Friday, August 19, 2016

The Bailieborough Poetry Prize 2016


Have you poems ready for release? The Bailieborough Poetry Prize 2016 is open for submission till Wednesday 31st August 2016. They give 50 lines max, longer than the 40 usually given in competitions...
  • First prize of €300 for winning poem with a 2nd prize of €50 to be awarded.
  • There will also be a special prize for a local entrant domiciled in Cavan or Meath.
  • Each poem must not exceed 50 lines, and should be typed, single-spaced.
  • Up to three poems may be submitted per entry. You may submit as many entries as you wish. A fee of €5 per poem or 3 poems for €10 is payable. 
The judges this year are Michael Farry and Mairead Donnellan. More details HERE

Monday, August 8, 2016

Womankind - Win a Copy


"I have always loved, and lived, my own theatre." - Leonor Fini 

A free copy of issue 9 of Womankind Magazine is up for grabs today :) I'm a proud contributor to this beautiful quarterly -  it has no advertisements, no brain mush, just good writing and inspiring art. Leave a comment below, and I'll put your name in the hat :)

Friday, July 8, 2016

To Hell With Housework


I asked some other writers how they get through their summers, and still managed to write ....


 Contrary to the notion that it gets easier to find time as the children get older, Carmel Harrington among others (myself included) finds parenting now demands just as much if not more of her writing time. She writes ‘every morning while they are in school, and after they go to bed, but throw in chicken pox back to back, broken arms for both of them (you couldn't write it) and various other life curve balls, I've just not got the word count done.'  Carmel began to write through the weekends as well. With a novel deadline approaching; she checked into a local hotel for a week. ‘It’s tough balancing it all, but any working mother will tell you the same.... This summer, Carmel’s using camps, and kid swapping with another mother - they’ll take each other’s kids a couple of afternoons a week. ‘After that, it’ll be a lot of late nights and weekends. Somehow or other, I'll get there. And so will you.’


by Sarah Andersen


Maria Duffy agrees, ‘the juggling never really stops, no matter what age they are and the guilt is always there. I tend to do a lot of my writing at night when everyone is gone to bed. I can get way more done without any interruptions. It does leave me exhausted the next day, but I try to pick nights when hubby is around the next morning so he can hold the fort while I get a lie-in. There should be a mandatory week in September when all mothers are made go to a spa to recover! Louise Phillips also finds going away to write is a terrific help, ‘but early morning is the most guilt free time although it's all about juggling, including the guilt!’

Keep a notebook or page of your manuscript on you at all times, so you can write or revise whenever you get a second Ruth Long recommends doing this, ‘in the car outside schools, coffee shops,waiting for classes, supervision, naptimes etc. I then type things up later. It's also important to look after yourself, so if you set a writing word count for a day make sure it's a minimum, and anything on top of that is a bonus and will make you feel better.’

Hazel Gaynor finds it useful to break the days/weeks up into work time and family time - as much as is reasonably possible. She also finds ‘it often comes down to getting up very early to write for a few hours before the boys are up, or staying up late after they're in bed. That way I at least feel I've made a start before breakfast etc...’

Lorna Sixsmith comments that summer camps aren’t always that helpful – ‘They’re so short, and as I live half hour drive from most. By the time I've got them there, it's time to collect them.... add to that,’ said Lorna, farmer and writer, ‘a husband who says 'can you stand in a gap for 5 min' and an hour later...!’ 


Forget the housework,’ says Shirley Benton- Bailey  'and let the lot of them find what they need when they need it. I find whenever I down tools, my family are a lot more resourceful about getting what they need than they'd lead me to believe....! She recommends online food shopping or getting your partner hooked on Aldi. ‘I have totally outsourced Aldi to my husband now, and won't be taking it back :)

Cat Hogan who just launched her first book, They All Fall Down, empathizes – ‘I spend my days crippled with guilt. The grass is up to my knees in the garden and I can't see out the window with the grime! I'll write in the morning when the half man is in school (the baby will be put in front of the telly or out the back garden) - then, when they go to bed, I go back to it. I look like a crack head as I'm wrecked all the time. I just about manage a shower every day and the weekends don't exist. That said- I love it.’

