Chats and giggles with the Silver Apple Magazine girls

Silver Apples Magazine Q and A


How long have you been interested in writing and the literary world?

 Alex: For has long as I’ve been reading I’ve been interested in writing and the literary world. I vividly remember ripping off Enid Blyton stories when I was about 8 years old. I would plagiarize the heck out of them and then collect them all in a notebook I had stolen from my mother that I would refer to as ‘my book’. My first ‘novel’ was written at age 12 and had a print run of 3 copies. I believe it was called War of the Heart and was historical fiction set during World War II. It was predictably terrible.

Gráinne: I have been an avid reader my whole life but was seventeen before I started writing. I had never really been one for keeping diaries or anything like that, but I started to write down random thoughts. It was a therapeutic exercise mostly, but some of these thoughts became scenes of dialogues. My first ‘novel’ was a shocking attempt at chick lit, which saw a teenager run away with her boyfriend’s father. Not sure what issues I was trying to work out at the time. Thankfully my work has become a bit more focused and less pervy.

 The Silver Apples Magazine has quite an open and wide ranging ethos in terms of the pieces it wants writers to submit. You accept any genre or medium and you don’t mind if they are not thought provoking or well written. They can be literary but probably just need to be entertaining. Can you tell us what you do not want then as there must be pieces that are “just not your bag, baby”?

Alex: We really do mean it when we say that we are open to reading and publishing submissions from pretty much any genre. If they fit the brief and work well with the other accepted submissions then it really doesn’t matter if they are romance, slipstream, or just plain silly. We know what we like when we see it!

Gráinne: I can see how it appear to be a bit random, but there is a method to our madness. We love quirk. We love that piece that you are afraid to submit somewhere else because you think its too nerdy, or it won’t be understood. We love to laugh and to debate about what the writer was thinking when they wrote it, drew it or photographed it. And to believe that the thing they were thinking was bizarre, weird and probably a bit sick and twisted.

What would grab your attention in terms of literary writing being submitted to the Silver Apples Magazine?

Alex: There are a LOT of magazines out there dedicated to publishing solely literary works. We are not one of those magazines. For a ‘literary’ piece to be accepted by us it has to come with a little something extra – a quirkiness, an off-beat quality, something that would horrify your secondary school English teacher.

Gráinne: I don’t want to have to work too hard when I am reading something. Sometimes it is great, but sometimes Ulysses is not appropriate. Silver Apples Magazine is not a place to show off your writing skills. We know you have skills. We want you to show off your imagination, your passion, your eccentricity, in a safe space.

I love writing prompts and you do too! Where do you get your ideas from for prompts and why do you like this approach?

 Alex: We like the idea of giving each issue a theme or a prompt because we feel it adds some cohesion to the magazine. Because we accept different art forms from a range of genres, the lack of an overarching theme could make the magazine seem a little disjointed or out of whack. Believe it or not, an incredible amount of thought goes into putting the issue together. We want pieces that will work together and create an entity that’s greater than the sum of its parts. We get our ideas by bouncing them off each other and seeing what sticks. We always want something that can be interpreted many different ways, something that can be subverted and analysed and picked apart by our contributors.

Gráinne: The prompts we put on twitter are really just fun ways of showing off our personalities. I think if we adapted the mentality we have with the magazine (if we like it we publish it, end of) without any kind of theme, it would get kind of messy. Sometimes we find ourselves searching for the theme in a piece we really like, before we eventually decide if we can’t find it, our readers won’t either, and that is not fair to the submitters who really embraced the theme and went with it, so we have to turn it down unfortunately.

What is your favourite literary magazine?

 Alex: Ireland has a lot of really great and well-renowned literary magazines such as the Stinging Fly (which is beautiful and well worth a read). But for something a bit different, I would have to say that Albedo One has been a personal favourite of mine for a few years now. I even wrote my Master’s Thesis about them (in part). They are the only lit magazine in Ireland to solely publish works of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction. They have rejected me many times so you know they have discerning taste! Outside of Ireland, recent finds have included Quantum Fairytales (they give me serious cover envy) and, since I’m currently living in Canada and it is a very well-regarded Toronto institution, Tattle Creek.

Gráinne: I love Quantum Fairytales at the moment too, though my favourite in general is the Cork based magazine The Penny Dreadful. They have a great attitude and the stuff they had published so far is top quality. Their tweets are also hilarious. I have tween envy sometimes from reading them.

What book are you reading at this very moment?

