Tag Archives: creative writing

The Parting by Patrick Stack

The Parting

Patrick Stack started writing at 12 after hearing a piece of verse on the black and white TV. Now he has written a full collection of poetry with Selfpublishbooks.ie - this week we asked him to share his experience.

“I’ve always had a love for the sound of language,” Patrick says. “As a child and teenager I would regularly take down one of the four volumes of The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language from the shelf in our living room and read it. This had belonged to my paternal grandfather who died when my father was 7 or 8 years old. I was enthralled by the little lithographs scattered throughout its pages to illustrate some obscure word, and fascinated by the etymological information in each entry. I was the only one who ever consulted it, and was given it to keep by my parents when I left home. My love of language has lead me speaking five languages with varying degrees of fluency. I intend learning a sixth – Korean – when time permits. It has also lead, albeit indirectly, to my working in the field of web and database programming, where I use computer languages such as html, css, php, JavaScript, and SQL.”

A poet has to take direction from other authors — we asked Patrick who he named as his idols.

“That’s a difficult one! My favourite poets during my formative period at Trinity were William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud, Gerard de Nerval, Guillaume Appolinaire, and Paul Eluard.
“Later on I developed a love for the Argentinian writer and poet, Jorge Luís Borges – I especially liked his short poems, but didn’t much like his longer more descriptive stuff.
“The minimalist poetry of Thomas McGreevey inspires me, as does Michael Hartnett’s Irish language poetry.”

How long was The Parting in the works? How did it begin?

“The Parting has been in the works for a long time. I have wanted to publish my own collection since I was an undergraduate in Trinity in the late 1970s, but back then there was no such thing as self-publishing (unless you count vanity publishing which was costly) and getting a poem published – never mind a collection – was a daunting prospect.
“Over the years I’ve produced several collections which, thankfully, never saw the light of day. The Parting is a compilation of the best poems that have survived from these, as well as my most recent work. The early surviving poems have undergone varying degrees of paring, pruning and gutting. One, ‘Tricolour’, has grown from a fragment (6 lines) written in 1989 shortly after I emigrated to Spain, to its final 57-line version completed in 2008 well after I had returned to Ireland.
“Coming up with an appropriate title for the collection proved a major stumbling block. With help from my daughter I eventually settled upon The Parting, given that the collection deals with many types of parting.”

Patrick is on the committee for the Three-Legged Stool Poets – we asked him how he got involved.

“The committee that runs the the Three-Legged Stool Poets has just decided to rename it 3-Legged Stool Poets, so I’ll refer to it as that from now on. It was started back in the early 2000s and came out of another group called ‘The Poetry Collective’ which was the brainchild of Arthur Watson. Arthur is still actively involved.
“Soon after I emigrated to Spain I stopped writing, and did not start again until early 2007 – a period of 16 years in the wilderness as it were! As I had not been writing or even reading poetry in all that time, I was unaware of the existence of any poetry groups in the Munster area. In 2007, I gave my first reading in 20 years in the Georgian House, Limerick as part of the Mozart and Wine fundraising night run by Summer Music on the Shannon. Although I was terrified, the reading proved to be a huge success. Barney Sheehan of the Whitehouse Poetry Revival was in the audience, and asked me to come and read at the Whitehouse, which I subsequently did. During that reading I happened to mention that I had been trying unsuccessfully to make contact with the 3-Legged Stool Poets, which I had been told about by somebody in Ennis. Unbeknownst to me, Brian Mooney happened to be there that night and came up and introduced himself. That’s how I came to join the group.
“Through my contacts in Summer Music on the Shannon, the group secured a regular monthly reading in Glór, Ennis in 2008 and that initiative is still going.”

Every poet has a favourite poem. We asked Patrick which poem he enjoyed writing most in The Parting and why?

