New poem on Not Very Quiet Journal

I have a new poem, Gaslit, published over on Not Very Quiet. This is probably my favourite poem that I’ve written for a while, and so I hope you enjoy it. 

I struggle to call myself a poet as I find longer form and non-fiction more comfortable, and therefore, I’m more confident in those areas, but this is the second poem I’ve had published this year and it definitely feels like poetry has returned in importance in my life – so thank you for sharing this journey. 

There have been some amazing online opportunities during these strange times, and among them for me was the opportunity to attend the launch of Not Very Quiet #7 held in Australia and online. The launch was a glorious mixture of attendees in the usual launch venue, as well as people zooming in from all around the world on a big screen. 

We heard a fantastic keynote speech from guest editor, Anne Casey, as well as some of her striking poetry. Six readers from the new memoir-themed issue followed, each so different, despite the common theme. It was a wonderful celebration of poetry, and wonderful to be part of it. There’s so much amazing stuff in the latest issue of Not Very Quiet – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have. 

Freedom – a new poem on HCE Review

I’m delighted to have my poem, Freedom, published over on HCE Magazine.

hce_BLACK_logo_ants_webI fell in love with writing as a young child because of poetry, and over the years, long form has taken over – mainly due to the ideas I’ve had and contracts signed. But over the last year, or so I’ve been dabbling again with my first love.

There’s a misconception that because poetry is shorter, it’s easier. It’s not. It’s just different. Poems usually don’t take me as long time wise (a book is typically a year or two), but I put the same level of care and heart into any poem, flash, short story and essay that I write and so any publication is a joy.

It’s also a validation. Writing takes place behind closed doors, journeying within our own minds. The process is as loaded with self criticism, false starts and mistakes as it is with exploration, play, and inspiration. Sharing work can be terrifying, and it’s not always easy – all writers feel more confident in some areas than others. But we write because we feel compelled, and because we love to read. And so sharing work is an element that we often love and fear in equal measure.

So here goes… You can read Freedom on HCE Review by following this link. Hope you enjoy it!

And if you’ve had something published on an online journal recently, drop it in the comments so I can have a read 🙂

Kids getting creative during Covid!

I’ve seen lots of incredible creative work online from kids doing the Covid lockdown, and I wanted to share a couple of brilliant pieces sent to me over the last few weeks.

Firstly, a school in Swords (which I had the pleasure of visiting in 2018) asked their pupils to recreate their favourite book cover – look at this fantastic response by Maedbh of Swords! Isn’t it amazing? I’m really blown away by it. It captures the book cover style and tone brilliantly! Well done Maedbh 🙂

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And secondly, myself and fellow author, Alan Early, were stuck in a broken time machine and we needed help from you; the task, to create a new time machine from the following items: a stuffed two-headed duck, a slipper, a pencil, a caged spike ball, a rose, and some shiny sunglasses. Look at this beauty by Aurora of Lusk that got us home… Everything we need including a gym, fridge & bookshelf, & used all 6 items. #GoAurora 🙂

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#MGieChat is back! Let’s talk kidlit :)

So, the world feels very weird right now and I’m proud to see so many people stepping up to spread positivity, support, and kindness. If we all follow the guidelines and mind ourselves and each other, then we’ll get through this.

A small gesture on my part is that I’m reviving #MGieChat – a space on twitter where children’s writers can come together and share some ideas, some solidarity, and support each other.

My Post

How it works is: I’ll be posting questions labelled eg Q1, Q2, and you respond to those questions with labelled answers, eg A1, A2 and include the #MGieChat hashtag in the tweet so everyone can follow your contribution.

It ends up fast, and fun, with lots of side conversations. Your fingers will feel on fire, but I promise, it’ll add some cheer to your day!

I’m going to be doing four weekly sessions during the current lockdown – March 24, 31, April 7, and 14. Tonight is a general chat to check in on everyone after recent events, and the next three chats will be themed.

#MGieChat is starting tonight, from 7.30pm until 8.30pm, and everyone’s welcome. Just sign into twitter and use the hashtag to follow the conversations and join in.

