Day Four at SWIFT Writing Institute 2015

Day four
Today, it was a big writing day for our class. We started the day with Ellen, she teaches PLC students and she teaches them how to learn again and to write. We used an object writing prompt, it is such a simple task that you forget how brilliant it is! I couldn’t stop writing, I wanted to write and write and there was time later as we had been asked to bring some writing to our newly formed and shortly lived(it would only survive for a day, perhaps the best idea for a writing group?!) writing group. It was made up of me, Finian who is a lecturer at third level teacher training college and two wonderful librarians, Mairead and Neil. I found the session brilliant positive, not feeling we were plamassing each other but instead we were giving encouraging permission slips to write and write and share and read. I received some excellent feedback in a piece of flash I’d been working on for a while and now feel it is ready to release somewhere!
We listened to Mary, a very glamorous secondary school teacher who manages to run a lot and raise three children and be incredibly passionate about her task of educating young adults in her school. She showed us idea after idea, linking in with poetry slamming, Colm Keegan and Eminem. I was buzzing again. Can I buzz even more, I asked myself on my second last day of SwIFt? I betcha I can. Day five, our last day, bring it.

Day Three at the SWIFT Writing Institute 2015

On day three, we moved from the Phoenix Building to the Library building on North Campus. A beautifully, new, shiny, glass building with an excellent Starbucks on the ground floor. Students are spoilt these days, it’s official.
We started off with our daily journalling followed by Matthew Martin, a senior lecturer in English in St. Mary’s University, Belfast. He took us on a whistle stop tour of a survey he is carrying out. It is a survey of writing pedagogy in Ireland. We spoke about creativity, beating the exam and assessment system and disadvantage among many other things. Loved this session.
Then, I as up to my teaching demo. I decided to speak about writing and children with English as an additional language needs. I focussed on animoto, photo story, book creator, story bird and kid blog to show how I have helped children with little English to create their own story. I was happy when it was over, it seemed to go well but that could be due to the fact that I bribed the fellows with chocolate and popcorn.
Next up was Orlagh, a fellow educate together teacher who stunned us with idea after idea of how to help children with little English communicate, learn and have fun. I was struck by her learning and teaching ethos, showing the learner respect no matter what age or background. Real educate together ethos stuff going on there.
To finish up, we had Chris and Jo, two higher level educators who spoke about getting third level students to speak up, write and want to learn. I realized what an easier job we have at primary level. Most children will want to learn if it is made fun and child centered. We had a chance to do a quick observational task for writing, one I will be stealing and listened to the difference between scientific and personal writing style.
Another wow day. Inspired and stuff.

Summer Writing Institute at NUI Maynooth-Day 2

Day one in the SwIFt writing institute was excellent and I thought that day two could not, should not top it but it seems we have an endless supply of innovative teachers who write and want to help their students writer better.
First up, we had Ann Ryan, a drama teaching fan, she brought us through short films and creative writing using freeze framing and camera angles to show how writers portray mood. We watched a moving and dark film called The White Dress, available on the Irish Film Board website along with many others,
Finian from the COI college spoke about joint narrative and brought us on a journey where we all contributed to a live story based on things we had seen that morning, will definitely use this with my students.
He also spoke about our literacy history, what background, hates, likes, fears and personal history as a writer, reader and talker do we bring to our classroom?
We then had a hilarious role play of a writing group and we put together some suggestions for a new writing group which will run on Day Four. I found this very useful especially for ideas for my own group.
Last up, we had the most passionate and brilliant educators I had seen! Donna and Patricia are second level teachers and I must admit I have been biased about this sector. I detest the format of the leaving cert as a learning, teaching and assessment tool. But, these ladies showed us how they get around those evil exam questions and curriculum. They use music videos and video gaming to teach short story structure and setting. They ended the day perfectly, I drove home buzzing, listening to “Titanium”, one of the music videos that showed us to teach the short story form.
Cannot wait for Day Three!

Writing Institute at Maynooth University Summer School

I was accepted into the Writing Centre Summer School at Maynooth University(or SWIFT) a few months ago. The course is entitled “Teaching Writing” and is designed in conjunction with the Writing Department at University of Berkshire, USA and the Writing Department in NUI Maynooth.
It is aimed at teachers from all levels, early years to third level and this is what makes it quite unique.

