Friday, April 18, 2014

Writers Block

I was asked recently about writers block - something I don't believe in. It's always been linked, in my mind, to the notion of writers as airy fairy artistes wafting around in a delicate nervous state waiting to be snuggled into submission by inspiration. I believe instead in the notion of writers as workers, crafters, drafters... a carpenter doesn't get carpenters block, stand with saw in hand in front of a kitchen unit and weep 'I just can't Majorie, I just can't... maybe tomorrow it will come to me...'

But - some pieces of writing are more challenging than others, some times its harder than usual to juggle writing with life. Or you just become tired and burnt out trying- the life of an emerging writer can be full of rejections. The answer may be to write a little less, and live a little more for a while. Or to write from a different angle or pov. Or to write in a different form, a poem, a play, a monologue, a flash - but the answer is never, in my case anyway, to stop writing. Writing will give you more writing.  Free writing is a practise that can work really well.... if you're feeling stuck, give it a try :)

 You just do it. Pick up the pen. Go. And you time yourself. You do writing practice. Don’t cross out. Trust your own mind, be specific—not car, but Cadillac. Lose control. Say what you really want to say, not what you think you should say. We mostly live in discursive thinking, but in writing practice, if you keep your hand moving, you eventually settle below discursive thinking to wild mind, the place where you really see, think, and feel. That’s the place you want to get to in order to write.
Natalie Goldberg

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Writing for Radio

I'm facilitating a writing workshop this Saturday in Newbridge Library, Co Kildare at 2.30pm called 'Stories for the Ear' about writing stories for radio. Organised and supported by Kildare Arts Office, the workshops are free, but booking is advisable. We'll be looking at the difference between writing for the page and writing for the ear. The workshop suits all levels, from those who have written many stories to those who have yet to finish one.
All you need is a notebook and pen :) 

Stories for the Ear Writing Workshop
Newbridge Library at 2.30
Saturday April 5th.
Tel: 045 448353

Wednesday, March 26, 2014



An interesting call for submissions I came across on the ravingly ravishing Emerging Writer's Blog

RAVING BEAUTIES - Sue Jones-Davies, Dee Orr, Anna Carteret and Fan Viner - are inviting submissions for their fourth collection of women’s poetry which will be published by BLOODAXE BOOKS in 2015. They want to join together with women poets to explore what it feels like to be a woman in her own skin. Here's what they have to say.....   

'however you feel about your body and whatever kind of writer you are – a published poet or impelled to write your first poem reading this – we want to hear from you. We can offer you the possibility of sharing your words with thousands of other women, and will consider previously published work as well as new poetry.



‘As feminists we want to support the incredible courage, insight 
and a dedication to the truth that challenges even the bravest of us 
when we ‘stop colluding with a culture that makes so 
many of us feel physically inadequate?’ 
(Oprah Winfrey)
Our relationship to our bodies is affected by many things including culture, religion, family, sex, hunger, pleasure and pain. This new collection is inspired by a passionate desire to celebrate our bodies in a fully realised way, leaving Barbie’s grotesque silent pliability in her box for good. Instead of pouting, our mouths have the power of language, our romantic fluttering hearts give and receive compassion,  skin ages with grace when we see beauty in everything,  a pierced belly button connects us to our ancestors and a belly needs to be strong before it’s flat.
Kim Addonizio’s inspiring poem brings together two heady desires -  to put on that red dress and to ‘wear’ that body. And own them both. Fearlessly.’

‘What Do Women Want?’
by Kim Addonizio
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stories for the Ear - submissions & workshops

I'm delighted to be facilitating some workshops in relation to this project by Kildare Arts Service....
Kildare County Council Arts Service invites writers (aged 12 +) living in or from County Kildare, to submit a short story to be included in the CD ‘Stories for the Ear. Volume 4’.
10 stories will be selected. Five from writers aged 12-21 and five from writers 21+.

'To assist writers, Niamh Boyce, author of ‘The Herbalist’ will be delivering workshops throughout the Library Network to offer support and advice on writing a story to be heard out loud. 

During the workshop you will cover
  • The differences between writing for the reader and writing for the listener.
  • Beginnings to hook the listener.
  • Writing convincing characters.
  • Pacing, tone and voice.
  • Cutting the flab from your story

Dates and Times
  • Newbridge: Sat - April 5th - 2.30pm
  • Leixlip: Sat - April 12th - 3pm
  • Celbridge: Sat - April 26th - 3pm
  • Kildare Town: Sat - May 10th - 2.30pm
  • Naas: Sat - May 17th - 2.30pm
  • Maynooth Sat - May 24th - 3pm
Volume 1 - 3 can be accessed by clicking HERE. To guarantee your place please contact the relevant Library branch. Contact details for all Libraries are available HERE

Successful writers will:
  • Have their story professionally recorded in the Platform4 Audio and Digital Media Studio
  • Receive a once off payment of €120 for having their story included.
  • Have their work showcased on the Kildare Arts Service Website and Kildare Arts Service’s Youtube channel
How to apply:
Please email (preferred) or post a copy of your short story to Eoghan Doyle in the Arts Service at the address below, along with a biography and picture of yourself, and your contact information.

