The weekly herding: new writers and old routines

I’m still not getting time to read much at the moment as I’m spending my days at the hospital with my poorly mum. But I did see a few things I enjoyed this week, and am sharing them so I’ll feel as if I’ve made some effort to  keep my commitment.

Apropos of nothing, how nice was it to see a bit of this in Ireland this week?

Rankin on writing

First was Ian Rankin’s working day in the Guardian. Entitled ‘Solitude, Coffee, Music: 27 Days Later I Have A First Draft’, he reveals that he has a house he goes to when working on a new book. It’s in a remote area three hours’ drive from Edinburgh, with no internet or TV to distract him from writing. It sounds idyllic if you like solitude by the bucketload, and he’s enviably focussed on getting that initial rough version down fast.


Debut ageism?

Then this ancient (2014) but brilliant article popped up somewhere on Twitter this week. Joanna Walsh (author of short story collection Vertigo) very sensibly asks (also in the GuardianWhy Must the ‘Best New Writers’ Always Be Under 40? Does writing have a sell-by date, she asks? And shouldn’t we acknowledge a person’s achievement in getting published, regardless of age?

‘Solicitors worry if they haven’t made partner, footballers if they haven’t got into the first team by a certain age, because those jobs have recognisable structures, but who can say that it’s “better” or “worse” to be Charles Bukowski (first novel published aged 49) or Zadie Smith (first novel published aged 24), or EM Forster, whose last novel was published when he was 45, though he lived until the age of 91, or Jean Rhys, who, after success as a young writer was widely believed to have died soon after the publication of Good Morning Midnight (1939), before returning with the internationally acclaimed Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)’ – Joanna Walsh



They don’t seem to advertise the fact much, but the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition 2016 is now open for entries. Stories should be 2,000 words max, on any theme, and entry is free (only one entry allowed per person). The closing date is June 10 and details are on the RTE Guide Facebook page.

I have a particular soft spot for this competition because it was one of the first things I ever entered and the first competition I placed in. I was thrilled to make it to the longlist (of about 60, I think), particularly as there was a fantastic prize of a day-long publishing seminar in Dublin’s Pearse Street Library. We heard from industry figures such as Penguin Ireland editorial director Patricia Deevy and agent Faith O’Grady, who spoke about every aspect from finding representation to publicising a novel (major takeaway from that – you have to be prepared to use social media, hence this blog and my still tentative Twitter account). Writers Sinead Moriarty, Karen Gillece and Paul Perry (who publish as crime writing entity Karen Perry) and Canadian writer Emma Hooper spoke about their individual experiences and approaches to writing. We also heard about the bookseller’s perspective from Eason’s buyer Stephen Boylan, and many more besides.

As well as the huge amount of information being generously shared (much like the Cork World Book Fest publishing event I attended recently), it was also wonderful to meet and talk to other writers – two of whom, Lourdes Mackey and Mary Rose McCarthy, were from my own writing class. Most significantly for me, to sit in a room and be addressed as a writer for the first time was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. I can honestly say it was a turning point for me.  So if you, dear reader, are at an early stage in your own writing path, this would be well worth trying.


4 thoughts on “The weekly herding: new writers and old routines

  1. Thanks very much, Cathy. Re the age issue, it never even particularly struck me before, but Joanna is so right. And if anything, we should be applauding first-time writers who’ve managed to keep the faith for so long


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