“The first one that comes to mind is ‘Dog Burial’, followed closely by ‘Epithalamion.’ ‘Dog Burial’ has been around a long time, the first version dating back to 1979. It was written in memory of a greyhound, Millie, who was my mother’s favourite of all the greyhounds we kept, hence the dedication. Many re-writings later, it has achieved that terseness and minimalism which best expresses the grief of losing Millie and having to bury her in the orchard.
“In contrast, Epithalamion took only a few months to write, and has none of the terseness or minimalism of ‘Dog Burial.’ Instead it luxuriates in its richness of language. Writing it proved a major challenge. I was still frantically working on it in the car on the way to the wedding, and only completed it half an hour before the wedding reception at which I read it!”

Once a book is finished, the next step is to get it between two covers. But what caught Patrick’s interest in self-publishing?

“Getting a collection published by a ‘reputable’ publisher in Ireland is very difficult. And even if your work is accepted by one, the waiting time can be counted in years. An added complication for me is that my poetry is not mainstream and, I suspect, does not tick the necessary boxes to satisfy the status quo’s ideas of what constitutes acceptable poetry.
“Having acquired the skills necessary to do page layout through my years as a Desktop Publishing tutor for Clare VEC, I decided I would do just that. Some research on the web lead me to Lettertec’s website. I liked what I saw and made contact.”

We asked Patrick how he found the self-publishing process:

“The process of putting the book together was daunting, and proved to be a lot of work once I started,” Patrick says, “I used my web developer skills to help select from the 113 poems I have in an online database I set up for the purpose, and to put them in order. I adapted a jQuery re-order plugin which I attached to the database to help in getting them into the right order. This took about three weeks to do. I then used an open source Page layout program – Scribus – to put the collection together. This took about 2 months.
“The least daunting, most efficient part was the production of the finished book. All I had to do was deliver the pdfs to selfpublishbooks.ie and they did the rest. I was amazed to get delivery of the book a week ahead of schedule. That is great service!

“The finished product is excellent in every way. It is as I had imagined, only better. There is nothing to compare with the feeling of reading from your own book – it gives a feeling of confidence, of completion. It beats the hell out of reading from notebooks, loose sheets and the backs of envelopes!”

So what’s next for Patrick?

“As an active member of 3-Legged Stool Poets, I’m excited at our upcoming initiative to plunge into performance poetry for our Winter season which kicks off in October 2013.
“Besides promoting The Parting through readings and Social Media, and my website, my next project is to finish the long poem entitled ‘The Day the Revolution Came,’ which I’ve been working on for the last four years. Currently I’m about half-way through at 215 lines in 4 cantos. Once finished I will publish it as a standalone work, though the title may well change!”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Testimonials

Abandoned Darlings

AbandonedDarlingsCover
Ruth Quinlan, one of the members of NUIG’s Masters in Writing group which produced the collection Abandoned Darlings, caught up with Selfpublishbooks.ie this week and discussed how the book came about, starting with how her interest in writing first began.

“When I was younger,” said Ruth, “I was a real bookworm, staying up all night devouring books until the grey hours of morning. I had always been interested in writing as well, dabbling with a few evening courses but never really making much headway because I was too focused on work. When I moved back from Malaysia in 2009, I really wanted to rediscover that part of myself so I started looking at MA courses and saving every spare cent I could lay my hands on. I didn’t want to do it part-time like I know other people do; I wanted it to be a full year of immersing myself back into the world of books and writing. So, I chucked in the job and became a full-time student again. Yes, several people thought I had lost my senses walking away from a good job in the middle of a recession but I knew that I needed to do it for myself.”

Why NUIG? “The NUIG course really appealed to me because it is such a wide-ranging course – people don’t have to choose a particular area of specialization until the final MA portfolio is being handed in. Instead, they can do anything from poetry to oral history, screenwriting to travel literature.”

Ruth felt this particularly contributed to her enjoyment of the program: “I discovered areas like theater reviewing that I absolutely loved – and would never have considered if they hadn’t been on the available module list. Those free theater tickets for the semester came in very handy – I was there every week for about three months! I adored being a student again and still get a little pang of envy whenever I pass by the college here in Galway.”

