The Cat in the Box


Broadcasts in eight short (5 min.) episodes, on KCLR96fm at 8:15p.m. Mon-Thurs for two weeks from Nov. 30th

A transvestite pub-owner, his emo daughter, 15 missing cats, an asthmatic punk and an earnest young vlogger, all collide in this surreal comedy, set in a fictional Kilkenny pub.

Calamity Rain and her cross-dressing father, Feidhlim Phelan, live in a darkened Kilkenny City pub, recently closed down by health and safety officials. They entertain themselves by tormenting unwitting tourists, subjecting them to unpleasant pranks. However, this existence is threatened when Feidhlim beckons an asthmatic middle-aged punk grappling with his own mortality, and Calamity invites along Molly-May Curnihane, a young teen with a vlog dedicated to missing Kilkenny cats. Zany and fast-paced, the series is a surreal comment on contemporary familial relationships and inter-generational dynamics.

The Cat in the Box stars Michael Power (Game of Thrones, Vikings), Michael Quinlan (This is England ’90), Ema Lemon (Garter Lane), Niamh McCann (Waterford Youth Arts).

The Fall

Hamstead Heath in November.

Hamstead Heath in November.

November and the trees are getting naked. The parks are full of kickabout leaves and the landscape is awash with crimson, orange and yellow. It’s a good time to talk about shedding all that is not necessary – in other words, editing.

Murder’ or ‘Kill your darlings’ is an adage attributed to the literary critic Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, advising writers to cut the words / phrases to which they are most attached, in order to strengthen the work. It is good advice when editing, as often we writers shoehorn in a delicious description which doesn’t do an enormous amount for the piece as a whole. It is simply a bauble. Time to get the gun out.

Editing makes the job of writer a rather schizophrenic affair where one has to don two very different caps. The first cap is that of the creative free thinker who is focused on the big picture and is not too worried about the details. This is the person who comes up with the story, the theme, the basic structure, the person who invents characters and decides on the tone. This artist-writer will draw up the first draft of the story, writing only to please themselves. Finishing a draft wearing this cap is only some of the journey, however…

Next comes the cap of editor-writer. This is when the writer combs through the text, ruthlessly chopping, restructuring and cutting unnecessary/ unsuitable words, characters, scenes, phrases etc… or ‘murdering your darlings’. This is the writer preparing the text for other people. It is a good idea to leave a few weeks between your artist and editor incarnations.

Editing can be painful, and time-consuming. You’ve quite likely become attached to some characters, scenes, words and phrases and are loathe to see them go. Don’t worry, you can store them in your “writer’s bag” for use at a future time in a more suitable context. In the meantime, get pruning…

Chopping advice:

Cut all surplus adjectives and adverbs.

Examine the phrases you’ve shoehorned in just because you liked the sound of them – do they really fit that scene? Be honest. If not, bin them.

Take out all vague words such as “seem/seemingly” and try to do without your “justs”.

Look at all sentences that run for two or three lines. Do they really need to be that long? Can you reduce them or break them up? If you can, do so.

Active forms are better than passive forms, where possible (ie. “John cleaned the flat” rather than, “the flat was cleaned by John”).

Finally, every writer on Earth needs a reader or two – fresh eyeballs to run over your work and give you honest feedback. I suggest using three friends whom you trust will be frank with you. You don’t have to take everything they say on board. Do consider what they say, however, and if all three come back and say a character is not working. The character is not working. Rewrite.

The End


In two of the countries I’ve lived in, Hungary and France, November 1st is the day upon which one visits the graves of parted loved ones… In Ireland, you visit on Nov. 2nd. It’s a time to reflect and remember and to pay respect.

I love cemeteries. Not in any morbid way, I find them inspiring, sobering and oddly calming. They happen to be very beautiful places around this time of year too.. teeming with autumn leaves. They are momento mori, a reminder that our time here is fleeting, and we should use it wisely and well. They also underscore the fact that everything, and everyone, has an end.

Ending a project can be difficult. Sometimes we don’t want to let go… here’s a checklist to see if your bun is done.

1) Have you read through your piece a number of times, each revision focusing on different aspects (character, theme, structure, tone, language, punctuation, grammar etc…)?

2) Have you shown your piece to at least one person and received informed and HONEST feedback, and have you then addressed any issues that have been highlighted?

3) Are you now re-reading your work, doing nothing but shifting around commas (and back again)?

If the answer to the above is ‘Yes’, then you’re done and the only reason you’re hesitating sending it off to the agent/publisher/magazine/competition, is that you’re scared of rejection.

Get over that. If you’re going to be a published writer, you’re going to have to suck up a lot of rejection. Be brave. Take the leap. And good luck!

