Dah Duit (Hi) and welcome

New patrons for Irish Writers Centre

President Michael D Higgins has been announced as the new patron of the Irish Writers Centre. Marking the centre’s 25th anniversary, the initiative will be launched on January 13th next year with a visit from the President at a special celebration. Six new ambassadors will also promote and endorse the centre over the next three years. John Banville, Anne Enright, Roy Foster, Marian Keyes, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne and Joseph O’Connor will all take part in the programme.
“They are key figures in Irish literature selected across a range of disciplines,” says Amy Herron, events manager at the centre. “We look forward to working with them in furthering the aims of the Irish Writers Centre at home and abroad. The ambassadors will support the work we do in various ways, whether that means taking part in events or working with us on long-term projects.”
An open day at the centre this Saturday, September 12th, will offer writing groups in poetry and fiction, an introduction to the Greenbean Novel Fair Initiative for 2016 and a presentation by managing director Valerie Bistany on the services and resources offered to professional writers. For more information, visithttp://irishwriterscentre.ie/.
Only Ever Yours sells rights
The film and TV rights to Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours have been acquired by the US production company Killer Content. The Cork author’s dystopian debut published last year to much acclaim. It tells the chilling story of a group of girls who are schooled to become model wives in viciously competitive circumstances. The deal comes a week after the launch of O’Neill’s second novel Asking for It, a searing account of a rape and its aftermath in a close-knit Irish community.
Killer Company was formed last year through the merger of Killer Films with Glass Elevator Media. An indie company behind such hits as Still Alice and Mildred Pierce, its most recent film is Carol, due for release in November. Directed by Todd Haynes, the screenplay is based on the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt.
According to the US entertainment site Variety, Only Ever Yours will be a bigger-budget film than Killer has fielded in the past. To finance the project, the company will work with Two Brass Brads, a non-profit organisation that creates socially relevant content released alongside educational campaigns. Killer Content is also currently working on an adaptation of the Brian Selznick novel Wonderstruck and a pilot based on Therese Ann Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
Hodges Figgis festival
Celebrity chefs, historians, debut authors, short stories, art, mental health and young adult literature all feature in the Hodges Figgis Book Festival 2015, which runs from Thursday, September 10th - Saturday, September 19th. Opening the festival on Thursday evening is the launch of Thomas Morris’s debut collection We Don’t Know What We’re Doing from 6pm in the Dawson Street outlet in Dublin 2. This will be followed by the launch of The Long Gaze Back, an anthology of 30 Irish female writers edited by Sinéad Gleeson. Readings from both collections, along with the recently published Young Irelanders, edited by Dave Lordan, will take place on the evening.
A programme that is driven by the ideas and issues that animate writers across all genres includes Marina Carr, John Connolly, Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, Paul Perry, Rick Stein, Diarmaid Ferriter, Belinda McKeon, Shane Hegarty, Derek Landy and Pádraig Yeates. All events are free and public. A full listings can be accessed here.
Literary luminaries in Dun Laoghaire
Edna O’Brien joins Margaret Atwood and Anthony Horowitz on the programme for the dlr Library Voices Series in Dun Laoghaire this autumn. With The Little Red Chairs, her first novel in ten years, out next month, O’Brien will be in conversation with journalist Sinéad Gleeson at the Pavilion Theatre on Tuesday, October 27th at 8pm. Tickets at €12/10 are available here.
The British writer and director Anthony Horowitz, whose new James Bond novel Trigger Mortis was released this week, appears in conversation with Rick O’Shea at the Dun Laoghaire LexIcon Library this Friday, September 11th at 7.30pm. Journalist Paula Shields will host the Margaret Atwood event at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday, September 30th at 7.30pm. Curated by Bert Wright, this is the eighth year of the series that brings renowned authors to south county Dublin. Booking for all events is through the Pavilion Theatre on (01) 231 2929 or www.paviliontheatre.ie.