So how did Abandoned Darlings come about? “It has become a kind of informal tradition now for each of the MA in Writing courses to release a collection of their writing after the course has finished,” Ruth told me, “We looked at previous year’s examples and we wanted to do the same – especially since this was the tenth anniversary of the MA in Writing course. Professor Adrian Frazier has done an incredible job of gathering together gifted teachers and enthusiastic students and the MA has really blossomed under his skillful stewardship. He had suggested the idea of an anthology to us towards the beginning of our course (back in September 2011) and we ran with it from there. However, the process really started in May 2012 when we started having meetings about it and trying to figure out who was going to be guest editor, how many submissions to have etc. December 2012 when we launched Abandoned Darlings was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people who had never done anything like this before.”

What books/which authors particularly inspired you and your MA group? “I remember when I read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, my fingers literally burned to write like she did,” Ruth said, “I could see what she saw, feel what her characters felt; taste, touch, smell the entire world she created. Since then, I have read everything she wrote but also had the privilege of reading many other wonderful authors. An Irish author that I really admire is Nuala Ni Chonchuir. I find the sensuality and earthy wisdom of her prose and poetry inspiring. Whenever the muse has decided that she’d much rather hang out with a more deserving writer, I pick up one of Nuala’s books – the muse eventually stops sulking after that and deigns to come back  – for a little while at least.”

What did Ruth contribute to the anthology? “I wrote a short story called ‘Moon-kite’ which is my attempt to explore the breakdown of a middle-aged woman’s marriage. It is about her realization that she has lost pieces of herself in the struggle to hold a dying marriage together – and the solace she seeks during her rediscovery of her self. I also wrote a short piece called ‘Crossing the Dunes’, which is about the loss of a loved one. It was heavily influenced by the loss of my own father but is not completely autobiographical.”

Ruth was happy to talk about her publishing history: “I have had my writing published in journals and forums like ThresholdsSINScissors & SpackleEmerge Literary Journal and I’m included in this year’s Irish Independent Hennessy New Irish Writing series. My poetry was published as part of Wayword Tuesdays, which was a poetry collection printed by Selfpublishbooks.ie a little earlier this year. I was just a contributor on that project though as opposed to this one for Abandoned Darlings where I took responsibility for driving it to conclusion.”

What caught their interest in self-publishing? “Self-publishing really opens your eyes to the hard grind that goes into creating, marketing, and selling a book. I will never pick up another book without a heartfelt appreciation of how many decisions were required to bring it into existence. It’s funny actually because when you self-publish, you become completely obsessed with strange things like cover finishes, and paper color and weight. I found myself on several occasions standing in the middle of a bookshop running my hand over a page of particularly smooth, heavyweight paper – or lusting over a nice cover graphic. I definitely got a few odd looks!”

I asked Ruth how she and the group found the self-publishing process – efficient or daunting? Ruth was optimistic about the whole process. “However, once we got int the nitty-gritty like finding a guest editor, assigning an ISBN number, writing bios, fundraising to cover the printing process & advertising costs, etc. we became a little more daunted. However, we were fortunate in the fact that we could turn to some of the people from previous MA years who had gone through the process already. Their advice was invaluable. While this was a steep learning curve for me personally, I am very glad I did it because now, if I ever get to the stage where I want to publish a book of my own, I would have a pretty good idea of how to go about it. The old adage is true – you really do only learn by doing, getting your hands dirty and by making your own mistakes. Then, at the end of the day, when you see your book for the first time in print, the hard work is truly worth it and there is a great feeling of satisfaction in being able to say, ‘I did this, I created this.’ ”

Will the group be writing together in the future or going their separate ways? “Now that the MA year has finished, many of the class have moved back home to the States or Canada so I am not sure if we can all continue to work together as closely as we have until now. However, I think we will all keep in contact and continue to workshop each others writing and I am very sure that some of the group will continue to work together as a writing collective.”

