Join us for our annual lecture, which this year will be delivered by acclaimed short-story writer and novelist, Evelyn Conlon, who has been publishing her clear-eyed, witty and unsentimental fiction for the past forty years. Over this same period, Evelyn has served as an advocate and an activist: she was a member of Irishwomen United, a founder member of the Rape Crisis Centre, the founder of the first creche at Maynooth University, and the author of the first Irish Sex Education book for children.
After the Alphabet: What We Do With Words
Evelyn’s lecture will look at what some people do with words once they’ve got the alphabet.
‘Just because we learn how to tie our shoelaces doesn’t mean we’re going to become cobblers, and not everyone uses their new facility with words in the same way. Some will use them to talk, to explain, to simplify, to mumble; others will fall in love, will imagine dancing in them and begin a life wedded to the bliss, the dangerous slipstream and the precariousness of them. Some will use them to lie. Making up new words, holding on for dear life to old ones, and censorship are all part of the writerly life. Salman Rushdie has said, and he should know, that censorship is coming from all angles now; that, as well as the expected reactionary, authoritarian, populist, demagogic voices, progressive ones are also being raised “in favour of a new kind of bien-pensant censorship, one that appears virtuous, and which many people, especially young people, have begun to see as a virtue”. Bien-pensant is a fine word, the adjective can mean orthodox or conformist, the noun can mean someone who espouses a fashionable idea after it has been established, and maintains it without a great amount of critical thought. With all this blanching, we might wonder if there is any place now for fiction? Blanching of course requires one to scald in boiling water, then plunge in iced water, in order to halt the cooking process. Who said words weren’t fun?’
The lecture will be followed by a short Q&A.
Evelyn Conlon is a short-story writer and novelist. Born in County Monaghan, she lives in Dublin and is a member of Aosdána. She has published four short-story collections and four novels. Her most recent books are Moving About The Place (2021), a short-story collection, and Reading Rites (2023), a memoir in essays, recently published by Blackstaff.
‘In the Irish literary landscape, there is nobody quite like Evelyn Conlon. She is a unique force.’
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne
‘No one has a voice like Evelyn Conlon. You never know what she is going to say next. She comes from an odd angle that suddenly seems like the only angle worthwhile.’
Martina Evans, The Irish Times
The Stinging Fly is a literary magazine, a book publisher, an education provider, and an online platform. We are independent and not for profit. Our mission is to seek out, nurture, publish and promote the very best new writers and new writing.
Our Annual Lecture began as an initiative of Words Ireland and Bray Literary Festival in 2018. Each year since then we have commissioned a writer to reflect upon their experience of the writing life and the development of their creative practice. Previous lectures, which are all available to read on our website, have been delivered by Sean O’Reilly and Jan Carson (2018), Mia Gallagher (2019), Paul Lynch (2020), and Kevin Power (2022).