozzie became ill and Simon attended the Dalkey Book Festival by himself. He treated me to the anthology of very cool and diverse anthology “Best European Fiction 2012” and I promptly gave it a thumbs up and a glowing review on the blog. You have to be nice. March
There was an obsession on my blog with the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize 2013. I downloaded the 5 short stories and loved, loved, loved Mark Hadden’s “The Gun”. I predicted it would win but Junot Diaz’s “Miss Lora” scooped the prize. I liked it but didn’t love it. Not to worry, Mark, there’s always next year. April
My favourite Lit Crush, Kevin Barry won the IMPAC Prize of €100,000. April was also a month for winning with the Hennessey Literary award for Best Emerging Fiction went to a short story, “Shelley” by John O’ Donnell. That story certainty stayed with me.
I also got out and about and attended Dave Lordan’s launch of his new book entitled “First Book of Frags” I really enjoyed the frags, a unique mix of full-sugar calorie, Dave-style and proud. His launch was open and fun, ending in an Open Mic where I read a short piece. May
We saw the beginnings of the festivals that cover Ireland for the summer months with the Dublin Writers’ Festival and I applied for a masterclass with Colum Mc Cann. He handled the packed class of students well and was a chilled out performer.
2013 really was Kevin Barry’s year(Every year is?) and in May, he edited the “Town and Country” short story anthology. I was torn with trying to get to my nephew’s communion in Mayo and going to the launch in Dublin. In the end, after a public vote, I got to both. In heels. June
It was a month of reviews for rozz.ie and I reviewed “The story of before” by Susan Stairs, “Bloodlines” by Joyce Russell and “Telemetale”, anthology put together by the Irish Writers’ Centre to commemorate Bloomsday.
June was also jam-packed with events. The Carlow Writers’ Cooperative published and launched their own anthology, “What Champagne Was Like” and I had two shorts featured within. The very lovely Jamie O’ Connell launched it for us. We raised over €1,100 and were pretty proud.
I also checked out the brilliant Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris House. We had Ben Okri, PJ Harvey, Anne Enright and Donal Ryan to name a few. Hugo Jellett, the organiser has created the top literary festival with a unique setting. A must for any reader or writer. Honestly. It finished off a pretty brilliant Carlow Arts Festival. We are lucky. You should be jealous of Carlow. July
This month is always the month of the West Cork Literary Festival and we headed off to Bantry again. I sat a week-long workshops with John McKenna and it involved lots of movement and chat and homework! The week flew. My highlight of the festival events was Deborah Levy, reading from her cute book “Things we don’t want to know” and “Black Vodka”, both of which I loved and reviewed on rozz.ie
A historian friend( you know who you are) dragged us to the surprisingly cool History Festival in Ireland in Duckett’s Grove, Carlow. We saw “The Great Hunger”, Patrick Kavanagh’s one-man play. It was excellent and we followed it up with an event with Nicky Byrne. He of former Westlife. Turtle Banbury, the host interviewed him well and Nicky told us everything he had found out about his family history in the archives.
I also volunteered for the Kilkenny Arts Festival and sat in on Ron Rash, Kevin Barry(whoop!), Paula Meehan and a evocative and moving performance of the river voice in Finnegan’s Wake in “Riverrun”
I also somehow got the chance to review David Constantine’s new short story collection, “Tea at the Midlands”. Loved. September
This month was the result of a summer holiday of reading with lots of reviews. I reviewed “Siege 13”, “Testament of Mary” and “The Herbalist”. Carlow Libraries gave us the annual Penfest Literary Festival and I caught up with Nuala Ni Chonchuir and she shared her wisdom on the short story. Kevin Barry arrived in Carlow and he read and chatted about his writing life. He revealed he was heading out of Ireland for a while but he will return. Phew! October
It was all about the literary magazine. Bohemyth announced its new editor, Michael Naughten-Shanks. Wordlegs magazine announced they wouldn’t be around forever and Dave Lordan et announced a new magazine, Colony. Coming soon!
I reviewed the very cool “Psychotic Episodes” by Alan Mc Gonagle and Simon reviewed the novel “Mount Merrion” purely because he loves Justin Quinn.
rozz.ie was longlisted for “Best Arts and Culture” blog and I attended the awards ceremony in style, dressed up as a flapper girl.
