Check out the latest short story and poetry competition listings below, no excuses – get writing!
The Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition
Deadline: 31 July 2014
Written Word: Short stories up to 3,000 words
Entry: €15.00 or £15.00 per story
The Irish Times : This Means War Short Story Competition
Deadline: 8 August 2014
Written Word: Short stories on the theme, This Means War, of between 1,500 and 2,800 words
The Red Line Poetry Competition
Deadline: 15 August 2014
Written Word: Poetry
I’m absolutely delighted to have my short story, Photograph Of A Stranger, published in the latest edition of My Weekly magazine.
As a child, I remember flicking though copies of this magazine as I tried to imitate my mother and grandmother who would spend their free time devouring each article while enjoying a cup of tea. Back then I had no idea that I would eventually have a short story appear between its heartwarming pages and on the very weekend of my silver wedding anniversary too – what timing! My mother rang me first thing this morning from Easons in O’Connell Street to tell me that it had hit the stands and she had already purchased two copies.
Here’s a snippet about My Weekly and I hope that when you pick up your copy you’ll enjoy reading Photograph Of A Stranger as much as I enjoyed writing it.
“My Weekly is a warm and welcoming women’s magazine. Our dedicated team aims to bring you a great mix of engrossing reads plus short snippets every week.
The first issue was published in April 1910 so the magazine celebrated its centenary two years ago. Over the years, the magazine has moved with the times as women’s lives have changed – but we never lose our dedication to bringing the best of life to our readers every week. Come to My Weekly for fun, inspiration and love – not nasty gossip and misery!”
Lately, I’ve become a huge fan of Flash Fiction – a short, sharp story to get your imagination into a spin. For the writer it offers a challenge to whittle words down to the minimum while still delivering a story worthy of a read.
I’m delighted to have Snared included in the current on-line edition of Brilliant Flash Fiction along with talented writer and friend, Doreen Duffy.
Check out a taster below:
Johnny’s eyes skim the room, finally settling in the corner. It appears darker there; black as ink. Yet he is unable to decipher a shape as his hands feel for the tangled sheet, pulling it over their naked bodies. It is cold and his chest feels as if icy fingers are squeezing his heart. He shudders.
Jennifer? Jemima? Shit! He can’t even remember her name.
If you’d like to read more click here and scroll down to Snared.
And don’t forget to check out Sweet Justice by Doreen Duffy – it just might make you re-think your confectionery choice . . .
Your feedback and comments, as always, much appreciated.
I turn my head skyward at the screech of a lone black bird. A crow, if I’m not mistaken, although from this distance it’s hard to tell. The summer evening holds a winter chill. The sky is dark and overcast, like my thoughts. I watch as wings flap and the bird circles round and round in the bleak sky emitting a baleful cry.
I tear my eyes away, resisting the urge to cover my ears.
I remove the gloves, overalls and shoe covers. Naked, as the day I was born, I stuff them into a black refuse sack and push it deep inside the empty plant pot buried at the back of the shed. Replacing the padlock, I take a final look down the garden, before entering the house and taking the first step into my new life without her . . .
Compelled to read more? It’s one of the many Flash Fiction pieces to make the cut (excuse the pun!) and published on Flash Flood as part of National Flash Fiction Day.
Click here to read on – if you dare!
And if the compulsion takes hold, give in to it and leave a comment.
Check out Alone Again published today over on Flash Flood.
A stranger in town – and all the way from the United States of America, no less.
Surely things can only improve for barman, Sean and his impoverished Irish town.
But then again, maybe not . . .
Check out Killer Smile published today over on Flash Fiction Magazine.
250 words that will stop you in your tracks!
Apple Tree Yard is English novelist, Louise Doughty’s, seventh novel. It has sold more copies than Gillian Flynn’s, Gone Girl, (hardback) and rights have sold in twenty-one territories worldwide.
It has been shortlisted for the Specsavers Crime & Thriller of the Year Official Mumsnet Book Club selection for January 2014 and has also been selected as a 2014 Richard & Judy Book Club choice.
Understandably, my expectations were high as I read the first line and I’m delighted to reveal that Apple Tree Yard didn’t disappoint. It’s a slightly different thriller than the norm, with plenty of twists
and turns, but that’s what makes it so utterly compelling . . .
Piqued your interest?
Whether you’re a reader or a writer, I know you’ll enjoy, hopefully as much as I did, hearing how and where Louise writes, why her characters are so engaging and what she considers to be the best piece of advice she could offer to writers struggling with their first novel.
I was a little surprised with the answer!
And remember to heed Doughty’s advice.
About Apple Tree Yard
Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children.
Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, on impulse, begins a passionate affair with him – a decision that will put everything she values at risk.
At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but she can’t control what happens next. All of her careful plans spiral into greater deceit and, eventually, a life-changing
act of violence.
Apple Tree Yard is a psychological thriller about one woman’s adultery and an insightful examination of the values we live by and the choices we make, from an acclaimed writer at the height of her powers.
Writers, by-and-large, are a thoughtful, giving bunch, who do their best to impart nuggets of information that will spur you on to become the best writer that you can be. Crime fiction writer, Louise Phillips, goes out of her way to do that and more – and she succeeds. Two of her students have recently signed with literary agents, one (Jax Miller) with a major six figure publishing deal!
So if you are a writer with plans to start, finish or rework existing novel material (inclusive of memoir) then Louise Phillip’s, Write That Novel course, is for you.
It begins on 30 April in Carousel Creates and costs €120 for the six weeks – but be warned, it’s already booking up fast!
Here’s what Jax Miller had to say…
“There was nothing more pleasurable and informative than attending Louise Phillips’ Writing Courses at the scenic and serene enclave of Ireland that is Carousel Creates. Louise’s information and advice helped me to grow as an author and gave more confidence behind my pen. Learning from one of the best crime writers I know (and her reputation precedes her) was an experience I’d recommend to anyone I know who is looking to embark in the literary field, especially crime. I cannot vouch for her enough. She’s proven to be one of the best there is in the field and she certainly knows her stuff. It’s one course I’ll always remember.”
Louise Phillips is bestselling crime author of the psychological crime thrillers, Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House, Winner of the Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2013. Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition. In 2012, she was awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from South Dublin County Council.
‘Storymap.ie brings Dublin absolutely alive… a brilliant idea’ – Tom Dunne, Newstalk FM
I am delighted to have my short story, The Secret Librarian, on Storymap amongst such varied and wonderful Irish writers, poets and historians as: Paula Meehan, Eileen Casey, Roddy Doyle, Colm Keegan, Stephen James Smith, Shane MacThomáis and Paul Howard (aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly), to name but a few.
What better way to pass your journey than by experiencing the charm of Dublin city. Storymap hosts a living world to spark your imagination – a world of stories, filmed where they happened, ranging from funny to literary; historic to places of interest and everything in-between!
You can watch The Secret Librarian here and don’t forget to check out a few of my favourites on Storymap, listed below, to give you a real flavour of Dublin.
If you like them, don’t keep them to yourself, share them!
|Paula Meehan||The Lost Children|
|Eileen Casey||The Black Ballgown|
|Roddy Doyle||The Spire|
|Colm Keegan||Ode to the Coalman|
|Stephen James Smith||On Raglan Road|
|Shane MacThomáis||Strange bedfellows|
(aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly)
|I’m afraid this is my stop|
A little about Storymap:
Storymap is the brainchild of two Dublin filmmakers, Andy Flaherty and Tom Rowley. Just back from working abroad, unemployed and in between film projects, the lads became annoyed with all the negative press the city was receiving. The bleak tales of recession, the gloomy accounts of unemployment and the notion that Ireland’s best and brightest had emigrated was completely at odds with what the lads were experiencing being back in their hometown.
“We wanted to do something to get people as excited about the city as we were. While loads of great people have left the country, you only have to walk into any gallery, gig or any of the fantastic spoken word or comedy nights to see that Dublin is a ridiculously fun and vibrant city with wonderful characters and a flourishing art scene. We wanted to bring the charm and character that had been pushed aside by the Celtic Tiger and bring it centre stage” – Andy
The lads came up with Storymap, a web based multimedia project that revives Ireland’s age-old tradition of storytelling and tries to capture the personality of Dublin city through its stories and storytellers. These stories are filmed being told where they happened and integrated into a live map to create a charming and layered collective vision of Dublin city made by the people of the city.
“Walking around the city – everyone has their own stories that they remember on certain streets, stories that flavour their personal experience of the city, that they tell on to friends. We thought it’d be exciting to pool those stories in one place, like one big pub where everyone shares their stories, creating a sense of what the city means to Dubliners. It’s a simple idea, but with complex possibilities, and we’re only just at the beginning of it.” – Tom
Up until now, most of my posts have been writing related in some shape or form – but today in Ireland, as most of us try to abstain, it was hard to resist the call to listen to a fabulous new single called Guilty.
I had recently heard murmurings that my first cousin, second cousin and cousin-in-law were working hard on a project, so I was delighted when they contacted me to share the final product.
I couldn’t wait to click on that button and take a listen.
So I did.
And honestly, bias apart, it’s absolutely brilliant!
You can listen to it here and if you like it check out the details below to download it.
They would be delighted if you could spread the word and do please post a comment.
Just remember, when they’re as big as Bono and the lads, that you heard them here first.
And they are:
Guilty by: Sorcha K
Featuring: Niall K and Brian Mc
For Apple people on iPhone/iPods/iPads it’s on iTunes at:
If you’re on Android it’s on Google Play at:
It’s on the Amazon shop as well:
or if those aren’t your thing then you can buy it on BandCamp at:
There’s plenty of events to keep all avid readers and aspiring writers busy and plenty more to come.
I thought you’d be interested in these two for starters!
Louise Phillips is the bestselling author of Red Ribbons and 2013 winner of Crime Novel of the Year for The Doll’s House.
This free workshop will cover all aspects of crime writing including: plot, character, tension, effective dialogue and so much more.
Click the poster for more information, including registration details.
Date: Thursday, 13 March 2014
Time: 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Venue: Manor Books, 3 Church Road, Malahide
Admission: Free event but registration essential.
A celebration to launch The Wolf in Winter
with music from John Kearney & Lucy Farrell
Smock Alley are delighted to announce another event in their ongoing series of author talks with neighbours, the Gutter Bookshop.
Join them to celebrate the launch of the twelfth Charlie Parker thriller, The Wolf in Winter. John Connolly will be joined by musicians Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell in what promises to be a unique and thrilling evening. There will be a book signing after the event in The Gutter Bookshop.
Date: Thursday, 20 March 2014
Venue: Smock Alley Theatre
Admission: Free ticketed event (€1 admin fee for on-line tickets)
A dark story about crime and punishment
My eyes shoot open and I sit upright in my bunk. The first thing I feel is the fear, as it bubbles up inside me, leaving acid burning at the back of my throat.
I look around the green walls of my room. A soothing colour, they say. Whoever, they are, they know nothing!
Today is Friday, 1 March.
I run cold water into the stainless steel sink and set up my utensils. Just like old times! I even manage a fleeting smile before rinsing my shaving brush in the water and shaking out the residue. I rub it round and round the creamy, white soap, three times clock-wise, then three times anti-clockwise before I paint my face. Bending closer, I can barely make out the brown eyes peering back. I inhale the heady, fresh scent and my mind flutters backwards in time.
With a huge effort I stop myself. Snatching up the worn, brown plastic comb I pull it savagely through my thin grey hair. I tug hard, bringing tears to my eyes, trying to flatten the hair over the bald patch which has emerged in recent years. I massage a dollop of Brylcream through my fingers and press down hard, sculpting the strands into place.
I miss the feel of my stainless steel razor the close shave. After rinsing away the suds with ice-cold water I rub dry. I run my battery razor up and down my face, hoping to stem the grey stubble. I crane forward again and like what I see, not as clean-shaven as with my razor, but needs must.
When the warden turns the keys in the grey, metal door and pushes it open, I am sitting, waiting patiently.
“It’s time Warren, are you ready?”
I nod my head, staring at my shiny shoes.
The other warden, the young one with the smirk, grabs me by the arm and pushes me ahead. My heart flutters. I take a deep breath; in through my mouth as I count to four, holding it deep inside me, for the count of seven, then I exhale slowly, for the count of eight. I repeat three times as we walk along the corridor to that room.
I wonder who will be there this time. Will it be the same as before or . . .
I’m shoved through the door. My breath becomes shallow. My heart quickens. My mouth is dry and I have trouble swallowing, I feel as if a golf ball is lodged at the back of my throat, cutting off my air supply.
“Sit down Warren,” says a female voice.
I look up to see a slight woman, bird-like in her features, with a halo of grey hair and blue darting eyes. I remember her. I’ve seen her face in my dreams often enough.
“You know we only want to talk to you.” She waves her arm to the right and introduces Mr Spence and Mr Shaw on the other side. “We’ve met many times Warren, I’m Ms Jackson,” she forces a smile which never reaches her beady, blue eyes.
I nod indifferently, knowing that every word I say will make a difference. My words, my tone, my actions – everything will be watched and analysed and debated. My head is pounding. I want to put my hands over my ears and bury my head between my legs and rock until it all stops. But I can’t do that! I take a deep breath; in through my mouth as I count to four, holding it deep inside me, for the count of seven, then I exhale slowly, for the count of eight. I’m about to repeat it for the second time, but I sense the six eyes across the table waiting expectantly for my answer – but I haven’t heard the question!
I cough into my hand then sit up straight, push my back into the chair and look them in the eyes.
“Sorry, just a little cough I’ve picked up,” I say clearly. “Would you mind repeating the question?”
The tension leaves the air.
“I just asked if you needed a glass of water before we begin?” said Ms Jackson.
“Very kind of you,” I say, as I take the half-filled plastic cup from across the table, ensuring that it looks accidental as my fingers brush her hand, like a moth to the flame.
Mr Spence clears his throat, pulling at his shirt collar where an expensive tie encases his scrawny neck. “Warren Davis, we are gathered here today to see if the time you have been incarcerated here at the Tennessee Department of Correction has helped you to see the error of your ways. We wish to see if you can be released into the population to benefit society. This is your chance to prove to us that you are no longer a threat . . .”
I tune out; I’ve already heard this speech so many times before. In my mind, I replace it with my speech. I’ve practiced it so many times in my cell, pacing up and down, making sure I am pitch perfect – as if my life depends on it. It does. I stifle a laugh. Do they honestly think I’m going to say or do anything to keep me here any longer? I can feel my lips moving and clamp them shut. I’ve learned my lesson on that one. I tune back in to the droning voice, looking Mr Spence directly in the eyes while he talks. He’s one of those guys that just loves the sound of his own voice.
At last, my time comes to speak.
Taking a deep breath, I sit up straight and begin.
“I have most certainly learned my lesson.” I pause, looking at the ground, conciliatory. “I was a young man, when I made my mistakes, not mature enough to realise the impact it would have on those around me. I was suffering,” again I pause, this time making eye contact with Ms Jackson, “suffering more than anyone could know. As you are aware, I was born in this prison and spent my first six months here with my mother – until she was stabbed by another prisoner and died days later. With no family, so-to-speak, a litany of foster homes followed – where love was withheld from me, I never learned how to behave in society. But I have learned. I have found God and he has saved me! Then, I thought I could take whatever I wanted, pluck it – like Adam taking the apple. I know now that is wrong.” I allow my eyes to rest on each of them. “But God has forgiven me and I have forgiven me! That was twenty-eight years ago. I am no longer that Warren.”
The silence in the room is palpable. My best speech yet! I feel like punching the air with my fist but I do not. I sit upright and stare straight ahead.
Ms Jackson nods her head to the warden at the door and I brace myself, holding my breath.
She walks into the room, her head held high. So like her sister. I can see a tremor in her neck, the vein bulging, pulsing beneath the collar of her thin, white blouse. Her black suit jacket and trousers sit well on her thin frame. Her black high heeled shoes are as shiny and well-cared for as mine. If only she let her blonde hair grow a little longer, so that it could drape her shoulders. My mind swirls backwards and I can smell green apples as my fingers caress the silken tresses.
“Ms Dean, we know how hard this is for you, please take a seat and read your statement,” says Mr Shaw.
Beth Dean nods and sits down in the empty chair across the room. Exactly as I remember her every day of the trial. She takes a folded page from her large, leather hand-bag. She cannot prevent the slight tremor of her hand as she bends her head and begins to read:
“Warren Davis is a cold-blooded killer who should never be allowed to leave the Tennessee Department of Correction. The rape, torture and death of my twin sister Rachel changed the lives of everyone who loved her. The grief and stress ended our parents’ lives and because of you,” she pauses, looking up, straight into my eyes, with such hatred, that I feel I’ve met a kindred spirit.
The voices in my head get louder. I clench my fists; hold them by my side, scraping the knuckles of my right hand against the hard plastic chair.
I can feel myself rocking back and forth. Stop, I scream inside, just hold it together for a few more minutes. So close. I bite the inside of my cheek, tasting blood.
“Rachel,” I moan.
I close my eyes.
I know it’s over.
What better way to get your writing year off to a great start than by joining one of the highly recommended writing classes about to start in Dublin. Find a selection below to whet your appetite:
Lecturer: Valerie Sirr, is a Hennessy New Irish Writer award winner with a B.A. Hons Psychology, M.Phil Creative Writing. This workshop is for those who want to discover and develop their creative writing skills by exploring the imagination, overcoming fear, developing a writing habit and finding a voice. Trigger exercises and writing games will be used and assignments will be set. Constructive feedback will be given to those who bring work.
There will be two terms of ten weeks each and participants can sign up to both or to either the first or second part.
Date: Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Venue: The Peoples College, 31 Parnell Square
Time: 6.15pm – 7.45pm
Valerie Sirr, Hennessy New Irish Writer award winner, began writing after graduating with her Diploma in Advanced Computer Programming at Trinity College, Dublin. She then graduated from University College, Dublin with a B.A. hons. Psychology degree, going on to study at London’s Institute of Psychiatry. She later returned to Trinity College, graduating with an M. Phil. in Creative Writing and also received a University College Dublin School of Film scholarship to study for her Certificate in Screenwriting.
This workshop is for those who want to discover and develop their creative writing skills. If you’re a beginner or if you’ve already done some writing, you’re welcome to come along.
Date: Monday, 20 January 2014
Venue: Crumlin College of Further Education
Time: 6.45pm – 8.15pm
Louise Phillips is bestselling crime author of the psychological crime thriller, Red Ribbons, shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2012. Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. In 2012, she was awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from South Dublin County Council. Her second novel, The Doll’s House, another psychological crime thriller was published August 2013.
There are many elements to successful crime writing – tension, pace, memorable characters, effective dialogue, a plot with twists and turns, and an uttering gripping story. Over the course of eight weeks you will examine these elements, along with looking at the area of research, rhythm and shape within the narrative, and through weekly critique, develop your voice as a crime writer.
Date: Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Johnny looked out the window and whooped. It was snowing!
He dug under the stairs and pulled out an old pair of wellies, shoved his feet inside, zipped up his jacket and grabbed a pair of gloves.
‘I’m just going out, Mum,’ he called, the front door already open.
‘Wait! Stir before you go,’ she called.
‘It’s now or never, Johnny-boy,’ she laughed, standing in the doorway.
He looked out at the driveway. No footsteps yet in the perfect blanket of snow. But not for long. He could see friends trundling up the road, firing snowballs.
He closed the door and followed her into the aromatic kitchen.
‘Quick Mum, where’s the spoon?’
‘Gloves off first,’ she said, as she pointed to the bowl.
He pushed the spoon into the dark mixture of currants, cherries, brown sugar and Christmas spices.
‘It has to be clock-wise, Johnny,’ smiled his mum. She had flour on her right cheek and her blue eyes were shining. ‘Three times, then make your wish.’
Johnny nodded, his face solemn, as he performed the yearly Christmas pudding ritual.
‘Okay. Done,’ he said. ‘Did you make a wish?’
‘Of course, you don’t think wishes are just for kids, do you? Now go, enjoy the snow,’ she shook the wooden spoon at him, her eyes brimming with unshed tears, ‘but make sure you’re back in time for dinner.’
Shoving a handful of cherries into his mouth, he hugged her tight, ‘Dad always loved this part of Christmas.’
‘He did,’ she ruffled his hair, ‘so go, have fun. Make him proud.’ She turned back to the bowl.
Johnny licked his sticky fingers before pulling his gloves on and heading outside.
Thirty minutes later, the snow had turned into a blizzard. His hands were freezing, his ears were ringing and he was cold.
A tall man dressed in black, a striped scarf covering half his face, walked slowly towards him. He cradled a brown box in his arms.
A flurry of snowballs pelted him, causing him to lose his balance. His eyes held a look of panic as he struggled to hold onto the box. Instinctively, Johnny knew that the contents were important. He rushed forward.
‘I’ve got it!’ he shouted. The man released his grip as he slipped to the ground.
‘Thanks, son,’ he muttered, as his scarf fell down to show a pale face scrunched in pain.
The box was light, but when something moved inside, Johnny nearly dropped it with fright. He noticed small air holes at the top. ‘It’s not a snake, is it?’ he whispered.
The man shook his head.
‘Johnny, didn’t you hear me call?’
Johnny turned to see his mum standing at the gate.
The man stood.
‘He’s a good lad. Just came to my aid.’ He took the box and opened it, gently lifting out a tiny black kitten with four white socks. ‘At the animal shelter, they named her Lucky,’ he smiled, holding her towards Johnny’s outstretched arms. ‘I guess she is.’