Monday 11 February 2013

Would you like to learn the craft of writing?

Loving what you do for a living is one of life’s greatest gifts. Before I took up writing professionally I worked in a plethora of corporate jobs, many of which sapped my soul and made me wonder whether life was worth the effort.  

Fortunately I never felt like that when I was employed by non-profit organisations, mainly because the work I was doing made sense. 

Whether I was training a teenage football team, looking after a gentle professor with terminal Alzheimer's or facing the challenge of helping a severely autistic boy, I rarely felt that my efforts had been wasted. At worst, I’d earned a crust and done no harm. Sometimes I might even have made a positive contribution to other peoples’ lives.

In all those jobs I felt like a visitor in someone else’s world. Yet sitting here at my keyboard in a typically ungainly position, with my ankles badly twisted underneath my desk, I feel completely comfortable.

Some of you already know what I’m on about. If you love your work then you know how lucky I feel. Of course sometimes, just like anything one has to do, it can be a pain in the derrière. 

Occasionally my ideas become as blocked up as an 8 year-old’s nose, or I’ve got the ‘flu and can barely sit upright, let alone make my deadline. But somehow I always make that deadline, because I’ve got the best gig in the world and I won’t waste it.

From the age of 15 I wrote every single day, keeping a diary until the age of 21 that contained as much fiction as fact. As a precocious teenager I thought it might be interesting for an ‘older me’ to look back and see what I was like in adolescence.

In truth the 6 volumes constitute a terrifying journey into petulance, paranoia and sexual fantasy, but their making instilled within me the discipline of a lifetime: to sit and write each day.

Since then I’ve completed 4 novels, had over a million words published in Ireland and the UK, and had 3 plays performed. A few months after I arrived in Galway my one-woman show Aileen Stays In won Punchbag Theatre’s Month of Sundays competition.

As well as this colyoom, I had a column in the Irish Examiner for over two years and several features published in the Irish Times, Irish Post and other media.

So why am I telling you all this? Have I become such a pathetic praise junkie that I need to brag at you from your newspaper?

Far from it. The reason I’m sharing my credentials is that I’m excited and delighted to announce that I’ll be leading a residential weekend writing course in the historic and beautiful village of Killala.

So if you ever wanted to be a writer and you fancy a Spring weekend break in an unspoiled fishing village, you can combine the two this April, by enrolling in The Craft of Writing Weekend.

The Old Deanery Cottages

Staying in a 4-star holiday cottage on the site of the Old Deanery overlooking the harbour, you’ll participate in 9 lessons over a fascinating weekend, after which you will know how to use the essential tools of writing craft.

Before you can paint a portrait in oils, you have to learn how to draw a straight line. Writing is just like every other art form. There is a craft, which can be learned by anyone. There is no mystery to this craft. It’s abc, 123. Some of you will have talent, which cannot be taught, but talent is useless without craft.

I have dedicated my life to learning this craft. Having to some extent now mastered the rules, I can break them, because I know how they work. But I’m still learning, and hopefully will always learn, because clearly you never know it all. 

 The Old Deanery

Over the course of a fun and fascinating weekend, you will learn how to free yourself from fear, write a first draft, develop characters, structure, plot and voice. You’ll discover how to use shape, tense and dialogue to enhance your particular style, while becoming expert in the vital business of editing. I’ll also give advice about how to sell your writing.

Arriving on Friday April 19th, you’ll find a turf fire lit in your 4-star holiday cottage, which you’ll share with other participants on the course. Each cottage has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so privacy is no problem, while the village of Killala offers lively pubs, welcoming smiles and great craic. 

Should you wish to explore, a local guide (my very excellent friend Denis Quinn) offers walks in the stunning surrounding countryside, which is laden with virgin white sand beaches, stone circles, ogham stones and the world-famous Ceide Fields.

 Ross Beach, Killala

The Craft of Writing Weekend starts at 6pm on April 19th, with refreshments served before the introductory lesson at 7pm, after which everyone can relax together in one of the local pubs.

The entire cost of the weekend is only €250 per person, which includes The Craft of Writing Weekend course, cottage accommodation for 2 or 3 nights, a light lunch on both the Saturday and Sunday, as well as tea and coffee during well-earned lesson breaks. Hot breakfasts can be delivered to your cottage at very reasonable rates, while excellent dinners are available locally. 

                       Killala village                              

I have to confess that where Killala is concerned I am utterly biased. I lived there for nearly four years and loved both the people and the place. The village and surrounding area is truly the jewel in Co. Mayo’s crown. You’ll have a fabulous weekend in Ireland's beautiful best-kept secret, meet friendly and fascinating people and leave laden with all the tools you need to write well.

For bookings and more information please contact me by email at :
The Old Deanery:
Facebook: Old Deanery Cottages; Joe Keane Creative Centre.

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