The IWC/ DBF Young Writer Delegates
Introducing the IWC/DBF Young Writer Delegates
Sinead Creedon is a recent graduate of English Literature studies from Trinity College Dublin. Known for reading horror and writing sad things, Sinead can be found either having an existential crisis, or at the Westlife concert in Croke Park.. Published in The Attic, Ireland’s Zine, Nothing Substantial, Crannog, WOW! Women on Writing, Sinead is delighted to be a part of the Young Writers Delegates Programme 2018. But most importantly, Sinead is from Cork.
Why do you write?
I have written since I was five years old, and I started with picture books because they were pretty and I liked creating these worlds that I was not actually living in. It was a form of wish fulfilment for me. As I got older, I always wrote stories. Writing stories is a way of escaping the real world – whether the real world is worth escaping or not. It was only after experiencing a personal loss that I began to write poetry. I found it hard to express myself vocally, and poetry was the easiest and purest form of expression. So now I write both – prose because over the years it has become my way of release and escape and probably the highest form of self-entertainment, and poetry because when I can’t understand how I’m feeling or if I want someone else to understand, the words come out on paper easier than in spoken word. I write first and foremost for myself, because sometimes I’m bubbling over with ideas and I need to put them somewhere, and I enjoy seeing what they turn into. When people like what I write, that’s just a bonus for me. Sometimes at readings or launches, someone approaches me afterwards and tells me that they could relate to what I wrote. That then is just another of countless reasons for why I write. Being able to talk to someone indirectly and help is an incredible reward to writing.
Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?
Irish writing has always been so prominent within the literary field with greats like Stoker, Wilde, and Joyce behind us. And 2018 has been a fantastic year for Irish literature, thanks to Sally Rooney, the Aisling series, Louise O’Neill, etc. And even more inspiring is the increasing amount of female representation in Irish literature. Irish writing has become less morose, taciturn, and gloomy, and is becoming more and more inclusive, light-hearted, and diverse. We are breaking away from the stereotypes of Irish funerals and repression and we are becoming more about writing rather than Irish writing. While I love including Irishisms in my own writing – references to Irish traditions, lingo, and settings – I feel free to write about whatever I please. Irish literature can only progress further in this regard. As for myself, I’m going to continue doing what I love and creating worlds, and hope that this can someday be my job. At the moment, I am working in a bookshop and it is pretty great that I recommend books that I love to people every day and that various authors come in to sign their books. I hope to break into the publishing world from here, and maybe, maybe, from there get my own work out there on the shelves and I can walk into the bookshop and ask to sign a few copies myself. That is the dream, and only recently did I get the confidence to believe that this dream could become an actuality if I work hard enough.
A young writing graduate from the sticks of Mayo.
What is your creative process and where do you see the future of Irish literature going?
In her introduction to the recently published Stinging Fly Stories anthology, Sarah Gilmartin wrote that, “The blank page is full of potential and the short story is a grand old form for putting that potential to the test.” I write short stories, and my creative process always starts with a blank page. Blank as in unlined, in hardback if possible, but blank. It has to be blank. I need the space to experiment, to test the waters before setting off. The page fills in stops and starts, big looping letters that tighten with intensity. My pen hops with the images as they come. There’s no story at first, just moments and the endless connections between them. There’s the kernel of an idea of course, but it’s at the edges of things, dark and mutable, a shadow. It starts to take form as the flow sets in. My pen stops stuttering as it sets down a path. Signposts appear in inky black boxes, guiding me so I don’t lose my way. This is the easy part: myself, the page and days of boundless flow. Then the flow stops and the draft is finished. If I’ve done it right I should have a clear enough sense of what the story’s going to be about; the editing starts with what it isn’t. Pages pile in the proverbial bin as scene and sentence are thrown to the wayside. By the end I’ll hopefully have the bones of what I’m dealing with, something real that I can map the story onto. That’s the hard part, the mapping, twining flesh and tendon, trimming the fat. It takes weeks, months. I’ve heard it can take years. But I’ll know it when I see it, the moment when the story gets up off the page and stands on its own two feet. That’s when I show it to the people that I trust, and they help me get it walking.