New Planet Cabaret anthology was launched by editor, Dave Lordan. Him again! We attended the launch which was recorded live on RTE radio 1 Arena show. December
It was festive with an entertaining night in Cafe Formenti, Carlow Town. John Mc Kenna and Angela Keogh hosted the event and we were treated to mince pies, turkey and cranberry balls and sweet potato and cinnamon fritters alongside readings and music. It inspired me to host my own Open Mic. Readers were asked to read, rant, sing for 5 minutes on the theme of Yuletide. Loosely. Madeline from the Tearooms gave us her new popup tea rooms as a venue and it was wonderfully festive and sweet!
The last month of 2013 was finished off with a review of Ron Rash’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and much anticipated “Young Skins” by modest man, Colin Barrett. Hyped up but fully deserved. I was sad when I finished it. Colin had one of his stories nominated for the Bord Gáis Short Story of the Year award but he lost out.
The last few days of my 2013 are being spent reading Carve Magazine and looking forward to writing some new reviews to come in the shape of “The thing about December” by Donal Ryan and “Baracuda” by Christos Tsiolkas.
Life is good and rozz.ie is a busy, little blog! I’ve hoped you enjoyed the year with me and it’s given you some inspiration to get reading, it really is the new black. Happy New Year!
It has begun raining here and Bantry is a memory of heat and sun and niceness.
Bantry was brilliant this year, probably because I sat a class with John Mac Kenna. He gave us homework, which seemed like a pain at the time but it was hugely beneficial and created lovely memories sitting with my husband at the top of the Maritime Hotel looking out over Bantry Bay. Pure bliss.
Deborah Levy was a recent read of mine, I had been sent her short story collection Black Vodka from her publishers and other stories and was on a mission it to finish it before Bantry as Deborah was going to be reading there.
She read a few of her stories in the Bantry Library. She definitely was my reading of the festival. Her stories were emotionally heightened by the way she read them, she is a witty woman and was utterly relaxed as she performed. We got to ask questions after and I had to ask about one of her stories. She answered it well and I wondered if authors get annoyed by the fact that readers don’t sometimes get their meaning fully and may interpret something else from it instead. She signed my book afterwards and I spotted her mingling with the biggies, Ann Enright, Nurrudin Farah and Louise Doughy in the Maritime Bar afterwards.
Also, that week we went to the Launch of Organico Cafe’s Letter Writing Cafe with Phillip Hensher speaking on the merits of handwriting.
The cafe gives out free letter writing kits every year and will even post your letters during the festival I sent one to my Aunty in Canada, it does feel off to hand write! I am not sure if Phillip convinced Simon as he wrote him a letter speaking about the benefits of technology. We haven’t heard back yet but I will keep you posted!
I couldn’t possible talk about all the other things in Bantry like the morning walks down the harbour, the fish and chips and visit to Bantry Museum. I’ve put a montage together of all the moments so enjoy! Get yourself down to Bantry next year!
It is over. It is sad. I am at home but at least the sun is shining. How awful if I had returned home to rain.
The week was wonderfully amazing. Jam packed with free and paid events. A buzz of holiday saturated Bantry. Meeting with friends and debating and reading and writing.
In the last post, I told you about how we landed on the Sunday night, the launch and opening of the Festival in Bantry Library. We got all snazzed up in our best clothes and Simon went over dressed as is his lovely style. Ruth Paddell opened the festival and the J.G. Farrell award for fiction was awarded. There was excitement and wine, we had an early night as we were starting writing school the next day in the community college.
John Mac Kenna Writing Class
I decided to take a writing class this year. As you know, I am quite preoccupied by short stories and was delighted to see that John Mac Kenna was going to be my teacher. John was teaching the class “Where do short stories come from?”
By the end of the week, my fellow students and I were fully convinced that character driven stories are the way to go for the reader and the writer. We wrote, told stories, tried out new things, had our work critiqued and even did some homework in the evenings. John was a most excellent and modest teacher. He was hard on our work but gave positive feedback if it needed. I really liked his style as I don’t like the softly softly approach at all. I like the balanced approach he took and it worked. I have the makings of a story and he has asked us to send it on to him by a deadline.
