You don’t have to be Irish to be a great writer, but it helps. An oft debated point is the essential ingredient that has given the Irish the edge re the written word ever since the Book of Kells. There are many takes on the matter. Some say it’s because although most Irish writers write in English, they use the syntax, structure and playfulness of the Irish language which gives a mastery and an unusual manner of wielding English that results in, well, pure poetry.
Others suggest it is our tradition of story telling, living on in our sizzling and stinging pub banter. Some put it down to our sad history, allowing for a depth and pain to infuse our written word.
However, I’m with the crowd that says its simply because we’re a race of geniuses. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís…
Famous Irish writers: Sebastian Barry, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, John Banville, Brendan Behan, Dion Boucicault, Roddy Doyle, Emma Donoghue, Maria Edgeworth, Brian Friel, Oliver Goldsmith, Neil Jordan, John B. Keane, Colum McCann, John McGahern, Iris Murdoch, C.S. Lewis, Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johnston, Iris Murdoch, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Molly Keane, Hugh Leonard, Martin McDonagh, Frank McGuinness, Sean O’Casey, Joseph O’Connor, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, Colm Toibin, Oscar Wilde, WB Yates, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift… to name but a few.
Delighted to post this review from Waterford Today Newspaper for my radio play ‘The Daffodil’ which broadcast on KCLR 96fm at the end of February.
“A very funny play, ‘The Daffodil’ nonetheless dealt with a number of serious global themes which impact contemporary Ireland: alcoholism, closeted homosexuality, the dangers of celebrity culture, loneliness, misplaced nostalgia and denial. However, the work is essentially entertaining and its sparky dialogue combined with a significant musical aspect to lend it a broad appeal.”
Please note: I don’t know when/if there will be a podcast – but I’ll keep you posted. Please see the side bar for a link to listen to my previous radio play ‘Cow’.
And if any of you are in Cork, Ireland, please see if you can catch ‘Dreamland’ playing at the Everyman until March Sat. 15th. ‘Dreamland’ was written by one of Ireland’s leading playwrights and directors, Jim Nolan, who directed both my plays. Michael Power who plays ‘Liam’ in ‘The Daffodil’ and ‘Damien’ in ‘Cow’, also stars in ‘Dreamland’. It’s a great play and causing quite a bit of controversy in Ireland – which is always a good sign.
I’ve finally uploaded my debut radio play, ‘Cow’ to YouTube. I’d love you to have a listen…
Storyline: Agi Kovacs, a beautiful Hungarian woman, arrives on Clearys’ farm, Glenmore, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland, to work as a mushroom picker. The Clearys’ already strained, childless marriage appears under further threat by her presence, however an unlikely friendship develops between Marie Cleary and Agi, leading both women to a new world view.
I wrote and produced the play which was directed by Jim Nolan and featured Michael Power (Game of Thrones), Madeleine Brolly and Geraldine Crowley,
‘Cow’ was made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) for broadcast on KCLR 96fm in April 2013.
Some have asked if a ‘catch up’ version of ‘Cow’ will be available on the KCLR96fm website. Apparently, yes. KCLR are currently constructing a ‘listening room’ for documentaries and dramas and I’ll let you all know once its up and running – in the meantime, the stations forwarded some lovely feedback this morning – so, I’ve just gotta boast, I mean share…:
“thank you so much for this sensitive, witty, biting and ultimately balanced dialogue between the sexes… Sue Healy’s ‘Cow’ and the women and men bringing into being over the ether were wonderful…especially the wife who paused to say …’calving..’ [given her own delicate situation vis a vis ivf..] when her lovely lump of a man wriggles out of the Wednesday salmon-fest supper to ease him into the bedroom..[lovely touch that] by saying that the heifer is tail up and the wife mumbles the dread-laden word…’calving’…which of course she is not…oh how painful and sweet…i cried …oh God yes i did big tear drops onto my white plate of toast…beautifully realised…this is a play of magnitude, significance, humanity and…redemption… you lucky lucky people…what a fantastic flower you planted, tended, nurtured and ultimately stood backand admired…”
Well, ok, not the mooovies, rather I’m on the radio…
Yep, I’ve got the first broadcast date for my radio drama, ‘Cow’. It will air just after the 11am news (local time in Ireland) on Easter Monday on KCLR 96fm (yes, that’s April 1st – and no, this is not an April Fool’s) – here’s the scoop:
‘Cow’ concerns ‘Agi’, a beautiful Hungarian woman, arrives on Clearys’ farm, Glenmore, Co. Kilkenny, to work as a mushroom picker. The Clearys’ already strained, childless marriage appears under further threat by her presence, however an unlikely friendship develops between Marie Cleary and Agi, leading both women to a new world view.
‘Cow’ is a contemporary radio drama which explores immigration into rural Ireland and the social perceptions of women, both immigrant and native. And, in a light hearted fashion, the play views rural Irish cultural mainstays through the eyes of the bemused foreigner.
No, they’re not snakes. It’s drying seaweed. I was in Ireland. Everyone knows there are no snakes in Ireland…
I asked a Chinese friend of mine yesterday if the Year of the Black Snake was a good or bad one (let’s face it, it doesn’t sound like a carnival, does it?) Chen tells me it’s good and bad. So, snakes and ladders – or a regular year, then, with all its ups and downs, triumphs and rejections.