This is a rough account of my creative process. Like any new writer, I hope that the products of this process will someday be published. Though the short story has always been a cornerstone of the Irish literary scene, the success of magazines like the Stinging Fly and the massive uptake in the sales of short story collections in recent years has shown that emerging writers can now commit to the short form more than ever before. With the influx of talent coming through this country’s many literary journals, I’m sure the next generation of writers will continue to test that grand old form in new and exciting ways. I just hope I get to be a part of that.
Jenny is the Careers Editor of sci-tech news site, Silicon Republic. By day she writes career advice and in-depth features about the job industry. By night, she works on her novels, short stories and flash fiction, some of which has been published in The Incubator.
Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?
The Irish literary scene has always been an extremely vibrant one and the talent that continues to come from this country gives me unrelenting joy and hope for the book industry. I believe literature often reflects what’s going on in society and, on a personal level, I have noticed a shift towards women. I see more female writers getting recognition and I see the serious societal issues that affect women are now front and centre of the social commentary within the literature scene. I also love how many more diverse female characters there are – some are unlikable, and some are downright evil in the case of crime fiction or psychological thrillers. I believe it’s an important shift in gender norms and one that’s reflected beautifully in Irish literature, from Louise O’Neill and Caroline O’Donoghue to Liz Nugent and Zoë Miller.
I have always loved writing and my goal is to become a published author one day. I’m extremely lucky in my career in that I get to write for a living in my capacity as a journalist and editor at Silicon Republic. Outside of work, I love writing short stories and full-length novels, but I don’t just want to publish a book. I want it to make a difference to someone. I’ve read so many amazing books that have gripped me, stayed with me for weeks, resonated with me on a personal level or consumed my mind with empathy for fictional characters. I want to write a book that does that to someone else and I want to keep writing books that do that for as long as I can.
Which authors have influenced you the most?
My favourite author of all time is Stephen King and he has had a massive influence on my writing. I often go back to his book On Writing because it focuses my mind when I’m feeling a bit unsure about my own writing. The way King tells stories always gives me goose bumps, not just because a lot of them are terrifying, but because of how he chooses to reveal things and when he decides to begin the story. He has taught me so much about the idea of ‘killing your darlings’ just by the way he writes.
He is also the author that truly made me fall in love with the art of the short story. When I was slogging away writing my very first manuscript, I read Night Shift, one of his short story collections, and it reminded me of how much depth they can have without being big and long and complex. Some concepts can be as simple as a bunch of people at a rest stop in America trapped by a convoy of possessed trucks. Not every story needs 80,000 words. Some only need 5,000 words, or in the case of flash fiction, some stories only need a couple of hundred and that in itself is a skill I love to practise.
Another author who is a major influence on me is Louise O’Neill. She’s easily one of my favourite Irish authors and the themes she has dealt with in both her YA novels and her newest book for adults, Almost Love, have been strong, raw and unflinching. These were the books that made me more determined than ever to write stories that resonate with people. The characters in her books are the ones that reminded me that no one is likeable to everyone all of the time. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone says or does or thinks stupid or mean or awful things, but these are the parts of us that make us human. O’Neill’s writing has also taught me that it’s easy to root for a protagonist that is perfectly moral, always kind and never does the wrong thing – so easy, in fact, that it can be boring. Convincing readers to empathise, root for, or even physically scream at a character (as I have occasionally done) who is extremely flawed and problematic is the real challenge and, for me, highlights a truly great writer.
Laoise is a recent graduate of the M Phil in Creative Writing in TCD. Currently working on her first novel, she’s absolutely delighted to be attending the Dublin Book Festival as a Young Writer Delegate!
Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?