Fish Publishing Launch of Anthology 2013
One of the highlights of Bantry is always this event. I was especially excited as a friend of mine, David had one of his stories included in the anthology. He read superbly and he wrote a hilarious story based on crazy housewives. Worth checking out. Humour is hard to do, for me so well done to David. There was a good mix of stories, memoirs and poetry but the Flash 2013 winner stole the show for me. I was very teary after Ken Elke’s Sisyphus and the black holes flash piece. Powerful and emotive. Just what flash should be. No need for a joke or trick ending. No need for much action, Ken’s piece verged on prose poetry and I think we can predict some more cool stuff from this guy. You can see a sample of his work here and here or buy the anthology at fishpublishing.ie
We spent the evening with some friends in the Fish Kitchen Restaurant, which is the finest in Bantry and beyond. Really, really good fish, which is lucky and a superb lemon thing with biscuit of some sort for dessert. Drinks were had in the beer garden of Ma Murphy’s Pub, the place to be. It was packed with writers, readers and locals.
Though I had no Kevin Barry to bond with this festival, I had some great chats with Dave Lordan over the week. You may know him from many things poetic and creative like but the most recent is his book of ranty fiction, First Book of Frags. It is a work of craziness, fun and satirical rants. His writing is so hyped up that you might feel a bit nervous about speaking to him. But, he actually is a lovely, no ego type and quirky in a mannerly gentleman kind of way. I hope he loves all those adjectives!
I look forward to speaking more to him at other events. His new anthology with RTE Radio 1 and New Planet Cabaret comes out in September. I hope he gets a break as he never seems to stop working! He spent the week teaching teenagers about stories and creativity. I missed their performance as we had to leave on Friday afternoon but I am sure he will be blogging about it at his blog davelordanwriter.
Just a taste for you, next week, I will be blogging about the festival and the many free events, novel in a year, Bantry Museum, the Letter Writing Cafe at Organbico, the lovely Deborah Levy, Open Mic and doing shots with Ann Enright.
The vibe was holiday abroad as we pulled into the fabness that is the town of Bantry. Last year, we had only stayed for two days but we were dying to return and do a workshop.
Last year, I met and interviewed my literary-crush, Kevin Barry. He is now the whole world’s literary crush and he has won about 1.3 million Awards.
I’m registered for the John Mc Jenna Short Story workshop, it starts at 9 so we took it easy tonight. We headed up to the Official Opening Ceremony in the library where Ruth Paddell’s poem “Mill Wheel at Bantry” was read by herself and the winner of the JG Farrell Fiction Award was announced.
We munched on our dinner of fish in the famous O Connor’s Seafood Restaurant with some friends. It was entirely blissful, we will be back and probably tomorrow.
Life is good in Bantry.
In preparation for Bantry and the West Cork Literary Festival 2013, I have been reading Black Vodka-ten short stories written By Deborah Levy. Deborah is reading at the festival and not only that her Black Vodka collection has been shortlisted for the Cork International Short story award this year,along with five others. Black Vodka was also shortlisted for the BBC international short story award in 2012 so it was well time for me to read it.
Deborah demonstrates her writing prowess by moving along in an easy to read and sometimes more complex and mystifying style. The stories are also nicely made up of longer ones and more concise ones, which is a mixture I like.
The title story, Black Vodka is a story about a young advertising executive who also has a physical deformity, a hunchback. From the opening paragraphs, we are being brought into the world of tenseness, advertising and superficiality. Where appearances matter and are dissected and used. Levy uses the narrator and his “little hump on his back, a mound between his shoulder blades” to point out the obsession of celebrity and appearance. The narrator meets a girl, Lisa who is instantly attracted to and she him. But, she seems most obsessed with his hunchback and she ” doodles a…sketch…of a naked hunchback man, with every single organ of his body labelled.” Underneath, she writes the words “homo sapiens” Is Levy trying to get all moralistic and preachy with the reader? Is there to us than an image? A first glance? Are we in danger of becoming a slick marketing plan and don’t we all fall into this?
It has a very European feel to it, settings move from Prague in the story Shining a light to Vienna in the same title to the cool cityscape of London in Stardust Nation.
What I liked most was the way that this collection pushes and pushes the themes and contents of each short story. There is a wild sense of imagination in each story, charting the possibilities, hurt and constraints of love. This is a short story collection about love but never conventional. Levy’s writing is controlled and describes in a plain, direct way. Again, a feature I like. I cannot stand to have to consult the dictionary on my phone so much that I lose my way in a story.
For me, there are two stand out stories. We have Cave Girl, a very contemporary story of forbidden and weird love between a sister, Cass and her brother. The sister decides to have a complete surgical( we are led to believe) make over. Her brother wonders if
the surgeon slopped her into a stainless-steel tray?
Cass is a brand new person and her brother starts to fall in love with the type of girl that men seem to prefer. The brother says that
Cass doesn’t have opinions;she listens to what I have to say as if I have more important.