Margaret Scott thinks the key is to ‘be 'ready' at the first sign of having an hour or two to yourself, so be thinking all the time working out the next bit you want to write so that when an opportunity presents you can 'drop everything and write'. And that means write, not hoover, not put on a wash, not clean out the fridge... Funnily enough I do find I read so much more in the summer which always puts me even more in the mood for writing so it’s as much me wanting to find time for writing as having to, if that makes any sense... it's not easy though, and with a broken armed seven year old and the two year old half-boy-half-bullock this summer will most likely prove to be the ultimate test of my dedication!’

Gin sales are going to rocket this summer!’ says Hazel Gaynor, adding that its ‘very reassuring to realize everyone is facing the same plate-spinning, house-falling-apart-around-your-ankles, child-juggling, deadline-stress predicament over the next 8 weeks. I was explaining it to a friend the other day like this: imagine your office job. Now imagine having the same expectations and deadlines and work to get done as you do all year, but that you have to take your children to work with you every day for eight weeks. Not easy!

Thanks for all your tips, wisdom and humor - here’s to September, down with guilt, and up with gin! Good luck everyone, keep going!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Over The Edge Reading in Galway


I've been a terrible blogger recently, but I'm working on my novel and spending any free time writing myself closer to the finishing line, and you know what summer is like for trying to juggle... So, I just wanted to get the word out about a reading I'm doing in Galway city...its on Thursday the 30th June and features some amazing writers -

Salmon Poetry recently published Susan Millar DuMars fourth collection of poems Bone Fire. Paul Duffy was 2015 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year, and will read his winning story. William Wall is the author of four novels, including This is the Country (Sceptre), which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize! Michael J. Whelan joined the Irish Defence Forces in 1990, serving on tours of duty as a United Nations Peacekeeper. Michael’s debut poetry collection ‘Peacekeeper’ is recently published by the most excellent Doire Press. 

The deadline for this years international Over The Edge Writer of the Year Competition, which I'm judging, is Wednesday 23rd August. So still plenty of time to release your poems and stories into the world :)

The Galway Independent featured the reading in today's edition.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition 2016

Tania Hershman won in 2015 with the excellent -
 Nothing Here is Wild, Everything is Open

From the Munster Literature Centre - The Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition is 'open to new, emerging and established poets from any country BUT at least one of the winners will be a debutante (with no chapbook or book published previously). Up to 25 - 50 other entrants will be publicly listed as "highly commended". Manuscripts must be sixteen to twenty-four pages in length, in the English language and the sole work of the entrant with no pastiches, translations or 'versions'. The poems can be in verse or prose. Each chapbook is guaranteed a review in Southword Journal.

The winning chapbooks will be published in February 2017 with ISBNs, barcodes and will be offered for sale internationally through our own website, Amazon, and selected independent book sellers. The winning poets will be offered a reading and given three nights' accommodation at the 2017 Cork Spring Poetry Festival. An entrance fee of €25 will be charged for each manuscript.' More details Here

1st & 2nd prize winners will each have their manuscript published, and will receive 50 complimentary copies of their chapbooks.
1st prize to receive €1000 & 2nd prize to receive €500.

Deadline: 31 May 2016.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Over The Edge Competition.



I'll be judging this year's Over The Edge Writing Competition. It's open to both poets and fiction writers worldwide. 

Its a great opportunity for writers - this year  Salmon Poetry will read, without commitment to publish, a manuscript submitted to them by the winner in the poetry category. And for fiction writers, Doire Press will read, without commitment to publish, a manuscript of short stories submitted to them by the winner in the fiction category. The total prize money is €1,000. 

I'm looking forward to reading the entries - the closing date is Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016. All entries will be judged anonymously, so put your name on a separate sheet, not on your poem/story. 

Further details are at Over the Edge Blog


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Creative Writing Course


This seems like a very interesting course - Jorg Andrees is one of the foremost exponents of the Michael Chekhov Method. Having initially trained in his native Germany as a film director he proceeded to train in the Michael Chekhov Method in New York. Subsequently he tutored and directed successfully worldwide employing the unique features of this most distinctive method. Joerg has taken the Chekhov Technique into many creative fields working with Singers, Musicians, Writers, Dancers and Performers as well as for other visual Artists. 