I would say that right now is a good time to be an Irish writer, but I think it is always a good time to be an Irish writer. However, right now is definitely a good time to be a young female writer in Ireland. So much of the contemporary Irish writing I am reading at the moment is that of women, like Sally Rooney, Melatu Uche Okorie, Louise O’Neill, Eimear McBride, and the list goes on. The range is incredibly diverse; so many different genres, styles and experiences are being encapsulated . The themes that writers like these are choosing to deal with are difficult and honest and raw. Everything from sexuality, to rape, to direct provision is being explored with a frankness that Irish society is badly in need of.
I can only see things getting better as more individual voices continue to emerge, and I could not be more glad that it is now that I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a career in writing of my own.
There are so many things I want to do with my own writing that I can barely decide where to start. I go from short story to novel to crime fiction to flash fiction and back again. I am currently trying to focus on finishing a novel that I started almost a year and a half ago. The theme of the novel (so far) is stalled adolescence and unexplored sexuality, and I hope that I can do these themes justice in the same way that the writers I have mentioned do with theirs. I would love for this work to be published before I turn twenty-five. I know that you can’t put an age on success, and that this particular piece might not even get that far, but I find that I get so much more writing done when I concentrate on a particular goal.
When and why did you start writing?
I started writing relatively recently, not even two years ago. My reason for starting was simply because I was researching Masters courses and came across the M. Phil. in Creative Writing in Trinity College. I have always loved to read, and my friends had suggested to me a few times that I should give writing a try. I had also taken a creative writing module when I was at UCD and really enjoyed it, so I decided to create a writing sample and apply, not thinking that I would actually get in.
Now, just over a year later, I can easily say that applying for Creative Writing is one of the best things I have done in my life so far. Going into college last September and meeting all my incredibly talented classmates, I had a realisation of how out of my depth I was. Among these people who had been writing for most of their lives, honing their skills and finding their own style, I thought I was an imposter. It took me only a few weeks to understand that, although each of us was at a different stage with our writing experience, it didn’t mean that my work was valued any less than that of someone who had been writing for twenty years.
I learned so much from my year at Trinity, and a lot of that I learned from my classmates. Though you cannot place the worth of your work in how other people see it, it does help when other people find worth in that work. I started writing almost on a whim, but I continue to write because I love it and with a lot of thanks to the people I have met because of my writing.
YWD Mentor – Elizabeth Reapy
Elizabeth (EM) Reapy is an Irish writer and tutor. She is currently a Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Writer-In-Residence.
Her debut novel ‘Red Dirt’ is published by Head of Zeus.
Event reviews by our Young Writer Delegates
Sinéad Creedon, Meet the Publishers
“We need to know that the author knows where the book is going,” commissioning editor of Gill Books, Deirdre Nolan, tells us amongst the myriad of other inspiring advice that was given on Sunday morning. Dublin Book Festival and the Irish Writers Centre brings together the three heads of publishing, Gill Books, O’ Brien Press, and New Island Press for a Meet the Publishers panel. Beginning by introducing their individual publishing companies, Deirdre Nolan (Gill Books), Ivan O’Brien (O’Brien Press), and Mariel Deegan (New Island) tell us the ins and outs of the literary publishing industry.
Ivan O’Brien performed as both host and guest and handled the two roles remarkably, knowing when it was his time to speak but also facilitating moments for Nolan and Deegan. After introducing themselves and raising anecdotal tidbits about each company – did you know, O’Brien press began when Thomas O’Brien noticed a gap in the market for communist literature? – the event was largely fuelled by questions from the audience.
Many important and thought-provoking questions were asked, beginning with the reason for the reluctance to publish short stories. The answer possibly negated any hopes any aspiring short-story writer once had: “short stories don’t sell.” (O’Brien) That said, all answers showed two signs of every coin. While short stories are a lot more difficult and unappealing to the mainstream audience, as O’Brien insisted, Deegan reassured that “often short stories are a launching pad for novels.” This thought encouraged hope within the audience. If the talent is there, it can be published.
