UL winter school, day 3

Tuesday: call me peculiar, but I could get used to being served exquisite meals three times a day, a maid service making my bed and straightening my hung-up towels, not to mention on-tap literary expertise.

Day three was a bit difficult for me to get into because I. Can. Not. Sleep. Yesterday and the evening before offered so much valuable insight that for the past two nights it’s only in the very late hours I’ve had the mental space to lay out the shells and pebbles I’ve collected, metaphorically speaking.

Importance of feedback

Tired or not, I was determined not to miss a thing and this morning kicked off with a workshop on giving and receiving feedback with editorial director (and psychotherapist) Helen Thomas. Through some group exercises, we discussed why feedback is important – ie. fixing mistakes, finding how successfully you’re conveying the story that’s 3D in your head and, equally importantly, to receive encouragement that you’re on the right track. It was a warm, lively session that loosened everyone up.

After a two-hour writing session, we had an excellent workshop with Kit de Waal on the subject of editing your own work. What a woman. I was thankful that she gave us handouts with her main points because there was too much for one pen to take note of.  As an example, she used the analogy of writing a book being like the process of building a house.

“When do you get your cushions out?” she asked, by way of explaining priorities. Faffing around with commas when you still haven’t figured out your structure is a waste of time, just as choosing your cushions would be if the cement mixer hasn’t arrived to pour the foundations yet.

Beside the seaside, apparently

In the afternoon, a group of us decided to venture beyond our literary palace and see a bit of Co Clare. We got as far as the brow of the first hill, where a furious sea was visible in the distance and certainly audible, courtesy of incoming Storm Diana. I really like the photo below (taken by Annie Syed – do please check out this lovely writer’s work here), in which we look like Ireland’s second most successful ukulele orchestra. Incidentally, what is the collective term for writers in the wild? An anthology? A folder?

Everyone loves a sea view, l-r: Shorty McWordherding, Cat Hogan, Declan Dempsey, Niall McArdle, Aisling Keogh, Dara Reilly

Food glorious food

Now I know you’re all anxiously waiting to find out what I had for dinner. Every evening we’ve been served amazing shared starters – tonight, it was a very fine salmon gravlax with beetroot hummus, squid which I shunned because bleugh no matter how beautifully prepared and something gorgeous with rice [again, Sunday supplements, you really need to snap me up for my unique take on culinary delights]. My main course was pork with cabbage and apple, kale and mashed potato, everything cooked to perfection.

Sense of place

The evening salon consisted of readings by Kerry Neville and Rob Doyle. Both read excerpts from non-fiction pieces, Kerry a new piece about her time in Limerick, Rob about a trip to Paris. Their words washing over us in the mellow light of the Barn Hall, beside the flicker of the fire, was a pretty wonderful way to end the day.

Join me tomorrow to see how I survive a session on pitching a book with agent Jo and an open mic evening we’re all being encouraged to take part in.

There may also be mention of food.

Read Day 4 here

Photos:  photos courtesy of Annie Q Syed

4 thoughts on “UL winter school, day 3

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