Tag Archives: Aras Eanna

Cúpla Focal (A Few Words)

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FEICIM, Irish language immersion courses on Inis Oirr

Few can argue with the fact that Ireland has contributed a wildly disproportionate number of towering literary works to the English language canon. Our writers have included James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, Sean O’Casey, C.S. Lewis, WB Yeats, Molly Keane, JM Synge, Elizabeth Bowen and Flann O’Brien,– to name but a few. And this is before considering contemporary writers such as William Trevor, Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry. How come a small island of around four million people has produced scribes who wield the English language (and therefore, a non-native tongue) with such aplomb?

It is often proposed that the Irish are simply far more playful and experimental with the English language than other Anglophone peoples. And the reason is because in Ireland, the Irish language remains a palimpsest underscoring the use of English in Ireland (a branch of the Anglophone tree known as Hiberno-English).

As an Irish writer who also speaks Hungarian and French, I would have to agree that multi-lingualism, or at least the existence of another language in proximity to the vernacular will have an impact, and usually that impact will be positive, playful and fruitful. Every language I have learned has taught me to regard another aspect of English in a fresh way.

Some years ago, I had the honour of being Artist in Residence on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Irish is the first language on the island. Like all Irish people, I studied Irish for thirteen years as a schoolgirl. However, coming from the East of Ireland, my home language was English and since leaving school, I’ve had little opportunity to practice the ancient tongue. However, my time on Inis Oirr allowed the re-awakening of my dormant Irish and I was surprised at how quickly it came back – and I was struck at how it began to colour my writings, as they became more lyrical, poetic and playful.

There, I had the fortune to meet Brid Ni Chualain, a native Irish speaker from the island. Brid is also a writer. Her love of the native language coupled with her easy-going, friendly approach to language tutoring has meant she’s gained quite a following as an Irish language tutor and now runs FEICIM, immersion courses on Inis Oirr for beginners through to advanced. Moreover, she’s willing to do skype lessons, so I might be taking her up on that score.  You don’t have to learn Irish to be a great English language writer – but it does appear to help ; )


A Writer in Residence

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Annaghmakerrig Lake, as seen from The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Co. Monaghan, Ireland. 

 

I’ve just returned from a stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan, Ireland. I was awarded two weeks at the residency, thanks to Waterford County Council who’ve been very supportive of my work down the years.

As often happens on these retreats, I didn’t quite get the work done that I had planned, but a tapped a whole new seam, which I feel is going to bear good fruit in the year to come.

The special aspect about the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, for me at least, is the time spent in discussion with other artists. The cross pollination of ideas inspires, challenges and provokes my imagination and I always leave there with something new in hand.

I’ve had residencies at four institutions (and have returned to Tyrone Guthrie five times). They’ve all been great and interesting and why wouldn’t they be, providing time and distance from routine to concentrate on your art alone or in the company of other creatives. Each institution has provided something unique, whether it be conversation with the other artists, inspiration from the environment, tuition or the calm and stillness that lends itself so well to the creative process. For all these reasons, I’d recommend the following: Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), Aras Eanna (Ireland), The Hurst (UK) and last year Ginestrelle, (Italy). I’ve also rented friends’ holiday homes in low season, which is a way artists can enjoy a focused way to write, without breaking the bank.

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I’m going to reblog below, a list of residencies/retreats I drew up some years ago. I haven’t had time recently to check, expand or prune this list, but please feel free to add your own comments/suggestions. And apologies if some of the links are out of date.

Do note that America is where the writers’ colony was born, hence its dominance of the list. The U.S. still provides the best, the most prestigious and the most difficult colonies to get into. Yes, “get into”. Therein lies the difference between a “residency” and a “retreat”  (which I explain below):

Residencies are institutions to which you must apply and demonstrate your professionalism as an artist via a portfolio, and perhaps references and a CV that shows you are considered by your peers to be a practicing artist. Residencies are often funded by an arts and/or educational body and can mean you must also provide a service such as creative writing classes in the locality. Residencies can last from two weeks to a year.  In Ireland, prestigious residencies include The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Cill Rialaig and the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Even if accepted, you may have to pay for your stay. However, attending one of these establishments is an impressive addition to your C.V. Moreover, you may meet artists of international renown.

