Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Oath is Dead and Gone by Jim Maher

There is nothing like a good book launch. That's what Jim Maher organised in the Ormonde Hotel (, Kilkenny for the publication of his latest book: The Oath is Dead and Gone. The book is perfectly edited and beautifully published by Jo O'Donoghue's Londubh Books (

This is Jim's third historical treatise, all eminently readable. His first book on the period of the War of Independence was The Flying Column: West Kilkenny and East Tipperary (1987). Harry Boland: A Biography (1998) told the story of the big-hearted patriot and friend of Michael Collins.

The Oath, as it's being affectionately called, concerns the clause in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 which obliged elected representatives in the Free State to swear allegiance to the British Monarch. This was the major cause of the Civil War of 1922.

The Kilkenny people and those from far and wide throughout Ireland turned out in their droves for the occasion, some 300 in all. The Oath was formally launched by Senator Labhras O Murchu, Ard-Stiurthoir of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and Chairman of the Pearse Foundation. Speakers included: David Fitzgerald, mayor of Kilkenny; Paul Cuddihy, chairman of Kilkenny Co Council; Seamus Pattison, former Labour TD amd Ceann Comhairle of Dail Eireann for five years, as well as Nora Comiskey, President of the 1916-1921 Club, currently promoting the Save Moore Street Campaign.

The musical interlude was provided by harpist Mary Kelly who plays in the Aras and Nora Butler a traditional singer from Nenagh.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I think of autumn as a time for new academic resolutions - books and knowledge being to the fore. I am back in UCD, on the gorgeous Carysfort Campus with my writing course titled, The Nuts & Bolts of Plotting and Writing Fiction. We're there on Wednesday mornings from 10 o'clock to noon, with a break for coffee in the splendid restaurant.
As always our group is talented, intense and interested in both writing and enjoying the experience of being with like-minded people. We have men and women; a mixture of ages and abilities; some new to writing; more just new to me; several doing a repeat which is very flattering, if unnerving.
As examples of the good writing that is coming out of Ireland the books we're looking at include: Christine Dwyer Hickey's The Cold Eye of Heaven; Douglas Kenededy's The Moment; Solace by Belinda Mckeon; Anne Enright's The Last Waltz - an aspirationally eclectic mixture.
And together we plan to enjoy the next 10 weeks

Saturday, September 3, 2011


As I write this, Dunlaoghaire's Mountains to Sea Festival of Books (www.mountainsto is in full swing. This is its third year and it goes from strength to strength. The fact that it's a festival of books rather than the more usual writers is intriguing, and some of the most revered authors of the present time are reading from their latest works and discussing their methods of working.

I have to be selective as greedily I want to attend everything and there is only so much I can absorb.

The Festival opened with Michael Ondaatje, author and poet, reading from his latest book, The Cat's Table, although he is still probably best known for The English Patient. There is nothing quite like listening to an author of his calibre reading the words he has created.

I'm going to hear my friend Christine Dwyer Hickey read from her latest, The Cold Eye of Heaven which has received rave reviews and loads of publicity. I am looking forward to reading it as I've already made a brief acquaintance with her hero Farley through the auspices of Amazon's Kindle; sharing platform with her is Belinda McKeon who is being internationally lauded for her first novel Solace which I read through the night in one sitting.

I'm also attending Roy Foster in conversation with Gerald Dawe on Yeats and his Inheritances; as well as History Ireland Hedge School with Tommy Graham, editor of History Ireland magazine.(

As a writer I find listening to award winning authors to be both a salutory and rewarding experience - salutory because I realist how far I've to go as a writer and rewarding for the sheer joy of listening to created words.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Pic: In action - Spring Class of 2011

Hello writers and would-be writers,

Its this time of year again - UCD's Adult Education Programme is just out, and I'm offering two courses which are either stand-alone or can be combined. They are aimed at writers who want to write fiction. Already with these and similarly directed courses we've had great succeses - award winners, published authors across a wide span of genres - comtemporary, thriller, crime, historical, etc.