Now the collection is done, I asked Ruth if she’s finished with writing: “Never! I will never have enough of writing. However, now that I am back in full-time employment, the challenge will be to make sure that I retain a balance between work and the writing. I cannot let my writing slip away like I did before so I am determined to keep at it. It would be such a loss otherwise. Competition deadlines are a great way of forcing yourself to write so I’ll be keeping an eye out for those. Even if I don’t get anywhere with them, they are a great incentive to keep producing. Practice makes perfect as they say.”

Leave a comment

Filed under About Us, Authors, Testimonials

Wayword Tuesdays with the Tuesday Knights

Wayword Tuesdays COVER

Over the last three years, novice and experienced poets have been meeting in creative writing classes in Galway under the guidance of poet Kevin Higgins either on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Fridays. Over the years, though classes have had different people come and go, there have been a few who regularly would be there on the Tuesday night, and got to know each other pretty well.

I caught up with Stephen Byrne, one of the contributors to Wayword Tuesdays, who told me that it was one of the aforementioned few regulars who came up with the concept of creating an anthology for the group, and so the Tuesday Knights were founded and consisted of 7 poets.

The Tuesday Knights printed their anthology with Selfpublishbooks.ie earlier this year. I asked Stephen how it all began. “We started it last June,” he says, “We would meet in the House Hotel (which became a regular occurrence) to decide on how we would do it, since none of us had ever had books published before. A lot of work and decisions have to go in to this project such as, to try get published or self–publish? Do we need/want an ISBN number? How many poems each? What would the design be like? Who will design it? What about the cover, art or graphic? We needed to meet regularly and come to agreement on everything, time consuming but fun.”

I asked Stephen what he enjoyed the most about the compliation. “We all contributed 7 poems each. Plus we had a professional photographer take portraits and added these into the book along with a short bio of each writer, was a lovely touch.”

Seven writers, one book had to be a challenge. I asked Stephen what the main obstacles were in putting together Wayword Tuesdays: “As with 7 different poets, the main challenge was to have variety. And luckily enough, since we are 7 completely different writers with different styles and voices, the book is awash with different types of poetry, catering for all tastes.”

This is the Tuesday Knights’ first publication. Why self-publish? Stephen is happy to tell me: “Having full control, of design, cost, timescale. Plus, we had the ability to come together, grow together as a group, each with an influence in its creation and the excitement of having and viewing the final draft before we give the go ahead to print, is daunting yet crazily exhilarating, the power of self-publishing.”

The process of self-publishing itself is sometimes daunting at first glance, but Stephen told me it was quite the opposite for him and the group. “Actually found it quite easy. Working with Frank and his team was gratifying, easy, enjoyable and extremely efficient. The hard and tiring part was getting everything together, working with 7 people, meeting together, agreeing, disagreeing, but the publishing part was a doddle, quick with outstanding results.”

What about the finished product? “It was way better than we imagined, stunning,” Stephen said, “We had outsourced the artwork for our cover with a local artist, so we did not know what way the cover would look until we had the books in our hands. We also chose a creamery paper rather than the white. When the books arrived, I was blown away by how professional they looked. The cover was outstanding and because of the paper we chose, the font looked amazing.”

I asked Stephen if there was an author/group of authors the group took as their inspiration. “Too many to name,” replied, “I myself would be highly influenced by Lorca and Neruda and more recently Nathalie Handal.”

What’s next for the Tuesday Knights?

“I think we will now do a bit of literature festival traveling to promote the book, sell a few copies and have fun with it. Whether we bring out another anthology down the line remains to be seen, but who knows, we now know what were doing and have had a taste of the simplicity of self-publishing.”

Leave a comment

Filed under About Us, Authors, Latest News, Testimonials

The Emancipist by Veronica Sweeney


(This article is also featured on Writing.ie)

Veronica Sweeney has been a published novelist for twenty-eight years. She wrote her trilogy, The Emancipist, after nine and a half years of research. It was first published in one volume by Pan MacMillan in 1985 and reprinted consistently for twenty years by publishing houses such as Century Hutchinson, Simon & Schuster, Avon Books, Bantam and HarperCollins. It is now being printed by Selfpublishbooks.ie as a trilogy.