Then you get Retreats. These are institutions that sometimes offer courses – the UK’s ‘Arvon Foundation’ is a good example which has three properties around England and holds intensive writing courses throughout the year. Other retreats might just offer room and board to writers for a fee, somewhat like a hotel but with an emphasis on creativity and productivity during your stay. Anam Cara and the Molly Keane house are Irish examples. They’re not as prestigious residencies, although such places tend not to attract those at the peak of their career, you might still meet some interesting creative, supportive people and the surrounds are usually very picturesque and perhaps inspiring. Retreats are good for novice or emerging writers who are not yet at the stage in their career where they might gain acceptance on a “residency”, or if you simply want to try the set up out for a week or so, but can’t commit to a residency.

Finally, if all you want is some peace and quiet, why not rent some respite, a holiday cottage in the wilds of Connemara in autumn, or stay in a B&B on Dartmoor or a shack in the Catskills – you may be able to get a ‘low season deal’ and it may provide the inspiration you seek.

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Chateau Chaumont in the Loire Valley. I recently took a French friend up on an offer to stay in their charming old water mill,  for a week of focused writing, very near here…

A sample (and by no means exhaustive) list:

Ireland

Residencies:

http://www.araseanna.ie/
http://heinrichboellcottage.com/
http://emergingwriter.blogspot.com/2009/04/cill-rialaig-residency.html
http://www.dlrcoco.ie/arts/Call_For_Writer_2015.htm

http://www.tyroneguthrie.ie/

Retreats:

http://www.anamcararetreat.com/

http://www.mollykeanewritersretreats.com/

France

Residencies:

http://www.chateau-lanapoule.com/residencies/index.html

http://www.centreculturelirlandais.com/modules/movie/scenes/home/index.php?fuseAction=residences

http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2015/09/10/brown-foundation-fellows-program/

Retreats:

http://www.lamuseinn.com/

UK

Residencies:

http://www.writersservices.com/agent/bur/Hawthornden_Castle.htm

http://covepark.org/apply-or-book

Retreats

http://www.arvonfoundation.org/p1.html

urbanwritersretreat.co.uk

Italy

Retreats:

https://artestudioginestrelle.wordpress.com/

USA

Residencies:

www.andersoncenter.org

www.atlanticcenterforthearts.org

www.calderaarts.org

www.coloradoartranch.org

www.saltonstall.org

www.djerassi.org

www.dorlandartscolony.org

http://www.exeter.edu/about_us/about_us_537.aspx

www.albeefoundation.org

www.hambidge.org

www.headlands.org

www.hedgebrook.org

www.jentelarts.org

kerouacproject.org/application-page

www.khncenterforthearts.org

www.artomi.org

www.montanaartistsrefuge.org

http://www.macdowellcolony.org/

http://www.millaycolony.org/

springcreek.oregonstate.edu

http://www.kfw.org/grants.html

www.kulcher.org

http://www.lynchburg.edu/thornton.xml

www.nmwcolony.org

http://montalvoarts.org/programs/residency/

www.onewritersplace.com

http://www.radcliffe.edu/fellowships/apply.aspx

www.red-cinder.com

www.soapstone.org

http://www.stanford.edu/group/creativewriting/stegner.html

www.poetrycenter.arizona.edu

www.vcca.com

http://www.ucrossfoundation.org/residency_program/

http://www.vermontstudiocenter.org/

www.writersdojo.org/residency

http://www.woodstockguild.org/artist_in_residence/index.html

http://www.wurlitzerfoundation.org/

http://www.yaddo.org

Retreats:

