Danielle Mac Laughlin’s workshop at Listowel Writer’s Week 2017

I attended Danielle’s workshop on humour in the short story last weekend at the Listowel Writer’s Weekend. This was made possible through funding from the Carlow Arts Council and many thanks.

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

Danielle is a super writer and everytime I meet her, she is always very positive and encouraging. She deserves all of her success in writing.

After this weekend, I feel that I really got a deep insight into how a full-time writer thinks, reads and writes. She spoke to us about all of her current reading, excellent writer’s talks she had attended and gave us some super handouts with weblinks, book lists and short stories to read.

A month before the course, we received an email directing us to read 5 stories. Danielle has selected these with the theme of humour in writing in mind. I loved them all for different reasons and was introduced to a short story writer called ZZ Packer. Check out her story, Drinking coffee elsewhere for a zippy, comic but terribly sad at the end short story.

The course was made up of 15 participants, all who were hugely interested in writing and reading(Honestly, I have attended courses where the participants said they had don’t really read fiction) or a course for intermediate where the partcipants have never written a word! We had some brilliant discussions and debates about the 5 stories all faciliatated really well by Danielle. She was never intrusive and encouraged us to chat and rave about my great love, the short story. We all came to the agreement(Phew) that Kevin Barry is a genius of a man and should be banned due his excellence. ūüėČ

We got 2 writing prompts which went really well and lots of ideas and energy for future reading and writing. The days were well structured with reading, discussion, writing and listening to Danielle answer questions all balanced nicely.

I met with a friend for lunch in the lovely Listowel Arms Hotel and had a little shop browse and a couple of walks on Ballybunion beach.

Thanks to the Arts Council again. Now to work!

Off to Listowel with thanks to Carlow County Council Arts funding

I received word today that an application I sent through to Carlow County Council for Arts Service funding this year was successful. I had applied to attend the Listowel Writers Festival in June and taking a place in Danielle Mc Laughlin’s short fiction workshop, which runs for 2 days.


I greatly admire Danielle, her writing and her helpfulness as a writer to other little writers like me. I have a sneaking feeling that she will be as good of a teacher as she is a writer.



How long does a story take to write?

Last night, a story I had entered into the Over the Edge New Irish Writer of the Year award received a highly commendation. Of course, I am happy and I thought it would be interesting to see how long it took me to write it and what was involved as this story was quite the mover and shaker.



It started out with the title “Can’t rewind” and actually was born with that title in January 2015 after a Christmas holiday to my aunty’s house and an object I saw in it inspired me to create a new world with the object( a CCTV camera) in it.

That story is now called “Pokey out wire”, the main characters kept their names but changed their type. The setting stayed the same but the events totally changed. The ending totally changed whereas the start was more or less the same. A few months ago on advice from my lovely fiction writing group, I changed the narrator¬†from third to first person. Simon, my husband helped me with the title. He is a god of making titles. If you need a title, ask him!

This story in various formats was rejected 6 times over the 2 and a half years.

But, now I think it is done. On to the next one, where to start? Somewhere interesting or someone horrid is always there to inspire me! It is all about finding the time now.

Congrats again to Chris and the two runner-ups.


Over the Edge New Irish Writer 2016 is Chris Connolly and my story is highly commended!

Last night the Over the Edge New Irish Writer 2016 fiction award winner was announced and sadly it was not me but I really didn’t expect it when I saw that Chris Connolly had been shortlisted as he seems to have won every award going in the last year!


He won the RTE Francis McManus award this year too with a deeply affecting short story called The Speed of Light and How It Cannot Help Us. It is beautifully read here on the RTE Francis McManus award page. Have a listen, it will grab you and it finishes it a very chilling way that I still think about.

Doire Press are reading Chris’ stories as part of the prize and I am sure Chris’ collection will be published by a company very soon!

I will be posting a second post shortly about my own entry and the work, hours and tears and re-edits it has taken to get one of my stories to this stage! Am tired thinking about it!



