Monday: there is very little space left in my tiny, crammed brain so I will keep this brief. Or I may ramble. Let’s see which it will be, shall we?
Day 2 of the University of Limerick winter school was nothing if not intense – incidentally, part 1 is here if you’ve just stumbled across this.
First thing this morning there was a workshop on exploring and nourishing creativity, which covered a variety of topics. Donal Ryan spoke about receptivity, ie. being open to ideas and not setting limitations on things you write about for fear of offending your nearest and dearest. This led on to Kit de Waal talking about the dangers of cultural appropriation (something she wrote about brilliantly in the Irish Times). It was too big and thorny a subject to do more than touch upon, but the consensus was that respect and authenticity are crucial. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald then ran through some of the elements that make a writer. The word tenacity came up a lot.
There followed the first of two structured writing sessions. We sat in small groups in the Barn Hall with Sarah, who set us specific bursts of time to write in silence (20 minutes, 35 minutes, 45 minutes) with short breaks in between to discuss what we’d achieved – or not. There were also larger discussions about whether the writing became easier or harder as the time went on. I personally found it extremely inspiring, as it was a similar dynamic to when I work with my writing group. There’s something about everyone else scribbling or clacking away that makes you just get on with things.
The joys of pitching your work
Later in the afternoon, agent Jo Unwin led a workshop about how to present your work. This dealt specifically with writing an eye-catching pitch. So hard to do and yet some of the participants wrote wonderful pitches of their WIPs, I would buy them all. I am not being falsely modest when I say mine was rubbish – and I think that was largely because I’m only halfway through writing my first draft and still figuring out what story I’m trying to tell.
I then had a one-to-one feedback session with Kerry Neville, who is at the University of Limerick as a Fulbright scholar. The experience was very positive and helpful, and she asked me questions I couldn’t answer about my characters, which led me to think about things I need to consider as I progress through the novel.
In the evening, there was a cosy fireside salon with Kit de Waal, Rob Doyle and Kerry Neville about creating three-dimensional characters. By that time I was too tired to take notes, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was fascinating.
All work, etc
With all this frantic learning you’d think there would be little time to devote to eating but oh no, my friends, we dined like kings. Halloumi with asparagus, the tenderest pork belly, monkfish with some amazing chorizo type thingy [am available for food reviews, Sunday supplements]. All of this in the company of some of the most interesting, dedicated people I’ve ever met.
Time for The Good Place. Michael and Janet are in rural Canada, and Eleanor loves Chidi.
Read Day 3 here