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.
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
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.
In April I was awarded an Arts Council Bursary to write a sequence of formal poems focusing on the theme isolation and impacts on community and family arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. The poems with accompanying films began appearing on my blog and other social media in June 2020.
My short story The Tourist was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2020 in October.
In December I was granted an Arts Council Professional Development Award to take up an eight-month novel writing course with Faber Academy in January 2021.
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
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.
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 OneCity,OneBook. 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.
Brian Kirk is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist from Dublin, Ireland. His work has appeared in the Sunday Tribune, Crannog, The Stony Thursday Book, Revival, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs and various anthologies.
Brian's first poetry collection, After The Fall, is published by Salmon Poetry.