 Alex: Gráinne and I are reading a number of books in preparation for a super secret project and if we told you about it we’d have to kill you (no, seriously). Aside from that, I am currently reading Death Masks, the fifth Dresden Files novel because the last two books I read were Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughtry (which I did not like) and Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (which I thought was OK but not as good as Room) and I needed some easy-reading, vampire-fighting wizardry in my life. I swear, I pretty much read anything and everything! Oh and I’m also working my way through the backlist of the Hellblazer comics.

Gráinne: I am currently working on my first sci-fi novel and to that end have been reading books, graphic novels and poems that take place in another world. A world that couldn’t possibly exist, but you believe it does because the author laid it out beautifully for you. It had resulted in some really bizarre combinations. On my holidays last week I read Fahrenheit 451, three Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, and Neil Gaiman’s new kids’ book Fortunately, the Milk. And of course, the super secret project books….

Though, you have just released your first issue, could you already describe the vibe of the Silver Apples magazine in 3 words.

 Alex: Quirky, entertaining, fun

Gráinne: W.T.F?

In your second issue, you have given a prompt of “Box of Tricks” for would be submitters, can you expand on this or give examples of where writers could go with this?

 Alex: You are asking what could lurk inside the Box of Tricks? That is a dangerous question with an answer that differs for each person. Look inside yourself, pull the rabbit out of the hat and see what else emerges, make like Pandora…Dreams, nightmares, comedy, tragedy, truths and lies are all found within.

Gráinne: When I think Box of Tricks, I think magic, mystery, all the plot twists and turns you can image for good measure. Anything could happen and anything goes. But I want to be lured from the beginning, and shocked at the end.

Thanks so much for your time, Grainne and Alex. Wishing you all the very best in writing and reading for the second issue of the Silver Apples Magazine!

Rozz Lewis, June 2014


Gráinne O’Brien is known for her love of many things, but mostly academics and Harry Potter. Graduated from University of Limerick with a BA in English and History, and an MA in Gender Culture and Society, she has spent the last six years bouncing between conference organising, office managing, fiction writing, academic writing, and blogging. She has been published academically several times. She has just returned from a year working for a start up in Silicon Valley, where she learned how not to run a company, along with a bunch of other tech information she will never use again. Her latest accomplishment is the soon to be published Good Madness: A Collection of Essays on the writer Neil Gaiman, which she co-edited with Alex.

Grainne from the Ailver Apples Magazine
Grainne from the Ailver Apples Magazine

You can contact her at

Alex Dunne is many things – Irish ex-pat, prolific tea drinker and errant writer of SF & Fantasy. She graduated from the University of Limerick with a BA in English and History (where she met Gráinne and bonded over crosswords and shared nerdiness) and went on to obtain an MA in Literature and Publishing from NUI Galway. Alex has previously been on the publishing team of ROPES 2010 (the annual literary magazine of NUI Galway) and some of her writing was featured in What We Didn’t Know Existed (the anthology of the Toronto Street Writers) and Congruent Spaces.

Alex from the Silver Apples Magzine
Alex from the Silver Apples Magzine

You can contact her at

Interview with Mike Joyce, Editor in Chief and Founder of Literary Orphans Magazine

It is impossible to keep up with the amount of excellent literary journals and magazines available on the net these days but the Irish or “Swift” edition of Literary Orphans Magazine was always going to hook me in!

I’ve been in touch with Mike from across the way in Chicago and want to thank him for detailed answers.

First of all, great idea and fabulous Irish themed issue! I know that James is from Ireland but where there any other reasons that Literary Orphans was determined to run an “Oirish” issue?

 Mike Joyce: The inspiration for the Swift issue of Literary Orphans Journal hit me while watching Tim Pat Coogan and Robert Ballagh speak at a panel discussing Seamus Heaney, shortly after the great poet’s death, at the IrishAmericanHeritageCenter in Chicago. The conversation at one point turned to Tim Pat Coogan’s latest book, The Famine Plot.

In the USA, in most public school history texts, we’re taught that the famine was a direct result of the blight and because the Catholic Irish “over-bred,” and now there’s 30 million Americans with Irish surnames in their bloodline including 12 Presidents; now there’s Celtic romance novels and that dancing danced here by people in California with an Enya fetish and that’s that.

No textbooks mentioned the shiploads of grain and foodstuff leaving Irish ports as armed guards watched over. They didn’t mention Nassau Senior saying the famine “would not kill more than one million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do any good.” I didn’t read anything about property taxes and citizens without votes. No textbooks brought up the idea that there is a ghost of the famine haunting the current Irishperson’s mindset, influencing population rate, economy, and more.

