Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

Blogging Listowel's Literary Scene

Mary Morrissy coming to Listowel 2010

May 24, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010

I’m looking to see if Mary Morrissy has a Twitter account. I’d like to contact her…

This is the first link I found via Google: it’s an interview from 2007. I guess she keeps a low profile?

Mary is running a workshop called “Creative Writing” at Listowel Writers’ Week 2010. I’d love to contact Mary before the workshop or even contact someone who’s going to be at it.

My workshop experience at Writers’ Week 2008

May 28, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: historical, participants, tutors, workshop

Having attended Carlo Gébler’s Writing a Novel workshop at last year’s Writers’ Week, I was hopeful that I would actually make some progress with my nascent novel-to-be. That, of course, depended on my making time in my busy schedule for writing. Inevitably this did not come to pass: as is almost invariably the case my priorities, like water, followed the path of least resistance, and the novel writing was de-prioritised out of existence.
The workshop itself, I found to be very useful, as it got me to focus on the why. Motivation is the key to everything. Each act carried out by each character in the novel must be believable, otherwise that character will not be believable. Even if the reader does not know or understand the motivation behind the action of a character, the author must know it, otherwise the character ceases to be believable. In essence that is what I gleaned from the workshop.
I enjoyed hearing the other participants read from their works in progress, as much as I enjoyed reading from my own. The range in tone and genre was breathtaking, the skill of the individual writers undoubted.
I felt that Carlo facilitated the workshop with real skill, facilitating a space for each participant to voice hir (his/her) thoughts, emotions and reactions. It was for me a very fruitful experience. Now, all I have to do is re-prioritise my novel writing to the point where I actually get something written – easier said than done!

Workshops: Creative Writing with Mary Morrissy

May 22, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, tutors, workshop

Are you a lucky one signed up to spend three days with Mary Morrissy?

Are you going to “tone up” your creative writing skills?

Mary Morrissy workshop director

Mary Morrissy workshop director

You can find her books here.

Read this Dublin Quarterly conversation with her.

Mary Morrissy was born in Dublin in 1957. She has published one collection of short stories, A Lazy Eye (London, Jonathan Cape/ New York, Scribner, 1993).

Her novels are Mother of Pearl (Scribner, 1995/Jonathan Cape, 1996); and The Pretender (Jonathan Cape, 2000).

She won a Hennessy Award for short fiction in 1984, a Lannan Literary Prize in 1995, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 1996.

She lives in Dublin.”

The blurb for the Workshop says:

“Want to keep fit as a writer? … toning language skills, developing character and building plot …. in-class writing will be involved… light reading… short assignments for homework.”

I wonder what Mary Morrissy considers “light reading”?

If we are privileged, Mary Morrissy will accept our invitation and write something here before the workshop…

Publicising the blog & Writers’ Week

May 22, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, workshop

I went to an BNI meeting in Cork this morning, a 0645 start in the Ambassador Hotel. About 45 people there.

I was subbing for Dominick Cullinane Landscaping – a fabulous garden designer & builder (whom I’m hoping will help me).

I met Paul Hayes there. He’s from SPA Lighting & Living, a company with headquarters in Farranfore, Co Kerry. As soon as I heard “Kerry” I latched on to him because I felt sure Kerry people network like mad.

Here was an opportunity to spread the message that we’re here.

It turned out he knew someone going to a Workshop @ Listowel. So I wrote out the blog name on the back of my business card (0mani & co). He said he’d pass it on.

Givers Gain” is the BNI motto. He’s going to give me something. I’m giving him publicity for SPA Lighting & Living in return.

You scratch my back and I’ll…

That’s the sort of language I imagine Kerry people use.

My take on Writers’ Week 2008

May 18, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: historical, participants, workshop

I thought I’d republish the report I wrote on my experience of Writers’ Week 2008 here. The original was posted on my writer’s blog on 11 June 2008. I’ve inserted it below verbatim:


I’ve been so busy since Writers’ week that I haven’t had a chance to post anything at all let alone anything on Writers’ Week 2008. Despite the late hour, I can’t hold back any longer.

I signed up for the Writing a Novel workshop with Carlo Gébler which proved to be a real treat. I found Carlo to be sharp as a needle, concise, precise and funny (in the best sense of the word) and learned an enormous amount in the intense 12 hours we had with him. It was money really well spent. Now it’s up to me to do the (enormous amount of) work necessary to write my novel.