(i) The Nuts & Bolts of Writing & Plotting Fiction – 10 weeks (Autumn, Belfield Campus Wednesday Mornings)

Course Description:
The purpose of this course is to assist writers to find and use their fictional voice to achieve their writing dreams. Writing is based on a combination of life experiences (nuts) and imagination (bolts). This course facilitates the discovery of creativity and its use to put the nuts and bolts of life into writing in a structured way which is where Plotting comes in. Focus is on: storylines, structuring, various methods of plotting and locations, as well as narration and dialogue. Areas covered include short stories, novels and plays. Sessions arranged to allow time for writing and constructive analysis.

(ii) Building Story People – Creating Fictional Characters - 6 weeks (Spring, Belfield Campus, Wednesday Mornings

Course Description:
Characters are the royalty of fiction. No matter what sort of fiction you write, your story has to be populated with characters. The majority of characters, if not all, have to be created from scratch. While there is no instant solution to the creation of memorable fictional characters, there are tried and tested Do’s and Don’t’s. That’s what we’ll explore during this course. The sessions are arranged to allow time for writing and constructive analysis.

If you're interested in attending log onto to make your booking; if you would like further information or to discuss your work, contact me on:

I look forward to seeing you......

Monday, July 25, 2011


Here are some of my favorite quotes from writers, and tips for better writing:

1. Write to make a point, not a target word count
Vigorous writing is concise. - William Strunk Jr.

While having reached a word count of 60,000 words is impressive, it depends on the quality of those words.

2. Help another edit their writing
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. - Elmore Leonard

Editing other writers often leaves me with more insight into my own work.

3. Write something every day that you do not intend to share
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. - William Wordsworth

I have a private file with rants, beautiful thoughts, outlines, and bits of nothing that stream out of me.

4. Don't get caught up in restating the obvious
The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. - Anaïs Nin

Try not to be tempted by the low-hanging fruit of easy, sloppy writing.

5. Befriend a dictionary and Thesaurus
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. - Mark Twain

Imbue, conjure, nefarious... are a few of the words I regard as friends to help me make a point, share an idea, or call something into question. There's a joy in sourcing perfect words and nothing trumps having a word come to mind just as you need its help.

6. Keep a notebook for moments of inspiration
Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. - Francis Bacon

I use a moleskine to store happenings/sayings/thoughts – it’s like catching raindrops in a drought.

7. Not having a pen in your hand doesn't mean you're not writing
The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. - Agatha Christie

I like to do a certain amount of planning and to silently try out phrases in my mind before writing them down. Agatha had a point about dishes - there's no such thing as writer's block but there are occasions when washing dishes is a better use of time than staring at an empty screen!

8. Be kind to yourself
Every writer I know has trouble writing. - Joseph Heller

Writing is a monumental task but there's a joy in knowing that we are never entirely alone. We have our writing and with it an entire community of people who care.

If you're a writer or an aspiring writer, I hope you'll say hello.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I love book launches; love knowing my fellow writers are published and their work for sale in bookshops and available to booklovers to read.

Last evening I was in Longford where Anne Skelly's debut novel "Foolish Pride" was launched to great fanfare in the County Library - a wonderful facility with not only library but also Archives and a Heritage Service. Present was the newly appointed Lord Mayor of Longford; launch was by local author Brian Leydon; those attending included several local authors; the many writing and reading groups in the county, and friends of Anne's from as far afield as Germany.

"Foolish Pride" is a modern love story but with a nod to Jane Austen and a must read for the romantics among us. It is published by Book Republic ( which describes itself as "a bijou publishing press". BR is an imprint of Maverick House Publishers, but, given the current climate where getting published is so difficult, the most interesting fact about Book Republic is that it is actively seeking talented new Irish writers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


This weekend the town of Enniscorthy is holding its Strawberry Festival. When I arrived yesterday, the townsfolk were out in strength, enjoying the sunshine, music and general air of carnival.

The newly and gorgeously refurbished library was site for my talk titled: The Life & Times of Eileen Gray (1878-1976). Irish designer Eileen Gray was born at Brownswood house on the banks of the Slaney, although her creative life was spent in Paris, and her family are remembered fondly in the town. We had a good turn out, an enthusiastic audience with plenty of questions afterwards.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


It's good to have something positive to report on the publishing front.

