Monday, 25 April 2016

CÚIRT 2016

Belinda McKeon signing books at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway
I haven't time to dwell on the usual post-Cúirt deflation as I am on a deadline (Friday!) with novel #4. This is my first round of re-writes for my editor in NY and, oh, it went so well today. I am exhausted after Cúirt but a good night's sleep had me right on track this morning. There is nothing quite like the high when the writing goes well, when the questions posed can be answered (and Tara, my ed, asks good questions). I even forgot about lunch which anyone who knows me will realise is UNBELIEVABLE.

Jennifer Johnston signing books at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Cúirt was fantastic, as ever. I had the privilege of interviewing writers Jennifer Johnston and Belinda McKeon together. I hope that at 86 I am still writing, still publishing, as Jennifer is. Her 18th novel, Naming the Stars, appears in June. She read from it, and Belinda read from Tender (that hilarious scene where the young Catherine interviews An Older Irish Male Writer), and both were brilliant.

We talked about yearning, discomfort and language in fiction, as well as autobiography, parents and POV characters (male vs female main protagonists). We spoke about growing up as regards character development and parental hobbling in Jennifer's novel. We talked about the Irish writer's obligation when it comes to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Both writers had plenty of interesting things to say and, really, an hour was far too short a spell to spend with them. We could've yammered on and on. If I loved both women before, I love them even more now.

Long Gaze panel - pic by Majella O'Dea
I also took part in a panel discussion based around The Long Gaze Back anthology with its editor Sinéad Gleeson, Belinda McKeon and Cúirt director Dani Gill. We covered lots of topics: #ReadWomen, the importance of networking, mentors and champions, the need to keep the gender conversation in literature wide and ongoing, the importance of mutual support for women writers (giving back), the Baileys Prize and more.

Juno with Prospect Hill graffiti - Irish for 'Take courage'
A pretty poor pic of Sinéad Gleeson & Leslie Jamison
In terms of attending events for pleasure, I managed to hear several fantastic writers, including Leslie Jamison, Kirsty Logan, Miriam Toews and Joanna Walsh. There was a wonderful chiming of themes discussed, all things I am super-interested in: grief, memory, mental illness, and 'truth' in fiction. My mind was racing with thoughts and ideas (and admiration) after each reading/discussion. And I bought books, lots of lovely books, from Charlie Byrne's wide selection.

Me, signing and chatting - The Long Gaze Back
On the social side, I had lunch, tea, wine, din-dins and fun with plenty of wondrous people including Sinéad Gleeson, Belinda McKeon, Joanna Walsh, Lisa McInerney (she of the Baileys Prize shortlisting - woot!), super-successful YA writer Louise O'Neill, Tom Morris of the Stinging Fly, Declan Meade of the same parish, New York-based writer Joshua Ferris, my Smokelong pal Chris Allen and his partner. It was all very jolly and exhausting. We even managed a spin out to Salthill and Barna to eat ginormous fruit salads and bagels, and be mesmerised by the sea. As we drove back in by the Claddagh, I was reminded of why I moved to Galway twenty years go - it really is a magical place.

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