Tag Archives: ireland

The Blue King of Trafadden – Oct. 30th

bluekingamended

An action/adventure radio drama in 45 mins, in English and Irish.

Scéal eachtraíochta, ar raidió, in nGaeilge agus i mBéarla. 

The Blue King of Trafadden is my 9th radio play and concerns a troubled Afro-Caribbean dentist, Henry Ryan, who returns to the birthplace of his ancestors, Trafadden Island, Co. Waterford, with the intention of burying his grandmother’s ashes. Henry lodges with the ferryman Seamus, his partner Eimear and her son, little Óg. Secretly, Henry also hopes to exorcise the curse he is convinced his abandoned grandmother has put on him, a curse he believes has driven him to drug addiction and robbed him of his marriage and career.

Henry is not the only one on the island with a secret. Ferryman Seamus, afraid he is losing Eimear, is determined to make his fortune by developing a plot of land  of historical significance and is worried that the authorities are going to slap a protection order on it. Seamus comes up with  an illegal solution… Meanwhile, nine year old Óg, finds a skull, which he decides must be the head of his father. Eimear  spends her time in earnest, secret Skype conversation with her sister….

The Blue King of Trafadden is funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television licence fee.

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Interior location – my bedroom, Flat 1. Budapest, Hungary -photo Nannette Vinson

The setting is the signature of many a writer: Stieg Larsson and Sweden (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Annie Rice and New Orleans (Interview with a Vampire), John le Carre, the world of spies.

And a surprising literary setting can make your story all the stronger. Agatha Christie stories work so well because in every quaint vicarage with its lace table cloths, jam, Jerusalem and glasses of sherry – there’s a body under the table.

A New York Street

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.

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.

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.

A picture from home… A cave. Dunmore East. Co. Waterford, Ireland.


A Definite Daffodil

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Just got news that my KCLR 96fm radio drama series The Daffodil has been given the funding nod by Broadcasting Authority of Ireland – should be hitting the studio in October. Oh yeah!


One’s Point of View

It’s an odd thing being an Irish Catholic over in Britain on the Queen of England’s Jubilee weekend. Whereas it’s always good to experience a country en fete, the abundance of union jack bunting has a disconcerting impact on someone of my cultural background. Still, I went out with my camera this morning with the intention of capturing the natives celebrating their Britishness –  but to my disappointment, most were just shopping, eating ice cream and enjoying the few hours of sunshine – and not doing anything remotely Englishy or Britishy or Queeny.

I’ve always found that watching other nations investigate and express their identity allows me to regard my own with fresh eyes – and this fact feeds my writing. I write endlessly about Ireland and my Irishness. I don’t particularly want to – attempts have been made int eh past to focus on other locations where I have lived or spent time, but my writing always revolts, and brings me back to the land of my birth. And I have not lived in Ireland for a long, long time (I’m in good company, James Joyce put himself into exile for twenty years before he produced his masterpiece set in Dublin on June 16th 1904…)

Other nations’ relationship with their identity that has always held a mirror. It was through grappling with the extreme, blinkered, inward looking nationalism of elements of Eastern European culture that I began to see parallels with a certain promotion of Irish culture in the arts. Can I count the number of twee, riverdancy depictions of us all as mystic Celtic fairies? Oy vey. I’m far more a follower of the school of Synge and Playboy of the Western World and it’s investigation of the dark and surreal side of the Irish identity.

So, I’m here in Norwich on the Jubilee weekend watching a native people largely apathetic to the event – but enjoying the four days off and (weirdly) I’m rather annoyed that they’re not being more British about it all because that would make more sense to me. And now I have to go think about why I feel that way, and why we Irish have to have a St. Patrick’s Day and Riverdance type cultural promotion? Or why Irish writers often feel that they have to write about Irish identity – when British writers rarely feel the same obligation? It’s an interesting question and not quite the one I expected to pop up from today’s excursion…. I feel a short story coming on….


You Don’t Have to be Irish…

A picture from Ireland - Lismore Castle, Co Waterford. My grandmother's hometown.

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 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 freaking 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, 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.


Have A Go…

Writing Competitions with a February/March deadline:

Let spring in...

Right, that’s January out of the way – a month where one recovers from Christmas. In fact, I’ve always found it a rather silly month in which to make plans and resolutions, as one doesn’t feel like doing much when it’s brass monkeys outside. February, however, is a different matter. In Ireland, February 1st, St. Bridget’s Day, is the first of spring. There’s not a helluva lot of differnce between winter and spring (or indeed summer) in Ireland – but it is the concept that is important. On February 1st, I get moving again.