Hope to see you there!

2019… A round-up of gratitude!

Like most writers I know, I usually begin a new year with a round-up of the previous, but I actively reduced my time on social media in 2019 to try and recoup some writing time, and so I’m so far behind, I think I’ll just skip to some gratitude.

As 2020 starts with a whisper – swans at the pier and fishermen bringing in their catch, gentle weather, new books to read, unexpected blooms on wintry walks, live music and dog snuggles – I know I have a lot to be thankful for.

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First up: people.

No (wo)man is an island

We don’t always acknowledge how much we need and value the input of others, but I think for writers in particular, social interaction is vitally important and something we need to remember to nurture.

I’m on the road a lot for events (I was away from home for more than 5 months in 2019, but this made up a sizeable portion of my income) and I spend far too much time alone. This past year was particularly hard in that respect, so the people around me have meant more than ever.

So, to my incredible husband, friends near and far, my patient agent Sallyanne Sweeney, writerly friends I turn to for an ear/advice (special shout out to Claire Hennessy, Caroline Busher & Kieran Fanning), my readers, penpals, and everyone else who has inspired me and made my journey/time pass smoothly – thank you. Your input has been invaluable and appreciated.

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Timeleaps, Words Allowed, and a Storytime Express

Many exciting event opportunities came my way in 2019, from the grand finale quiz of Battle of the Book, to a storytelling event on a vintage train (thanks to CBI and An Post), hundreds of events in schools and libraries around Ireland, specialist training for inclusive arts events, READON teen conference panels and writing workshops, plus a week-long tour in Germany for Marburger Lesefest. It was a non-stop whirlwind.

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I love events and there’s nothing better than getting in front of your audience for reminding yourself why you write and untangling yourself from the sometimes-stressful business side of things. So, thank you to everyone who invited me, worked with me (especially co-tutors Alan Early and Dave Lordan), and supported me in bringing my/our events to young audiences.

Pen and Ink and Bum Glue

In terms of writing, I didn’t have any books published this year, and being out of contract has felt fine – I was expecting it to be much harder. But thanks to the reduction in social media, I was pleasantly productive, with two new novels both completed as far as draft 4, plus I had several essays and short stories published in some fantastic magazines and journals including; Banshee, Popshots, Terrain, and Tiny Essays. I also got to co-write a fairy tale with Caroline Busher (currently seeking a home).

These seemingly small victories are actually huge – receiving positive reactions from publications you admire is a boost that helps to;

  • stay on the writing path with integrity and joy
  • counteract the many, many rejections received

Because let’s face it, if the writing isn’t joyful, why bother? Thankfully, this year’s writing has brought me a lot of joy.

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A Room of One’s Own

Other highlights in 2019 included residencies in Costa Rica (1 month) and Portugal (3 weeks). Both provided plenty of physical space and headspace to go deep into my novels, as well as progress some shorter pieces. The rest of the donkey work was completed throughout 2019 on trains or planes and in hotel rooms between events/freelancing deadlines (and at often ridiculous hours), but the residencies were key to planning, structuring, and intense productivity, that enabled the rest to happen organically. So, huge thanks to Mauser Eco House and Foundation Obras Art Residency for their generosity of space and time.

An Interlude

Before I talk about what’s next, I want to pause to say this…

In case the above seems all too sparkly or glamourous or ‘lucky’, at times in 2019, I felt far too lonely. I also felt overworked and underwhelmed and for the first time ever, my health suffered a little. My energy levels a little more. But I had a fantastic year overall and there was nothing I couldn’t deal with and nothing I can’t learn from and change to improve the year ahead.

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My outlook is this: We all create our own opportunities and work ethic, we all use our time in the way we choose, and we all have to make decisions based on our personal lives. Sometimes those decisions are hard, and sometimes it can feel like an uphill struggle or hectic or failure. But perspective is key.