He will be teaching a week-long creative writing course in Croi Anu,  Moone, Co Kildare from Sunday 9th –Sat 15th Oct.  This master tutor in the Michael Chekhov technique, has adapted it for creative writing.  There are a maximum of 14 places on the course. 

To book and for further details email info@croianu.ie or call 0878381933.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Yeats Laments his Leaking Breast Pads - An Interview with poet Emily Cullen


My first blog of 2016 is an interview with the poet Emily Cullen, writer, scholar, harpist and arts manager and mother of two boys. Her poetry collection, entitled No Vague Utopia was published in 2003, her second collection 'In Between Angels and Animals' was published by Arlen house. Here we talk motherhood, poetry and literary ghettos :)

Hi Emily, we first met through a Facebook discussion on motherhood and writing. Your poem Love And Milk, about breastfeeding, got a great response on the thread from mothers who were reminded of a time of deep connection, of how powerful the female body can be. In an era that often devalues motherhood, and women's bodies, would you say these poems are necessary poems, as a writer, and as a woman?

'She uses her words wisely and sparingly with none wasted 
as emotions, images and thoughts are conjured up'- Books Ireland, 2014
It’s true, our hypersexualized culture devalues the maternal. As a writer, I feel a responsibility to engage with the private truths of human experience and also with the silences that surround these realities in our culture. As a woman, these poems were vital for me to write as I negotiated new motherhood. The music often comes first, so the couplet ‘Like the miracle of the loaves and fishes / my night supply has been replenished’ was how the poem manifested. Then I thought about what actually happens: that heavy sensation of tingling fullness wakes me up. From there I knew I had the beginning of a poem that was important to me. It came, like lines from a song, early in the morning as I woke so I scrambled for pen and paper to capture it. I think the visceral experiences we go through as new mothers are tricky to write about because, not only are they surprising, but they are embodied within us. If the poem hadn’t come out like a musical cadence, I'm not sure how I would have begun it or if it would have happened at all. Finding a language to communicate those new experiences is challenging at the best of times, but when you’re drained from baby-led feeding and minimal sleep, the imagination doesn’t always co-operate and it’s difficult to will a poem about such moments into being. I was surprised to discover that, among the rich body of work by poets such as Sharon Olds, Helen Dunmore, Kate Clanchy and our own Eavan Boland, there was a dearth of poems about breastfeeding. (Kathleen Jamie’s ‘Sea Urchin’ is a brief but highly evocative piece on the subject). But, in a way, I can also understand this. It’s one of the most difficult and messy skills your body has to learn and I didn’t want to sugar-coat it. However, I did want to convey that amazing feeling when it starts to go well, the milk supply is established and your baby is latching on properly.

2. Imagine if Yeats could breastfeed, or Joyce could carry a child - would we ever have heard the end of it? :) Yet, I don't think women writers, especially novelists, explore these subjects as much as they could, or if they do, they're not getting published as much as they should! What do you think?

Yes, absolutely! Just imagine a hungry baby barnacled to Joyce’s lapel and Yeats lamenting his leaking breast pads! And Behan’s wit might have dried up from expressing milk all night!It’s difficult to fully grasp what forces are at work here. Are these evasions and if so, are they due to an unease about feminism or a fear of alienating male readers and publishers, or is it all of these things? Perhaps we need greater confidence as women writers to trust our instincts and the strength of our work when it deals with maternal issues. Instead of being curious about our common humanity, literature about pregnancy and childbirth tends to be marginalized in a literature ghetto that can seemingly, legitimately, be ignored by all but those who have given birth. Literary fecundity is arrested by the maternal. It seems we’re also prone to forgetting that women make up at least 50% of the population and tend to read novels more often than men. It’s remarkable to think that over the years, and through second-wave feminism, only a smattering of women writers in the English-speaking world seem to have engaged with the subject of pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood and the female body – writers such as Margaret Drabble, Fay Weldon Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison and more recently Sarah Moss and Anne Lamott. In Ireland, writers like Sinead Moriarty have cleverly used humour to tackle issues around fertility and pregnancy. It is still confounding that these writers are in such a small minority.If these are not evasions, then perhaps the issue goes back to the problem of finding a way to convey the life-changing experiences of motherhood. Interestingly, British novelist Rachel Cusk has stated: ‘When I became a mother I found myself for the first time in my life without a language, without any way of translating the sounds I made into something other people would understand.’ This brings us back to the question of conveying and communicating the maternal experience. As another Galway poet aptly remarked to me after I became a Mum: ‘everyone lands in a different place’. All of these issues are more topical than ever because Ireland is finally beginning to confront historical and contemporaneous injustices against mothers. For example, the fact that unspeakable symphysiotomies were carried out on about 1500 Irish women between the 1940s and early 1990s, the social reality of the Magdalene laundries, the Tuam baby graves, Anne Lovett and the death of Savita Halappanavar. These issues remind us that there is an imperative need to take the maternal seriously. 