Advent of Kavanagh festival
The 32nd annual Patrick Kavanagh Weekend runs from Friday, September 25th to Sunday, September 27th in the Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen, County Monaghan. The programme gets under way at 7.30pm on Friday with a reception and music by local piper Patrick Martin. A keynote address by Professor Alan Titley at 8pm will look at Kavanagh’s literary hinterland, followed by the announcement of this year’s Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. Other highlights over the weekend include literary trails, musical dramas based on Kavanagh’s poetry, readings and a performance of The Gallant John Joe by Tom Hickey and written by Tom MacIntyre. More information and booking here.
Irish poetry in Phoenix
For a literary festival further afield, head to Phoenix, Arizona the weekend of September 27th, where the Ennis Committee of Phoenix Sister Cities will host a two-day event at the Irish Cultural Centre. Poetry is the focus of this year’s inaugural event, with Thomas Kinsella (of Leaving Cert fame), David Baker, Sara Berkeley Tolchin, Cynthia Hogue, Dr Adrienne Leavy and Yvonne Waterson on the billing.
Chairperson Mary Hill-Connor, originally from Ennis, plans to grow the event in the coming years to mirror the annual book festival that takes place in her hometown each spring. In addition to the featured poets and speakers, a number of Irish publishing houses are taking part in promotional events, including Irish Academic Press, The Gallery Press, Royal Irish Academy, Tramp Press, New Island Books, The Liberties Press, Swan River Press and The Lagan Press. The forthcoming WB Yeats commemorative issue of Poetry Ireland Review will also feature at the event. More information at www.phoenixsistercities.org.
Richard Ford at UL
The Pulitzer prizewinning author Richard Ford makes his first visit to Limerick next week for an evening of literature at UL. Hosted by Joseph O’Connor, the current chair of the university’s creative writing programme, the event takes place on Tuesday, September 15th at 7pm in the Computer Science and Information Systems Building on campus. A reception will be held before the event for the American novelist and short story writer, best known for his Frank Bascombe novels, Independence Day and Canada. Admission is free but tickets must be reserved by emailing Claire.ryan@ul.iebefore Friday, September 11th.
Portumna arts festival
The Shorelines Arts Festival in Portumna, County Galway will host a number of literary events as part of its programme from Thursday, September 17th - Sunday, September 20th. Writer and broadcaster Joseph O’Connor will read from his books and weekly radio diary on RTE’s Drivetime on Thursday, September 17th. A live recording of RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany takes place on Sunday at noon, featuring local and international musicians and writers. Both events will take place at Christ Church in Portumna, with tickets at €12 and €10 respectively. Writing workshops and an event for the Yeats 150 celebrations are also part of the programme. Full details on events and booking information at www.shorelinesartsfestival.com.
Lunch with Simon Trewin
A new short story competition from writing.ie offers the prize of a lunch with literary agent Simon Trewin. Sponsored by Cross Pens, the Make Your Mark Short Story Competition also gives the winner a pen of their choice up to the value of €250. The lunch with Trewin, who heads up the London team at the international agency WMA, takes place in Dublin on October 17th. Vanessa O’Loughlin, literary scout and managing director of writing.ie, will also attend. “I’m always looking for new talent and competitions are a fabulous way to spot new voices,” says O’Loughlin. “I’m also passionate about writers having access to opportunities, so this will be a free to enter competition.” John Boyne, Sinéad Moriarty and Alex Barclay will judge the entries, which should be fiction and a maximum of 1000 words. The closing date is Thursday, October 1st. More information here.
Dreadful novellas at the ready
The deadline for entry to The Penny Dreadful’s Novella Prize is Wednesday, September 30th. The Cork based literary journal is offering a €2,000 award and publication of the winning entry. The competition is open to writers resident in Ireland or the UK, with a wordcount of 15,000 to 35,000 per entry. Judging the inaugural competition are the Irish writers Colin Barrett, Sara Baume and Paul McVeigh. The entry fee is €10 per manuscript and the winner will be announced in January. Further submission details are available on the magazine’s website.
Contact sarah.gilmartin@gmail.com with your literary listings