The questions were then relieved for a brief moment as the publishers offered some tips for submissions. O’Brien reminded the audience to actually read the submission guidelines and that the submission process is slow. Do not get impatient. Rather, patience and thoughtfulness will go a long way in the publishing industry.
When the question was asked, “is it helpful to have an existing social media platform?” a small piece of advice was offered which I found particularly helpful. Deegan pointed out the “18/20 rule,” ie. only 18-20% of social media content should be self-advertisement. I found this guidance particularly interesting as it reminded me that writing isn’t all about the art, as any writer would like to believe. The marketing aspect steers a large proportion of the book’s sales. The modern reader doesn’t often care about the literariness of the novel. Rather, the reader is drawn to the person behind the book, the trends of the time, and the way in which the book is sold. Deegan reminded us that writing is just another business.
This rather depressing note aside, the Meet the Publishers panel was worth going to. It was a comprehensive, informative event exposing the truths and workings of a head publishing company.
John Creevy, Book Art Exhibition
What can art tell us about books that books can’t say themselves? This is the question that came to mind when I first saw the Book Art Exhibition on display at Smock Alley this November. Sculpted scenes made from pulped volumes, these pieces were crafted by the students of the BCFE for the Dublin Book Festival. Some scenes were easy to recognize. The piked head of a paper hog: Kill the Pig. Other’s were less familiar. It is these less familiar scenes that I want to talk about.
“Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty.” This quote from Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea pinpoints the exact moment of one of the images on display: the old man, the bared harpoon, the pierced marlin passing through the air. What it lacks is context. Without the preceding passages of Santiago’s struggle with the Marlin the piece presents a romantic idea of their conflict. But this would be to asses the piece by what it isn’t. This isn’t the reality of aging limbs. This is the ideal that they aspire to. Unmoored from sun, steal and aching muscle, the piece crystalizes an old man’s dream of himself: muscular, triumphant, Santiago El Campeon.
But if some of these pieces illuminate literature, other ones masquerade in it. At the far end of the hall is a Burtonesque townscape that emerges from an open book. The piece is untitled, but it has plenty to say. Beneath the bridge there’s a river of quotes that runs the gutter: “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered.” The quote comes from Labyrinth, the David Bowie film. What we have then is an art piece that pretends to be about books while at it’s core it’s about a film. It wears the pages of books as a dress and tells us the story of an eighties musical about kids who travel to a goblin kingdom from a play. And that’s okay. This piece has nothing to say about books, but it has a lot to say about stories. Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered is a hero’s journey. Whether in book, play or film that’s a story to be told.
The final piece I’m going to talk about isn’t about books or stories. It’s about the people who struggle to access them. Dyslexia features a small child climbing a ladder out of strewn pages towards an open book in the cloud. The ladder is placed against a pile of titles. The book at the top is open and gutted, its pages used to make Mache pieces of sitting room furniture, a home. But the child isn’t there yet. Of all these pieces it does the most to talk about books in a way that books can’t. It shows the challenge reading can present and the value it ultimately offers.
Jenny Darmody, Literary Walking Tour with Pat Liddy
Treason. Riots. Cracked bells. Lesbian vampires.
This is what we learned about on Pat Liddy’s literary walking tour as we roamed the streets of Dublin, six feet too high. Too high, because of a world buried beneath us.
Bring your good walking shoes. Wrap up well. We’re about to go on a trip.
Pat Liddy’s strong, engaged voice carried us through a world trapped in medieval city walls and beneath rich cobblestones.
We began at Smock Alley Theatre, a building doused in its own history. We practically had to circle the entire building just to give it its due time.
Riots happened in theatres more often than not. Can you see the bell? Daniel rang it loudly. He rang it and he rang it and he rang it – and he cracked it.
To this day, the still-cracked bell tolls are not sweet like they once were.
We learned about the history behind copyright, and what it really means to have a currency running ten percent less than our neighbours.
To every cow its calf and to every book, its author.
Ghosts followed us around theatre walls and down decorated laneways. The ghosts of Swift and Wild and Yeats cloaked us with the shadows of their words.