Closing date for applications is Friday 12th September 2014.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Radio Play

Susan Sontag
Hello out there - the PJ O Connor awards for drama are open for submission, they're looking for a radio play  (40 minutes) - closing date is 17th March. You can find out more HERE where they set out the rules and very informative guidelines of interest for anyone writing a radio play - whether you enter or not. I'd say enter - it's one of the few competitions left (along with The XO Hennessy New Irish Writing Award) that is free to enter. Forgive the scarcity of posts recently, I'm scavenging for writing time, between the kids, the job and the other jobs... I've had to cut out social media. I do it every now and again (I've been blogging since 2009) and my productivity always increases (massively!).

Hope you're all getting some time to write :)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Roadside Fiction & Alternative Classics

Have you a story (500 to 2500 words) looking for a home? Well, Roadside Fiction is a realist literary magazine with 'a passion for the wild, outrageous, yet realistic story.' They publish an issue of short stories and photographs quarterly and are currently seeking submissions - 

They like -
modern, urgent, honest realism. Stories need to move. We’re not interested in reflection.Tell us instead about a wild night, the strange events in your life as an expat, that house party, travelling without knowing where you will sleep that night, in short madness.
Think Kerouac, Bukowski etc and you’ll be on the right track.

More details here 

And - this has cheered my cold and rainy Friday morning - Bleach House Books have included The Herbalist on their list of Alternative Classics, I'm particularly thrilled to be alongside Beloved, one of my favorite novels. There are some great reads on the list, you can check them out  HERE

I'm working away on a novel, back writing by hand, I know a lot of writers would think that's mad, as its so much slower, but its a part of the writing process I really enjoy and I'm not willing to sacrifice it for speed - especially as I write better, freer this way. There's something about the pc screen, that brings the editing part of my mind to the fore, and I don't want to edit until I have at least 100.000 words of a fat and free first draft, so many words to go before I'm home :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Liz Loves Books

A short post as I'm sweating over a story - today I'm over at Liz Loves Books, Liz is an avid reader, reviewer and blogger, and you can read our interview HERE

And, Emerging Writer reposted an interview with me yesterday, which you can read Here 

And, many congratulations to the winners and highly recommended novelists in this years Irish Writers Centre's Novel Fair, and to anyone who entered and didn't make the cut this time (there were 300 entries) don't be disheartened - you've your novel in shape now, what about submitting it directly to agents and publishers in the UK and internationally and see how it does? And, there's always next year, several winners have entered more than once before they made it through. The list of this years winners is HERE

Friday, January 24, 2014

Author Interview : Carolyne Van Der Meer

In her book Motherlode, Carolyne Van Der Meer both documents and re-imagines her mother's childhood in Nazi occupied Holland, a childhood surrounded by German soldiers, steeped in poverty and living in fear of air raids. (Van Der Meer's mothers family were part of the resistance and helped to hide Jewish families from the Nazis.) 

The research for the book led the author on a journey to Holland and to collaborations with dutch immigrants of her mothers generation - which are also documented in the book, along with photographs, poems, memories, stories. I'm really delighted to have Carolyne over today to chat about Motherlode and her experience of writing it.

Welcome to the blog Carolyne. Motherlode is part memoir, part fiction, part poetry and it’s very much a personal journey, albeit one with much wider implications, what was the most important aspect of creating and publishing it for you?
First, let me say thank you, Niamh, for having me on your blog. And my congratulations once more on The Herbalist. It was, for me, one of those books that never quite leaves you. I think every writer wants to write a novel whose characters stay alive long after the book is finished. And you have done it!
As for Motherlode, it explores the experiences of my mother and other individuals who spent their childhoods in Nazi-occupied Holland or were deeply affected by wartime in Holland. And you’re right, it was a very personal journey. Personal because it’s largely about my family and for my family—but also personal because I reinterpret the anecdotes and memories I have heard through poetry and short stories. As you will probably agree, Niamh, poetry is probably one of the most personal ways of writing.
But the most important aspect of creating and publishing this book was, first of all, was preserving my mother’s story. I really didn’t want this legacy to be lost. My son had often asked me about my mother’s experiences and while I knew certain details, they were surface elements. I couldn’t go into any depth. The other thing I realized as I was researching was that for some, it was a great release to talk about their wartime experiences. For my mother, it was very painful but for at least two of the people I interviewed, it was liberating. I recorded all the interviews and gave the recordings to my subjects. I know that the desire in both cases was to be able to share these interviews with their children. So not only did I get to preserve my mother’s legacy, my interviewees also got to preserve theirs. It was incredibly satisfying to provide this outlet and I am so very grateful to the people who shared their stories with me.