The good news is that both Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall are in celebratory mode.

I first met these dedicated writers when they were starting out. They came with gritted-teeth determination to my writing course as part of UCD's Adult Education Programme, and over the past few years they have persevered and learned the craft of writing.

Like most other skills, writing requires the serving of an apprenticeship when the writer discovers what works, what doesn't work and learns to apply this knowledge to their work. In the course of this, they find their writing voice.

Eileen Gormely whose novel Don't feed the Fairies was shortlisted for Amazon Book of the Year, is now digitally published by Fantasy Island Book Publishers in the States who plan to bring out a paperback edition in 2012.

Caroline McCall's w/t:Everything beneath the Sky is being published by Ellora's Cave, again in the States, and she's almost finished her next, w/t: Jake's Prisoners.

Neither of these writers are resting in their laurels: they are well into a body of work which in the current publishing climate, and with the cost of marketing, is what publishers want to know.

Good luck to them. And for those of you interested in achieving similar success, a talent for writing counts but success is 90% dedication and hard work.

I'm back in UCD in the autumn with a new course titled: The Nuts & Bolts of Writing and Plotting Fiction. It's a beginning for people interested in writing.

More on or

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anne Skelly's Publishing SUCCESS!!

There's nothing we writers like more than a publishing contract. I am happy to report that Anne Skelly's debut novel titled Foolish Pride is being launched in Longford on Wednesday 29 June.

I first met Anne some years ago when she came to a weekend writing course I was facilitating in the Seanachai Centre, Listowel, Co Kerry. Then she had the essence of a powerful story, and like the true writer she is, she persevered, writing and re-writing until she had achieved publishing standard.

Foolish Pride was picked up by Book Republic (, an imprint of Maverick House who describes itself as "a boutique publishing firm based in Ireland". Aware of the downturn internationally in traditional publishing and that it is particulalry difficult for emerging writers to get published, it's mission is to give new and talented writers an opportunity of publication. The company is producing great reads, with particularly gorgeous, reader-attractive covers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


This comes courtesy of Robert Lacey, British historian and biographer, who forwarded the talk given by Robert Caro (reported by Andrea Pitzer) at the The 2011 BIO Conference

“Show, don’t tell” is a mantra of narrative writers everywhere, but even the most useful adage can lose meaning with repetition. Before a lunchtime audience of writers at the second annual Compleat Biographer Conference, legendary biographer Robert Caro reinvigorated the concept.

How did he do it? With a vivid evocation of the way that place can reveal motivation and illuminate character—making direct explanation completely unnecessary.

In the National Press Club ballroom, BIO president Nigel Hamilton presented Caro with the 2011 BIO Award. Hamilton noted that the prize honored what Caro has done “not just for the craft of biography but for the standing of biography itself in our society.” Setting, Caro suggested, plays a vital role in timeless fiction:

“The greatest of books are books with places you can see in your mind’s eye,” he said, “The deck of the Pequod while the barefoot sailors are hauling the parts of the whale aboard to melt them down for oil. The battlefield at Borodino as Napoleon, looking down from a hill on his mighty imperial guard, has to decide whether to wave them forward into battle. Miss Havisham’s room, the room in which she was to have been married, the room in which she received the letter that told her that the man she loved wasn’t coming, the room with the clock stopped forever at the minute she got the news, the room with the wreckage of the wedding feast that has never been taken away.”

Yet, Caro noted, few reviews point to the power of place in nonfiction. The value of place, widely acknowledged as a key component of literature, he suggested, is often overlooked in biography.

“If the place is important enough in the character’s life,” he said, “if on the most basic level he spent enough time in it, was brought up in it or presided over it, like the Senate, or exercised power in it, like the White House; if the place, the setting, played a crucial role in shaping the character’s feelings, drives, motivations, insecurities, then by describing the place well enough, the author will have succeeded in bringing the reader closer to an understanding of the character without giving him a lecture, will have made the reader therefore not just understand but empathize with a character, will have made the readers’ understanding more vivid, deeper than any lecture could.”