Over the Edge shortlist New Writer of the Year 2016

Gosh, I kind of find these posts odd and ego-ridden and cringey to read so here goes….

One of my stories has been shortlisted for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year award 2016, got the news this morning via an excited husband holding a mobile screen in my face! It was a lovely way to be woken up and then a coffee and then a coffee and pretzel chocolate thing in Costa with my lovely M-boy.

overtheedgeshortlistI have been working on this story for over two years and the first draft of the story has morphed into an entirely different one. Even the title has changed! I have been writing for quite some time and only feel that this story and others I have written recently have started to show me as a person, writer etc and how I think other people might think about the world. I am proud of this story because of those things. It is me and what I like to read and it just makes me feel all delighted to see that someone else might think it is okay too.

I would love to be at the fiction slam in Galway in October but we are booked to go away to Munich and Salzburg to see my most loved cousin, Trina and her lovely, Australian husband.

Life is good. Back to the work.

Was this odd, ego-ridden and cringey? Comments below, please. Send good thoughts. x


Writing down the bones:Natalie Goldberg:Love, love, love.

I am re-reading this amazing book. I started ages ago and forgot and then saw this brand-new 30th anniversary edition in the library so it was  sure sign!

Natalie is well-known for her books on writing, she writes so gently, spiritually about writing and the process.She really does free up your negative thoughts about the writer that you are.


I am adding her list of topics to write about to the resource section. She recommends that you fill a notebook every month with writing, any writing to flex your muscles of writing! Then, write daily, set a clock for 5 minutes and write about anything, or her list or start to develop your own list. We have heard this advice over and over so now take heed!



“The gun” short story& my one minute to convince you to read it vlog

I love “The gun” by Mark Haddon, have a watch and see if you might like it too!

You can listen to the podcast here where Mark chats to Granta about his story and the writing process at http://granta.com/Granta-Audio-Mark-Haddon/


You can also download a pdf of it to save to your tablet/kindle or print it out here https://web1.asl.org/jambalaya/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Mark-Haddon-The-Gun.pdf

My one minute vlog is up on youtube and it is my first try! See it here.



The Hay Festival 2016:Kells

This was my first time at the Hay Festival in Kells. I have never even been to Kells and it is a pleasant little town! I was attending the festival as a V.I.P with Simon who was reading there too as a first!

We stayed with friends so were able to nip in quickly enough to the town. There was loads of events on for kids so Emrys got to listen to stories and scribble away to his heart’s desire.

They had many, many big name and a mix of commercial, literary and a focus more so on the reading element as opposed to the writing. The organisers were really warm and welcoming to us and it is possibly the friendliest Lit festival I have attended yet.

The Green Room was located in a wonderful treasure cave of a second hand bookshop cafe and we had plenty coffee, fruit and biscuits. We were also treated to a lovely lunch in the nearby hotel.

I went to see Simon who was a guest speaker at an Amnesty International event with Colm O’ Gorman, Exec Director and they spoke about the refugee crisis. Colm is so passionate and cares so much about human rights issues, I was delighted that Emrys was kept very quiet with a bag of baby books the event organisers gave to him!

Simon took Emrys off the next day and I got to enjoy a full hour of Kevin Barry and Matthew Spangler talking about how Beatlebone should be directed if Matthew were in control! For the last half an hour of the discussion, Kevin and Matthew discussed the various ideas that had been floated on staging Beatlebone, the musical options, the actors and the budget! It was simply a unique format and I was glad for it as sometimes the typical reading of the novel can get a bit yawny.

This was all we managed to get to but we did well, just sauntering around the town and taking it in. I would definitely recommend it, the festival brochure is thick and chunky and full of events for everyone, a real inclusive one.

Thanks, Hay Festival and all who run it! From what I saw, you rocked!



Belfast Book Festival 2016

We had a nice city break in the compact and cool city of Belfast. Mum came with us and the M-boy and Simon was doing his poetry thing. He was reading with the Doire Poets showcase in the Crescent Arts Centre. Mum stayed with M-boy very kindly as he really does not quite dig poetry just yet!


