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.

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The Folk You Meet: Words & Whey

Living in West Cork, I meet a plethora of interesting folk and the latest to join the village is a rather interesting young woman who writes the What A Whey to Go blog. A kindred spirit in terms of being willing to take big risks for a passion, desire or gut instinct (whatever you want to call it), I am both excited and intrigued by her presence and her current journey.

We’ve only spoken a handful of times and have literally just exchanged numbers for a future coffee date, but after reading the blog of this ‘London corporate escapee turned apprentice cheese maker’, (love it!) I’m surprised to learn there are many similarities between us.

Perfect place to visit in West Cork

A picture perfect village on the edge of the Atlantic

From her decision to leave her well paid job in London publishing (mine was a well paid Dublin job in online poker) to follow her cheese-making dream (mine, of course, is to be a published author) to the sudden move to the same village, it seems a truly fortuitous coincidence that our paths have connected. We’ve made similar decisions, completely unawares, and ended up here.

Inspired by Pauline’s blog, I decided it was about time I dared to take a look back at my own journey. It’s almost three years since I made that dizzying decision to take the leap, so has it turned out to be what I hoped? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? Here’s the truth…

I have not secured a publishing deal (yet). There I said it. In my first year here, I completed a book, received excellent feedback from publishers with plenty of interest, but no deal. It was a hard truth to swallow at the time.

Now I can  see the benefits. That may seem like a ‘yeah right, she’s just saying that to save face’ kind of thing to say, but it’s true. Of course, a book deal would have been amazing – and I still have complete faith in that book – but along the way I learned a hell of a lot about myself as a writer, the world of publishing, my writing habits and my stamina.

Thankfully, part of that learning curve involved a deletion of the arrogance that initially fuelled me, and I also figured out pretty quickly that weeping into my porridge wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

So I went away and wrote another book, a couple more 50-60K first drafts, a series of poems/short stories/flash pieces, and a couple of picture books. Far from dampening my spirits, the failure only made me more determined, and now, as my next book goes on submission, (it’s taken another two years to get here) I feel a certain amount of peace knowing that

1) the chance for publication is once again close and

2) if it doesn’t make it this time, I have another book in me. And another, until I achieve my dream.

Irish sunsets, West Cork

Clouds really do have silver linings!

I know it’s possible and over the last couple of years I’ve seen some wonderful friends (both real life and online) go through similar emotional rollercoasters and eventually secure book deals – Laura J Cassidy, Louise Phillips, Susan Lanigan, Maria DuffyHazel Gaynor (to name but a few).

From the bottom of my heart, I couldn’t be more delighted for them and every time I hear of another signing, my heart leaps for joy. Because they deserve it, because it makes it all real and tangible.

So what does all this have to do with Pauline? Simple: I’m delighted to have met yet another intriguing, vivacious and gutsy person, someone who understands what it’s like to want something so badly that they’re willing to take risks. It’s always a joy to meet someone that reminds you of why you’re here and how far you’ve come; that although the end goal is what you’re aiming for, it’s the whole journey that counts.

If, like me, you’re still chasing your dream, keep chasing. I believe with enough dedication to your craft, determination to improve and a little bit of luck, you’ll get there. Enjoy the journey – it’s going to be wonderful.

Autumn dreams

autumn in ireland

This burgundy hue is one of my favourite colours and signifies autumn. Still trying to find out what the plant is called – any ideas?

Autumn is a beautiful time of year and like spring, it feels so full of possibilities. The shorter days tell our subconscious and our conscience that it’s OK for us to come in out of the cold and read a bit more book, spend extra time cooking wholesome meals, or meet and chat with friends.

Animals prepare to hibernate at this time of year and without even realising, we do the same. Especially rurally, as you’re more affected by natural light and the weather (there are no streetlights between my home and the village just over two miles away – so drinks out or visits to friends means visi-vests, torches, wellies and waterproof clothing. In other words, careful planning!).

I see autumn as a gift. It’s a time when we adjust our routines, attitudes and outlooks – and usually this means we remember to dream big. Every autumn, I write the first draft on a new novel, not knowing much about it but full of the excitement of where it may lead.

What will you be dreaming of this autumn as you let yourself wind down? And how will the season help make it happen?