Tag: Writing

2023 Review and thoughts on 2024

Hare’s Breath cover image artwork by Rosaleen Fleming

2023 was an important year for me, primarily because I published my second poetry collection Hare’s Breath (Salmon Poetry). It’s been six years since my first collection After The Fall was published and I’m very proud of the poems that make up this new collection. I was delighted to launch the collection to a full house at Books Upstairs (a very important independent bookshop) in November and also very happy to have John Murphy introduce the book to the world. John has been a huge part of my writing life as first reader and mentor for almost a decade.

That aside, the year has mainly been about working on the new novel. (I am still actively seeking a publisher for Riverrun which was a winner of the the Novel Fair at the Irish Writers Centre 2022). The new novel which currently has a working title of A Fork in the Road, has been taking up most of my time and will continue to do so in 2024. During the year I received support from Listowel Writers Week by way of a week long stay at the Cill Rialaig writers retreat in Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry. I also was granted an Agility Award bursary from the Arts Council and was accepted for the National Mentoring Programme which is run by the Irish Writers Centre. My mentor is novelist and short story writer Sean O’Reilly and it’s been very interesting working with him as I write the novel. I have a further two sessions with Sean planned for early in 2024 and my aim is to complete the novel by the end of the year.

Here’s a brief list of how 2023 went for me from a writing perspective:

I was disappointed not to publish any new short stories in 2023, but I’m happy to say that my story Call Me Cathy will be published at Fictive Dream in January 2024.

Next year my main priorities will be to finish the new novel, write and publish some more short stories and do as many poetry readings as possible, bringing Hare’s Breath to as many people as possible around the country.

From a poetry point of view, the highlights of 2023 for me included Maurice Devitt’s Some of these Stories are True, Paul Bregazzi’s Hex, Breda Wall Ryan’s These are my People, A.E. Stalling’s verse translation of Hesiod: Works and Days, Maeve McKenna’s A Dedication to Drowning, Breda Spaight’s Watching for the Hawk, Jane Robinson’s Island and Atoll, Mark Ward’s Nightlight, Eamonn Lynskey’s Material Support, Rachel Coventry’s The Detachable Heart and Eamon McGuiness’ The Wrong Heroes.

Some the best short story collections I read this year included How to Gut a Fish by Sheila Armstrong, Evelyn Conlon’s Moving About the Place, Sean O’Reilly’s Levitation and Ann Beattie’s Park City: New and Selected stories.

Among the best novels I’ve read during the year I have to include The Singularities by John Banville (it has something of the old Banville in terms of character and concerns), Fludd by the late Hilary Mantel, Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery, Though the Bodies Fall by Noel O’Regan, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and Jabberwock by Dara Kavanagh (David Butler).

My ‘to be read’ pile grows bigger every week, but I’m looking forward to Booker winner Prophet Song by Paul Lynch and the current Winter Papers among many others in early 2024.

I hope 2023 was good to you and, whatever you’re reading or writing in 2024, I wish you only the very best!


Red Line Book Festival 2021

This year in October the Red Line Book Festival celebrates 10 years with a huge range of events, some in person, some virtual. You can view the full programme here.

I’m so happy to be hosting a real live event in the Civic Theatre (my first live event in a long time!) celebrating the short story with authors Deirdre Sullivan and Lucy Caldwell. We’ll hear short readings from both writers and then we’ll get down to the business of the short story, what it is and how it works. ‘The Beauty of Brevity’ takes place on Monday 11th October at 7pm and you can book your tickets here.

The festival is always a cracker and it will run up until 17th October. I intend to see as many events as I can during the week and there’s so much to choose from with events featuring the likes of Colm Tóibín, Kevin Power, Jane Robinson, Nell Regan, Lynn Buckle, Catherine Dunne, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Mary Dorcey, Moya Cannon, Victoria Kennefick, Jessica Traynor, Aoife Lyall, Amanda Bell, Eleanor Hooker, David Butler, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Eimear Ryan, Anrew McMillan, Seán Hewitt and many many more.

Happy New Year

How 2020 panned out

Every year around this time I compile a roundup of what I’ve done from a writing point of view during the old year. In many ways this year has been like no other, but I’ve been lucky in that I’ve managed to continue to write and publish new work throughout the year. Thanks to the support of family and writer friends I’ve been able keep going in this time of worry and uncertainty.

One of the main things I did this year was enabled by a Covid 19 bursary from the Arts Council. To date I have written twelve formal poems as part of a sequence dealing with the effects on family, the individual and community in coping with the restrictions imposed as part of dealing with the pandemic. I’ve been lucky to have my daughter, Martha, and my good friend, Pete McCluskey, making films for these new poems throughout the year. So far there are nine poetry films which can be viewed on YouTube.