3.
'In Between Angels and Animals'  travels Galway City through the eyes of a new mother. Having spent fourteen years there myself, they really resonated with me - the swings in the playground, pushing a buggy on the prom in Salthill, Hi 5 on the telly (Hi Nathan!), La Leche League meetings... As a reader, and a writer, it was incredibly validating to recognise this landscape, to recognise a writer negotiating motherhood - the frustrations and consolations, and the honesty, especially in poems like In A Promenade, - 'am I an invisible mother/pushing a buggy into the sea,' and later (Lassitude) 'I've a room of my own/ that never gets used'... and also - 'A Mother Now' which ends on the phrase -'I thank you for this grace.'  Were the poems written during this time in your life? Do you think there is a danger of forgetting, mis-remembering, and passing on untruths, if we don't document moments close to the time?

I’m delighted my negotiation of Galway and its spaces as a new mother struck a chord with you. I’ve been getting a lot of positive responses from women readers who wistfully recall the daily ritual of pushing buggies on the prom. Yes, the poems were written in the early stages of motherhood and during the first three years of my son’s life - many of them were composed in the small hours while my baby slept. Though my process was not consistent, as there was no daily writing routine, I followed my intuition and tried to engage with the thoughts, feelings and experiences as they occurred. Sometimes, I might only get to deposit two or three lines of a poem still forming, on a scrap of paper or in a new note on my phone, but having those initial lines was enough to help me to re-enter the poetic space later on when Lee was sleeping. With regard to the danger of forgetting, misremembering and passing on untruths, I think you may be veering into tricky, metaphysical territory. Do you mean documenting in terms of keeping a baby book or journal or in terms of creating art? (I meant were the poems actually written during the time in question) I appreciate what you are getting at overall, but I would also have to ask: does anyone question male poets about passing on untruths? ( Poetry and art, for me, is fundamentally about truth. Sharon Olds refers to the ‘felt truth’ of poetry and, to be honest, I wouldn’t publish poems that didn’t resonate with the ‘felt truths’ of my own realities. Why should we interrogate the truth-value of women’s subjective poetry?If a sixty year old woman suddenly writes a poem about a breastfeeding experience she had when she was twenty-six is this any less valid than a sixty year old man looking back to his time in the fields with foxes during his childhood? Would we question the man’s poem about foxes when he was sixteen? Why should a female poet be made more accountable because she is writing about an embodied truth? Helen Vendler has aptly written that “the ethical responsibility of the poet is emotional accuracy”. Art is often produced out of memory. While memory is certainly a tricky and complex thing, I believe that if you can revisit the initial impulse of the poem, re-enter its poetic space and tap into that ‘emotional accuracy’, you are well positioned to access and articulate the truth of that reality. A poet knows whether or not her poem is fully realized and ready to be published.

