The Child in Society

Weekend of Fiction Writing & Reading with Claire Keegan

Amber Springs Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford

June 29 & 30, 2019children

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela

For two days, Claire Keegan, author of Foster (Faber & Faber) will explore fiction writing through the linked theme of The Child in Society. Discussion will include the rights of the child, having and not having children, fathering, mothering, fostering, adopting and neglecting children. Participants will be asked to imagine being a boy, a girl, a parent, a child minder – and undoubtedly there will be talk around housing, fathering, contraception, pregnancy, money, hunger, mothering, sleep and what it means to love and be loved, to mind and to be minded — from different points of view. The lecture will explore and display how time, tension, drama, dialogue and narrative structure are put to use in the following:

Jude the Obscure, a novel by Thomas Hardy

The River,” a story by Flannery O’Connor

Sleepyhead,” a story by Chekov, translated by Constance Garnett

The Widow’s Son,” by Mary Lavin.

Vera Drake, a film by Mike Leigh

Tuition 350 euro. Reservations can be made by emailing ckfictionclinic@yahoo.com

For more information, go to ckfictionclinic.com

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How Fiction Works: A Study of Narrative Using Works by John McGahern

Linenhall Library, Belfast. May 13 & 14, 2019. 10am–5pm, both days.
Claire Keegan will direct this fiction writing course using works by John McGahern to explore and demonstrate the mechanics of writing and narrative structure.

1. The Leavetaking

2. “Christmas”

3. “Parachutes”

4. “The Conversion of William Kirkwood”

How do stories begin? How and why does an author make an incision in time and build tension? How is a reader drawn into a narrative? Why is a reader sometimes not drawn in at all? Keegan will discuss the structure of a narrative and go into what she calls the much-neglected middle, the trunk of the story. Are endings natural? Why do stories need to end, to find a place of rest? The discussion around endings will focus on falling action, emotional consequences and inevitability. Participants will also examine the differences between the short story and the novel. This course will be of particular interest to those who write, teach, read or edit fiction — but anyone with an interest in how fiction or reading works is welcome to attend. To book your place, contact ckfictionclinic@yahoo.com  Tuition is £300. A 50% deposit secures.

 

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Claire Keegan’s story collections include Antarctica, Walk the Blue Fields and Foster (Faber & Faber). These stories, translated into 17 languages, have won numerous awards. Her debut, Antarctica, was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. “These stories are among the finest stories recently written in English,” wrote the Observer. Walk the Blue Fields, her second collection, was Richard Ford’s Book of the Year in 2010, and won the Edge Hill Prize, awarded to the strongest collection published in the British Isles. Foster won the Davy Byrne’s Award, then the world’s richest prize for a single story. New Yorker readers chose Foster as their story of the year. It was also published in Best American Stories is now on the school syllabus in Ireland. Keegan has earned an international reputation as a teacher of fiction, having taught workshops on four continents.

Fiction Workshop with Claire Keegan

Fiction Workshop with Irish writer Claire Keegan
Goldsmiths University, London
April 21 & 22, 2018. 9:30am–5:30pm, both days.

Claire Keegan, internationally acclaimed author and teacher of creative writing, will run a 2 day fiction workshop in London. This weekend will concentrate on works-in-progress submitted by the participants. Manuscripts (novel excerpt or short story of up to 3,000 words) are distributed to every participant and read with care by all. Keegan will spend between 3-5 hours on each text before the workshop begins and then examine and discuss every text with the group.

Discussion will include the structure of a narrative, paragraph structure, time, tension, drama, melodrama, statement, description, suggestion, conflict, character, humour, point of view, place and time. The aim, always, is to help each author with the next draft.
The weekend will be of particular interest to those who write, teach, read or edit fiction — but anyone with an interest in how fiction works, improving their prose and/or helping others to do so, is welcome to attend. While most participants like to submit a manuscript, this is not a requirement.

Tuition £380. To book your place, email ckfictionclinic@yahoo.com – Enquiries welcome.

Claire Keegan has written Antarctica, Walk the Blue Fields and Foster (Faber & Faber). These stories, translated into 17 languages, have won numerous awards. Walk the Blue Fields was Richard Ford’s Book of the Year in The Guardian, 2010 and won the Edge Hill Prize. Foster won the Davy Byrne’s Award, then the world’s richest prize for a single story. The stories have been published in Best American Stories, Granta,
The Paris Review and the New Yorker. Keegan also has earned an international reputation as a teacher of fiction, having taught workshops on four continents.