Listen to ‘Shellakybooky’

Shellakybooky Podcast


Listen to my Radio Dramas


A number of people have asked me about listening to podcasts of my radio dramas. Six of them are available at the moment, hosted by the radio stations that first broadcast them.. The urls for the podcasts are listed in the column on the right hand side of this page. Please cut and paste the url and it should bring you to the relevant podcast. One more, The Cat in the Box, will follow shortly.

I hope you enjoy them…

Shellakybooky broadcast


Budapest, Hungary, 2015. Nursing a broken heart, Mar Walsh travels from Waterford to Hungary to stay with her sister Brigette Walsh Cooney and family. Mar is impressed by her sister’s seemingly idyllic expat existence. Brigette simply ‘does not do negativity’ and her days are full of champagne and yoga. All is not how it seems, however, and cracks are soon evident in the Cooney’s perfect veneer. A mistress, a graffiti-obsessed son, an anarchist and a gay minister focused on change, all combine to shake the Cooney’s world and expose its fragility as the country’s political problems arrive on their doorstep in the form of a revolution.

Broadcasting on Monday, October 26th, 6pm-7pm (Irish time) on


Being Pathetic


It was a dark and stormy …

“Pathetic fallacy” is an academic term that refers to the technique of ascribing human emotions to inanimate objects, usually to reflect a character’s mood. For example, say your protagonist falls in love: you might describe flowers laughing and trees waving their branches gleefully. Or perhaps there’s been a death, so the landscape looks bleak and with clouds brewing rain.

“Pathetic fallacy” was very popular with the Victorian novelists – I always think of Thomas Hardy when asked to give an example. Therein, however, lies the problem – “pathetic fallacy” is a little out of fashion nowadays. This demise of its popularity is partly due to the modern attention span. If you’ve ever read novels by the Brontes, Dickens, Elliot or Hardy – you’ll know all about lengthy landscape description and frankly, how dull it can be for modern readers. If you absolutely need to say how each field in the valley looked, then spread your descriptions out over the course of your work. Above all, as Elmore Leonard wrote, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

Another reason “pathetic fallacy” is no longer de rigueur in the literary world, is that it can seem cliché. For example, if your protag is heading home to see his wife and there’s a storm, and then they fight… your foreshadowing’s is derivative, predictable and boring.

Still, “pathetic fallacy” has its place in the literary toolbox. It can provide emphasis for mood. I suggest using it sparingly, with caution and avoid storm/argument, rain/depression, sunny days/falling-in-love clichés.

Personally, I like to turn PF on its head; let the trouble come in sunshine or make a storm a symbol of peace. If you use PF, surprise your reader with it.

Oh, and whatever you do, never open with a “pathetic fallacy” weather report. That’s the biggest cliché in the cliché box, it’s just pathetic …

Portrait of the Artist


Me in thinking pose

Art begets art. A meeting between like-minded artists often results in a cross pollination of ideas which inspire, progress and crystallise art projects. Such an exchange can be an intended collaboration, or it can be an ego driven ‘anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better’ brandishing. And it hardly matters which,  so long as art ultimately benefits.

Likewise, great inspiration can be found in complementary art forms. A poet can conjure new ideas from a dance; a musician can be moved to compose by a script. I a primarily a writer of prose fiction but as an Art College alumna – when I’m looking for inspiration, I go to an art gallery and meet my muse in the form of the visual arts.

This summer’s sojourn at an Italian artists’ retreat, allowed me to spend time in the company of painters, goldsmiths and photographers, all of whom must have had some serious muse energy considering the amount of work i managed to get done whilst there. I’ve just received this ‘Portrait of the Artist’ from the talented photographer Gwen Walstrand one of my co-retreaters. Thank you Gwen!

Smug Me


Completed the Richmond Half Marathon today and thanks to the generosity of family, friends and strangers alike, raised £491.50 for the mental health charity Mind. Endurance running can teach a lot to a writer about perseverance, and brushing yourself off after a knock.

Running also provides time to think and work through stories.. and, as it turns out, it also lets you help a good cause. It’s win win really. Hence the medal…



Come support me tomorrow, Sept. 6th as I run a half-marathon in Kew Gardens from 09:30, raising money for the mental health charity ‘Mind’. Generous souls amongst you have ensured that I’ve raised over £400 raised for the charity. Nonetheless, ‘Mind’ would certainly benefit from more support, so please feel free to keep on giving, up until I cross that finishing line. There’s bound to be a party atmosphere, so come on down if you’re in London!

To find out more about what I’m doing and why, please click  here  where you can sponsor me online.


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