N: I see what you mean Emily, but think we're too capable of emotional inaccuracy if enough time has passed. There are so many myths smoothing over the realities of mother hood, that documenting the event close to its happening is important. A remembered poem at sixty is valid, and has its own truth, but not the true reality (if there is such a thing!) of that long gone moment. Memory reinvents itself.  With regards your man and his fox, yes I'd question that too :) 

E: Yes, I agree. I believe it is important to capture the moments as close to the time as you can, even in small fragments, and also to be vigorous about the truth. The narratives we read are often skewed toward domestic bliss rather than capturing the fuller picture of the sleepless nights of exhaustion and worry, as well as the joy and love. Ultimately, there is a sense in which this artistically irresponsible. As I said above, however, the poet will have a strong sense of when her work is fully realized because she is carefully considering her words and crafting them with an ethical consciousness. Incidentally, there are poets such as Frances Leviston who disrupt and play with our idea of what ‘truth’ actually is in art and how we convey it. There is a really interesting interview with Leviston about her collection, *Disinformation*, on the BBC4 ‘Start the Week’ podcast (January 2015) where she discusses some of the slipperiness between creativity, information and knowledge and states that she ‘can’t be inhibited by truth’.


4. Have you any tips for mothers trying to juggle motherhood with writing?

I think we sometimes get trapped by the metaphor of juggling as if it’s a specialist skill or a fine balancing act which some mothers can pull off and others can’t. I see writing as something that can be integrated into your domestic life without excessive upheaval. As a poet I’m constantly processing my own experiences of motherhood and the wonders of childhood. While recording these observations in the moment may not always be realistic, I know that I will carve out time to do so when I can.The negotiation isn’t always explicit, but it is still insistent. I think that keeping a positive attitude about your writing ensures that you don’t lose sight of the fact that it is a gift, just as motherhood is, and not a whimsical trade-off you should feel guilty about. You will gradually find your own creative tempo out of a combination of your domestic circumstance and personal bio-rhythm. I always found myself writing late into the night when my husband and little boy slept and this still seems to work for me as I’m a night owl, rather than a lark. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if the quality of your imaginative vision feels a little limited at times and compromised by exhaustion. Nappy brain is a very real condition! Thankfully, those inarticulate feelings eventually go away when your energy returns and the brain starts functioning again. Persevere and trust your instincts if you feel you have something worth saying. If, like me, you find yourself breastfeeding your infant throughout the day, you might like to line up a few choice podcasts to listen to on your lap top. There are some good ones aimed at writers, or even just listening to programmes such as ‘Start the Week’, ‘In Our Time’ or ‘Desert Island Disks’ on BBC4 will help to keep the inspiration and ideas flowing.

Thanks Emily, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

from Skylight 47




To buy Emily Cullen's  *In Between Angels and Animals* (Arlen House, 2013)
or from Amazon Here
or from The Book Depository Here



About Emily 
Dr. Emily Cullen is an Irish writer, scholar, harpist and arts manager. Her first poetry collection, entitled No Vague Utopia was published by Ainnir in 2003, In Between Angels and Demons is published by Arlen house. She is a qualified teacher of the harp who has performed throughout Europe, Australia and the United States. A former member of the Belfast Harp Orchestra, she has recorded on a number of albums and also as a solo artist. In addition to writing poetry, short stories and feature articles, she publishes widely on aspects of Irish cultural history and music. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Onsie Territory

Susan Sontag

I'll be offline and writing this winter - with so much going on, and a novel to finish - it seems a good idea to quit facebook & blogging for a while...so yes, entering dangerous onsie territory :) 

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, 
& good luck with your own work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Irish Writers Short Story event

"Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds" (Neil Gaiman) ... find out more at our short stories panel discussion with Hennessy Literary Award authors Niamh Boyce, Michael O'Higgins, Maire T. Robinson with Ferdia Mac Anna


There are some tickets left for this event -actually it would make a great night out for a writing group. The panel is made up short story writers published in the recent Hennessy Book of Irish fiction. The Hennessy Award helped launch the literary careers of writers such as Joseph O Connor, Colum McCann,  Neil Jordan, Pat McCabe, Frank Mc Guinness, Anne Enright, Deirdre Madden, and Sara Baume... so, not bad :) 


The Short Story - Friday at 8.15 at The Civic Theatre Tallaght.
to book click HERE


And in the meanwhile...