I have be to countless courses on writing and often the writer, with respect is not a teacher but a brilliant writer. I am a good teacher but not a brilliant writer, a competent one with plenty to learn so I would hope I am well placed.
The first day started with a chew and chat, fabulous scones and coffee were provided. I sat at a random group and we started chatting. The first exercise was What my childhood tasted like and it was replicating the model of the writing process in a short session. This type of activity could be used with primary school children over as long as period as 8 week So! We started with listing the foods we liked or disliked from our childhood. Simple list with no descriptions yet. Then we paired and shared with our partner. The stages after this involved adding to your list, picking a few foods and drawing the ideas out until the end product of a first draft. I heard some beautiful and touching stories, food does stir the emotions and in Ireland, it is always linked with the Grandmother or the Mother of the house.
The second part of the day was facilitated by Martina, a librarian. She told us about a project she ran with a group of young adults. She created a book and published it. The last session was Ferdia McAnna, a fellow of the Institute from last year. I’ve heard so much about Ferdia and he was brilliant. Passion. Passion. Passion. It dripped from him. We learned the basics of scriptwriting and watched a very sexy scene from the film, Out of Sight.
The day flew by. Looking forward to today.

Wordlegs Magazine, my story and a college in California!

I wrote a story called “In the event of a sudden loss in cabin pressure” for the Post-Celtic Edition of Wordlegs magazine back in 2013. Elizabeth Reapy was the Editor and I was so chuffed to be featured in that edition. I got to read my story at the 10 days in Dublin Festival and it felt good.

image3Last year, when I was busy growing a baby inside me, a man called Pete Clark contacted me. He told me that he had discovered my story “In the Event of a Sudden Loss in Cabin Pressure” during Summer 2013 from Wordlegs Press and that he was currently using it in a short unit on Irish literature for his Grade 10 class. How did he discover Wordlegs magazine? He told me it was through a man named Victor Luftig. He has worked at Brandeis University, University of Virginia, and other places. Here’s his bio. Pete told me he had been a big inspiration regarding teaching and academics and bringing it to high school students.

Pete asked me if I would speak with his classes via skype one evening so we set up a meeting there and then! I had an energetic discussion and Q and A with the two classes who are looking at my story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. They had taken such time and care to put together questions and thoughts about it, the Irish and literature, the Celtic Tiger and recession and how these had impacted on writing here. We talked about the themes of expatriation and repatriation that are parts of many cultures, but have certain and unique questions when applied to our Irish experience and how that impacts on literature and the arts.

It felt great, thanks to Victor, Pete Clark and the students.

My story “In the event of a sudden loss in cabin pressure” ( and some other ones) in the WordLegs Magazine can be downloaded and read here.posttigerstories



Open University’s Writing Course-free!

I am studying an OU course on “Beginning writing fiction” at the moment, most of it is targeted at beginners. It focuses on how to get ideas, how to write and where etc. But, over the 8 week period, it has moved onto interesting and new content for me. For example, this week in Week 2, it discusses how to give feedback and how to accept it. I find this is a skill that I struggle with sometimes. It can be hard not to take things personally but this article teaches you how to take your ego out of your piece.


I have attached it below. The course can be located at

commenting and receiving feedback

Reading during motherhood

I have been absent for a while. No apologies given. We had our first baby, a boy, 3 weeks ago and the only reading I have been doing since then is Annabel Karmen’s Essential Guide to the First year of a baby and the text replies from my fellow Mum friends!


I read an excellent book by Anne Enright before baby boy arrived. It is called “Making Babies” and is written in typical Anne enright fashion, quirky and country cool. Other books I have been reading are what we might call “light” for example Tana French’s new crime novel “The Secret Place” I love Tana French and always devour her latest books, though not considered literary, I am sure by some harsh critics, her books are written in an intelligent language. She captures Ireland perfectly and scares the hell out of me with what goes on in the pages!

I’ll be back very soon, but am enjoying my little one too much. has been short listed for Best Mobile Compatible Blog at the upcoming Blog Awards Ireland and it is an event I hope to attend, with my little tucked away with a caring family member in the hotel! If I can drag myself away from him!

Keep in touch!


Sixteen Literary Magazine looking for writing!

Sixteen Literary Magazine is a free online magazine that aims to use the 1916 centenary to help emerging and professional writers craft new work based on the 1916 Easter Rising. We are deeply interested in how Ireland has changed in the last 100 years since and want to explore how the events of that week in 1916 have shaped us as a nation today or if they did at all.

Neither of the editors of Sixteen are historians. We are interested in good writing and we’re not adverse to a bit of visual art.

On the 16th of every month leading up to the 16 months before April 2016, we will publish an issue of our magazine online with the best pieces of work we receive. Each month, we will give a prompt relating to the Easter Rising. It might be an event, a character, a building or a piece of art. We will offer some ideas to whet your creative juices and then it’s up to you.

All submissions should follow our guidelines and we only accept work through our web form. Editors have the final decision on the final piece. Your piece of writing may need editorial help and support and we reserve all rights to make these changes to ensure the standard is good for our magazine.