Triumph in any form is marvellous, and for a writer, so used to rejection letters, a small success can propel one to the moon. What I find difficult is to keep an even keel, not to go under when the rejections roll in (and roll in they do) and not to lose the run of myself when I win an award or get a story published (which thankfully is happening with increasing regularity these days).
I when I was 22, I wrote seven short stories. They were bad, really pretentious, crammed with adjectives and adverbs and with no theme or character development or point to any of them at all but I thought they were pure genius. I sent them off to every magazine I could find in the bookstore. And waited. And waited. And waited… until I became convinced that they had all been lost in the post. It was the only explanation, surely, as any editor would recognize my genius immediately, no? A couple of months later, I received a single rejection letter. And the truth dawned. No one else even bothered replying. It was 100% rejection. I was floored. I burned the stories I was working on and I didn’t send anything else off for a long time.
That was very stupid of me. I should have brushed myself off and tried again. I would be in a much better position and be a better writer now if I had. But I wasn’t strong or mature enough to know that then. Ah, well. After a few years, I returned to creative writing and during my first year on my MA at UEA, I sent out another batch of stories. I’d had a few shorts published at this stage and was confident that I’d now win every competition going and it would pay my MA tuition. And, again I got nowhere. I was pretty down but I recalled how I’d let rejection defeat me before and vowed it wouldn’t happen again. I sent out more, and then more. And after six months, I won the Mary and Ted O’Regan Award, and then the Annaghmakerrig award and the Molly Keane Award, the HISSAC, the Meridian and the Sussex Playwrights’ and this year I’ve been selected as an Escalator Literature Artist and have just recorded my first radio drama, ‘Cow’.
Anyway, the moral is don’t give up – look at how you can improve your rejected story and send it out again. Remember, much depends on what the magazine or the competition judge is looking for at that particular time, it may not be a comment on your writing skills. Do a bit of research, try to find a suitable home and try and try again. You will get there in the end.
Here I am. I’ve wrapped ‘Cow’, a radio play I wrote and produced. It’s now in the nimble hands of Eugene Sully, our editor who’ll be tweaking it over the next week or so and we’re due to broadcast in March. Watch this space for a date and time. It’s been a full on, manic period with a steep cliff of a learning curve and if I wasn’t working with some of the most talented people in the business, actors and director, I would never have made it thus far. A sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you.
And as ‘Cow’ recedes in the rear-view mirror, my focus now is the Escalator project. At the end of January, I learned that I am one of ten writers from the East of England region who have been awarded the Escalator professional development award which will afford me Arts Council funding and professional mentoring from an established novelist, to bring a novel of mine from early draft stages to completion over a twelve month period. The novel, ‘A Castle Spinning’ concerns the adventures of an alcoholic Irish dwarf who goes to Hungary in search of a woman who seduced him and becomes embroiled in a pornographic cult.
I’ve been putting off knuckling down to focus on a novel for long enough and now there are no further excuses. So, expect to read a lot of posts on the process of writing a novel , over the next twelve months. Onwards and upwards!
Oh happy days. I’m in Budapest for the season with my dearest, most supportive, most loyal friends – in many ways, my family. And I’ve reason to celebrate. A radio drama I wrote and am producing ‘Cow’, has won full funding from the BAI Sound and Vision scheme. We will go into the studio, in Kilkenny, Ireland, the first week in February.
The drama is to be directed by renowned Irish director/playwright Jim Nolan. ‘Cow’ will also feature the talents of Waterford actor Michael Power, who recently finished shooting an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ for HBO, Madeleine Brolly, a veteran of BBC Radio 4 drama and Geraldine Crowley, a Dublin based actor who hails from Barrabehy, Co. Kilkenny. The soundscape will be managed and produced by BBC sound engineer, Eugene Sully. They’re a highly professional and talented team, I’m enormously lucky to have them on board and I’m sure their expertise will enhance my little drama no end.
Catching up with dear friends, Dob utca, 22nd Dec. 2012
And on the same day I got word that ‘Cow’ was successful in the funding bid, I also heard that I’ve been shortlisted for the East of England’s Escalator Award – on a proposal for a novel I’m writing. So, once again, Oh happy days!
Hey, this year has been challenging in many other ways. There have certainly been tough moments. But how lovely to go out on such an up beat note. And, I’m due to enter the New Year with an intense, focused period of writing on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands, where I’m ‘artist-in-residence’ for January.
I’ve got a long list of projects to concentrate on whilst there, and am hoping it proves very fruitful – if I don’t get blown off a cliff. The population is Irish speaking – which will be a challenge, as I haven’t really spoken Irish since I left school. Ufasach! If you’ve ever seen ‘Father Ted’, Inis Oirr is actually the island used as ‘Craggy Island’, in the opening credits. Yes, I’ll probably turn up in the Kilkenny studio with a full beard and a grizzly bear in tow. But hey, it’ll be worth it.
Many thanks to you, visitors to my blog, for dropping by this year. I wish you all the best of the season and may you have much success in all your endeavours in 2013!