Most of what Jonathan Swift wrote was treason – but what must it be like never feeling like you belong anywhere?
Hidden treasures, old buildings that drip with the blood of literary history – they change before your eyes as Liddy explains what they once were.
We surrounded ourselves with Dublin Castle walls as we learned about Bram Stoker, but also about he who walked the gothic path before Stoker with a creature of the night.
No cadaverous smell exhaled from the coffin – floated with blood.
The tour took us through the narrows of Dublin, four names for one street. We were told of buildings that once hosted Charles Dickens readings and others that still sported bullet holes from revolutions gone by.
Should you be lucky enough to experience Pat Liddy’s literary walking tour, you will learn about so much more than Dublin. You will learn about so much more than literary history. You will hear rich tales of egotists and radicals. Wonderous places that really ought to have waiting lists. Horses who have far more common sense than human beings. And creative minds that transcend time itself.
And when you depart the tour –
even if you walk alone,
you won’t be. For the ghosts of literature past
will follow you home.
Laoise Slattery, Takin’ the Mic
Two weeks before the Dublin Book Festival I received an email that made my stomach sink. Kiki from the Irish Writer’s Centre was getting in touch to give us more details about the festival, and (pause for effect) to inform the four of us that we would have a five minute slot each to read some of our own work at the Takin’ the Mic event that was being organised to run on the Friday night in the Smock Alley Theatre. This had not been a part of my plan for the weekend, which mostly consisted of me listening quietly to older, wiser and more experienced writers, nodding my head and taking notes.
As any rational human being would, I put the reading to the back of my mind and did every single other thing that I needed to do to prepare for the coming weekend, without putting any thought into what piece I might read or any time into practicing in the hopes of making things easier for myself. I met the other Young Writer Delegates, Sinead, John and Jenny, and our mentor Elizabeth at the Irish Writer’s Centre on Thursday, and sure enough, Friday did eventually arrive the next day, as it tends to do.
We met at The Art of the Short Story in the National Library at lunchtime on Thursday, after which we walked to Smock Alley Theatre to spend our afternoon practicing for the night’s event. It finally hit me when I stood to read in front of Sinead, John, Jenny and Elizabeth that I would soon be reading in front of a room full of people. I had only chosen a piece to read that morning. The other Delegates read very well and the practice was very successful overall, but it did absolutely nothing to quell our nerves. At least we were in it together.
Seven o’clock arrived all too soon and we were ushered to our seats in the front row of the Boys School stage. The event was sold out, and the atmosphere of the room was like nothing I had ever experienced. There was a certain buzz in the air that could only be created by a mix of excitement, uncertainty and sheer nervous energy. Sarah Marie Griffin took to the stage to give introductions and perform her ritual reading of the poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith, which was at once funny and poignant and the perfect way to begin the event.
During the first half, we heard readings from a variety of different genres read in many different ways – beautiful poetry from people like Sean Ruan and Bernie Dawn, a hilarious but cutting essay about the advent of the poo emoji and the lack of one related to periods by Ellen Brickley, and Sinead, John and I read our pieces. The energy in the room only continued to intensify with the help of many talented artists and an incredibly supportive audience.
The second half was opened by spoken-word artist Clara Rose Thornton. She performed several pieces, including one that was commissioned by An Post to commemorate the sinking of the RMS Leinster. Her take on this tragedy was to look at how race and gender were approached in the news articles that were written in the aftermath, something An Post might not have expected, which made the piece all the more powerful and relevant. Clara opened the floor for the rest of the performance and we heard some more poetry and spoken word. Jenny was among the people to read in the second half and her piece about technology in a dystopian society definitely struck a chord among the audience.
To finish, Sarah read an “exquisite corpse” composed from snatches of everyone’s pieces. It was absolutely fascinating and enchanting to hear all of our words woven together into one. We all felt that Takin’ the Mic was a resounding success, and I think that every one of us would do it all again, and maybe even be slightly less terrified.