Further details:

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Contact from Jarlath Glynn of Wexford County Council asking me to give a talk on Irish designer and architect Eileen Gray. As she is one of my passions, I couldn't be more pleased.

The talk which we decided to call 'A Celebration: The Life & Times of Eileen Gray (1878-1976)' will be in PowerPoint format in Enniscorthy Library, on Saturday afternoon 25 june at 2.30 PM. More details from or from me

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Hello from the heart of Listowel, celebrating 40 years of WRITING and discussions by international movers and shakers , and where a plethora of workshops aimed at writers who are both professionally stablished and published, and complete beginners.

The programme is comprehensive, as always, catering for every taste, all put together by the wonderful committee who work voluntarily.

Highlights - depending on those you talk to - were Richard Dawkins discussion with Kevin Myers on natual selection, amongst his many other atheistically favoured subjects. Then there was internationally renowned Gerald Celente who was billed as 'showing the future'. Disappointingly he did little more than 'sound byte' his way through the familiar ground of the wars of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the 9/11 twin towers.
Wonderful Book launches, exhibitions of paintings, theatre - the sold out 'Dear Frankie' documenting Frankie Byrne's iconic radio programme; Julie Feeny's concert, Joseph O'Connor and Philip King reading and musical contributions. Information from

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Every writer needs an IT Angel. Mine is called Marie Helene and she operates out of

In previous times when groups of writers met we used to moan about needing a wife - shopping, cooking, cleaning, not to mention the involvement with children's school runs, playdates, leisure and sporting activities etc., played havoc with our writing time.

These days such is the pressure of IT that it has become one of the most urgent things on our minds, eating into our creative output.

When the screen goes blank, or we lose material, or updates come screaming across the screen, and we wonder should we? Shouldn't we? We don't need a wife. We need an IT Angel. My IT Angel never fails to appear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


For students of writing the production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion playing in Dublin's Abbey Theatre is a must and for anyone who loves theatre it shouldn't be missed. The language is magnificent; dialogue masterly and plot sequence wonderfully effective. And none of that mentions the performances by the actors, set design, direction, lighting and Peter O'Brien's breathtaking costumes which had me wishing I lived then.

Pygmalion not only has the powerful storyline of poor, uneducated flowerseller being transformed into lady, with and teacher and pupil finally recognising that they are in love, it also has many of Shaw's thorny obsessions:class consciousness, phoenetics and psychological insights.

For me the performance of the night was Nick Dunning as Colonel Pickering.
Get to see it - it palyed to a full house last night and advance booking is heavy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I get asked all the time about research. Hope this helps:

Research, whether major or minor, is a vital part of writing. There is nothing mysterious about research. It simply involves knowing where to get relevant information that you, as the writer, require. It is particularly important in non-fiction to be able to source relevant material, whereas one of the cardinal rules of writing fiction is not to allow research to dominate or to intrude. Fiction should be story-led not research-led

A generally quoted statistic is that for every 1000 words you write on a subject with which you're not familiar and which requires research, you are going to need in the region of 5000 words of research.
The way we writers research is as varied as the way we structure and write our short stories, novels and plays. Be open to discovering what best suits you. By trial and error I’ve found the following method to be both time efficient and effective.
• Initially I do preliminary research only – to give me a feel of subject/location
• Next I loosely structure plot and develop characters
• Then I write my first draft
• On completion of my first draft, I then carry out whatever detailed research is required.
Daft, you may think? But the reason behind this way of working is two-fold:
• Firstly, it ensures that my story is plot-led not research-led which is an easy trap to fall into.
• Secondly, I only research what is necessary to fill in facts and enhance plotline, characters and location
Obviously the information that you require will dictate where you carry out your research.
Primary Research is the study of a subject through firsthand observation. It can be as simple as watching the bud of a rhododendron unfold and use that to give an added texture to your work – say as a symbol of a growing relationship. Or if the setting for your story is in, say, a hotel, marketing company or unfamiliar location, ideally go to those places, notebook or recorder in hand, and ask questions of the pertinent person/people. In my opinion, Primary Research is the type of research that has your story lepping off the page.
Sources of Secondary Research are archives, newspapers, books, etc. and increasingly online. Basically Online Research involves searching the internet for information, which is then put together in a document that is rich in content, readability and flow. Google is an obvious mine of information but be aware that accuracy of the information is not guaranteed.
That said I don’t know how I managed before Google – often just typing in key words brings results. I’ve found invaluable sites, such as:
• – free encyclopedia that anyone can edit
• which gives a comprehensive listing of headings to look under
• – just key in your question
• – handy if you want to drop in foreign phrases to your writing.
• - a resource for weights, measures, calculators, converters.
The National Archives of Ireland are at Bishop Street, Dublin 8, tel: 01-4072300. website: - much information is online; its site is easy to negotiate and the staff are enormously helpful if you either ring in or visit.