I also got to perform some poetry during the 4 days as follows:

  1. At “Poets’ Corner” on Thursday 29 May 2008 in the Kingdom Bar MCd by the inimitable George Rowley, I had the the privilege of performing “Resurrection” to a packed and highly appreciative audience among which were Rosaleen who was in my Writing a Novel workshop, and Michelene all the way from Mayo. We were also treated to the masterly tin whistle of Barney McKenna of The Dubliners, the wonderful Freddy White, and many poets of all shapes and hues.
  2. At the “Healing Session” in J.B. Keane’s pub on Sunday 01 June. The pub is now run by Billy Keane, J.B’s son. Billy and I were in the same class in St. Michael’s College, Listowel all through our secondary school days. Billy did me the honour of a short introduction to my performance of “Full Moon over America” which I thoroughly enjoyed as there was no microphone to impede me.
  3. I couldn’t miss the Maureen Beasley Memorial poetry event on the Sunday evening in The Mermaids Bar. I knew Maureen who was a very kind person, and who intervened on my behalf the last time I was at Writers’ Week in the mid 1980s when an officious member of the Writers’ Week Committee of the female sex who shall remain nameless (she knows damn well who she is) tried to stop me from performing a couple of poems in Broderick’s Bar (there are little Hitlers everywhere). I performed “Embrace” in Maureen’s memory.

I managed to get to two readings – Pat Boran‘s, and John Banville‘s which was interesting and controversial. Pat’s reading was very moving so much so I saw several members of the packed audience in tears, and I wasn’t far off myself either. Having never read any of John Banville, I was curious to hear him read. He read from his as yet unfinished forthcoming novel contrary to the advice of his publisher as he said by way of a preface to same. I managed to keep my concentration for the entire reading which lasted about 20 minutes and was struck by the acuity and beauty of the language. There followed the usual question and answer session, which finished with a very stupid question by some Unitedstatesian woman about the importance of setting. Having replied that setting was entirely unimportant (as the story could in effect be set anywhere), John then stated that “travel narrows the mind” to gasps from the audience. Well, they were asking for it!

On a more personal note, the few days proved very significant as acquaintance was renewed with Billy Keane after all of 32 years, and with Pat Boran after around 20 years (we can’t decide exactly when was the last time we met). I spent a couple of hours in the company of John F. Deane, Pat Boran and Noel King while they plied themselves with the black stuff and I with sparkling water (I was driving). I also received news of the death of a friend from my University days – the poet Pádraig McGrane whom I hadn’t seen since the early 1980s – which proved to be a shock. I can’t get Páric out of my mind and am trying (vainly for now) to write him a worthy poem.



I finished the poem for Pádraig a few months later.

Dishing the dirt on a Listowel Workshop (chapter 3)

May 15, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: historical, participants, poets, tutors, workshop

Over the first teabreak, I found out I hadn’t been late.

The workshop had started dead on time. I’d been three minutes late into the room. Shows how nervous I was, that I let that upset & disorient me.

(You can read the first two episodes here & here.)

James McGrath had come to the workshop from New Mexico. He turned out to be an extraordinary individual and poet (author of “At the edgelessness of Light“), but I didn’t realise that straightaway. My first impression was his accent. It was different and fresh.

Philip Byrne was from the Irish east coast. He’d been sitting across the table from me, and also sounded different: his poem had shape to it. It made a picture on the page. Gradually I found out he had loads of ‘concrete’ poems, and a litany of other talents.

I forget the name of the man from Clare, the Burrenman. He read out his poem, and it sounded as if it came from deep within segmented rock. My first impression with that I was in the presence of a mythvoice.

As I recall that first 90 minutes with our leader, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, I remember my disgruntlement at her lack of apparent organisation. Soft voiced, she had no interest or investment in being in control. She simple asked us to pick postcards, write and read. No other introductions. I don’t think she even introduced herself. She had no ego on display.

What a marvellous way to get introduced to poets.

No preamble. No spoof. Simply a poem that spoke for the DNA of the author.

I can think of no better way to begin working with a poet than hearing them read one of their poems, so fresh, that if it was an egg, you’d lay it aside before cracking the shell.

I can’t find my notebook (the place where I wrote my thoughts and inspirations.

Shit, bollocks, feck…

I’ll have to go on exposing my imaginative memory…

(to be continued)

Workshops: Freelance Journalism with Mary Kenny

May 14, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: journalism, participants, tutors, workshop

Who better to be with than Mary Kenny...

