Sept 22nd Update:
The Seminar Series is now fully booked. We are organising another series for early 2024. Details will be announced in December 2023.


The Stinging Fly is delighted to announce the return of its online seminar series. Taking place on Tuesday evenings from 7pm to 8.30pm in October and November 2023, our online seminar series will explore 5 topics related to writing practice and craft: writing time, writing as play, writing as vocation, writing people, and writing plot. Each guest writer will focus on one topic for their seminar and a suggested reading list will be shared in advance of each session.

  • Tuesday 10 October: Cathy Sweeney on Writing Time
  • Tuesday 17 October: Helen Oyeyemi on Writing as Play
  • Tuesday 24 October: Joseph O’Neill on Writing as Vocation
  • Tuesday 7 November: Tessa Hadley on Writing People
  • Tuesday 14 November: Eleanor Catton on Writing Plot

Tickets will be available here on the website from Thursday 21st September at 1pm Irish time. See prices below.


Writing Time, Cathy Sweeney, Tuesday 10 October, 7pm to 8.30pm

To write fiction is to order time. A story may have a beginning, middle and end, but life does not happen in an orderly sequence: memory floods the present and anticipation seeps into the future. Time is elastic; it slows down and speeds up, contracts and expands. It is, after all, a perception. There is little correlation between time as we experience it – what Henri Bergson called ‘real duration’ – and clock time. In this seminar I will look at some of the innovative techniques that writers use – many of them borrowed from temporal codes in film – to manage both clock time and ‘real duration’ in fiction.

Writing as Play, Helen Oyeyemi, Tuesday 17 October, 7pm to 8.30pm

This seminar celebrates texts that enrich, imperil or otherwise enliven a reader’s hermeneutics. It’s an opportunity to consider characteristics that enable a piece of writing to offer the same sense of liberated adventure as games can.

Writing as Vocation, Joseph O’Neill, Tuesday 24 October, 7pm to 8.30pm

What is artistic vocation? How does it relate to craft? How does the fiction writer manage the demands and distractions of twenty-first century culture?

Writing People, Tessa Hadley, Tuesday 7 November, 7pm to 8.30pm

I’ll talk about trying to make characters in fiction come alive on the page. For me – but not for every writer – it’s crucial to somehow catch them physically, as well as in their behaviours and their awareness. It’s as if I can’t get the psychic presence right without the physical one. But there’s an element of sleight of hand in getting physicality on the page; written description can never be exhaustive and exact as a painting can. Yet if you can make some essential mark in words, which will stand in for a character’s presence in a room, then the flow of that character’s action and feeling seems to follow. We’ll look closely at some brilliant examples of this, where the life of the character seems to flow after their substantial presence made in words – to see if we can learn just how to do it.

Writing Plot, Eleanor Catton, Tuesday 14 November, 7pm to 8.30pm

A well-plotted story satisfies the reader in seemingly paradoxical ways: it is surprising, and yet by the end, it feels inevitable and structurally complete. In this workshop we will discuss how to achieve this balance, steering a course between overdetermination, on the one hand, and mere arbitrariness, on the other. We will consider the four types of action, and discuss the mechanics of plot: conflict, turning points, structural patterning, and dramatic irony.


Price list

All Sessions Full price: €150 / Unwaged and low income price: €100 

Individual Session Full price: €35 / Unwaged and low income price: €25

The seminars will be conducted through Zoom with a maximum of 30 participants per group. Places are available on a first-come, first-served basis. We are unable to refund tickets once purchased. If you cannot attend a session, and you wish to transfer your ticket, please contact: admin [at] stingingfly [dot] org. Tickets will be available to purchase from our website on Thursday 21st September at 1pm Irish time.

Participants will receive an email prior to the start date with a recommended reading list and a link to join the seminar. Please keep an eye on your spam or junk mail folder if you have not received the list before the seminar date.

Please note: the seminars are live events and will not be recorded.


Guest writers

Cathy Sweeney’s debut story collection, Modern Times, was published by The Stinging Fly Press in March 2020. She was awarded a Literature Bursary from The Arts Council of Ireland in 2020, and in 2022 was appointed Writer-in-Residence at University College Cork. Her debut novel, Breakdown, is forthcoming with Weidenfeld & Nicolson in early 2024.

Helen Oyeyemi’s books include What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Gingerbread, and the forthcoming Parasol Against the Axe. She’s a recipient of the Somerset Maugham Award and PEN’s Open Book Award, and her novel Peaces was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. She lives in Prague.

Joseph O’Neill’s most recent books are the story collection Good Trouble, The Dog (longlisted for the Booker Prize), and Netherland (PEN/Faulkner Award, Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award). A new novel, Godwin, will appear next year.

Tessa Hadley has published eight novels, including The Past, Late in the Day, and Free Love, and three collections of short stories. She publishes short stories regularly in the New Yorker, and reviews for the Guardian and the London Review of Books; she was awarded a Windham Campbell prize for Fiction and the Hawthornden Prize in 2016, and the Edge Hill Prize in 2018.

Eleanor Catton is the author of The Rehearsal (2008), winner of the 2009 Betty Trask Award, and The Luminaries (2013), winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize. As a screenwriter, she has adapted The Luminaries for television, and Jane Austen’s Emma for feature film. Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, she now lives in Cambridge, England. Her third novel, Birnam Wood, was published earlier this year.