The problem is that now she is the type of girl that other men like to and she makes room for everyone now that she is the perfect girl. This is a story about mortality and retaining the way you look forever. The narrator asks for help from the Ancients, this is where the story deepens in the last paragraph. The Ancient would:
have answers to where souls go after death and how people transform themselves from one thing to another.
The narrator is scared of life and of death. He wonders if he is scared of the dark and things lurking in the sea. Things are not so simple now as the days of Cave girl, the narrator looks back and remains in the past.
The other beautiful and gracefully told short story I was struck by was Roma. Its opening hooked me. The husband who is going to betray her is standing inside the city of Roma. A woman dreams her husband is being unfaithful, it is a vivid and true dream and she wakes but the traitor is lying beside her.
The dream merges with reality throughout the holiday, we do not know if she is imagining or has she entered her dream again? Levy is an incredibly poetic writer and this shines out in this tight piece of writing. the drenched succulents and rotting fishing boats have the same atmosphere of betrayal she experiences in her dream.
She stares into the shallow of the salt lagoon. A stork stands in the mud.
The narrator’s isolation and growing hatred of her husband and his sins are becoming apparent through these type of sentences. We get a resolution at the end yet the wife and husband cannot communicate the rationale behind their infidelity or dreaming. They keep a piece of themselves back.
She does not tell him that she has been standing outside the city of Roma.
There is much to like in Black Vodka. I loved the range and boundary pushing of each story, theme, characters, locations that have been created. I loved the shortness of some of the pieces and the poetry of some. I loved the range in writing that Levy shows without forcing the need to be quirky. She is naturally so, I would think that she just muses differently to others. Some of her stories are pieces that need to be re-read, dissected and discussed but all are brilliant examples of the confusion of modern love and relationships. A unique but universal collection. I am really looking forward to hearing her read her stories as this always cements their connection with me and the story.
Black Vodka by Deborah Levy is published by and other stories and can be purchased on kindle, amazon and andotherstories.org or pop down to Bantry and hear her read and get your own copy signed!
The West Cork Literary Festival 2013 programme is out!
My must do and sees(for now) are:
The opening of the Festival with Ruth Padel and her new poem for the festival and the J. G. Farrell Award.
Open mike with Paul O’ Donoghue-I love these and I think Paul is the perfect chilled out and mannerly, listening Chairperson for these events. They are on every evening and great fun after a few 7-ups in the Maritime Bar.
Dave Lordan and Karl Parkinson with the funky sounding Dropping the Act present the Freedom Poetry Show. Only thing is it is at 11:30 and a girl has got to get her sleeps but so like the sound of this!
4-The Letter Café will provide complementary stationery, pens and postage, and will be open all week. Last year the WCLF posted over one hundred letters. Phillip Hensher opens this. This is a really sweet event. Last year, I wrote letters to my Aunt in Canada and she was happy! This opens in the yummy Letter Cafe in Organico’s. Food and ambience is spot on here. Just go!
Ann Enright-an evening with. The only event I might pay into. Bantry can work out expensive when you factor in week long workshop, lunch, dinner and soda water and limes. She would be worth it!
Deborah Levy-free event and reading- The title story of her most recent work of fiction, Black Vodka: ten stories, was shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award. Oh, yes, get me there and I will buy a book or two!
Fish anthology 2013 launch-say no more but one thing,its on in the Maritime Hotel this year not the lovely church..
Jamie O Connell reads but at 11:15 in the morning. Should he not be sleeping? Anyway, I am at a workshop so cannot make it but I am going to write to him with a petition demanding(asking) if he will switch to 4, please?
Louise Doubty speaks about writing a novel in a year. Could be fun.
Writer idol-this is where you send a piece of your work anonymously to Bantry folk before a date in May. one-page samples of work, submitted anonymously in advance, will be read by actor and author, Kate Thompson, and when members of the panel have heard enough, they will raise one hand. Two hands up – the reading will stop and the panel will discuss the piece. Last year, bestselling author Anita Shreve, who brought Writer Idol to Ireland, commented that the quality of submissions was so high in Bantry that the panel were slow to raise their hands. This was not her experience on other WI panels. As a result, we were unable to read all of the entries, but the panel offered excellent tips pertinent to anyone hoping to be published. Wanted to go last year but didn’t. Scary stuff.
And then home….Some of the highlights, there are loads more on http://www.westcorkmusic.ie/literaryfestival/programme Be sure to check it out and get your tickets quickly as they will go…