http://www.myretreat.net/

http://thompsonpeakretreat.com/

http://wildacres.org/about/residency.html

http://www.creativeledgestudio.com/

http://espyfoundation.org/

http://www.astudiointhewoods.org/sitw/?page_id=72

http://artcroft.org/eligibility.htm

http://www.montanaartistsrefuge.org/residencies.html

http://www.nisda.org/air.htm

http://www.ragdale.org/residency

http://www.nps.gov/romo/supportyourpark/artist_in_residence.htm

http://www.ozarkcreativewriters.org/

Canada

http://www.skwriter.com/?s=skwritercolonies&p=colonyguidelines

Australia

http://www.tasmanianwriters.org/self-funded-residencies

If you know of more, please feel free to post!


There You Are

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I recently spent a month as artist-in-residence on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. It has a bleak beauty and I was struck by how ‘man-made’ the place is. A rock in the Atlantic, all top soil has been built up over the centuries by islanders hauling up to the hinterland seaweed, sand and clay scraped from crevices. Stone walls then divide this carpet of top soil into a patchwork of fields.

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Agriculture and the labour of men no longer drive this ‘man-made’ island however, today it is the women of the islands who are spinning, weaving, potting, knitting and sewing craftware for tourists and this sector is what currently supplies the main source of income. The semi-disenfranchisement of the men and the industry of the women which has the succeeded male labour, has given me an idea for a play which I’m hoping to take to the Edinburgh Fringe. My stay on the island has also allowed me to explore how important environments are for inspiration. So much so, that I am now mulling an offer I had this week to return to the island for six months next year.

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Writing what you know

It is often said you should “write what you know”. A sensible approach, especially for the new writer. By placing your characters in scenes and situations with which you are familiar, you are more likely to invest a sense of realism in the story. Also, practically speaking, writing about familiar territory will save on research you might otherwise have to do on a subject/setting.

Some writers resist writing what they know as they feel their own environments are not “glamorous” or “extraordinary” enough to merit such attention. This is nonsense. Whatever you do and whoever you are, your life will seem exotic to someone else. The fact that you grew up on a council estate/project developent in Bolton/Kalamazoo is interesting to someone living on a farm in Siberia. Remember, the life of an immigrant taxi-driver would quite likely fascinate the Queen of England.

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Also, you don’t necessarily have to set your story in your street or your workplace. Think of your Saturday morning football team, your chool, the nightclubs you frequent, a hospital you’ve spent time in or a prison. All are equally valuable settings for a short story, novel, play, film script or even poem or song. Your environment is your gold, mine it.

But I don’t want to write about my environment…

That’s fine too. There is also case for “writing what you don’t know”. Fantasy writers, for example, are (usually) not elves living in Middle Earth. Historical fiction writers have not lived in Tudor England. Yet, Fantasy/SciFi/Historical novels are written and enjoyed every year. For Fantasy/SciFi you need a familiarity with the genre and a vivid imagination. For historical fiction you need to like research. For all the above you’ll require the ability to convincingly create an unfamiliar world.

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Bear in mind, however, that while a Fantasy writer won’t get complaints from angry elves about his misinformed stereotypes. A novelist who sets a story in a modern French monastery, and knows nothing about France or monks – is asking for trouble. Firstly, their prose may be riddled with (skewed) perceptions of France and the French, monks/Catholicism/wine-making etc… And not only is there danger of rehashing clichés, their writing might lack the detailed realism a reader finds so reassuring and intriguing.

So, if you want to write about banditos in the mountains of Sardinia, and you can’t go and live there for a year – then research, research, research. Read as much as you can on the topic, as well as any other fiction that has used the same environment as a setting.


Artist, get thee to a residency…

Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan

My contribution this month to Live Encounter Magazine is on arts residencies, retreats and respites. Pictured above is the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan, Ireland’s oldest and best known residency. I’ve also just been offered the January 2013 residency at Aras Eanna on Inis Oirr. Happy me.

See the article: http://liveencounters.net/?p=589