The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, tel: +44 (0) 208876 3444. website: is the site to visit if you require UK or Commonwealth information. As someone who has used the facilities regularly – both onsite and in person - I can’t talk highly enough of the assistance I receive from the researcher allocated to me.

Libraries are great, a joy to work in and I’ve found the staff helpful beyond belief.

• The Chester Beatty Library, The Clock Tower Building, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 tel: 01-4070750. website: The reference library includes manuscripts and scrolls of Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Biblical, Arabic, Tibetian and Mongolian origin. Apply for research facility to director

Corporation and County Council Libraries Of special interest to researchers are:
• Dublin City Libraries HQ, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2. which houses Dublin City Library & Archive. tel: 01-6744999; email:;
The Ilac Centre, Henry Street, Dublin, 1. houses: The Central Library tel: 01-8734333; Children’s Library tel: 01 8734333; ; Business Information Centre tel: 01 8733996; Music Library tel: 01 8734333.
For further information log onto

• The National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. tel: 01-6030200; website: Offers the crème de la crème of research facilities for historical matters, though, as seating is so limited would-be researchers are encouraged to use their local library if material is available. Ring in for details on reader's ticket and manuscript reader's tickets.

• Universities: have comprehensive libraries and research facilities, but you'll probably need a reading card, usually only available to those who have studied there. It's best to make an email query.

Belfast - The Queen’s University (;
Cork - University College Cork, UCC, (;
Derry - Mcgill University (
Dublin - University College Dublin UCD (
Trinity College, TCD (
Galway - NUI Galway, (;
Limerick – University of Limerick (

Monday, May 16, 2011


Oh the joy of Listowel Writers’ Week where every bookish taste bud is satisfied. Featuring this year Wed 1 June to Sun 5 June are Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones); legendary Sir Michael Holroyd and Edward St Aubyn whose latest novel At Last comes out this month; Blake Morrison with his poignant memoirs about his parents, while Emily Barr will read from her latest novel The First Wife. As well as writers John Lynch, Catherine Dunne, Gerry Stembridge, John Boyne and best selling crime writer John Connolly.

One of the hightlights has to be ‘The Whole World Round Tour’, an evening with Joseph O’Connor, Philip King and special guests Scullion and Eimear Quinn on Saturday 4th June.

More info:


Thanks to the bundle of enthusiasm that is Dianne Trimble, the Irish arm of Historical Novel Society, huge in USA and steadily growing in UK, is taking off in Ireland. Writers and readers of Historical Fiction welcome. Meetings held in Belfast and Dublin. Look into

Friday, May 13, 2011


The pieces that Joseph O'Connor read from his Ghost Light last evening at Irish PEN's function were sheer magic. There is nothing like hearing writers read their work - particularly when they have the seductive voice of ownership. One of his tips was for writers to read aloud their work so that awkwardness of phrase or ponderousness of thought can be ironed out.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Hello again,

May is the month where the adult education administrators of UCD plan the courses for autumn 2011 and spring 2012. I’ve been pitching courses to meet the requirements of emerging and writers wishing for publication.

No previous writing experience is required for any of the courses, although an interest in the power of words and enthusiasm for writing is a decided advantage.

