July Blog: The Accidental Researcher

Firstly… you might have seen me mention that for six weeks, commencing in September, I’ll be facilitating a Creative Writing class in Dublin city centre. The course is for beginners and also for writers who need a push in the right direction and a bit of encouragement. It will run for 6 consecutive weeks on Tuesday evenings (19.00-20.30hrs) in SEDA College, Capel Street, and the class last 90 minutes. I’m really looking forward to this and I’m hopeful that it’ll be a fun but productive few weeks for both myself and the participants. If you or anyone you know is planning on doing a creative writing course this autumn please keep me in mind. It’s only €75 for the six weeks and that includes a textbook to keep. I’d really appreciate any shares, either of this page or of my adverts on social media. Word of mouth is always good too.

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Now that I’ve got that plug out of the way (I promise it’s a rarity) I can tell you about my literary adventures this month. On a practical level I’m deep in editing and redrafting, and hopefully will get a good chunk done over the August bank holiday weekend. My main issue now is that my mind keeps wandering to other projects and I have to keep reining myself in. There are SO MANY projects I have lined up to work on but I really need to refocus and get Bitten By A Dog On Tuesday completed. Then I can start to play again with the others. That said when an idea comes along and it feels like a good one it’s always vital that I jot it down somewhere as I really can’t rely on myself to remember it. More often than not something will click psychically when you least expect it, and there’s a mental scramble of “that would work so well in story X” as you rush to take note before the muse (or whatever) has departed. This is equally wonderful and frustrating but that’s the payoff and the cost of writing. As a case in point, I was in Manchester last week and stumbled upon an exhibition in The John Rylands Library (a Victorian stunner if ever there was) entitled Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World. This is right up my alley at the best of times; I love the occult and the supernatural, though I don’t necessarily hold sway with any of it. I’m also a big fan of horror, so it’s of no surprise that I’ve a few ideas in that vein bubbling gently with the heat down low on the ever expanding back burner. One of these stories is based on Lamashtu, malevolent goddess who terrorised women during childbirth and often kidnapped their children. I envisage this as a standalone story, however it could become part of Lacewing, when I get around to developing it further. Anyway, my point is that by chance I was able to do some research for a story that wasn’t even on my mind at the time. I’d have been a fool not to. So while it might be admirable to focus on a specific project, it’d be foolhardy not to take advantage of a research situation when it offers itself to you. I guess it’s all part of the balancing act that is research and writing.

 

 
My reason for being in Manchester was that I was on my way home to Dublin from Buxton, a lovely spa-town in Derbyshire on the edge of the peak district. I had been in Buxton to attend a few events that were running as part of the Buxton Festival, which is primarily a festival of opera, music, and literature. I was there for the latter aspect of the festival, courtesy of Poetry Ireland and Trócaire, as my trip was funded by the prize for my poem Moments of Snow, which came runner up in the Poetry Ireland/Trócaire Competition earlier this year. I have to say, what a pleasure it was to attend Buxton Festival and I can genuinely say that my only complaint is that I wasn’t there longer. The festival itself takes place over three weeks in July and it has an abundance of wonderful events throughout that time (the equally entertaining Buxton Fringe Festival also runs concurrently). Of the talks I attended the two most relevant to me were in conversations with Paula Hawkins and Virginia Baily. Both authors chatted freely about their work, their backgrounds, and their writing processes, as well as their respective latest books, The Girl on the Train and Early One Morning. I was reminded of the value of attending such events, both from a learning perspective but also from a personal and inspirational one. It was good to hear of their own insecurities and issues that they had about their work. One of the throwaway comments from Hawkins that stuck with me was “your agent telling you they love it [the story] is like your mom telling you you’re pretty”. Hawkins’ honesty was sharp and fresh as she highlighted her earlier struggles when writing under the penname Amy Silver. From Baily the importance of research was clear; she really threw herself into it for Early One Morning. In her experience as founder and co-editor of Riptide she is acutely aware of the struggles emerging authors face and the reality is that while many have talent that can be developed, there are some who might always only write for themselves (not that that’s a bad thing, but if publication is an author’s goal, then not achieving that goal can be disheartening). Both in conversations with were far too short at only an hour each but Hawkins and Baily readily took questions from the floor and answered them ably and honestly. It was a great experience and I’d definitely recommend the Buxton Festival to anyone in search of literary events. If you don’t live locally however it can be frustrating to figure out which events you can attend- there were so many fantastic ones to choose from.

 

 

So, that’s the summer nearly done. It’s been a busy one and hopefully the coming month with be productive. I’ve plenty to keep me going, not least of all BBADOT and preparing for the creative writing class. Time to stick the kettle on, get the blue pen out, and start editing.

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