Here’s a rundown of everything writing-related that happened for me in 2020, a year in which I published three new short stories and fourteen poems.

Although actual readings were out of the question this year, I did a number of virtual readings including The Holding Cell in April, launch of Skylight 47 in July, North West Words in August, Fiction at The Friary in October, readings from The Music of What Happens in November, Ó Bhéal Winter Warmer in November and the launch of 14 Magazine in December.

Bray Literary Festival went ahead as a purely online festival and was a big success with high viewer numbers thanks to sterling work by founder and Director, Tanya Farrelly and the rest of the committee: David Butler, Nessa O’Mahony, Phil Lynch, Edward O’Dwyer and myself. Special mentioned needs to be given to Peter Salisbury whose technical skill and expertise gave life to a festival which would otherwise have died in this challenging year. The committee has decided to take a break in 2021 and Bray Literary Festival will return in 2022.

I read so much this year and enjoyed a good portion of it, but I’ve limited my choices of books of the year to just three, one in each category. My novel of the year was the wonderfully expansive story of a life and art Oona (Lilliput Press) by Alice Lyons. For short story collection I chose Almost the Same Blue (Doire Press) by John O’Donnell for the range and detail of the stories. For poetry I chose Some Lives (Dedalus Press) by Leeanne Quinn, for the control and sureness of voice and that wonderful long title poem.

Plans for 2021

In 2021 I hope to find a publisher for my short story collection What Do You Actually Want? I’m also working towards finalising my second poetry collection (title yet to be decided). Work is well underway on this now and I hope to publish more new poems during the coming year which will form part of the manuscript. I plan to bring my formal poetry film sequence Freedom In Constraint to a close in early 2021. Again, thanks to the Arts Council for funding this project. To date I have written twelve poems, nine of which have been filmed so far. I expect there will be fifteen when the sequence is complete.

My main area of work this year will be on my novel in progress, working title Riverrun. I received a Professional Development Award from the Arts Council in December to cover the cost of an online novel writing course with the Faber Academy. The course runs from January to September 2021 and I’m hoping it will give me the tools to make my novel as good as it can be. I see it as a long-term investment also as I’m sure the techniques and skills I learn will stand to me as I take on further writing projects in the future. A very exciting prospect!

Finally, this year has been a peculiar and challenging year in many ways. I know I’ve been lucky and I’m thankful for that. I hope for all our sakes that our lives can return to something like normality during 2021.

Best wishes to all for a Happy New Year!


29th December 2020

Bray Literary Festival 2020

This year Bray Literary Festival, now in its fourth year, will be mainly an online festival. The exception will be our headline event which will be held on Thursday 17th September 2020 in the Mermaid Arts Centre in association with One City, One Book. We are delighted to present an evening of readings and discussion hosted by Dermot Bolger, featuring Christine Dwyer Hickey, author of eleven novels including Dublin’s One City, One Book 2020 choice Tatty and The Narrow Land, winner of the Walter Scott Award 2020, and Billy O’Callaghan, author of novels The Dead House and My Coney Island Baby and four short story collections, most recently The Boatman.

Tickets are limited because of social distancing guidelines so book your ticket now at the Mermaid.

Friday 18th September is Culture Night and we have a lovely event planned called “Four Poets Walk into a Bar” featuring Anne Tannam, Mark Ward, Grace Wilentz and Fiona Bolger. This event will be livestreamed on Culture Night at 7pm. Following this event there will be the announcement of the winners of this year’s poetry and fiction competitions and readings of their work.

The Festival continues on Friday 25th September at 7.30pm with the launch of The Music of What Happens, an anthology of new writing in support of Purple House edited by Festival Director, Tanya Farrelly.

The Festival continues throughout Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September with an amazing range of writers and poets reading and talking about their work. Please review the full programme for details. All of these events can be accessed through the Bray Literary Festival YouTube Channel so please subscribe to be sure you don’t miss anything.

I’m personally looking forward to hosting two events. The first, Singing in the Wild Dark, sees me chatting with poets Eleanor Hooker, Jess Traynor and Leeanne Quinn on Saturday 26th September at 2.30pm. These three poets should not be missed.

My second event is Brave New Words featuring Alice Lyons, Pat O’Connor and Marianne Lee on Sunday 27th September at 11.30am. We’ll be discussing new novels and short stories and the route to publication and much more besides.

All of these events are free to view, but we are more than happy to receive any donations you might want to make towards the future of the festival. I hope you’ll set some time aside to catch some of these extraordinary writers read and discuss their work.

BLF Committee, l to r: Phil Lynch, Ed O’Dwyer, David Butler, Tanya Farrelly (Director), Brian Kirk, Nessa O’Mahony