For the autumn, 2011 we’re offer a 10-week course titled The Nuts & Bolts of Writing & Plotting Fiction. The purpose of this course is to assist writers to find and use their voice to achieve their writing dreams. Writing is based on a combination of life experiences (nuts) and imagination (bolts). This course facilitates the discovery of creativity and its use to put the nuts and bolts of life into writing in a structured way which is where Plotting comes in. Focus is on: storylines, structuring, various methods of plotting and locations, as well as narration and dialogue. Areas covered include short stories, novels and plays. Sessions arranged to allow time for writing and constructive analysis.

In Spring of 2012, we’ve a 6-week course titled Building Story People – Creating Fictional Characters Characters are the royalty of fiction. No matter what sort of fiction you write, your story has to be populated with characters. The majority of characters, if not all, have to be created from scratch. While there is no instant solution to the creation of memorable fictional characters, there are tried and tested Do’s and Don’t’s. That’s what we’ll explore during this course. The sessions are arranged to allow time for writing and constructive analysis.

While The Nuts & Bolts of Writing & Plotting Fiction and Building Story People – Creating Characters are stand-alone courses, they are complemented by:

Intensive Fiction which we’re hoping to run as a 5-morning course later in Spring 2012. This will best suit those who have a body of work that would benefit from intensive structuring, editing, etc.

Because we use one-to-one and group participation, the results of these courses are good – several published, many awards and even more discovering the joy of the written word, and all that goes with it.

On completion of these courses participants will be able to:
• Assess their own creativity, realise their writing potential and developed their writing voice
• Channel personal life experiences towards writing

• Be familiar with finding and developing ideas, structuring writing, research and acquiring skills in style and technique.
• Know and meet requirements of today’s market.
• Create dynamic fictional characters using both modern and traditional methods
• Use life experience to research the creation of memorable characters
• Work their characters to forward and enhance storylines, boost emotional landscaping, etc
• Create the best characters for whatever story the writer is working on

Despite having an outline for the courses, the final content is dictated by the requirements of those taking part.

If you're any queries do contact me on Further information at and

Friday, April 1, 2011


Currently I’m working with my UCD group at developing fictional characters. The title of the course is: Building Story People – Creating Characters, and the characters they’re creating are vital and vibrant.

We’ve looked into creating memorable characters and how to make each character distinct and different, remembering that whenever a new character is introduced the author must provide a clear impression of that character’s uniqueness. Who can forget Sherlock Holmes or Winnie-the-Poo?

One of my favourite ways of creating characters is to give them ‘tags’. Tags identify characters and set them apart. Frequently they are sensory impressions such as Harry Potter: lightening-shaped scar, glasses, messy hair. Tags should set your characters apart from each other and you don’t need many tags. Throughout your writing mention a character’s tags whenever the character appears and as the story progresses the characters will become fixed in the reader’s mind.

The most common character tag is name:

1. Create character names that sound different to each other

2. Keep names consistent. Don’t have narrator call the same character ‘bob’, robert’ and ‘Bobby’.

3. The internet is a great tool for ethnic names

To create 3-dimensional characters, think:

1. Purpose. What does your character want?
2. Method. How does your character react to a problem?
3. Evaluation. How does your character judge things, people, situations?
4. Ask yourself why the character is the way he or she is

Good luck with your creations. It is not for nothing that characters are described as the royalty of fiction.

Patricia O’R

Thursday, March 3, 2011

WRITING FROM HOME - 10 Keys to Survival

Hello again,

Writing from Home. What does that conjure up? Conference calls in your pyjamas? 2-hour lunches? Unlimited holidays? Such perks are every would-be writer's dream but the reality of few professional writers.

The truth is, we tend to glamorize the notion of working at home. The obvious advantages seldom outweigh the demanding but unique challenge of being your own boss. Although, once you lay down a few house rules, writing from home is manageable and when running smoothly there's nothing quite like it.

Here are some suggestions from a writer who has written 100s of print journalism pieces and radio talks, dozens of short stories, some radio plays and documetaries and ten books - both non-fiction and fiction - all from home.