Colum McCann, 'Irish writer through and through,' kicks off 2015 Gifford Lecture series

Colum McCann speaks Sept. 15 as part of the Gifford Lecture Series in Syracuse. (Cassandra Amendola)
 By Don Cazentre | dcazentre@syracuse.com
Colum McCann writes stories and novels with complex, intricate plotlines. He calls his style "kaleidoscopic."
 Let the Great World SpinAmazon.com
He think that fits in well in the modern age of storytelling – the digital age, even with its short attention spans.
"Certainly the digital age has shaped the manner in which we read," McCann said in an email interview (see transcript below). "Most interestingly to me is that in some ways it makes us more agile as readers."
McCann launches the 2015 Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series in Syracuse Sept. 15. His talk is 7:30 p.m. in the Crouse Hinds Theater in the John H. Mulroy Civic Center, 411 Montgomery St., Syracuse. See ticket and lecture series information below.
Born in Ireland, McCann has written six novels and three collections of stories. His most recent novel is "Trans Atlantic." His newest short story collection, "Thirteen Ways of Looking," will be published in October.
His novel "Let the Great World Spin" won the 2009 National Book Award. His short film "Everything in this Country Must," directed by Gary McKendry, was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. McCann teaches in the master of fine arts program at Hunter College in New York City where he lives with his wife and three children.
Although he grew up in Dublin, he has lived for the last 20 years in New York City, where he has set much of his work. Yet he still considers himself "an Irish writer through and through."
Asked whether "Irishness" colors his writing, he referred to an essay on Irish language and consciousness he wrote for the upcoming White Lights Festival at New York City's Lincoln Center. The festival is in November; the essay is not yet published. In it, he writes:
"Let's face it. We (the Irish) are torturously poetic. We're unbearably self-conscious. We're awkwardly comic. We're wilfully ambiguous. We'll answer a question with another question. We joyfully use three words instead of one. We'll give you directions towards the exact place you don't want to go. We'll walk a hundred miles to receive a good insult. We're blasphemous. We're contrarian. We never forget a grudge. We address incomprehension. Our war songs are merry. Our love songs are sad. We have half-doors: we are neither in nor out. And we're marvellous at spouting rubbish about ourselves."
McCann answered questions last month via email while on a trip to Argentina:

I understand you now live in New York. Do you get Upstate much -- have you been to Syracuse or Upstate New York before?
I've been to Syracuse a couple of times before. I like the literary feel of the town, it reminds me a little of Dublin. I've been in New York the best part of twenty years now, so I'm becoming more and more familiar with, and partial to, upstate. My son attended a cycling camp for young racers at the Finger Lakes last year and recently I've taken a few trips up to the upper Catskills to get some peace and quiet away from the city. To get the noise out of my head and onto the page.

Do you consider yourself an "Irish" writer, an "Irish-American" writer or none of the above? Related: It may be a cliché, but I have always loved the way Irish speak/write English. Do you find that any "Irishness" influences the way you write, in rhythm, cadences, word choices etc. ... (Also), do you speak or write in Irish (Gaelic) at all?
I'm an Irish writer through and through. (He then refers to the White Lights Festival essay). Like most Irish people I speak a limited Gaelic, but I think that river runs through me.

You seem to not necessarily set stories in Ireland, but both Ireland and New York seem to be places you're comfortable with.
I write towards what I want to know. But writing what we "want to know" is informed by what we already know. I would say that my most comfortable territory is New York. After that I like writing about Ireland. Curiously I have stayed away from Dublin where I spent most of my first 21 years. Perhaps Joyce had already written all of Dublin in Ulysses for me, or perhaps I have been constantly escaping.
I have read that you write in a small, tight space. Can you elaborate on the process?
That small tight space is really a cupboard that I stumbled upon by accident. I was building a wraparound desk in my office when the carpenter, a friend of mine, actually extended the desk into a cupboard. I sat on the desk and it seemed the perfect place to hide. So then I put cushions on the desk and more or less sit in mid-air, in the cupboard. My kids joke that I'm in the closet.
Writing certainly seems to be a solitary experience, but then as a writer you are called on to these kind of speaking tours. Are you comfortable with that? How do you adjust your "writing" style to your "speaking" style, if in fact you do so?
I enjoy getting out and about into the world. I like Emile Zola's ideas that we have to live our lives out loud. I suppose it's fair to say that I'm thirsty for experience beyond what it is easy and available to me. And I enjoy meeting people at readings, lectures, on the street. When I write I enter a different world. I embrace silence and listen for new visitors in my head. It's a form of interaction too, I suppose. One is physical and present, the other is mental and imagined. Both are a form of experience. I like the way they dovetail together.
What can people expect from your public appearances -- readings, background stories, humor, casual etc. ?
I am often told that I'm far less serious in person than I appear on the page. I don't know whether it's true or not. I like to engage people and perhaps unlock a few things in their minds. I also like to move the barometer away from "literature" as such and have a bit of a laugh. I have been known, on a rare occasion, to break out into song. It is not recommended. I like to sing, but I can't. Simple as that. Warning. I should not be encouraged. Keep the whiskey glass out of my hand.

