Writer and designer Seán Mackel joins me today to celebrate the publication of his first short story collection by Guildhall Press, The River. The book will be launched this Thursday 25th November @ 7:30pm in the Clarendon Bar, Derry.
Seán held the post of Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at University of Ulster Magee. After establishing the first Master of Design in the north of Ireland he became a key contributor to the formation of the School of Creative Arts at UU Magee. After over twenty years lecturing in Australia, Germany and Ireland he took early retirement in 2007.
Welcome, Seán. Tell us about your new short story collection The River.
Why do you write?
Because I also work in the visual field I find my mind is often a jumble of different threads of thought. I think I write as means towards disentanglement. Drawing my thoughts out onto the page or screen helps me see what I think. I find the process of writing to be very similar to sketching, making initial, sometimes tentative gestures towards some semblance of form until the thing itself becomes organic and finds its own shape or voice. The more I write the more I feel the need to. But it’s a strange urge, as though the drive to express, the need to make, has its own agenda.
What is your writing process – morning or night – longhand or laptop?
Like most processes it has adapted with the times. I do still carry a notebook and pen; you can’t beat the immediacy of just putting your thoughts directly onto paper. But I would be completely lost without my (Mac) laptop. The process of writing is so accumulative; word-processing software is an absolute must for saving various versions, copy and paste, restructuring and accessing the web for little bits of logistical narrative detail.
Who is the writer you most admire?
Ciaran Carson, a hugely gifted poet, prose writer, and translator.
Which short story would you like to see on the Leaving Cert?
“Crossing the River” by David Park, is a deceptively powerful story told from the point of view of the oarsman who rows passengers oblivious to their destination, across the river to their afterlife.
What is your favourite bookshop?
Without a shadow of a doubt, it has to be Galway’s Charlie Byrnes.
What one piece of advice would you offer beginning writers?
The receipt of honest feedback is pure gold. Get out there and participate in constructive critical workshops. But be wary of the mutually therapeutic variety, as they tend to feed the ego and not the voice.
The River is available through Guildhall Press from Monday 22 November here.