Waterford Writers’ Weekend, 2012 closed last evening at Christ Church Cathedral to what I now feel is Waterford’s anthem ‘Come the Sails.’ This is a poem by John Ennis, put to music by Sue Furlong. Lines are still ringing in my ears:
Unfurl the sailing City
Every hand will know the ropes
Unfurl the sailing City
White horses of our hopes.
As I made my way along the Quay on this first day of Summer time, so many thoughts of highlights of the weekend.
Writing Memoir Workshop with Martina Devlin on Saturday morning in the Granville Hotel. Write the blurb for your book. Now there’s a challenge – but hear what everyone else is doing. The range is amazing and Martina Devlin is so obviously passionate about stories and memories. How her eyes light up when she hears that one of the participants has brought in diaries that relate to decades back and contain tiny details that could have been lost but have now been saved.
I find myself sitting beside a woman who ‘I know’ through Twitter. We follow each other but now we meet recognising that we are who we are!
Quick lunch in the buzzing bar of the Granville and next to ‘Writing Commercial Fiction’ with Monica McInerney in that beautiful room in Greyfriars. I recognise one old friend but the rest of the people are strangers. Am I a candidate for writing Commercial Fiction? Of course, I’d love to be like Australian, Monica McInerney, who comes from the unlikely-named Clare Valley, and who has written ten novels, international bestsellers which have been translated into all sorts of exotic languages. How this woman, with her impish smile and kind eyes, can generate confidence!
We are each given a character and a setting and asked to flesh out a story in ten minutes. No time to think, just do it. The results are astonishing. A 67-year old nun in the queue at McDonalds forced to confront her past; a 26 year-old chef outside the Opera House in Sydney meets a blind date but is he the right Paulo for Rebecca? We all lean forward to hear these stories; Monica’s eyes are dancing. So much encouragement; so many simple guidelines; but most af all ‘care about your characters.’ I emerge with ideas for novels spilling out of me and a determination like never before to finally ‘sit down and just do it.’
Of course go to ‘What Makes a Bestseller,’ and hear the views of bestselling women’s fiction authors Sinead Moriarty, Naimh Greene, Monica McInerney amd Sarah Webb. While there mightn’t be consensus about whether a book should be plotted in advance, all the writers stress that hard work, tenacity, and using your own voice are fundamental to writing a bestseller.
Early Sunday, ‘Getting Published’ a Workshop with Publishing Consultant, Vanessa O’Loughlin. What a range of participants and by now some familiar faces from Saturday’s workshops. So many tips and ideas, sites that will help, and especially www.writing.ie. Key points underpinning everything, as I understand them: make sure the whole submission package is as perfect as it possibly can be before submitting; take rejection on the chin and be positive!
To the Book Centre to hear Short Story Readings by Nuala Ni Chonchuir and Monica McInerney. What a treat to sit back and be read to. It reminded me so much of Mother reading to me when I was a child. But the stories, both beautifully crafted, were about the darker side of life.
A long weekend coming to a close. So many other choices could have been made. It could have been a totally different experience but great to hear from other people about what was missed. The air of camaraderie and willingness to share ideas, experiences, insights is so widespread. This is about Irish writing moving forward with writers as a community to help each other.
The ‘Come the Sails’ Choral Event which is still so much with me epitomised this collaborative effort. Poets, musicians, choirs and an audience all united with a sense of being part of Waterford’s history and community. The future certainly looks bright for writing and the arts in Waterford and I can still here the children in the choir singing:
Grant us the wind be fair, the currents fair.
Where cross-trees bloom in the gull-tossed air.
Stowaways to the future
Wind be fair.