I realized at that moment, that unlike what my textbooks glossed over, the cultural inheritance of Ireland would not. As the conversation veered back to Seamus Heaney and his inclusion in many anthologies as a “British” writer, and the pressure to separate his public self from any Irish foreign politics in order to become acclaimed for the skill he so clearly had–it made me consider the need to showcase Irish writing for what it was, not linked with British or post-colonial or American lit. Irish writing that reflected the complexities of modern Ireland. Irish writing with no theme. In many ways, even though we describe it as a “themed” issue, it’s really a non-themed, themed issue… if that makes any sense. There is no general vibe, no motif, no genre at work in these pieces. Roughly 75% of the contributors are from Ireland, and many of the others are directly writing about a trip there or an experience with someone from there that impacted their lives. This issue is a mash-up of Catholics, Protestants, historical pastures and future dystopias, current present and current past, fantastic “hags” and gritty cement cities, but no general theme to speak of.

I contacted James Claffey, Fiction Editor of the journal. James was present when we did a similar issue, Maria Tallchief, highlighting Native American authors. I brought up the idea to him, and he was right their with me and chomped at the bit. Personally speaking, I wanted to explore the idea what it means to be Irish and to be a writer today. I wanted to get my thumb on the pulse of the mindset. I wanted to learn. I wanted to create a big-tent and I wanted to see the Irish come into that tent and lay it out, lay it all out on the line.

I saw that in spades.

Tell me about how you met James Claffey and how the idea for Literary Orphans magazine came about?

 MJ: Literary Orphans Journal was the result of the writing group called ‘literary orphans’ that I created about 4 years ago. Scott Waldyn (our current Managing Editor) and Leanne Gregg (Fiction Editor alongside James) were involved in that group. By the time 2012 rolled around, it was becoming more and more difficult for us to meet in person, so I was charged with creating a way for us to communicate online and workshop. I created a journal instead.

James Claffey was published in that inaugural issue–that was the first time I met James. One year later, we were expanding staff and James Claffey became our second Fiction Editor.

Tell me about your background in writing, reading and the general arts.

 MJ: I received my BA in Rhetoric from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2009. I believe writing comes from the heart, that the only reason to do it is to share your heart–not to make money. I’ve shared it in a fair few publications over the past few years. I measure writing’s success in influence, not in dollar signs. But this, editing, this is what I do. It’s my identity. I’m the guy that does Literary Orphans Journal.

Let’s keep it Irish, who do you rate as literary brilliance in the Irish literary scene?

MJ: James Claffey! After James, everyone we published in this issue. For a celebrity writers? Roddy Doyle has been a constant inspiration to me since I first read his work 5 years ago. Really excited and hopeful to see more from Darragh McKeon, too, All That Is Solid Melts Into Airreally hit hard.

What were you hoping for when you put the call out for the Irish issue of Literary Orphans? What did you know you would be rejecting straightway?

 MJ: Anything that was “oirish” as you put it, anything that was inauthentic, anything that mistook a Hollywood idea for Ireland for the reality. We were hoping for honest writing. We were inundated in it. When James put out that call for submissions, he hit the nail on the head. To be honest, there were only a very small amount of oirish pieces, the majority of submitters knew exactly where we were coming from. Choosing was not easy, I don’t envy James. There is a reason this is our largest issue compiled.

Do you believe that everyone can write or is there a level that certain writers reach that they cannot overcome?

 MJ: I think it all depends on why you write.

Write to make money and win chicks? I think we’d have to ask Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer how to succeed at that one.

Write to share your heart? Then it’s a constant fight to pick the manacles of your brain. To me, good writing comes when the author has attained a certain mental state, a certain mental level. That level is a strange mix of intense self-analytics and dumbing yourself down into a torpor to write without any inhibitions. The best writing only works if it’s a haymaker–if you can throw that punch with no regard for what happens afterwards. We all have it in us. I think if you can achieve that state, you’re halfway there. The rest is all learned; applying techniques to convey the emotion you want so passionately to share.

Which book is on your bedside locker?(I.e. The one you are currently reading, there may be a few if you are like me!)

 MJ: Ah I see you’re after my own heart! I have 3 books going right now: Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Junkie Love by Joe Clifford, andLions, Remonstrance by Shelly Taylor.

Have the more traditional story telling in Ireland like Frank O Connor and William Trevor any place in the literary scene in America and Ireland? What can we learn from these authors?