Do you feel you accomplished your aim/aims?
For the most part, yes. Given there are so many books documenting WWII history, I wanted to approach this project in a different way. Retelling the stories told to me by my mother and my interview subjects through poetry and short stories was an enriching experience. It allowed me to lose myself in their memories and try to inhabit those memories, in a way. I was able to focus on capturing their emotions rather than documenting history—which has been done by so many before me. 

How did it feel to hand a copy to your mother? What did she think?
She was thrilled. I don’t think I have ever seen such a look of delight on her face. When she first read the manuscript, she told me it evoked her past so powerfully that she couldn’t sleep for a few nights. As much as I felt badly about that, I took it as a compliment.

I'm always curious about other writers schedules - how about you? Do you have a set writing time?
Because I work full time in public relations, I have to snatch writing moments when I can get them. I take the train to work every day, which gives me a total of 80 minutes a day with virtually no distractions. That’s when I tend to write. And oddly, I write best when I’m in a moving vehicle. I think it’s the momentum that helps me get into the right headspace.

What about a favorite quote that keeps you on track writing wise?
The American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg said, To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” I think he’s so right. Forget about who might one day read your work and just get it down. Whenever I am stuck and think I can’t possibly find my way, I remember this and push through. 

And finally, any other advice for emerging writers?

When I was studying literature as both an undergraduate and as a graduate student, countless people asked me what I planned to do with my education. Some didn’t even insinuate that they thought it was useless, they told me point blank! But I knew that I wanted to be a writer and I knew that if I read a lot, it would make me a better writer. So my advice is, if you want to be a writer, believe. Stay focused and you’ll get there. Don’t let anyone discourage you. And read! Read as much as you can. And I agree with Ginsberg: don’t think about the people you hope will eventually read your work. Just keep writing.

Spot on advice! Thank you for that, and for taking the time to come over and chat. Carolyne's book Motherlode is available to buy - Here

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Live Radio Drama in Bewleys Cafe Theatre

Sunday 26th January - One night only! A night of live radio drama in Bewley's Cafe Theatre. A stellar ensemble cast perform six short plays with music from Stefan French and Rory Pierce. Shows at 6 and 8pm.

  ... a couple trying to solve a rat-infested attic in a creaky fixer-upper house, a truck driver trying to steer his lorry cabin home on bendy roads one wet and windy night, via a supernatural café, where a woman meets her younger self ... along with a ghost story, a love story and a highly dramatic tale of the last farmer to hold out as his village is flooded to make way for a reservoir....

Cast include Susie Lamb, Annette Flynn (Fair City), Raymond Keane, Geraldine McAlinden (Scúp), Noni Stapleton (Penny Dreadful), Sheila Moylette (Ripper St), Brendan Corcoran (Watergate Productions), Jim Carroll, Seamus Greene, Nuala Roche (all Barnstorm Theatre) - introducing Kaylin Shanahan (aged 10)

Directed and adapted by Orla Murphy from stories by Niamh Boyce, Pat Griffin, Eileen Condon, Mary Healy, Valerie Ryan and Maura Barrett.

All tickets through this link - eventbrite 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing Space

Woodie Allen's writing desk

Constraints can often be good for creative work. I was becoming obsessed with finding a better writing space this year, one where I can switch into the world of my new novel. (One where I can't see my bloody sink!) And since a new corner or cranny didn't miraculously appear ( surprise, surprise!) I decided to hop in the car once a week and go write where the story is set. Those hours writing in the setting have jump started a vital connection and injected vibrancy into the writing. Place is very important to me when I write -  it provides the tone, atmosphere, the voice of a book (as opposed to the characters, the voices in the book). So it all worked out well, in the end, so far, you know what I mean.... I'm not ready to give up drooling over other people's writing spaces  yet though! Isn't Woodie Allen's just gorgeous, and quite ... grandmotherly, prim, queen bee-ish? There are more rooms HERE, not all as lovely as Woodie's.... 

And, Mslexia's short story competition is now open for entries.... 


A competition for unpublished short stories of up to 2,200 words. We accept work on all subjects, so write about anything and everything you fancy - we love to read it.

Deadline is 17th March, and the judge is Jane Rogers.

You can find out more HERE...
Good luck if you enter :)

'My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.'
- Anton Chekhov

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Irish Examiner's Best Books of 2013

The Irish Examiner has published their list of the Best Books of 2013 today which includes The Infatuations by Hamish Hamilton, Madd Addam by Margaret Atwood, Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, Town and Country edited by Kevin Barry,  Downturn Abbey by Ross O Carroll Kelly, The Guts by Roddy Doyle, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, Intimacy with Strangers by Ciaran Carty, and...(aren't I pleased) my own novel The Herbalist