“I was surprised that the publishers didn’t want a trilogy,” she says, “It was published as one book, which I had to cut in order to make the single large volume … much was left out, and I was very happy to discover Kindle, so the eBook contains material left out of the original.”

 

I ask Veronica which books or authors inspire her. “I like the works of Ruth Rendell and PD James – they produce great stories with fine writing. I love Terry Pratchett, clever writing with a heart. Other than these I read everything from Jane Austen to Eric Fleming. No Fifty Shades fan here, then? “Not much into modern romances,” she replies, “too predictable!”

 

Veronica expands her answer, revealing a characteristic charm of her work: “Publishers have always complained that my work is ‘quirky’, and I like books that are slightly different and have the author’s own voice without being too formulaic. I love it when I want to read a sentence twice because it’s so clever or insightful. I like having to admit, ‘Jeez, I wish I’d written that!’”

 

As for inspiration, Veronica names only one thing: “My mother read to me all through my childhood – following the words on the page meant that I could read at the age of three. She also read me poetry – there were loads of books of poetry in the house. So I think I grew up with the cadence of words, and their power. She bought me a book on stories from Shakespeare, which inspired me to read the originals. I read all the plays of Shakespeare at thirteen and I think … that this was a pivotal time for me, the inspiration of a rattling good yarn beautifully written. Something to aspire to, but unattainable of course!”

 

Veronica is an established novelist with an international reputation, but when she recently made the switch from traditional publishing to self-publishing, she knew she was taking a risk. “But I needn’t have worried,” she said, “It’s been fun … and – I can’t stress this enough – to be able to choose my own covers and design after twenty-eight years as a professional novelist has been the best part.” Lettertec, the printing press in County Cork with a self-publishing imprint Selfpublishbooks.ie, is producing The Emancipist in three separate volumes this year.

 

I ask Veronica how self-publishing caught her eye: “Amazon Kindle first of all – it’s levelled the playing field for writers at last. We’re back to the early days of the printing press, like Erasmus! Get a good idea and take it to the printer – before publishers and agents became involved!

 

“The whole process was very speedy,” she adds, “I think it took about two weeks, and that was mostly me being very fussy about the cover.

 

Any other reason? “Despite the advent of reading devices such as Kindle and Nook, so many people really like the physical feel of a book, and The Emancipist was the obvious choice, as it’s my favourite of all my work, the one people are always asking me about – and complaining because it’s the size of a house brick! The new version from Lettertec, being in three volumes, solves that!”

 

I also asked Veronica if she had any advice for writers thinking of self-publishing. “Anyone going the way of self-publishing for the first time really should pay the bit extra to have their book checked by a professional editor … The way I work is to finish the seventh, eighth, ninth draft, then put it in a drawer for several months and then come back to it. Self-publishing is no place for wishful thinking … the writing has to be tight and professional, or no one will buy your book but your family.”

 

How was the printed product? “Far better quality than any book I’ve had published. Some paperbacks seem to be printed on newspaper. This version of The Emancipist is a real collector’s copy, limited edition. The first run of Pan MacMillan’s was 100,000 copies! But I’m very proud of my limited run Emancipist – it’s the book I always wanted to see.”

 

Every author has her favourite. Veronica happily imparted hers: “Shannonbrook [Book Three of The Emancipist] … by then Aidan is in middle-age, and very much a product of all that has happened to him. He’s successful, but still believes he can control his environment. … When I did the book tour of Australia, half the women I spoke to said he was a thorough rat and a rogue, and the other half said he was so real that he must exist!”

 

She gleefully adds: “It was fun to create his children, who give him a great shock in refusing to be what he expects.”

 

What’s next, Veronica? “Editing – again – Books Two and Three before sending them to Lettertec, and after that I’ll be uploading my Australian thriller, Dark Obsession – though the title will now be His Dark Obsession – to Amazon Kindle. But there’ll be more books printed by Lettertec, deciding on which ones depends on which ones my readers ask for!”

