Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m a huge fan of Fiction at the Friary, a monthly literary salon that takes place here in Cork. It is hosted by award-winning writers Danielle McLaughlin and Madeleine D’Arcy, and features a different guest author each month talking about their work, along with an optional writing exercise and an open-mic session that has helped many a writer gain confidence in sharing their work. It’s a wonderfully friendly environment, which is largely due to the ethos of the co-founders – everyone is welcome regardless of writing credentials. I reckon some people come along solely to partake of the Hula Hoops and jellybeans shared on every table (in the pre-Covid world!).
During lockdown, Madeleine and Danielle valiantly kept FatF going with monthly zoom sessions which were then uploaded to their YouTube channel. Since September, they’ve been able to return to the distinctive bright blue Friary pub at the bottom of Shandon Street in the city, but have also continued with the prerecorded versions for those who can’t attend or feel more comfortable watching online.
The October guest was Madeleine herself, reading from and discussing her fabulous new short story collection Liberty Terrace, published by Doire Press. It’s a series of interconnected stories set around a fictional neighbourhood in Cork city, and covers a period from 2016 to the heart of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020. The stories are hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measures, with characters ranging from a rock star past his prime to a group of older ladies visiting a faith healer because of the difficulty in getting a GP appointment during lockdown. One of the stories was recently longlisted for the Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award, as part of the An Post Irish Book Awards.
To my great astonishment, I was asked to co-host the event with Danielle. I felt very much like a young Courteney Cox being hauled up on stage to dance with Bruce Springsteen in that Dancing in the Dark video. “Who, me?” For the record, Madeleine and I have been in a writing group for a couple of years, during which time I’ve seen the stories in this collection grow and blossom into something truly special. So it was an absolute privilege to talk to her more intensively about her writing process.
The prerecorded interview is now available to watch on YouTube. Apologies in advance for much rustling – that’s all my fault. One thing I’ve learned from this is not to wear a long necklace and earphones/mic together:
Liberty Press by Madeleine D’Arcy is published by Doire Press. It is available from select bookstores nationwide or directly from Doire.
Fiction at the Friary is a free event that takes place in The Friary Pub, Shandon Street, Cork, on the last Sunday of every month, 3-6pm. You’ll find updates about upcoming events via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.