My year was hectic, but it doesn’t mean that if you’re doing more/less/things completely different, you’re more/less/doing things wrongly. There are no rules – especially in creative professions –  only lives to live and lessons to learn and choices to be made.

My advice is this: compare only to yourself and your own parameters. Your own perspective is what matters.

What Next?

In truth, who knows? I’m trying to be a little more open and a little less planned this year. Writing wise, I aim to finish both of my WIP novels, as well as an essay collection, ready for submission. There will definitely be more events with young readers. Plus, a week at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (courtesy of CBI) and a return to Portugal in June.

But above all – more people and gratitude.

What do you want more of in 2020?

 

New Writing By E.R. Murray on Tiny Essays

I’m really excited about having this new non-fiction piece: I Think of Grief as a Dying Star published over on Tiny Essays.

Since the site came to my attention (thanks to awesome writerly human, Claire Hennessy) I’ve been really enjoying the bite-sized non-fiction pieces. So much so, that I specifically began this piece with the website in mind, which is something I rarely do.

I Think of Grief as a Dying Star is a mini essay that I wrote (from idea to multiple drafts to finished piece) while on residency at Mauser Eco House in Costa Rica.

I like to try and complete one fresh piece of work while on a residency, that reminds me specifically of that time and space. I’d been itching to write about grief for a while, and there was something about the jungle sounds at night and the wide, dark Costa Rican skies that set this piece in motion.

I hope you like the piece and show Tiny Essays lots of support! And if you want to see more photos of my time at Mauser Eco House, you can check out my Instagram page.

New Writing by E.R. Murray on Terrain.org

Terrain.org, a journal of built and natural environments, is one of my favourite journals that deals with how the environment impacts our lives and how we impact it in turn – its content is so varied but always fresh, exciting and of an exceptional standard. So I’m truly delighted to have a piece of flash fiction, Discrimen, recently included.

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments logo

Set in West Cork, Discrimen is a tale of loss, love, and hope. It’s a short read, and free – so please share with people you think might enjoy it! 

Publishing fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interview and letters, Terrain.org is a real treasure trove, so have a good look around – and do share any of your favourite pieces you discover in the comments below.

And if you’re looking to submit your own work, you can do so here:
https://www.terrain.org/submit/

Happy reading, happy writing! x

An old friend returns…

I have been on a writing residency in Costa Rica, and I’m still gathering my thoughts on my time there, so that’s a post that will follow soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a gift from my husband.

I’ve toyed with the idea of a typewriter for many years, but I decided it was impractical. Too heavy, ribbons too difficult to find, too noisy, and also awkward to type on. And yet, having this typewriter feels like an old friend has returned.

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You see, I learned to type on one of these. Not because of my age and the technology that was available, but because we were poor.

My original typewriter was gifted to me by my father, just after we met in my early teens. He picked it up from a car boot sale and it had three keys missing, so the letters S, R, and W stabbed you when you used them. I remember the pads of my fingertips being badly bruised. The typewriter also caused a lot of contention because it was so loud. But I learned to type on it, nevertheless.

It’s strange how things work out. I had no ambition of being a writer back then. I thought it was impossible, only for rich people, and so it didn’t enter my head. Even though books were my sanctuary and I spent every day writing and drawing, being a writer was something that seemed completely inaccessible. I knew I had to focus on getting an education if I was to have any kind of chance. And yet, I practiced day after day, to learn how to type.

I’m glad that I escaped the trappings of class and found a way to words and books. And I’m also glad that I can facilitate workshops for young people and help make writing accessible – I don’t want anyone to ever feel like anything is out of their reach because of the situation they were born into. It is a reality for many, but it can be beaten.

I have no idea what happened to the original typewriter, but I’m looking forward to some adventures* with this new one! I have a few project ideas brewing, but I’m also open to ideas (suggestions welcome in the comments below)! For now, I’m happy to reacquaint myself with the weight and sound of tapping keys.

(*Adventure number one: relearn how to thread the ribbon!)