And, if I’m moving, I’ve got to enter some comps. So, let’s have a look at competitions with deadlines running up until the end of March. You’ll notice that many of these are Irish competitions, this is partly because, obviously, I’m Irish and these are the comps I know of, but also because the short story and story telling is held in such esteem in Ireland, it’s got to have more writing contests per square foot than any other district of the universe. However, if you have information regarding prizes, contests or awards with a deadline before March 31st, running in your country  – please feel free to add/comment.

Finally, please note that I’m merely collating information posted elsewhere on the Internet. I am not responsible for or affiliated with any of these competitions and have no more information than that on the website listed. Please do not send your entries to me and please do not write to ask about the specifics of individual contests. I won’t know. It’s best to go to the website address provided and inquire there.

And good luck!!!

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition

Prize: £500 plus a place on an Arvon course

Entry Fee: n/a

Deadline: February 14th 2012.

Website: http://www.writersandartists.co.uk

 

Irish Post/Stena Line Writing Competition

Prize: £500 & free travel to Listowel Writers’ Festival in Co. Kerry.

Entry Fee: £n/a

Deadline: 2nd March 2012

Website: http://www.irishpost.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100

NOTE: Only open to Irish/Irish descent resident in Britain (ie the theme concerns the Irish immigrant experience in the UK).

The Bryan MacMahon Short Story Competition

Prize: €2,000

Entry Fee: €10.00

Deadline: 2nd March 2012

Website: http://writersweek.ie/the-bryan-mcmahon-short-story-competition

The Writers’ Week Originals Competition

Prize: €750

Entry Fee: €10.00

Deadline: 2nd March 2012

Website: http://writersweek.ie/writers-week-originals-competition

 

The Eamon Keane Full Length Play Competition

Prize: €500

Entry Fee: €20.00

Deadline: 2nd March 2012

Website: http://writersweek.ie/eamon-keane-full-length-play

 

Twisted Stringybark Short Story Award 2012

Prize: $300 AUS plus publication

Entry Fee: $9.75 AUS

Deadline: 4th March 2012

Website: http://www.stringybarkstories.net/The_Stringybark_Short_Story_Award

 

Cúirt New Writing Prize 2012

Prize: €500

Entry Fee: €10

Deadline: 5th March 2012

Website: http://www.cuirt.ie/component/content/article/3-newsflash/70-cuirt-new-writing-prize-2012

 

Limnisa / Bluethumbnail SHORT STORY Competition

Prize: One week full board writers’ retreat at LIMNISA

Entry Fee: £6

Deadline: March 15th, 2012

Website: http://www.bluethumbnail.com/Author/competitionpage.html

 

Mslexia 2012 Women’s Short Story Competiton

Prize: £2,000

Entry Fee: £10

Deadline: 19th March 2012

Website: http://mslexia.co.uk

 

Molly Keane Memorial Creative Writing Award (I won this last year!)

Prize: €500

Entry Fee: n/a

Deadline: 26th March 2012

Website: http://www.mollykeanewritersretreats.com/2012writingaward.htm

 

PJ O’Connor Radio Drama Awards

Prize: Professional production of the best three 40-minute plays with 5,000 to Winner

Entry Fee: n/a

Deadline: 30th March 2012

Website: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/pjoconnorawards/

 

The Bristol Short Story Prize

Prize: £1,000

Entry Fee: £7

Deadline: March 31st 2012.

Website: http://www.bristolprize.co.uk

 

Plymouth University’s Short Fiction Competition

Prize: £500

Entry Fee: £10

Deadline: March 31st 2012.

Website: http://www.shortfictionjournal.co.uk/

 

The Moth Short Story Prize

Prize: 1,000

Entry Fee: 8

Deadline: March 31st 2012.

Website: http://www.themothmagazine.com

 

The Short Fiction Journal Prize

Prize: £500 plus publication

Entry Fee: £10

Deadline: March 31st 2012.

Website: http://www.shortfictionjournal.co.uk/competition.html

And finally… not a competition per se, but a chance to have your work published in leading literary magazine. The Stinging Fly are accepting submissions up until March 31st: http://www.stingingfly.org/about-us/submission-guidelines