We arrived in and the lovely and very poetic Stephen Connolly welcomed us to the lovely Green Room. It was a super Green Room full of nice beverages, treats, dips and sweet things to munch on and drink while we waited.

Stephanie Conn and Michael J. Whelan were also reading with Simon and we had a lovely chat with them and their families who were up to support them.

Simon’s Uncle and Aunty were in the audience to listen to Simon, which he was delighted with as they live in Canada but were in Belfast that week.

Stephanie read from her debut collection, the woman on the other side and Michael’s collection is called Peacekeeper. Stephanie reads very well, I discovered she is a teacher so that explains her excellent reading voice though Michael read his poetry about his experiences of war with emotions well too.

Simon read 6 of his poems and it feels like Ground hog day as over the last five years of him writing these poems, I have heard them again and again. He was still great and sounded very fresh!

Afterwards, we had a drink with Stephen Connolly and we talked about all of the inside gossip of the fiction and poetry world. He walked us to a Japanese restaurant called Sakura in the University District that he recommended and it was really good.

It was a shame I didn’t get to the Short story talk but it was on at the same time as the Doire Press folk and I had to make a choice. Jan Carsen and other new Irish short story writers were speaking but I am sure I will catch them again.


The Belfast Book Festival is one I would love to see more of but we took time to explore the Black Cab tours of political Belfast and Long’s Fish and Chips restaurant too. A girl cannot spend her time obsessing over books, you know but¬†No Alibis Bookshop was sussed out in the end as was a really nice coffee shop that did refined sugar free goodies in it called Kaffe-O. A Hotel Chocolate shop may have been visited too.

Festival of Writing and Ideas 2016-Borris

The Festival of Writing and Ideas is in its 5th year and we have attended all five. We live about twenty minutes away by car so I really have no excuse. We also brought M-boy(the now 22-month old beauty boy) with us last year and this too. He was such a good boy although he did not attend any of the talks!


I went into the chapel to hear Danielle McLaughlin, Claire Kilroy and Ayelet Waldman(a writer I had never heard of) speaking about real life, having babies and how literature does not really show the whole having babies things well. It shows sex instead. The hour-long discussion was really good. All three read from their books. Danielle read the opening story from her debut story collection, Claire read an essay she wrote for the Winter Pages(the first she wrote after having a baby) and Ayelet read from her book, Bad Mum. They had a really cool talk about being a parent, being a hero, the toughness and brilliance of parenthood. Ayelet was very funny and handled audience questions or comments(Why do audience members feel the need to make a comment which usually involves the words I write myself when addressing a writer on a stage) and Danielle spoke eloquently and in her usual down to earth way about her stories and where the ideas come from and who does all the housework in her house. Everyone was very envious of her husband.

Claire was completely honest about the challenges of writing and being a mother but I think this is not just about women who write who are Mums. Any father who is properly involved and caring would have the same issues as a writer. So, it all depends who you are paired up with was the conclusion. The hour flew and I was released onto the lawn of Borris House with the sun shining and my two lovely boys waiting.


We sat and ate home fries and drank cider while the sun shone. M-boy slept. A bee went into his cover. I freaked out. I ate pulled pork on home fries. Kevin Barry and John Creedon were the top celebs to gaze at. I forced everyone I could to go see Beowulf, the one-man, emotional show by Brian Burroughs. Emrys scribbled circles on the Borris programme. I had a second glass of cider, got some book autographs and said goodbye to Borris till tomorrow.

Other great stuff that happened:

Simon got a speaker pass! I’m getting one tomorrow though I am only a lowly speaker’s wife. Kevin Barry had a cuddle with M-boy for 5 seconds. John Creedon had a pic with my friend who just loves him. The bee did not sting M-boy. Bumped into June Caldwell who I’ve never seen in Carlow. We get to go back tomorrow!