 

Book One of The Emancipist – titled The Big House – is available now. Books Two and Three will be available in early December, ready for Christmas.

 

To find out more about Veronica and The Emancipist, check out her website veronicasweeney.net

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under About Us, Authors, Latest News, Testimonials

Looking over the last week…

Spoilers from JK Rowling’s upcoming novel are released, a guide of London from NW by Zadie Smith is printed, new life is breathed into Moby Dick with the help of well-known celebrities, a new biography exposes John Keats as an opium addict and Stephen King reveals the publication date for his sequel to The Shining.

This is all too much news for one blog post, so let’s focus on the first piece of literary fact.

According to the Guardian, JK Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, draws on her own experience of living on the margins of society and satirises a political landscape in which the poor are regularly cast “as this homogeneous mash, like porridge.”

The idea for the novel, her first since the Harry Potter series that made her the world’s first author to become a billionaire solely through her writing, came to her on an aeroplane. “I thought: local election! And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It’s a rush of adrenaline, it’s chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this.”

Set in the fictional West Country village of Pagford, which bears a passing resemblance to Rowling’s own childhood home in the Forest of Dean, and telling the story of a parish election triggered by the death of councillor Barry Fairbrother, The Casual Vacancy investigates the agendas and infighting that fuel local politics, and the class divisions that rive even the most picturesque English communities.

The election ultimately turns on the fate of Pagford’s grotty council estate, the Fields, embodied in The Casual Vacancy by the wretched, wrung-out Weedon family: mother Terri, struggling to kick her drug addiction, three-year-old son Robbie, under threat of social care, and teenage daughter Krystal.

“So many people, certainly people who sit around the cabinet table, say: ‘Well, it worked for me’ or ‘This is how my father managed it’,” Rowling said. “The idea that other people might have had such a different life experience that their choices and beliefs and behaviours would be completely different … seems to escape a lot of otherwise intelligent people. The poor are discussed as this homogeneous mash, like porridge … They talk about feckless teenage mothers looking for a council flat. Well, how tragic is it that that’s what someone regards as the height of security or safety?”

The stratospheric success of the Harry Potter franchise has placed her in the enviable position of being able to do “whatever the hell I like”, she said. “I am the freest author in the world. My bills are paid – we all know I can pay my bills – I was under contract to no one, and the feeling of having all of these characters in my head and knowing that no one else knew a damned thing about them was amazing … Pagford was mine, just mine, for five years. I wrote this novel as exactly what I wanted to write.”

The Casual Vacancy is released this Thursday. To see a (rare) interview with JK Rowling, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News

New Digital Poetry Prize: The Attys



On Thursday, the Guardian announced a new digital poetry prize, the Attys, to be launched from the Canadian-based social reading site Wattpad.

The prize is named after Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, who joined Wattpad’s community of nine million writers and readers in June. Atwood will be judging the prize, for which competitors must enter a single entry, or 10 poems as a collection, each demonstrating a different poetic form.

“Poems can be submitted from anywhere, and we anticipate that some entries will be written on mobile devices,” said Allen Lau, co-founder of Wattpad. “We want to create a digital-first opportunity for poets to share their work and for audiences to discover the genre [and we] are excited to see how the world connects over poetry.”

Prizes will range from $1,000 (£640), to Nexus 7 Android tablets,  to feedback sessions from the Booker-winning author Margaret Atwood herself. Every entrant will be entered into a random draw for a chance to be immortalized as a character name in Margaret Atwood’s upcoming novel, MADDADDAM – the third in her Maddaddam series: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood. The winner can use his or her own name — or someone else’s, as a gift. They can be: A God’s Gardener Saint; the name of a pub; the name of a pet snake; the name of a Maddaddam team member!

“I’m very honored to have [The Attys] named after me. Poetry is at the core of each language, and language itself is at the core of our humanity,” said Atwood. “May you enjoy composing your own poems, and enjoy reading the poems of others! These are very ancient pleasures; by sharing in them, you are sharing in our own deep history.”

Submissions close October 31st, and all entries can be submitted here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News