MJ: I’m probably not the best to speak on this. I am (both as a writer and reader) very much a fan of plot-driven narrative. I think that’s something we can take from Frank O’Connor. I think that sometimes literary writers get caught up in that technical side I mentioned earlier; it’s the literary equivalent of a long, noodly, masturbatory guitar solo that by the end of which the only person left on the floor holding a plastic cup is the writer’s significant other.

In Ireland, we have some fine and very established literary magazines like the Stinging Fly and The Moth that showcase new and established writing talent. What would be your favorite literary magazines?

 Birkensnake, The Penny Dreadful Magazine (love those guys, Cork based), Ninth Letter, PANK, Midwestern Gothic, many many others.

I love the fact that the Irish edition of Literary Orphans referred to the past of 1916 rising and the present day meeting of The Queen and our President in its editorial statement. Would Literary Orphans see the anniversary of 1916 as a potentially powerful time to celebrate difference and the evolution of the arts in Ireland? It may give you an idea for a future issue!

MJ: I’m already prepping to ask James to do this by sending him small gifts to soften the blow of the huge amount of work I’d be asking of him. It’s the 100-year-anniversary. I don’t see how we can’t do it.

Have you ever been to Ireland? If so, where and if not, what type of symbols and characters come to mind when thinking of Irish literatures?

MJ: I have not! My vacations these days are to “rust belt” capitals like St. Louis, MO and Providence, RI to give you an idea of my budget. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll be over there.

Symbols and characters from Irish writing? Hm; the transformation of that annoying nonverbal brat Stephen Dedalus from Portrait of… to the more guilt-ridden and mature Stephen we meet in Ulysses, Yeats as a character all his own, Malone and his pencil in Malone Dies, Sinbad and matches from Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, the portrait in The Picture of Dorian Gray, that florin in “Araby,” the geography of Ireland is pervasive and I get a different yet unified flavor in many books and poems from Irish literature. Geography and place are really important to me and my writing, although my geography looks very different. Still, green fields and stone fences, nighttime hazy brickwork forests, those are things I think of when I think of what Irish writing has given me.

Thanks to Mike for this, go to for the latest issue of the Irish Literary Orphans and for details on how to submit. I’ll have James’ answers up next week so do come back!



Interview:Michael Naghten Shanks, the new Editor of the Bohemyth Magazine

Michael Naghten Shanks [b. 1987] is a writer & editor from Dublin. His writing has featured or is forthcoming in various publications & anthologies, including Ink Sweat & Tears, The South Circular, Bare Fiction, wordlegs presents: 30 under 30, & New Planet Cabaret. He has been listed for various prizes & has read his work at numerous events. In November, he will read a selection of his work at the London Irish Centre as part of a Young Irish Writers Showcase. For more information, visit

Michael, congratulations on becoming the new Editor of the Bohemyth! Tell us about your involvement with the magazine to date.

Thank you, Rozz. The title of ‘Editor of The Bohemyth’ is one that I think comes with a good reputation for selecting, editing, and promoting new writing. For that, all the praise should go to founding editor Alice Walsh. She founded The Bohemyth in October 2012 with a desire to help good writers reach a wider audience. When I found out what she was planning, I knew I wanted to be involved in some capacity. I came on as Assistant Editor and worked alongside Alice to pick out the best pieces that would also compliment each other in each individual issue. This ethic eventually led us to publish several special issues usually focusing on the lasting influence of individuals or groups. This was how I got my first taste for being the main editor – I was responsible for the Samuel Beckett issue – and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