We're in a digital age, with fast-paced, often short means of communication. How do you think the novel fits into the current world? Does the new technology affect the way you write or approach story-telling?
Certainly the digital age has shaped the manner in which we read. Most interestingly to me is that in some ways it makes us more agile as readers. We can make the hyper-leap. We're used to surfing through a variety of topics and a wealth of images. In some ways it has been good for literature, especially my sort of story-telling which is essentially kaleidoscopic. There's also a downside -- most obviously that we have a shorter attention span, and we think we know about everything under the sun and that it is available with a click. But it is up to the writers to provide a scaffold against that. Truth is not available with a single click. Nor is deep experience. Literature lives because of this.
Can you elaborate on your decision to publish a collection of shorter works ("Thirteen Ways of Looking") for the first time in while?
I don't really see any essential difference between the purpose of short stories and novels. Everything should be designed to make you see differently, feel differently, maybe even live differently. One is a sprint, the other is a marathon (containing lots of sprints). Both have the same aim -- to make you feel and experience what it means to be someone other than yourself. I didn't write "Thirteen Ways of Looking" to fit into a digital age. It just seemed like time to write a collection of stories. I wanted a break from the novels. A time to catch my breath.

Much of your work, such as "Let the Great World Spin" and "Transatlantic" has been described as having complex, intricate plots and storylines. Do you enjoy that kind of writing, or is it just the way the stories turn out?
I both enjoy it and it's the way I feel most comfortable.
It's been said that (the character) Father Corrigan in "Let the Great World Spin" is based on Daniel Berrigan. As you may know, the Berrigan brothers (Daniel, Phil and Jerry) have a long connection with Syracuse. So, can you elaborate on the connection between your character and the Berrigans?
Yes, I love the Berrigans. So originally I was calling my character Berrigan before I called him Corrigan. It was a way to enter the character. To give him flesh and blood and indeed soul. I think the Berrigan brothers shaped our times or at the very least prevented them from entirely collapsing. I have enormous admiration for them.
And on another Syracuse note, George Saunders is there in Syracuse. I love his work. I think he's one of the great voices of our times. And I think we have similar ideas on literature and empathy. I'd walk a hundred miles for a new book of his. Powerful stuff, political and poetic and funny at the same time. If I could write like Saunders, I'd be a happy man.
Can you elaborate on the 'literary feel' of Syracuse. You mention George Saunders, but did you also have in mind David Foster Wallace, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, Mary Karr and others with Syracuse connections?
I certainly do like the work of all these writers you mention. There is something "Dublinesque" about the town and it has given rise to many voices. Something symphonic there, I suppose.

The Gifford Lecture Series 2015-2016 season begins earlier this year, in September. All lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Crouse Hinds Theater in the John H. Mulroy Civic Center, 411 Montgomery St., Syracuse. The series is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Onondaga County Public Library.
Series subscriptions are $175 and can be purchased online and at the Oncenter box office at the War Memorial, 760 S. State St., Syracuse. Or call the box office at 315-435-2121. Single tickets are $35, $40 and $45 and go on sale Aug. 17. For more Gifford Lecture Series information, visit the FOCL website or call 315-435-1832.
Upcoming speakers:
Stephen Greenblatt, writer of "The Swerve," on Oct. 14.
Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar. He received the 2011 National Book Award and 2012 Pulitzer Prize for "The Swerve." Greenblatt is the Cogan University Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. He has written nine books, edited six collections of criticism and is general editor of "The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Eighth Edition."
Alice McDermott, writer of "Charming Billy," on Nov. 3.
McDermott graduated from the State University College at Oswego in 1975. She won an American Book Award and the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1998 for "Charming Billy." Her latest book "Someone" (2013) was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award in the fiction category. McDermott is Johns Hopkins University's writer-in-residence university professor and lives in suburban Washington, D.C., with her husband and three children.
Rosalind "Roz" Chast, author of "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" on March 29, 2016.
Chast is a cartoonist whose works regularly appear in The New Yorker. "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" was a finalist for the National Book Award in the nonfiction category in 2014. She also has published "Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast, 1978-2006" and she illustrated Steve Martin's "The Alphabet From A to Y, With Bonus Letter, Z."
Joy Harjo, poet of "The Woman Who Fell From the Sky," on April 19, 2016.
Besides being a poet, Harjo is a writer and musician. She is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. She has published seven books of poetry, including "How We Became Human-- New and Selected Poems" and "She Had Some Horses." In 2009, Harjo won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year for "Winding Through the Milky Way."
George Saunders, writer of "Tenth of December" on May 24, 2016.

The Syracuse University professor was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and winner of the first Folio Prize for "Tenth of December." He also has written "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline," and "Pastoralia." Saunders was a MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow.