Flash Fiction: Speed Date

A life-changing story in 600 words.

I’m delighted to have my flash fiction, Speed Date, published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two Nov-Dec 2022.

According to my mobile, I’ve arrived!

Crushed Velvet is a hidden gem in Dublin’s city centre. I stand at an oak panelled door, set between a book shop and a vintage store selling pre-owned clothing. According to reviewers, the interior has been revamped to reflect the on-trend vibe of those lucky enough to gain entrance. I take a deep breath, run my fingers through my long hair and pull my shoulders back. It’s time for my game face.

I push through the door, give my name to the supermodel at the desk and step inside an interior of dark, warm, opulence.

The familiar chords of Wonderwall brings tears to my eyes. That used to be our song.

 “What’s your poison?” a barman asks, waving a glass in the air.

Taking my Chablis, I find a seat close to the door, inhaling the eclectic mix of men and women who enter.

“Is anyone sitting here?”

I shake my head at the young woman.

“Slim pickings tonight,” she says, removing her hat. A red mane cascades down her shoulders. “Ruby,” she says, extending a manicured hand, “hopefully it’ll improve.”

The noise levels soar.

I tune back in to the chatter.

“… no more than six months, then I’m back again.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice booms, “choose a number, then follow me.” The George Clooney lookalike is the Pied Piper.

 “That’s more like it,” whispers Ruby, “to your right.” She throws her head back, as if laughing at something funny I’ve said.

I turn to look, spilling my wine when I see his face …

Click here and go to page 75 to continue reading my story or click Live Encounters where you can either read or download the full publication for free.

In such great company:
Angela Patten, Emma Barone, Alan Walowitz, Alex Skovron, Angela Costi, Anne McDonald, Brian Kirk, Chad Norman, Charlotte Innes, Gordon Ferris, Hedy Habra, Jean O’Brien, John W Sexton, Jordan Smith, Katie Burke, Maeve McKenna, Margaret Kiernan, Mark Tredinnick, Mary Scheurer, Michael Farry, Michael Simms, nagat Ali, Nidhi Srivastava Asthana, Noel Duffy, Noel Monahan, Rafael E Fajer Camus, Ray Whitaker, Serena Agusto-Cox, Sven Kretzschmar, Susan Condon, Susana H Case, Vasilis Manousakis, Wendy J Dunn

Short Story: Child’s Play

My short story, Child’s Play, aired at 11pm on Monday, 18 October on The Jealous Wall on Dublin Digital Radio recited by actress Eimear Keating.

If you missed it – you can listen to the podcast HERE.


Child’s Play by Susan Condon
John Deerborn by Edel Williams
The Meghan and Harry Effect by Eileen Casey
Underground by R.M. Clarke

The radio show where dark, twisted short stories, written by Irish based authors, reside!

The Jealous Wall
Dublin Digital Radio – an independent online radio station – was voted Best Online Station in Europe in the @MixCloud Online Radio Awards 2018.

Instagram: @TheJealousWall

Twitter: @DublinDigiRadio @EimearKeating @susancondon

Short Story:  Double Wired  

A thought provoking short story about war, life and humanity.
– Read the full story here –

Published in Boyne Berries 22, October 2017.

He saved my life. That’s why I’m here, waiting patiently to see him, before finally returning home to my wife and child.

Doctors and nurses rush by, shouting to each other as they attend to yet another bloodied soldier. I count my blessings that we got out of there alive. Many remain; their bodies returning home while their ghosts roam the countryside searching for lost comrades. I still see them; piled high, adding to the putrid stench of the trenches while feeding the clamouring rodents. But it’s not just those of us who sign up for battle; with war it never is. We’ve all lost friends and family.


I remember those first days. We were young, naïve, our heads full of hopes and dreams. Kitted out for war, we marched in our smart uniforms, buttons gleaming, boots polished as we set off for a few months to right the wrongs of the world, vowing we’d be home for Christmas.

I shift on the bench, looking at the worn, muck-smeared uniform which has clothed me for the last four years. My darned socks peep from boots that appear to talk as I walk; the sole opening and closing with every footstep. My life now is full of terror. Nightmares have migrated to days where any loud sound can drop me to my knees. I’ll find myself rocking in place with my eyes squeezed tight, hands laced over the back of my head and a cold sweat running down the back of my neck.

My wife, Elsie, has kept me up-to-date with letters from home. She does her best to keep her letters upbeat, but I’m aware of how difficult it has become. Letters are censored, but the truth filters through. Nights tortured with air raid sirens screeching, while bombers fly overhead, indiscriminately dropping their load onto schools and churches. This only serves to push us onward, further into enemy territory, to stop their progression. At times it feels like a losing battle. Yet each small victory strengthens our resolve.

“You wouldn’t recognise our street,” she wrote,” blackened embers and debris smouldering by the side of the road. The remains of the greengrocer’s mother, (old Mrs Cribben), was found buried beneath the rubble. Molly was having kittens so she’d ignored the sirens to stay with her. Only Molly survived. A sorry sight, wailing each night until we took her in.”

I love Elsie and her act of kindness. Surely, that’s what makes this bleak world brighter; a little humanity in this ocean of chaos.

A grim-faced doctor emerges through the doors, a nurse in his wake. I reach for my crutch but her hand stops me.

“A little longer. He’s not yet stable,” she says. “Maybe you come tomorrow?”

“I’ll wait,” I say. “I’ll be heading home but I wanted to see him first.”

She pats my shoulder. Her eyes are bloodshot blue. I watch her slow progress to the end of the corridor where she turns and disappears.

Two hours later she beckons me. I follow, walking past young men who thrash on fragile cribs, screaming in pain. She stops at the bedside of what looks like a mummy doused in red paint. Only the left side of his face and his left hand, draped by rosary beads, are visible. I should never have come.

“Are you sure this is Lieutenant Anthony Conway.” I whisper.

“Yes,” she says. “The chaplain was here earlier. Read to him.” She points to a battered prayer book on the locker. Her eyes telling me everything I need to know.

Looking down at his shattered body, I contemplate turning and walking back the way I have come. But I stay.

In the gloom, his uncovered eye opens and stares at me. He doesn’t say a word. I take the prayer book from the locker and fan the pages. A photo slips to the floor before I can catch it, his eye following its passage. I bend to retrieve it, his voice, hoarse and barely recognisable at my ear.

“That’s my son, Jamie. Four years old. A keen footballer, or so I’ve heard.” He clears his throat and turns away. “We’re both from big families, we planned on having plenty of brothers and sisters for him to …”

The wooden chair scrapes across the worn linoleum as I pull it closer to him and sit. “He’s a good looking lad, alright,” I say, biting my tongue as I look at him. You should be proud,” I continue.

“I am,” he whispers. “Although Sarah is the one who should be proud, she’s the one who’s reared him, while I’ve been hundreds of miles away.”

I follow his gaze across the room. The pretty nurse who brought me to his bedside is doing her best to soothe a patient. Eventually she succeeds, his screams become a mere whimper.

“I’ve never even met him,” says Conway. “Probably never will. We shipped out not long before he arrived into the world.” He smiles, “Dawson managed to scavenge a cigar for me when I heard the news.”

His eye closes and I feel a lump in my throat.

He sighs, his words barely audible, “poor Sarah …”

I lean the photo against his empty water glass so that he can see it without having to move his head too much. “He’s a lucky boy to have you for a father,” I say. “A true hero. It’d be difficult to find a more honourable man in the entire army.”

He turns to me and attempts a smile, a single tear streaming down his cheek. “Maybe you might tell him that, some day?”

“Sure he’ll see that himself when—“

There’s a series of light, tapping sounds. Something catches my eye. Rosary beads spill to the floor scattering in every direction. I bend to retrieve them and my grandfather’s gravelly voice pops into my head.Image result for free photo of old black rosary beads and soldier


He, like Conway, had a voracious appetite for books and newspapers. Something the breakout of war hampered greatly. But when I turn to tell him, he is perfectly still. A nurse appears, lifts his hand and checks his pulse. I watch and wait for his chest to rise and fall.

“I’m sorry, monsieur,” she shakes her head.

My knees buckle and I land awkwardly on the edge of the chair. I hear a soft voice in the distance.

“— sign for his belongings, get them back to his family?”

“Of course. Yes,” I reply. “I only came to thank him.”

Her eyebrows rise.

I point to my leg. “I was shot, grenades dropping all around us. Even though he was injured too, he still managed to drag me clear.” I shudder. “He went back, for Hill and Dawson. But they didn’t survive …”

I don’t know which feels worse, the memory of that last day; the unbearable noise of explosions mixed with the wails of their victims or here, now.

The same desperate cries resonate in the gloom. Dust motes rise and settle, like gun smoke on the horizon. The earthy smell mixed with body odour swapped for the clinical smell of disinfectant. It cloys at my nostrils, making it difficult to breathe.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The words float unbidden.

Bending towards me, the nurse drops beads into my hand, closing my fingers around them. “You will take to his family, yes?”

I nod and gather Conway’s belongings; his wash bag containing a silver razor, shaving brush and the dregs of a bar of soap. It smells of him. His watch, the black strap worn and frayed at the edges, still keeps perfect time. Ten minutes past four. I’ll need to hurry if I’m to make the train to begin my journey home.

I pack everything carefully into my rucksack, the prayer book and photo nestled in between my clothes. Finally, the rosary beads. Ten beads had broken away as he took his final breaths: a decade of the rosary. I cup them in my hand, along with the broken chain, the cross staring up at me. The nurse is hovering. No doubt, they need the bed. I shove my hand into my pocket and release them, whisper a thank you into my saviour’s ear and bless myself.

Limping down the corridor, I count my blessings that I had met a man like Lieutenant Anthony Conway.

“Double-wired,” I mutter.

“Sorry?” a soldier stops.

I shake my head and continue, unshed tears clouding my vision. My steps become quicker as freedom and the bosom of my family beckon.

I vow to have the rosary beads repaired, have the single wire replaced. Double-wired to add more strength. Then I’ll return them, with the rest of his belongings to his wife and child. No doubt, they will offer them solace, as they had to Conway in his hours of need.

Pressing a well-worn bead between finger and thumb, my lips start to pray.

“Hail Mary full of grace …”

© Susan Condon

Short Story: Child’s Play


Delighted to hear that my short story,Child’s Play, will air onThe Jealous WallonDublin Digital Radiorecited by actressEimear Keating.

The radio show where dark, twisted short stories, written by Irish based authors, reside!

Why not grab a cuppa – or something stronger! – turn down the lights andTUNE IN:

The Jealous Wall
Dublin Digital Radio – an independent online radio station – was voted Best Online Station in Europe in the @MixCloud Online Radio Awards 2018.

Instagram: @TheJealousWall

Twitter: @DublinDigiRadio @EimearKeating@susancondon

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Poetry Day Ireland

Poetry Time with Alan Hanna’s Bookshop

30 April 2020

Check-in – for this virtual alternative to the planned event – where you’ll find links to a collection of poems, created in response to a line in a favourite book, from a variety of poets including:

Eileen Casey, David Grant, Vivienne Kearns, Michael J. Whelan, Doreen Duffy,
Susan Condon, Kevin Bateman, Eoin Flynn, Damien Donnelly, Eilín de Paor,
Joe Carthy, Diane Murphy, Helena McCanney, Theresa O’Leary, Holly Dignam
and Orla Grant-Donoghue.


Event: Looking Up launch

You are invited to the launch of:

Looking Up

A chapbook of Poems and Short Stories from the 2019 Red Line Book Festival Residency.

Time:  7pm
Date:  Monday, 17 February 2020
Venue: The County Library, Tallaght

The dream team, steered by Lisa Harding, were the participants of the Red Line Book Festival inaugural Writer in Residence project. Come along to this free event where you can hear new and established writers and poets, who participated in the project, read from their work.

Image may contain: one or more people, possible text that says 'LOOKING UP CHAPBOOK LAUNCH: Mon 17th Feb, 7pm County Library, Tallaght POEMS AND STORIES FROM THE 2019 RED LINE BOOK FESTIVAL RESIDENCY'



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Time To Get Writing!

It’s 1 January 2020 and a new year beckons!

Resolutions have been made and if writing is your passion then what better way to get motivated than by sourcing a competition or two with a looming deadline.

I’ve copied details of a number of interesting competitions below and wish you luck with your writing and submission:

Cúirt New Writing Prize 2020
Deadline: 31 January 2020
Written Word: 2,000 words maximum.
Entry:  €10

The CWA Margery Allingham Short Mystery Competition 2020
Deadline: 29 February 2020
Written Word: 3,500 words maximum.
Entry:  £12

The CWA Debut Dagger Award
Deadline: 29 February 2020
Written Word: Opening of a crime novel not exceeding 3,000 words and a synopsis of up to 1,500 words.
Entry:  £36

2020 Bristol Short Story Prize
Deadline: 30 April 2020
Written Word: 4,000 words maximum.
Entry: £9


Please check all submission details to ensure correct – apologies from me if, in my excitement at finding such fabulous competitions to enter, there are any errors.


Bank of Ireland’s Got Talent!

I can’t sing. I can’t dance. But I love to write.

Since joining my first Creative Writing class in 2008, I haven’t looked back. When the ask came to enter Bank of Ireland’s Got Talent I thought, why not? My recent decision to say Yes to everything and worry about it later has landed me here – surely the perfect opportunity to push myself forward while having a little fun and benefitting two really worthwhile charities – the Irish Heart Foundation and Age Action.Susan's Got Talent!

Please help me help them by giving whatever you can using the ‘Give Now’ button via the link below.


The more people that know about the Irish Heart Foundation, the greater their impact, so please also spread the word by sharing my page with your friends and family.

Thank you in advance for your generosity, it means a lot!

Poetry Day 2019: A response to David Fox’s show An Altered Land

To celebrate Poetry Day Ireland 2019 and in conjunction with Poetry Ireland‘s chosen theme this year: ‘Truth or Dare‘, the Olivier Cornet Gallery, in collaboration with the poet Orla Grant-Donoghue, has invited a group of poets to respond to David Fox’s current show at the gallery.

The poets will be reading their work from:

Time: 7.00pm
Date:  Thursday 2nd May 2019
Venue: The Olivier Cornet Gallery, 3 Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1

All welcome to this free event but we advise reserving a place by emailing info@oliviercornetgallery.com.

An Altered Land’ is an exhibition of recent works by David Fox, showcasing a selection of the artist’s current painting practice.

While living in Belfast, Fox made paintings of the well-known Peace walls, plus other social/political ‘barriers’ that are still maintained and divide local communities. During this time, he was working part time as a driver and daily trekked from one side of the city to the other, thus gaining great insight to the back streets of the city. He travelled back and forth from his hometown of Tullamore, inspiring some of these desolate motorway and road scenes. Also, frequently travelling through the Irish border, he then began documenting various border crossings. These works intended on highlighting the vulnerability of an intangible frontier now challenged by an uncertain future. As is also evident in these paintings, the artist has a love of the great outdoors. As a frequent traveller, he often spends down time exploring rural Ireland, often hiking mountains, country walks, or other various leisure activities.

The confirmed poets presenting are Eileen Casey, Susan Condon, Catherine Ann Cullen, Doreen Duffy, Eoin Flynn, David Grant, Orla Grant-Donoghue, Brian Kirk, Éamon Mag Uidhir, Jasmina Šušić, Christian Wethered and Micheal J. Whelan.

Eileen Casey
Poet, fiction writer, journalist and publisher, Eileen Casey lives in South Dublin. Poetry and prose collections are published by Arlen House, AltEnts and New Island. Her work features in anthologies by Faber & Faber, Poetry Ireland, Dedalus, New Island, The Nordic Irish Studies Journal, among others. Literary prizes include The Hennessy Emerging Fiction Award, A Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship, The Oliver Goldsmith Prize, The Maria Edgeworth and Cecil Day Lewis Award, among others. Her independent press, Fiery Arrow won the 2017 CAP Awards (Carousel Creates) sponsored by Dubray Books and Easons. A recently published response anthology to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, features over 60 poets, together with the original Patrick Kavanagh poems, courtesy of The Jonathan Williams Literary Agency.

Susan Condon
Susan Condon was awarded a Certificate in Creative Writing from NUI Maynooth. Her short stories have won numerous awards including first prize in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award. Publications include Ireland’s Own Anthology, My Weekly, Boyne Berries 22, Live Encounters, Flash Flood Journal, Spelk, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Flash Fiction Press. https://susancondon.wordpress.com/

Catherine Ann Cullen
Catherine Ann Cullen is an award-winning poet, children’s writer and songwriter, and recipient of a prestigious Kavanagh Fellowship 2018/19. Her three poetry collections include The Other Now: New & Selected Poems (Dedalus 2016). She is joint winner of the Joyce-Cycle Poetry Prize 2019 and won the Camac Song Contest 2018 and the Francis Ledwidge Award 2016 and 2009. She is Goodbody Writer in Residence at St Joseph’s School, East Wall, for which she won the 2017 B2A Award for Best Use of Creativity in the Community. Her latest book, All Better! (Little Island, 2019), poems for children about illness and recovery, is reimagined from Latvian. She has published two other children’s books with Little, Brown in the US. She is part of Revolting Women: A Rebel Cabaret in the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, May 6th to 11th. https://catherineanncullen.wordpress.com/

Doreen Duffy
Doreen Duffy studied creative writing and poetry at Oxford online, UCD & NUI Maynooth. Published internationally, she won The Jonathan Swift Award and was presented The Deirdre Purcell Cup at Maria Edgeworth Literary Festival. She was longlisted, Over the Edge New Writer of the Year 2017, shortlisted, Francis MacManus Competition 2017, her story ‘Tattoo’ was broadcast on RTE Radio One. http://doreenduffy.blogspot.com/

Eoin Flynn
Eoin Flynn is a visual artist who uses writing as a part of his practice. Most recently, he was invited to show a series of his psychogeographical ‘Landscrapes’ at the Liverpool Independents’ Biennale 2018. It was only through the encouragement and example of Platform One Writers’ Group that he dared to turn a pen to poetry. He was raised in County Monaghan by a Kavanagh-adherent teacher of English and now works as a freelance designer of books and more.

Orla Grant-Donoghue
Orla Grant-Donoghue’s first collection of poetry The Frayed Heart (Fiery Arrow Press) was published in 2018. Her haiku poetry on Ulysses was included in installations by artist Nickie Hayden at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in 2018 and at the James Joyce Centre in 2019. She wrote and recorded two poems “The Reflective Eye” and “Chroma” as part of the 2019 Poetry M’app project to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland http://www.poetrymapp.com/ Her poetry is anthologised in outlets such as Circle & Square (Fiery Arrow Press), WOMb: Celebrating Mothers (By Me Poetry) and more recently The Lea-Green Down (Fiery Arrow Press). She has broadcast memoir pieces on RTÉ Radio 1 Sunday Miscellany and published in the Irish Times (Family Fortunes). http://www.orlawrites.com

Brian Kirk
Brian Kirk is a poet and short story writer from Dublin. He was shortlisted twice for Hennessy Awards for fiction. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. His poem “Birthday” won the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. Recent stories have appeared in The Lonely Crowd and online at Willesden Herald New Short Fiction, Fictive Dream and Cold Coffee Stand. His story Festival was longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2017/8. He blogs at www.briankirkwriter.com

Éamon Mag Uidhir
Dubliner Éamon Mag Uidhir first published a poem in 1969 in the broadsheet Book of Invasions. He edited Icarus and TCD Miscellany while at TCD during the 1970s, currently edits the quarterly poetry ‘narrowsheet’ FLARE, fitfully curates the online sonnet repository at www.sonnetserver.com, and has had poems published in many magazines. He made his reading debut in the 2015 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and has since read at many sessions and open mics in Ireland and also in Paris and Barcelona.

Jasmina Šušić
Jasmina Susic (Dharma Rain Jazz) was born in Croatia. She has published three books of poetry: Nebo boje peperminta (Peppermint coloured sky), Liber, Belgrade, Serbia 2010; Osjecam se kao space shuttle (I feel like space shuttle), Slusaj najglasnije – Bratstvo dusa, Zagreb, Croatia, 2012;
Atomske bombe s Plutona (Nuclear bombs from Pluto), DADAnti, Split, Croatia, 2014. She travelled around Europe performing her poems and sharing her screams and finally settled in Dublin, where she still lives, dreams and runs the poetry & spoken word event Just Words in The MART Gallery, Rathmines. She is also dedicated to her spiritual journey through reiki, astrology, tarot and channeling. Her rants were seen and read in Germany, UK, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Ireland.

Christian Wethered
Christian Wethered has been published in the UK and Ireland. He features in the ‘Best New British and Irish Poets 2018’, and was also selected for the ‘Poetry Ireland Introductions Series’. His debut pamphlet, ‘I Don’t Love You’, was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Prize, while his poem ‘Lethe’ was submitted for the Forward Prize 2018 (Best Poem Category).

Michael J. Whelan
Michael J. Whelan is a historian and soldier-poet living in South Dublin, Ireland. He deployed as a United Nations Peacekeeper with the Irish Defence Forces to the conflicts in Lebanon and Kosovo in the 1990s. He holds a Masters Degree in Modern History from NUI Maynooth and is keeper of the Air Corps Military Museum and collector of oral history for the Military Archives of Ireland Oral History Programme. His poems are published Australia, Paris, Mexico, USA, UK, South Africa and Ireland and included in ‘And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry, (Paris 2015) & ‘The Hundred Years War: Modern War Poems’ (Bloodaxe UK) 2014. He was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series and was 2nd Place Winner of the Patrick Kavanagh & 3rd in the Jonathan Swift Awards. He has featured on T.V. and radio and at literary festivals and his debut collection ‘Peacekeeper’ was published in 2016 by Doire Press. He is currently working towards his second collection ‘Rules of Engagement’ to be published in 2019.
and www.michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com

The Slog of the Bog

A night out, a glass of wine or two and suddenly the conversation turns into animated laughter where everyone – but me – has a Bog story they’re dying to tell.

As a city dweller, my childhood included nightmares from one of the many scary books I’d just read or maybe even a paper cut or two. My country friends, it appears, experienced a different kind of horror – the bog. But their retelling of those, not so long ago days, were so hilarious that I made them each promise to write a flash fiction piece for my Blog – an opportunity for us city folk to get an insight into what we were missing!

First up, is Nikki Whelan, with The Slog of the Bog:     

The Bog: A place in Ireland where childhood labour is real, where midges kill, backs ache and summers are forever lost.

Every Sunday my dad would bring us on a mystery tour. In those days, there was no such thing as buckling up – there were no seat belts – so the five of us would pile into the back of his Ford Sierra Sapphire full of anticipation.

“Watch out for the Guards,” my dad would say, “two of you be ready to duck for cover.”

We rarely saw the Guards, but we would nod and laugh, bickering over which of us had to be ready to duck this week. These tours could bring us anywhere – from point-to-point race meetings in the backarse of nowhere, to horse sales in Goffs, the lakes of Blessington, Glendalough or even to view a dog trailer in Thurles. But each summer, one such trip would invariably bring us to the Clongory bog to pick a plot of turf.

When we’d arrive, Dad would get out of the car, make a big show of inhaling, then he’d turn to us with a big smile. “Doesn’t it look great?”

We’d all look at him confused and eventually reply that it looked the same as the plot from last year and the year before that. All our friends were excited about a summer in Spain, Cork, at their Granny’s or the Gaeltacht, while for us, our summer began at the bog …The Bog

After the turf was cut, it was time for our work to begin. First, we’d foot the turf. This involved stacking about 10 pieces of turf on top of each other, in different directions, to allow it to dry. A quicker alternative for drier turf was to clamp it (stacking in tepee fashion). That was too easy – we were hard core – we never clamped it. It was back breaking work. My siblings and I would compete to see who would get their line of turf footed first. I learned quickly that this was a futile exercise. Once you were finished your line, you would be directed to help the others.

After a few days of footing, with the summer sun beating off our backs, we’d all shuffle off the bog bent over like 90 year-olds. But this wasn’t the biggest evil of the bog – no, the biggest evil was getting eaten alive by midges. Swarms of them would come out, mostly in the evenings; it was an incentive to get our work finished early. They’d eat every unclothed part of us, leaving red itchy lumps the size of large grapes protruding out of us. We’d wear our socks pulled up high to save our shins. The only midge deterrent we knew of back then was smoking. Oh God, how we envied the adults who puffed away to midge freedom. My mom smoked tip cigars on the bog – but only on the bog – it was acceptable there. One day, I’ll be old enough to puff my way to midge freedom, I thought, totally unaware, back then, that I’d have gas central heating in Dublin and never have to spend another day on the bog!!!

When it was time to leave, if the turf still wasn’t fully dry, then we returned a few days later and we’d stack it then. I remember the days we’d wake to hear the rain pelting on the roof. How we loved rain, it was our saviour – the only thing that would spare us from the bog. Next was the bagging phase. The car and trailer were driven onto the bog so that we could throw the turf straight into the trailer. But, if the ground was too soft to drive on, then we’d load it into bags. These bags were then carried – or dragged, in my case – to the road and lifted into the trailer. Sometimes my Dad, after inspecting the ground and declaring it driveable, would get the car and trailer stuck in the bog. Amid laughs and shouts, all bodies on our plot and neighbouring plots would come together to push the car back out of the bog. Then we’d be back to square one, filling bags and dragging them out to the road.

We lived for our break, we’d eat ham, lettuce and salad cream sandwiches and buns. We’d drink as much Cadet orange as we wanted. We needed the sugar for energy. Our limbs would stiffen as we sat on the bog and we’d struggle to get up and back to our line.

Finally, when the trailer was loaded and secured, the proud journey home with the turf would begin. We’d sit in the back of the trailer on top of our loot, our bums bruised as they hit sharp pieces of turf as we chugged along. But we didn’t care. We’d make one stop on the way home at the local shop for orange Rocket ice-pops. Rocket Ice LollyThis was our prize for a good day’s work on the bog. Nobody batted an eyelid at our black dirty faces and hands as each of us traipsed into the shop to claim our prize. But our day’s work wasn’t quite done. Once we arrived home, we’d have to unload the bags of turf into the shed. We’d stack them high, leaving the shed with a sense of pride, knowing that it would be a warm winter.

I hated and loved those long summer days on the bog. The smell of peat was lovely, an awful lot nicer than the smell from some of our other summer activities like mucking out stables. And the comradery on the bog was fantastic; we survived it together. We always left with sore backs but a great sense of achievement. You’d sleep like a baby after the slog of the bog – that is if the midge bites didn’t keep you itching all night!


Book Launch: The Lea-Green Down

Fiery Arrow invites you to the launch of
The Lea-Green Down

A collection of responses to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh edited by Eileen Casey and including work from many poets, including:

David Butler, Gavan Duffy, Geraldine Mills, Joan Power, Tanya Farrelly, Brian Kirk, Doreen Duffy, Mae Newman, Paula Meehan, Brigid Flynn, Trish Nugent, Eileen Casey, Enda Coyle-Greene, Grace Wells, Marie Gahan, Maria Wallace, Orla Grant-Donoghue and Susan Condon.

The Lea Green Down invite

Time:  6.30pm – 8.30pm
Date:  Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Venue: The Irish Writers Centre. (Refreshments will be served.)

“The poet Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967 would take enormous pleasure in having a standing army of poets and writers pay tribute to his work in this handsome and original publication. Eileen Casey has grasped the initiative, outcome of personal talent and imaginative enterprise, to honour one of our greatest national poets in this magnificent collection on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.”
– Dr Una Agnew

Flash Fiction: Reunion

In a flash, life changes …

I’m delighted to have my flash fiction, Reunion, published in the July edition of Live Encounters.

Profile Susan condon LE Poetry & Writing July 2018

Around her, commuters beam in the after-glow of a sunny weekend, while the train swishes along the rails bringing her closer.

Soon, after all this time, they’ll be reunited.

The train groans to a stop. Her stomach lurches: only two more stations.

“Breathe,” she mutters.


She shakes her head at the woman beside her.

In through the nose, out through the mouth, her internal voice commands. Obeying, she feels a slow calm creep through her body. She watches the canal ripple gently. Two swans grace the water while a blackbird soars overhead. Only days before she too was flying through the air, from Boston to Dublin, on a one way ticket. Today would determine her return.

Click here to continue reading my story or click Live Encounters where you can either read or download the full publication for free.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair: Joël Dicker

Joel DickerThe Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, written by Joël Dicker and starring Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) will soon, courtesy of MGM, hit our screens.

Under Jean-Jacques Annaud’s direction, Dicker’s entire novel will be brought to life over ten episodes. This is a similar approach taken to The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood and starring Elizabeth Moss, which won a host of Emmy awards.

Back in the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dicker in Dublin for writing.ie:

Having finished The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair only days before the interview, I was intrigued to meet Geneva born Joël Dicker, a writer with a novel which belies his mere 28 years. He is hailed as Switzerland’s coolest export since Roger Federer, with rights sold to 45 countries in 32 languages and over 2 million copies sold in less than a year. For me, minus the supernatural element, it was reminiscent of a great Stephen King novel. Dicker laughs when I mention it – apparently, I’m not the first to make the comparison although he has not, yet, read any of King’s novels. I suggest that with his busy schedule he could try Joyland, far shorter than King’s regular books but, in my opinion, up there with some of his very best. Dicker, like King, has a way of bringing his books to life by producing such fully formed characters that you feel as if you already know them personally and you never want to let them go.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is set in New Hampshire. Here’s the blurb:

In the summer of 1975, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame. Quebert is the only suspect.

Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America.”

But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

Not just a book about an unsolved murder case, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair explores the price of fame and the seduction of success, the ferocity of the publishing industry and the power of the media, love in all its forms and what it means to be a truly great writer.

Dicker is currently on a roller-coaster ride, jetting in and out of countries so fast, while promoting his book, that his feet have barely touched the ground. Yet, relaxing over a coffee in the Ballsbridge hotel, he is charming and humble, excusing himself for a moment while he finds a socket to re-charge his iPhone.

This is a guy who has worked hard for what appears to be overnight success. His writing career began at age ten, when he was Editor-in-Chief of a monthly wildlife magazine, and wrote factual articles about animals. Until then he had not considered short stories. “I wanted to feel free to tell the story I wanted, because with the magazine I was only able to write true facts, so I tried short stories.” Dicker admits he finds it difficult to be able to condense a story enough to produce a short story, yet he managed it successfully with The Tiger which won an award in 2005. Some accomplishment for him, he laughs, as he nods towards his current novel, The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, which is over 600 pages long. Perhaps another similarity between himself and Stephen King …

At age 24, he wrote The Final Days of our Fathers which won the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois (Geneva Writers’ Prize) for unpublished manuscripts. The novel was subsequently published in 2012. His passion may always have been for writing, but he may well have taken another road when he headed off to an acting school in Paris. “I’ve always really enjoyed writing and playing music and doing some artistical creative stuff.” But Dicker explains, “I always felt the need to have a back-up plan. After six months, I realised I was not made for that. I really felt I should have a degree in something.” I ask if that’s how he ended up studying law. He laughs easily and nods, “I was not very good at literature and horrible at mathematics, so, I chose the only faculty at the University of Geneva that has no literature and no maths!”

We chat about his book and I ask whether his publishers might have requested him to shorten the title. Apparently that was never the case, but they were a little concerned about the pronunciation of Harry Quebert for his English-speaking audience. Dicker came up with a novel way to get over this problem. The waitresses, at the local coffee shop where the great Quebert frequents, are given a lesson by the owner, Tamara, on how to bring his order and on the correct pronunciation of his name:

“The chorus of waitresses croaked like frogs: “Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear.”

It does the trick!

With his first novel, Dicker had tried to imagine what it would be like to have his book in the shops, expecting the bookseller to have it displayed in the front window. But unfortunately, back then, that wasn’t the case. Today it is a different story. Wherever he travels he comes across huge posters of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair displayed in bookshop windows; most recently earlier today in Dublin. “I feel very, very lucky with this one. Each time I see a window I think of the first book and how disappointed I was.” When I ask where he was when he came across his first novel, he tells me it was “at a book chain in Switzerland called Payot. It’s a terrible memory actually,” he grins, “because the book was supposed to be out on 10 January and I told my friends, ‘go, try to find the book,’ just to make the bookseller think it’s a must-read. But there was a delay in the delivery of the book in France and Switzerland and no-one told me. So I was very disappointed. But then it came out a week after and I finally saw it and I was very happy.”

His love of books was fuelled by his mother who works in a bookshop called, La Librerit. Dicker tells me “it sounds like bookshop but it’s a play on words – to be free and to love.” Directly translated to For The Love of Books, this is a Geneva bookstore with an immense stock of children’s books which no doubt whet Dicker’s appetite from an early age.

Dicker chose America as the setting for his novel, mainly because of the amount of time he spent there as a child. His cousins lived in Washington DC and had a summer house in Maine; an ideal location for them to spend their summer holidays and a feeding ground for Dicker’s imagination.

I ask about Nola, a character loved, it seems, by all who come into contact with her. Dicker tells me that in the beginning, Nola was not in the novel at all. “The very first idea, the first layer, was just a house by the ocean. Then came Harry and then came Marcus and the relationship between them.” Joel goes on to explain his thought processes and how they developed. “I should give Marcus a girlfriend and so that was Nola.” Then he got the idea to change the dynamics, “I tried again, but Nola should be going out with Harry, that’s much more interesting. And then – she could be dead! She could have been murdered, which is even better, so always going one step further and one step further. I’m very bad with plans, I much prefer just to write and let the story unfold.”

Dicker had four novels rejected before he was finally able to find his first publisher, yet when I ask him for the best advice he could offer new writers he appears uncomfortable. “It’s to keep working. I feel out of place giving advice, or anything, maybe in thirty years . . .” he shrugs. “I’m just a very lucky guy.” At book signings, he regularly has writers asking him for advice; he says the only thing he can tell them is to “keep trying. It’s very hard at times, but maybe there’s nothing more than that. Keep trying and try again and again.”

While currently travelling and promoting his novel, Dicker is still “working hard, trying to keep the machine going. Even though I don’t have much time to write a lot, I’ll read some pages – write down some ideas and plot ideas.”

As the interview draws to a close he tells me that ultimately, ”you write to please yourself. You write for an audience, of course. You write because you want to be read; because you want to share your story. But if you tell a story that you don’t enjoy yourself, how can you expect people to read it and enjoy it?”

“The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read all year. Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood.
Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph.

Short Story: Double-Wired

A thought provoking short story about life and humanity

I am delighted to have my short story, Double-Wired, published in the latest issue of the literary journal Boyne Berries 22. This special issue of the bi-annual magazine commemorates the centenary of the death of the County Meath WWI poet, Francis Ledwidge. You’ll find a taster of my story below and, if you are interested in reading more, copies are available to purchase via the Boyne Berries blog.

 Boyne Berries


He saved my life. That’s why I’m here, waiting patiently to see him, before finally returning home to my wife and child.

Doctors and nurses rush by, shouting to each other as they attend to yet another bloodied soldier. I count my blessings that we got out of there alive. Many remain; their bodies returning home while their ghosts roam the countryside searching for lost comrades. I still see them; piled high, adding to the putrid stench of the trenches while feeding the clamouring rodents. But it’s not just those of us who sign up for battle; with war it never is. We’ve all lost friends and family.

I remember those first days. We were young, naïve, our heads full of hopes and dreams. Kitted out for war, we marched in our smart uniforms, buttons gleaming, boots polished as we set off for a few months to right the wrongs of the world, vowing we’d be home for Christmas.

I shift on the bench, looking at the worn, muck-smeared uniform which has clothed me for the last four years. My darned socks peep from boots that appear to talk as I walk; the sole opening and closing with every footstep. My life now is full of terror. Nightmares have migrated to days where any loud sound can drop me to my knees. I’ll find myself rocking in place with my eyes squeezed tight, hands laced over the back of my head and a cold sweat running down the back of my neck.

SPARROWS SING – a poem by Michael J. Whelan

Historian, Michael J Whelan, remembers Francis Ledwidge:

Michael J. Whelan - Writer

Today Monday 31th July 2017 is the centenary of the death of Irish poet Francis Lewidge who died in Flanders during the First World War 1917, it is also the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the 3rd Battle of Ypres in which he was killed or ‘Passchendaele’ as it was known.  Yesterday I attended in uniform the ‘Poetry Reading and Wreath Laying Ceremony with Gerald Dawe – Professor of English and Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in the National War Memorial Park, Islandbridge, Dublin.’ It was a special event organised by the Inchicore Ledwidge Society to honour the Irish soldier-poet Francis Ledwidge.

Being a poet and member of the Irish Defence Forces (a soldier poet) it was important for me to attend and remember Francis Ledwidge 

Michael J. Whelan at the grave of Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge – killed In Action WW1. Photo (c)Michael J. Whelan

This is a…

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