My next workshop for young people is Words Allowed at West Cork Literary Festival, and I’m co-tutoring with Dave Lordan. It covers a wide range, including poetry, journalling, fiction, editing, drama, and it’s a lot of fun. If you have a teen you think would enjoy it, you can find more details here.

Writing for Young People at Cuirt, Galway

If you’ve always wanted to write for young people (children or young adults) and you’re in or near Galway, then come and join me on Thursday as part of the Cuirt festival to learn more about what being a children’s author entails. You’ll be in a supportive environment, with like minds, and I promise plenty of fun as well as info!

Here’s the blurb and you can find out more/book tickets here.

Writing-for-Young-People-with-ER-Murray

Join award-winning writer E.R. Murray for a fun and exciting workshop that will introduce you to the craft of writing for young people. Through practical writing exercises and discussion, you will explore a range of topics including developing characters, setting, and plot, finding your own voice, building believable worlds, and creating authentic dialogue. Suitable for anyone interested in writing for children and young adults, bring your notebook and pen and an open mind.

Book battles, motivation, & manuscripts

IMG_8448How is it March already? I can hardly believe it! But I am enjoying the stretch in the evenings and the earlier dawn. I love early mornings and being able to go for a walk at 7am makes a huge difference to my working day – though I’m finding it difficult to get up and out early in this wintry cold. West Cork is looking beautiful, but those hailstone showers! Even the dog doesn’t want to go out.

And so, a few things I’ve been up to… Firstly, I attended the grand final of Battle of the Book, along with fabulous author and friend, Alan Early, and we got to watch six schools fight it out in a quiz about our books. I loved the rainbow of coloured T-shirts used to identify the schools – and I also loved that the contestants knew more about our books than we did! Congratulations to Garristown on their win. Guess what the prize was? A behind the scenes tour of Dublin Airport! (Not jealous at all. Not even a little bit 🙂 )

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I was also really lucky to be able to chat to a roomful of students who graduated from the Suas numeracy and literacy programmes. The pupils were with their teachers, peers, and mentors, and the atmosphere was brilliant as they celebrated their achievements with certificates, photos and goody bags, before getting a tour of UCC. Well done to everyone involved.

image1-3I’m also delighted to tell you about short story I was commissioned to write for Folens Starlight Primary English Programme. The story is called ‘The Trouble with Lightning’ and it’s a fictional tale about a dog during World War 2. It was a lovely project to be involved in and I had no idea that there were going to be gorgeous illustrations too – it’s just been published and I have a copy winging its way to me. I can’t wait to see it in the flesh.

IMG_8445There’s a school that I write to in the UK, sending reading recommendations every few months, and they’ve written back with some of their own. Their choices: Wonder, Cogheart, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Anne Frank’s Diary and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. I love getting mail as much as I love sending it, so this was a cracking surprise.

Other projects include seven weeks of READON workshops with teens, an article on writing.ie about my writer’s room (which turns out to be several rooms), and a few opportunities I can’t talk about yet – but I’ll keep you posted as soon as I can. I also hear that the script for The Book of Learning film is just about finished. Exciting times indeed!

But the biggest news is, I’m just six chapters away from completing my next WIP, ready to send on to my wonderful agent, Sallyanne Sweeney, for feedback. There’s been a lot going on and I was worried about falling behind with my manuscript, so I had a three-day retreat at Greywood Arts and got myself back on track. It’s a lovely retreat in a fantastic spot, with woods nearby and gorgeous owners and it was exactly what I needed to redress the balance.

IMG_8378I’m currently out of contract, which means I have to polish the manuscript before trying to sell it, so I can’t say much about the story right now. But wish me luck – firstly with getting it finished, and then the edits, and somewhere along the line, the submission! The publishing world is a rollercoaster of crazy so you never know where your writing journey will lead – but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So, if you’re trying to get published, or you’re out of contract, or you’re on submission and not having much success, I’m sending you a hug, an extra cup of tea, a pat on the back, or whatever it is you need to keep going.

Remember, it’s a love of story, a love of words, that brought you to this point and that’s what will carry you through.

Happy writing! x