1. Create a Workspace - initially even having your own corner will work
2. Stick to your Schedule - it keeps you focussed
3. Make your loved ones and friends stick to your Schedule - you have to learn to say 'NO' loud and clear
4. Work on more than one project - after a few hours it's beneficial to switch activity to another part of the brain
5. Network - working from home can be lonely. Make contact with other writers
6. Take Breaks - a quick walk around the park or even a good stretch work wonders for creativity
7. Nurture your Creativity - creative exercises are of benefit during a busy period
8. Rest, Exercise and Eat well - staying fit is critical to good health and good health is critical to creativity
9. Celebrate your Successes - treat yourself to a nice something - like a good massage
10. Have a Life - if you want to write you have to live

The verse below is penned by John Fitzgerald who has successfully cracked the writing from home problem...

Writing Lesson

Let silence be a canvas,
paint a simple word,
and color be a feeling
the artist’s brush can stir,
then take a sheet of paper,
pen a line in ink
let the image picture
as you write and think.

Above all, enjoy your good fortune,


Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Greetings on this the first day of the Celtic Spring.

I was delighted to learn that The Plot Thickens which runS for six weeks on Wednesday mornings in Carysfort Campus from 10 o’clock to noon as part of UCD’s Adult Education Programme is going ahead. With the current economic climate, we tutors were informed by the academic powers that be that there would be no leeway: if our numbers didn’t meet UCD’s criteria, the classes would be cancelled.

Plotting is the core of any work of fiction and indeed one of the top UK agents has been known to take on an unwritten book by an unproven author which has a vibrant storyline. But it has to be drop-dead dynamic, original, of the market etc.

Characters are the royalty of fiction. Again, if numbers meet criteria, we have six weeks of Building Story People – Creating Characters, same venue, same times starting on 16 March.

Most works of fiction are either character or plot led. My propensity is for character-led books which become jewels of delight when they have a superb plot and are beautifully written. Such books are rare but I’ve read two such novels recently:

J G Farrell’s Troubles, is winner of the Lost Man Booker; he won the Booker with The Siege of Krishnapur. He came to live in Cork in 1973 and tragically four months later drowned in a fishing accident. In Troubles there is sadness among laughter and a brilliant recreation of a lost period of the political storm of 1919, diffused by the cast of characters within the hypnotic but faded charms of the Majestic Hotel.

But the most powerful of all is Simon Mawer’s haunting and mysterious, The Glass Room, shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker. It proves that a building can be as mysterious as a poem or a song. Set mainly in Czechoslovakia around World War 2, Mawer creates a passionately detailed portrait of individuals struggling to snatch order and happiness from frightening and irrational times.

I’m going to use both Troubles and The Glass Room as examples in both the plotting and creating characters session.

Keep writing…and reading. Thanks to those writers and emerging writers who make contact with me. It’s always good to hear how you’re getting on.


Saturday, January 1, 2011


There's something enormously liberating at the thought of standing on the threshold of a whole new year - with the endless opportunities, all sorts of possibilities, a chance to realise long-hoped-for dreams that if offers. I wish everyone who is reading this the best.

This year with its palindromic dates is a special year - a lucky year, I believe. For instance, today is 1/1/2011. Palindrome? you query. According to the dictionary 'Palindrome' is a word, verse or sentence that reads alike backwards and forwards. This information comes courtesy of our friend Richard.

Two changes in the book/publishing world over the past months: the first is the welcome news that sales are falling for life stories of celebrities: Carol Voderman, mathematical whizz, received an advance of £100,000 but to date has only sold 4000 copies; Jerry Hall's My Life in Pictures has sold only 1300 copies; and as for Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music) his autobiography sold a mere 800. Proving the fickleness of publishing - the surprise hit of 2010 was A Simple Life by Aleksandr Orlov - a fictional memoir ghosted by a former publisher and inspired by a television commercial featuring a meercat which sold 281,000.

Secondly the proliferation of ebook readers bought over the Christmas season prompts a resurgence of the classics. Research indicates that the new owners of Apple iPads and Amazon Kindles are expected to turn to the huge number of free classics available in electronic libraries rather than paying for the latest potboiler from an online source. So far the most popular ebooks are Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Good luck with all your endeavours for this year, particularly those of you writing.