In the first of our series covering each of the workshops, we look at


  • provide a space for those of you booked on the workshop to say what you hope to get from it.

Anyone have a Mary Kenny story?

If we’re really privileged, Mary Kenny will accept an invitation to write a piece for us before the workshop.

Dishing the dirt on a Listowel Workshop (chapter 2)

May 13, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: historical, participants, poem, poems, poet, starting up

At least I was in a seat at the Workshop. (You can read the story so far here.)

No time for wondering whether I was in the right place. The first thing I noticed was that there were only five blokes. I always clock the gender ratio.

There were many postcards on the rectangular table.

People were picking them up, looking closey, discarding and selecting. Someone (probably Nuala NiDhomhnaill : listen to her read here) told me I was meant to pick three, and write a poem based on them.

I remember liking the poem I wrote, but I can’t find it.

Somewhere in this office in Glanmire is hiding my notebook. It doesn’t want to be rehandled. It’s been quietly minding its own business through four housemoves. But I vow to expose it to fresh air soon.

We got on with composing...

I was distracted by questions:

  • what the hell’s going on?
  • what are the rules?
  • who are these people?
  • when’s time for tea?

I’m a writer. I was doing what I do. I’m used to writing without thinking, and letting whatever comes up flow out. It was good to be doing that, rather than sitting talking in a group while I was so distracted by being late for the start.

We read. Everyone read out their piece.

There was one woman who read out a poem in Irish. Couldn’t understand a word. Or couldn’t trust my understanding. (I’d only studied Irish for about 13 years at school.) She was beautiful. A musician with the sound of syllables. I was thrilled to listen. And then she went and buggered off. Never came back for day two. She expected there would be others writing in Irish, I think. I really missed her.

And, if she’s reading this, I’d like to say thank you for that poem – whatever it meant.

It was a bit tough sitting there listening to about 15 strangers reading their poem.

At least half of them were very good, I thought. Two or three were fairly awesome, I thought. One of them had won the single poem prize. I was sat between two women whose work I did nothing but admire.

What about the men?

Yes. There was a man from the Burren, a man from the desert in New Mexico, USA, and a man who wrote concrete poems (I think that’s the technical term for a poem that has shape on the page represented by an image made from letters.)…

I’m writing from memory.

No notes. I better warn you that anything based on my memory is suspect. The only thing I trust is my notebook.

I’ll have more to say about the men, and the women, after tea… We did eventually take a break.

(to be continued)

Dishing the Dirt on a Listowel Writers’ Week Workshop (chapter 1)

May 11, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, historical, organisers, participants, poetry

Listowel Writers’ Week has a menu of workshops for aspiring writers.

You can download details of this year’s workshops here.

If you’re going to a workshop, you’re surely wondering what it’ll be like? Like me in 2007, you may never have been to a Listowel workshop.

Well do I remember the curiosity and trepidation.

The purpose of this post is to offer you an insider’s view of what it was like for me. I owe nothing to anyone, and it’s time I told the full story, the unexpurgated version…

Entering the workshop:

I was late. Everyone else was in the room when I arrived – thinking I was about three minutes ‘late’. (In Ireland, that is not late.) Immediately I knocked, entered and sat down, I decided I must be 33 minutes late. Everyone was in the middle of writing something.

For years, I’ve earned my living running workshops for managers (anyone who needs to achieve results through others). Always taken the start of any event slowly. That day I assumed I must have missed the personal introductions, the objectives of the workshop, the ground rules and certainly the timetable for each day. That’s why I assumed I was very late. Talk about being back-footed. I felt lost.

Some background:

After I applied for the Advanced Poetry workshop with Nuala NiDhomhnaill, I suspected I might be going on the wrong one. Perhaps I should be on the beginner’s one? After all, I’d only been writing poetry since 22 June 1995 @ 1620.

Before setting off from Cork, I’d bought one of Nuala’s books, The Astrakhan Cloak (1992), and read a few poems. Otherwise her work was unknown to me. My excuse is that I lived in UK from 1975-2005, and only began reading poetry in 1994.

I’d been mad enough to write a blogpost analysis of one of Nuala’s poems. Did this to put down a marker, so I’d have something to remind me of what I was like before I fell under her influence.

I knew no one in the room…

(except for one person from Cork. I’d not seen her in ages, and wasn’t on speaking terms with her.)

There was reason for me to think I was a fish out of water…

- to be continued…

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