How to Enter for The Hennessy New Irish Writing Award - 

Stories submitted to Hennessy New Irish Writing should not exceed 2,200 words. There is no entry fee. Writers whose work is selected for publication will receive €130 for fiction and €65 for poetry. You can email your entry to hennessynewirishwriting@irishtimes.com or post it (with a stamped addressed envelope) to Ciaran Carty, Hennessy New Irish Writing, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. All stories and poems published in Hennessy New Irish Writing will be eligible for the 2015 Hennessy Literary Awards.  The winner of each category will receive a Hennessy trophy and €1,500. A Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year, chosen from the winners of the three categories, will receive an additional prize of €2,500 and a trophy.







Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bailieborough Poetry Festival 2015

The LitLab writing group are at large again :) This time hosting the fantastic Baileborough Poetry Festival. There will be readings, workshops, open mic session, and a book launch. Kate Dempsey (aka Emerging Writer & Poetry Diva) will be giving a poetry workshop. Doire Press is publishing Kate's collection 'The Space Between' later this year... Here's the line-up for the weekend... 

Friday 9th October: (Murtagh’s Lounge, Main St.)

18.30 Official launch of “Behind the Lines” Anthology by LitLab. Introduced by Myles Dungan and Julia Rice O’Dea.
19.45 A Wilde Night by Patrick Walsh.
20.00 Poetry reading by Michael Farry and Paddy Halligan.
21.00 Open mic.
Saturday 10th October:
10.00 Poetry workshop* – Kate Dempsey. (Bailieborough Library)
14.00 Competition prize giving – Michael Farry & Honor Duff (Bailieborough Library)
14.00 – 17.00 Special poetry-themed afternoon tea in Bailie Hotel on Main Street.
16.00 Literary walking tour of Bailieborough with John Ed Sheanon – (starts at Bailieborough Library)
19.00 Open Mic. Featuring writing/ arts groups. – (Murtagh’s Lounge)
20.00 Poems and stories by Patsy McDermott – (Murtagh’s Lounge)
21.00 Poetry reading by Tony Curtis.
(* Poetry Workshop is limited to 12 participants. The fee is €15 for 3 hours duration, this includes special treats and brews from local kitchens. You can book your place online through the PayPal link below.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

KILDARE READERS FESTIVAL


Kildare Readers Festival is back! Brought to you by Kildare County Library and Arts Service, their ethos is to 'connect readers with authors and artists, working to bring the very best from the world of literature ... through the provision of exciting, innovative and accessible events.' And all events are FREE :)




Book early for Tomi Reichental. At the age of nine, he was rounded up by the Gestapo and deported to Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Tomi will talk about his experiences with Kildare County Historian- James Durney on October 15th... an important conversation to listen in on. This years schedule is packed with amazing writers, Dermot Bolger, Nuala O' Connor, Mary O' Donnell, Louise O' Neill, Pat Mc Cabe ... too many to list, but you can find out more on the website HERE






Friday, September 25, 2015

the cat sat on the mat



The Long Gaze Back was launched this week by Anne Enright, her speech was brilliant, hilarious and on the ball. Luckily, Roisin Ingle recorded it for posterity. Have a listen and 'the cat sat on the mat' will never be the same again :) It is over on Sinead Gleeson's Blog



“It’s a double burden for women, not only do you have to suffer the discrimination,
you have to put in all the fucking work to fix it”.

The anthology is available from New Island and all good book shops.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Literary Salon


I'll be in Maynooth Library for a Culture Day Event this Friday, September 18th at 10:30 am - for a literary salon! - its a free event and everyone is welcome  :) 
Here are the details - 
Join us for a literary salon that asks the question: What fictional character would you invite for dinner, and why?
'Join special guest, author Niamh Boyce for an entertaining and informal conversation on the topic above. Tell us about your chosen character, and if you are happy to, read a short passage from the novel your character comes from. Heather Bourke will facilitate, and will give us some background on the history of literary salons.'
Places are FREE, just email maynoothlib@kildarecoco.ie or phone 01 6285530 to book your place. Kildare County Library Service
Refreshments will be served...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Author Interview - Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor






Thanks to Nuala O'Connor for dropping over to talk about her latest novel, Miss Emily, which imagines a year in the life of Emily Dickinson & is a fantastic read - a literary page turner!







