The Shelter of Words — Mary Costello

Last June I gave up the day job to write fulltime. Now, when I rise, a long luxurious day opens before me. I don’t know where time goes — I get so little done. In recent months, since my book came out, I’m between worlds. Good worlds. But there’s a lot of languishing. I’m not writing, or not writing much. I mooch around, pick up a book, leaf through its pages, set it down again. I’m searching for one who shares my sensations. I know the authors that deliver and, like an addict, I keeping returning to these. I idle. I jot down notes for new stories.

Editing The Stinging Fly – Dave Lordan

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted to the issue of The Stinging Fly which I have just edited. I received a little more publishable work than it was possible to publish. Priority was given to work that had made a serious and creative attempt to respond to themes outlined in the call-out I wrote for the issue.

Diamond Day - Mary Costello

Early one evening a few weeks ago, Declan Meade handed me a copy of my book, just back from the printers. We were in a bar. Tom, The Stinging Fly’s assistant editor, was there too. I took the book to the door for more light, and to escape their searching gaze. I didn’t feel anything, certainly not elation. ‘I suppose I should cry, or something fitting,’ I said, when I returned.

Writing the city – Sean O’Reilly

The other week, scanning the bookshelves in one of those charity shops, Dublin city centre this was, I had the uncanny experience of realising that a number of the books used to be mine. I’d moved house a few months earlier, shed a few boxes of books and here they were back again, resurfaced, broken spines, dead barcodes, some of the titles still hot and resonant of another time.

How a Magical Rambler named Margaret saved me from the funeral of everything and prepared me for the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2012

-By Dave Lordan

Bussing through the Irish midlands on a dull midweek day is a funereal experience, reminding me never to live too far from the sea. Many of the squared-off fields we ride past are cornered with roofless, overgrown ruins that once housed starvelings and pigs. I think of the ruins as death markers for the passing of the woods cleared long ago to make way for the fields. Only defeated files of bushes and trees marking ditches remain. Like labour camp prisoners, they are spared for their utility alone.

In Praise of the M6 - by Mary Costello

Writers stumble on ideas and inspiration in the oddest of places. We rarely seek them, or expect them; mostly they come unbidden and the surprise is never greater or more welcome than when we’re wandering in a creative wilderness. Travel has always inspired writers and for some it is essential. James Salter, in a Paris Review interview in 1992, said that travel is the writer’s true occupation and there is no situation like the open road. (Incidentally during that same interview he calculated that he’d drunk eighty-seven hundred pre-dinner martinis in his life.

Kevin Barry – Some notes from midwinter

I write this from the shaded entry of a megalithic tomb in the Bricklieve Mountains of south County Sligo. It is evening of the winter solstice and the last of the thin daylight is dying now across the limestone bluffs. I batter fretfully at my scarred and ailing Macbook, anxious to preserve the moment, with the greyish-blue light of the screen showing by my side the lip of the tomb, in the dark recesses of which some among our ancients lie resting, and waiting.

The tombs are up the side of the mountain from my house by the lake, and they are as close as we come in the vicinity to an attraction. Ravens caw gothically as they circle overhead, as though auditioning for a Siouxsie And The Banshees video sometime around 1983. Swathes of grim moorland open out and descend to the west, in the direction of Ballymote, our polestar metropolis: two streets, a square, and the Travellers market of a Thursday.

Editorial Statement, Dave Lordan

Great and memorable writing addresses itself idiosyncratically to questions of general relevance, questions society asks itself out of a pressing necessity. Depending on how we answer and/or explore them, these questions shape how we perceive, express and organise ourselves, others and the cosmos we inhabit.

Sarah Maria Griffin reflects on last week's RIA conference which asked 'Can Creative Writing Be Taught?'

I am always late for things, often finding myself in taxis racing towards wherever it is I should have been five minutes ago. Sometimes, if the driver is particularly charismatic, they ask where I am going. Or if the conversation goes on, they ask what I do. I usually pause heavily and think very hard about saying I am a chef, or a nurse, or I am studying law. Then I tell them the truth, just to see how they react.

Helena Nolan on starting over

This time of year awakens the longing inside of us. Old aspirations are dusted off and re-examined; our lives begin to dissatisfy; we are restless. Maybe it’s something to do with the leaves turning—that sense of time passing, of our own mortality. Or maybe it’s that back-to-school or college feeling, the one we grew up with, preparing for each September, the milestone month, when our true calendar began. So now, each passing year, as we tick off the opportunities missed, we feel September pressing at our backs, urging us to take one more chance, to resurrect our dreams.

I picked up the phone and called. The woman on reception was helpful; she found a suitable slot and booked me in. Starting in September—the familiar words were back on my lips. This time there was no booklist, no uniform, no one to take me there or show me round. I simply finished work one evening and took a bus to a part of the city I hadn’t visited for a while. There, in a building of faded grandeur, I joined a group of equally nervous adults and signed up for my first creative writing class. Standing round the battered boiler, waiting my turn to make tea, I realised I hadn’t signed up with a group like this since starting my first job, over twenty years earlier. It was scary but invigorating too. Here were new people who knew nothing about me; it was a chance to reinvent myself. Maybe I could begin to think of myself as, dared I say it, an aspiring writer? I was 39.