Roller coaster doesn’t begin to cover this year for me. Writing has contributed most of my highs, while the lows have been of a more personal nature. I’m glad of this blog, which reminds me that actually quite a lot has happened since my last end-of-year round up. I even got some writing done.
Much of the traffic has been for the competition listings posts, something I’ll certainly continue with next year. Incidentally, if anyone wins one off the back of seeing it here, do please let me know so I can bask in your glory.
Molly Keane Award
You could have struck me down with a feather when I received a call in May telling me I had won this year’s Molly Keane Creative Writing Award. I was shopping at the time and can only remember saying to Waterford Council Arts Officer Margaret Organ, “I’m emotional in Specsavers.” Smooth, as always.
The prize was €500, which I immediately invested in education (more below). I was also invited to the warm and welcoming award ceremony in Lismore as part of the IMMRAMA Travel Writing Festival, where I read my story ‘Fortune’. It’s about an older lady who wins the lottery, to her dismay.
I had a few short stories and flash fiction pieces published this year, in Jellyfish Review, Dodging the Rain, The Nottingham Review and The Drabble. They’re all lovely journals that are excellent to deal with, and I would definitely recommend sending your work their way.
It’s easy to get disheartened after a string of rejections, especially when everyone else seems to be enjoying success (social media plays a big role here as no one is delighted to announce their failures), so I’d like to point out that I also have plenty of rejection emails in my inbox – and most of them are for the few stories I’m proud of! So, dear reader, if you fall into that disheartened category, don’t give up hope. There are so many outlets for the written word and, much like dating, it’s a case of finding the right match.
One of my blogging resolutions for 2019 is to feature more Q&As. I find it fascinating to talk to people about their writing process, and love to see success stories. This year on the blog I had interviews with The First Sunday in September author Tadhg Coakley, and After the World author Máire Brophy. The books couldn’t be more different – Tadhg’s a series of narratives connected by an All-Ireland hurling final, Máire’s a fantasy novel set in the aftermath of a great war – but both discussed their work in entertaining and eloquent ways. Both writers are well worth checking out.
I didn’t have the best reading year because I have a bit of eye strain, which makes it hard to focus on words for great lengths of time. Plus I do believe modern life is shrinking my attention span. However, I did start – and abandon – several reviews for books I enjoyed, chief among them My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, who I had the wonderful experience of meeting (see below). It’s one of those books you finish and think, Wish I’d written that. Her more recent novel The Trick to Time is also beautiful, but Leon has stayed with me in a way that only those rare characters do. Here are my highlights from 2018:
UL winter school in Doolin
That Molly Keane Award money was well spent on a place on an inaugural writing retreat organised by the University of Limerick’s creative writing department. It was hugely daunting but exciting. What was even more daunting/exciting was the list of guest lecturers, which included my writing heroes Kit de Waal and Donal Ryan. I got to speak to Kit about her work, but bottled out of talking to Donal, whose work I’m a huge admirer of. By the time I decided that I really should try and have a few words on the last day, everyone else had the same idea and it was like queuing to see Santa in the main foyer area. Another time, hopefully.
The five days I spent at Hotel Doolin in the wilds of Co Clare was something really special, far more than I was able to capture in the daily blog reports I filed. As well as learning a great deal, I got to hang out with the most fabulous, sound group of people, many of whom I hope to know for a long time.
I also accidentally joined a non-singing folk group, which Twitter decided to name The Uncorrected Proofs via an online poll (although a splinter group of us preferred Imposter Syndrome, which will probably be the name of the spinoff band once the inevitable cracks appear).
…and the bad
I won’t go into the year’s lows too much, other than to say briefly that my husband was diagnosed with cancer in May and spent four months having intensive chemo. He was thankfully given the all-clear in October, but we are still reeling from the fallout. These things force a person (whether patient or onlooking family) to reevaluate, which we’ve been doing a lot of this year. We are very grateful to be ending the year the way we are.
End of year report
All in all, it’s been a good year for my writing group. Between us, we’ve had competition wins, shortlistings, longlistings, publication, broadcasts and notable mentions. We have also upheld our fine tradition of eating our respective body weights in cake, pastries and scones (pro tip: if you’re ever in the River Lee Hotel in Cork, treat yourself to their plain scones, which have a hint of orange zest. Delicious). I look forward to sharing more work with these amazing women next year, and further supporting one another’s projects. Without them, I would definitely not be writing.
I genuinely want to thank everyone who has interacted with and/or visited the blog this year, as you spare me from feeling I’m howling into a void. Wherever you are in the world – and you are a surprisingly international bunch – I wish you all writing joy in 2019.