Please, go to to view the magazine, submission guidelines and possible prompts and themes. You may be inspired by the themes or not! Your response can be loose or tight!





Writing thoughts that may or may not help you! But, I hope they do!

10 thoughts that may help you write!

Let’s take a break from all things Joyce!

writing-2I recently attended a workshop with Yvonne Cullen, who is a very cool and ultra creative facilitator of learning and writing! As a task, she asked us to think about the things that help us write. Here are mine, if they are any good to you. I’ll have a few more for you coming up!

  1. Write about what you are into, your fascinations and your passions. Don’t write about things that seem quirky or topics, characters or settings that you feel are interesting. What fascinates you about human beings? I used to write to a certain style or a certain literary magazine but it doesn’t work. You know that if you become successful on writing in an unnatural way, you will feel crap about it. Better to fail but be true. Even better to succeed and be true! Bargain!
  2. Voice is hard-but, always write in your natural voice. Don’t feel the need to add extra descriptions or adjectives or ideas that are not reflective of you. At the end of the day, you need to be unique and stand out. Don’t copy anyone else or pretend. Be true to you. Sounds very sentimental but we have a million experimental, James Joyce-esque writers. You need to write like you.
  3. Write down every idea you have, be it a newspaper article, something someone has said. If it fascinates you, then you could have a story or poem. Interesting is much better than important in terms of human themes or preoccupations. You can come back to this idea. I always have a list of things to write about. It is just a case of getting the time!
  4. I learned that the best way to deal with other writers critiquing my work is to graciously accept their advice and words from the onset. Unless, they are saying something crazy! But, even then I take on board all the opinions from my writers’ group and write them down, go away and process. Often, in the heat of the moment, other people’s well-meaning advice can be taken the wrong way. I often see things differently in the quietness of my home.
  5. Surround yourself with friends and supporters who read and write and love the world you are in. You will be inspired and motivated by their successes and passions(that word again)
  6. Keep going and when you do become successful, stay modest. My Mum always told me that there was always someone else in the world who is better than you, no matter how great you do or how great you think you are. I think this is grounding. A lack of modesty and openness can lead to your writing becoming stale.
  7. Don’t show off. If you are writing a story, try to tell the story, first and foremost. If you are writing a poem, the same thing is to get your message out, good and clear.
  8. What works for me is talking and discussions. Sometimes, I know what the problem behind my writing is. I might have the problem in the back of my mind . Sharing my story with my husband or the writers’ group and listening to them bring up the difficult questions that my brain knows too well is hard but useful. It is a process. Again, take the difficult or challenging questions and comments away and ask yourself if this is correct for your story.
  9. Music-music is my biggest helper when writing. I log onto spotify where I have various folders based on the mood of the character or story or setting I am trying to set. For example, I listened to a cool, funky R and B song by Katey Perry when writing a teenager voice recently. I use Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, U2, Aimee Mann and Moby nearly all of the time as their vibes suit my style and really inspire me. Covers of songs are great too.
  10. A good strong coffee and music in my earphones work all the time when writing. Plug your earphones in, sip the coffee and just write! Then go back and start all over again!

After the race by Andrew Fox, a short story from Dubliners 100

After the race by Andrew Fox, a short story from Dubliners 100

After really enjoying Donal Ryan’s take on Eveline, I didn’t think the next story could top it. But, Andrew Fox’s take on After the race is brilliant and clever.marathon



Andrew Fox is a short story writer I had never heard of, apologies to him if he is quite the well-known short story writer! According to his bio, he lives in New York City(Lucky duck) and writes drama for radio and is also releasing a new anthology of short stories from Penguin Ireland is forthcoming. Always exciting to hear new, Irish short story writers.

He brings a unique style and edge to the story. Joyce’s story is a bit poncey and reaks of Joyce’s time, something I found it hard to relate to or even care too much about. Andrew Fox changes the setting and moves it from Dublin to New York City. The car race becomes a marathon race and the rich gentlemen become rich, rich bankers.

The main character though remains Irish and this is where the story comes to life. Irish themes of isolation, debt, worries about money and the recession are brought to life in a new setting. It doesn’t matter that this story is set in New York.

The last scene in which James, the Irish character, takes the rich bankers on in a video game, a shooter game. All these touches bring the story up to date and actually increase the point of the original story. The last paragraph is wonderfully written, almost bettering Joyce’s “Daybreak” dialogue. /

Andrew Fox speaks to the reader in a fast-paced, movie like language and I thoroughly enjoyed this. My favourite so far.

After the Race is one of the fifteen short stories in the new Dubliners 100, published by Tramp Press. Drop back in next time to my blog where I will be looking at Joyce’s Two Gallants short story.