How long have you been interested in writing and the literary world?
I think maybe I’m atypical in this respect. I wrote stories when I was younger, around the ages of 11-13, but I wasn’t a big reader. I was much more influenced by the films I was allowed to view and experience [many of which I only really fully appreciate now that I am older]. Although I studied English in Trinity College, it wasn’t until my final year that I began to think I might start writing creatively again. Within a few months of graduating, I had a short fiction piece published by wordlegs, and was participating in a writers’ group alongside some very fine writers. The relationships formed during this period have continued and seen me become more immersed in the burgeoning young Irish writers scene.
The Bohemyth is now accepting pieces of creative writing that is experimental. What do you mean by experimental?
Asking for experimental writing could seem complicated and off-putting for any potential submitter but, I think put simply, it is a question to writers – how quickly do you accept your own writing? I think it is the default of almost every writer to accept too easily whatever is the easiest way of writing for them, whether it be in form or subject matter or both. I’m not advocating that every writer abandon what works for them, but rather I am asking them to respect their own work, the reader, and the art of writing, at least enough to consider creating alternatives. Not every experiment will work, but the act of trying to make something new will only aid the writer and their writing.
What types of writing should not be sent to the Bohemyth?
I’m reluctant to dismiss outright any writing, because I think there are always exceptional pieces that transcend any title they may fall under, but I would suggest that authors of Young Adult fiction would perhaps be better guided in submitting to other journals. I would also be reluctant to accept traditional genre writing.
What gets your attention in terms of literary writing being submitted to the Bohemyth?
In keeping with the desire for experimental writing, I tend to favour pieces that are able to engage and affect me in new raw ways. I like it when I get the feeling that the writer is taking risks, that something is on the line. I like precision sentences that ping. Contemporary thought-provoking work that speaks to and from the heart, to and from the individual, to and from the collective.
What is your favourite literary magazine?
This could be an exhaustive list so I’ll try to limit myself to Irish-based journals – wordlegs, Bare Hands Poetry, The South Circular, The Penny Dreadful, The Stinging Fly, Southword, The Dublin Review.
What book are you reading at this very moment?
I’m just about to finish my first reading of ‘Alone with Other People’ by Gabby Bess, a young American author. It’s a collection of poetry and short prose pieces that is raw, open, and lacking in the gimmicks that often accompany some of the Alt Lit writers. If I was to recommend one book from this year though, it would be ‘Stop Sharpening Your Knives’, a poetry anthology full of varied, intelligent, and creative voices.
Give us your best tip in terms of an up and coming Irish writer, poet or fiction writer?
Well, I’m not so sure I can call her up-and-coming, because in my mind she is very much established as one of the new voices to listen to, but I would say Elizabeth Reapy. If you’re looking for someone to inspire you, she’s your woman. I also think people will be hearing the name Rob Doyle more and more.
Describe the vibe of the Bohemyth magazine in 3 words.
New Raw Communication.

Thanks, Michael so much for giving us your very insightful answers. Wishing you all the very best in writing and reading for the new year of the Bohemyth!

Mel Ulm and the Jamie O’ Connell interview

I haven’t written about Jamie O’ Connell for a bit now. But, thankfully, Mel Ulm has given us a proper fix of the Jamie in a hugely detailed interview with the author on Mel’s Reading Lives blog.

Mel Ulm knows his stuff. He knows Irish and he knows the short story. I imagine that he spends every second reading new and old Irish literature. I really enjoy his blog and am really enjoying the Q and A for Irish writers he has running for the last while.

Jamie O’ Connell was interviewed last week and it is really is a fab read. Jamie is honest and generous in his answers to very fascinating questions and the whole thing turns very academic but not overly off-putting!

So, Mel Ulm is everywhere but Jamie seems to be back on the scene a bit more recently. Jamie is launching our group anthology in June in Carlow. He is also working on new stuff all of the time and I just cannot wait to read any of his new stuff as his last short story collection was out just a year ago so we need some new work from this man.

Also, I hear talk that he was on Sunday Miscellany last Sunday and is going to be featured regularly on RTE Radio 1 on the Sunday Miscellany program. The latest one from yesterday doesn’t seem to be available just yet but I will post when it is. 9 in the morning was just too early for a Sunday wake up call.

Have a read of the interview here, lots of great nuggets on the writer’s life and ethos.

A chat with Kevin Barry author of “City of Bohane” at the West Cork Literary Festival

Kevin Barry:West Cork Literary Festival, 2012


I got to meet and chat with Kevin Barry,author of “City of Bohane: at West Cork Literary Festival. I’ve uploaded the interview as it is. Kevin was so generous with his time and I think you will find lots of practical, solid advice for the writers out there. I’ve certainly taken it on, since the festival, I’ve focussed myself to writing a new story every day. The idea is that over the year, I’m bound to find a couple of good ideas to run with. And, it happened today! I made a kernel of something that I think I can turn into something, story like! It also occurred to me that writers are mostly inclusive and motivating folk. I don’t know any other aspect of the media world that would be so giving of their time and help. And yes, Kevin has described himself as having a gigantic ego but he absolutely hasn’t. I miss Bantry and all the writers, cannot wait to return next year. In the meantime, we have the Cork Short Story Festival to look forward to, which I will be covering. Kevin is reading at this too. Those Cork people really have it worked out, don’t they? If you haven’t had the pleasure to read “City of Bohane”, I insist you get it and devour it! You can buy it here.         This edition is the new,swankier cover. I have only got the old, orange original. Anyway, you just want to listen to Kevin. Enjoy! Listen here. kevinbarry1 I will upload part 2 after a few days!

The 2nd Best City of Bohane cover