Welcome Nuala, this is a few questions in one! Emily Dickinson had a fierce attachment to home, as a place of refuge, and a place to write. She was on our syllabus in school (1980's) and much was made of her hermit like existence, her rejection of society - as if this were odd, almost laughable, behaviour - as if dedicating your life to poetry was only heroic if you were male. For me, she was heroic, and (till now) her home represented a necessary fortress, somewhere that functioned to protect the time, space and silence she needed to write. I had visualised it as quite a sterile place, so I was surprised and delighted with the warmth and complexity of the household you depict in Miss Emily. The descriptions of the daily routines, the baking, Ada touching the eggs with her tongue... are so alive - I really felt like I was there. Did you enjoy recreating this household? Was it a challenge? Did the book Ada consults The Frugal Housewife really exist? And, I know you visited Emily’s home, so I'm very curious to know, how did that feel? Did you sense her there?


I loved the whole business of recreating the Dickinson world in Emily’s house, The Homestead, and her brother Austin’s house, The Evergreens, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily’s letters have some domestic detail and I read widely around the subject, including The Frugal Housewife, which is a book Emily’s father gifted to his wife before their marriage. You can read it online, but I also bought a facsimile copy to get a real feel for how the Dickinson's and Ada would have consumed it.


The two houses are now the Emily Dickinson Museum and, when I had a first draft written, I went to Amherst and walked the rooms of both. As well as the town itself, and various libraries there and in Cambridge, to see Emily’s belongings: desk, white dress, lock of hair, jewellery, delft etc. The research was totally absorbing – I loved every minute of it, whether from books or on the spot.


I was very moved to be in Emily’s house – you get a real sense of her, particularly in her bedroom which is a gorgeously sparse, bright space.

I think this is a brave book. To fictionalise the year in the life of such a famous poet, someone so well known, and loved. The success with which you've conveyed Emily’s voice, that in itself is a huge accomplishment. Did it feel like a risk to tackle such a famous writer? Has anything surprised you about the response to Miss Emily?


It certainly felt audacious to tackle Emily and her world – she’s an American icon. But I did it with love and good intentions; she’s been a companion poet to me for a long time and I stayed as faithful to her life and personality as fiction allows. I was respectful.


I expected a backlash; Dickinson scholars are notoriously protective of Emily, which I understand; I feel that way myself. One Dickinson scholar refused to blurb the book because of ‘inaccuracies’ (which were very minor and, in fact, had nothing to do with Emily).


Last month I read at the Emily Dickinson International Society annual meeting in Amherst as part of my US book tour. People were incredibly warm about the book; only one person asked a snarky question at the Q&A. And I understood their POV, anyway.


No book escapes criticism and personal reaction from readers. There was a bit of a hoo-hah on Facebook about the UK cover (the headless woman trope) and the person who started it didn’t seem to realise they were friends with me. I joined the conversation! I’m as irritated by headless women on book covers as the next person, but I just loved the cover when Sandstone showed it to me.


What’s next for you, Nuala?
I hope to rest and breathe a bit soon, when the Miss Emily PR train slows down, though I find it hard to say no to gigs, for a variety of reasons.

I have the first draft of another Victorian novel written - this one set between London, Hong Kong, Australia and Ballinasloe in County Galway (where I live). I have to go back to it soon and knock it into good enough shape for my agent. In the meantime, I hope to write some short stories set firmly in the 21st century.

Miss Emily can be purchased on Amazon Uk  & Amazon USA 
and all good book shops.

About the author - 
Nuala O'Connor is a fiction writer and poet. Writing as Nuala Ní Chonchúir she has published two novels, four collections of short fiction, a chapbook of flash fiction and three full poetry collections - one in an anthology.  Nuala holds a BA in Irish from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Translation Studies (Irish/English) from Dublin City University. She has worked as an arts administrator in theatre and in a writers' centre; as a translator, as a bookseller and also in a university library.  She teaches occasional creative writing courses. For the last four years she has been fiction mentor to third year students on the BA in Writing at NUI Galway. She lives in County Galway with her husband and three children.