Monday, 2 July 2012

ARKANSAS - DAY 4


Oh day 4, how long you were. And how good. Saturday started with the panel on the Irish Short Story, chaired by Ann Luttrell and with Mary Morrissy, Molly McCloskey, Jamie O'Connell, Mary Costello and myself. We each gave a presentation/talk about our relationship with the Irish story, our influences etc. We talked about the impossibilty of defining a national literature and the hope for new Irish voices soon: the African, Chinese, Polish and Russian Irish, and what their stories will bring. It was a good panel - Irish people are nothing if not talkers - and the audience were engaged. Alistair MacLeod and his son Alexander, who have become such friends to us all, were there and Alistair asked the first question: 'Could this be a better panel?' He also answered himself: 'No, it could not.' We have all fallen in love (deeper) with the man this week. He is humane, wry, friendly and so very, very intelligent. And a superlative writer, as we all know. His son is also all of the above.

Jamie, Mary & Ann on the panel

In the afternoon our trip to Walmart was aborted as the cab company sent a small instead of a large cab. Four happy Irish shoppers zoomed off, hubby and I stayed behind and consoled ourselves with yet another lovely Starving Artist Café meal. We were in fine all-female company and Moira Crone had us captivated with her account of her family life, which in turn lead to a long discussion on body issues. This is my fourth time at this conference and this has been the most social and fun one. We are like old friends getting a blast of each other for one glorious week. I have also made some new friends here, which is a joy and one of the perks of being a member of the writing world - it is never too hard or too late to make real, meaningful friendships.

Mary Morrissy and me at the drinks reception
That evening there was a drinks reception at which the gorgeous trumpeter Rodney Block and his band played. They danced us in to our dinner in a long line with Rodney trumpeting at the front and us all singing 'When the Saints go Marching In'.

Alistair MacLeod
Saturday night always ends with a banquet, with a reading. Alistair MacLeod was our reader and Alexander introduced him - it was a deeply moving speech which was was also funny and heartfelt. He talked about the 'raw, ancient power' in his father's sixteen published short stories. 'Sixteen stories in thirty years,' Alex said. 'My Dad has only sixteen stories because he gives most of his time to us, not to you.' 'Us' being Alex, his mother and five other (living) children. There was not a dry eye at our dinner table.

Alistair then read his story 'As Birds Bring Forth the Sun', a story of love and mythology and family dynamics, both human and animal. It has layer upon layer and he read it with convincing grace. We were all so honoured to be there with those two great MacLeods.

The evening then became a mix of goodbyes, last minute conversations and drinks. Billie Travalini recited two of her poems for me, one about Flannery O'Connor; some of us had a little party in the hospitality suite; and one hardy crew even took off to play pool in the local biker bar til 2am. It was hard to believe that it was all ending, our intense few days of stories and chats. But end it did and, now, we are the last ones standing.

Thankfully we made it to Walmart today :)

8 comments:

Rachel Fenton said...

What an exhilirating read - thanks for sharing your fab experience with us!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

And thank you for reading, Rae :)

Kar said...

WOW! what an amazing fun time you've had..

I fell in love Alistair MacLeod a few years back after he read at the DWF, how lucky you are now to be a friend :)

And you got to Walmart, Whoop! hope it was lots of fun..

oh and I hope F's bag turned up.

Talk to you on the other side and safe travelling home ...

shaunag said...

Fantastic, Nuala. Sounds like such an enriching experience for both audience and panels

shaunag said...

Sounds like an engaging and enriching experience for both panel and audience! Thanks, Nuala for sharing. Shauna

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Hey Kar,
F's bag never did turn up, such a saga. So I had no books to sell :(

I've been an Alistair fan for years. And he was with us in Toronto. But this was the first time I got to chat with him properly. A lovely man.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Shauna - the whole thing has been great, such fun. I enjoyed my own events and got to some great readings.
N x

Merc said...

It was such fun, Nuala! And thank you for the lovely blouse - it fits! Hope some of your talent rubs off!