Friday 29 June 2012


Hangovers, jetlag and missing luggage* do not a good mix make. They make a girl grumpy. But listening to good short stories certainly helps the mood. I went to Sylvia Petter's reading first thing yesterday - Sylvia is Australian/Austrian (Aussie-Aussie?) - and she is a wonderful writer of short shorts (flash) often with a political slant. She read a series of diverse stories (everything from dementia to Dorothy and her ruby slippers) and that really worked; the audience were alternatively giggling or making empathic noises, depending on the mood of the piece. Everyone was kept engaged 100% of the time.

The next reading I attended was by Molly McCloskey, an American writer who makes her home in Ireland. Molly has two collections published, as well as an acclaimed memoir about her brother's schizophrenia. She read an intricate, moving story set in Africa and Dublin, about a doomed love affair. Molly is an intelligent writer, she uses wonderful, dense language and there are always great insights in her stories. An excellent reading.

Back to the Starving Artist's café then for lunch (if it ain't broke don't fix it) where I had the best lentil soup of my life. I also ended up in fresh company and it was a pleasure to chat with writers Garry Craig Powell from England who lives here; South African Sandra Jensen who lives in Cork and Ryan O'Neill a Glaswegian who makes his home in rural New South Wales. Ryan has a new book just out in Australia The Weight of a Human Heart which will be out with Old Street in the UK very soon,and also in the USA. It looks like a fabulous read.
The Shirley doll
After lunch I took a detour to a vintage/furniture store called Galaxy. What a place - a set dresser's dream. You could kit your whole house out like the Drapers' in Mad Men: lots of etched glass and volcanic-looking ceramics, kitschy clothes and jewelry, and Betty Draperesque nightgowns. It is vast and fabulous. I bought a bisque Shirley Temple doll (we were HUGE fans as kids - I can still sing the album) and she is just adorable: a foot high and with her own chair. How in God's name am I going to get her home?!

Panel: Sandra, Tania, Sylvia, Nuala & Bob

I was on the Flash Fiction panel in the afternoon, ably chaired by Sylvia Petter. My fellow panelists were Sandra Jensen, Tania Hershman and Robert Olen-Butler. We each read a flash story and then the discussion ranged from how publishers/editors/readers feel about flash, to how we write them. It was a lively panel with good audience engagement.

Bosco - an Irish icon :)
We were free in the evening so a gang of us crossed the river to Little Rock's lovely Market District for food. We ended up in a place called Bosco's (no sign of any horrible little red-haired puppets!) and I had pizza. We walked back to our hotel over the pedestrian bridge where some homeless men lay on benches in the still very warm night. Today I read with Katie Singer and tonight we are being brought out so it will be another day of heat and chat and fun and stories. Bliss :)

* One bag turned up - but not the one with my books :(

On the bridge: Mary Costello, Paddy O'Reilly, Alistair MacLeod, Jamie O'Connell, Ann Luttrell, Alexander MacLeod


Kar said...

Love LOVE your Shirley doll, I look forward to meeting her :) and TG you're not travelling with Ryanair ;-)

As always despite the jet-lag, hangover and above all the NO CLOTHES, you're blog post is brilliant, I feel I'm almost there with you.

Thanks for sharing and for the great photographs, really gels the piece together.

I am sorry to hear the luggage still hasn't arrived, I can't believe it!! Hope it gets to you SOON!!!

Oh and I'm here trying to imagine the lentil soup... my mouth watering at the thoughts of it :)

pat jourdan said...

Thanks for letting us be there in proxy!You are our explorer - now, do tell us, where is it going to be held next time?
Sympathy about the luggage - I arrived in Italy for my son's wedding with just a HAT, as everything had cleverly remained back at Stansted. It is a wonderful experience to have nothing, suddenly - with the hopes of it all coming back. Everyday existentialism perks up writing!

Unknown said...

wowwww I'd love to see Molly McCluskey read.

Group 8 said...

Kar - hiya!!! My clothes turned up but not F's. And my books are in his bag. bummer.

Pat- a hat!! Oh lordy. I hope the wedding and Italy were beautiful. I will let you know asap re. the conference's next venue. It's all a bit cloak and dagger at the moment. Wish you were here, we miss you.

Jess - she is fabulous.

Miss_Úna said...

OMG Shirley doll, how cool!!! I can't wait to meet her too. Galaxy sounds amazing, I would love to have a nose around.
Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Group 8 said...

I knew you'd love the Shirley doll!!

Robert Burdock said...

If one were ever in any doubt of the prestigiousness of this conference, then one need only take a look at your last photo. Such an assemblance of short story writing talent. I'm in awe.

And thank you for your wonderful posts on this conference. It's inspiring to read about these all too rare events, which celebrate and honour the most glorious of literary forms.
Rob (from