Of Antarctica: “These stories are among the finest stories recently written in English.” The Observer
“Every line seems to be a lesson in the perfect deployment of both style and emotion.”–Hilary Mantel
“Every single word in the right place and pregnant with double meaning.” – Jeffrey Eugenides, The New York Times
“Perfect short stories” – Anne Enright
“Keegan is a rarity, someone I will always want to read.” – Richard Ford
“The best stories are so textured and so moving, so universal but utterly distinctive, that it’s easy to imagine readers savouring them many years from now and to imagine critics, far in the future, deploying new lofty terms to explain what it is that makes Keegan’s fiction work.” -The New York Times

Short Stories and Arvon

Before working for Arvon (a charity that runs residential creative writing courses and retreats), my knowledge of short stories was mainly informed by my love of the Gothic; particularly the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and of course Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. I didn’t necessarily realise that brilliant people were still writing such exciting short stories today (silly me). This ignorance was disastrously tied to a general inability post-English degree to read or understand anything that was written after 1900.

Enter my saviours, Tania Hershman and Adam Marek, who Totleigh Barton were fortunate enough to have as tutors for a short story course in 2012 (Totleigh Barton is Arvon’s original centre – a 16th century manor house located near the village of Sheepwash, Devon…yes, that really is a place).

 

Totleigh Barton

 

Luckily for me, Tania and Adam are both ‘short-storyphiles’ and were more than willing to stay up late educating me about the exciting world of short stories. Lucky too (despite the number) for the thirteen course participants inhabiting Totleigh Barton for the week. The nervous group that had arrived on Monday afternoon and huddled self-consciously around their cream teas, were effervescent with confidence and joy by the time they left on Saturday morning. They had experienced an intense week away from all the distractions of their home life to focus on short stories and it was a week that buzzed with energy. You could almost feel the creativity and friendship building and filling the house and no-one wanted to leave on Saturday morning. Despite being on the peripheries, I felt enlightened and excited to have found a new genre of contemporary writing and a group of such lovely people.

I thought this ‘short story buzz’ must have been unique to that week; special because of that specific group of people and those wonderful tutors. However, Arvon ran a number of short story courses (besides courses in a number of other genres) at all four of their centres last year; all of which by many accounts possessed a similarly positive feel. Partly, this was because of the talented tutors that ran courses in 2013, including Claire Massey, Claire Keegan, Alexander MacLeod, Nicholas Royle, Alison MacLeod and Robert Shearman. However, I have come to realise that writers who write short stories are just generally excellent human beings.

Arvon is just as excited by short stories as its course participants. This year we will be hosting more short story courses than ever before, with the introduction of a Starting to Write Short Stories course for beginners. At Totleigh, we are very much looking forward to welcoming back Adam Marek to tutor a short story course in May with the wonderful Jane Feaver, lecturer in Creative Writing at Exeter University. There are still places available so if you are interested please visit http://www.arvon.org/course/short-story

Short stories and Arvon seem to go together beautifully. There is something about Arvon’s ethos for giving people the ‘time and space’ to write, paired with the enthusiasm and open mindedness of writers of short fiction that seems to go hand in hand, like the pit and the pendulum… without the gory bits.

Eliza Squire, Centre Assistant at Totleigh Barton

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For more information about Arvon and its work, please visit http://www.arvon.org or phone 020 7324 2554. Or to reach Totleigh Barton directly please ring 01409231338.

Edge Hill Prize 2014 Open For Submissions

Hard to believe that we’re now into the eighth year of the Edge Hill Prize. The idea came up after a one day conference I organised for short story writers and critics back in 2006. We wanted to help raise the status of the form, encouraging British publishers to accept and promote single author collections. After all this time, the Edge Hill Prize is still unique in the UK. Since we began, several major new short story awards have run alongside the National Short Story Prize  – for instance the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and the Costa Prize – but they all recognize a stand-alone story. The Frank O’Connor Award is a much bigger prize than ours, and an inspiration, but its shortlist tends to be dominated by American authors. The Edge Hill Prize awards £5000 to an author born or based in the British Isles, including Ireland, for a collection published in the previous year, with an additional £1000 Readers’ Choice prize, currently judged by BA Creative Writing students at Edge Hill. Winners so far have been Colm Tóibín, Claire Keegan, Chris Beckett, Jeremy Dyson, Graham Mort, Sarah Hall and Kevin Barry.

The deadline for entries is the first week in March. At this stage of the yearly cycle, the parcels are gradually arriving from the publishers – first, as always, the small presses, with entries from Welsh and Irish authors already looking strong. Later in March we’ll announce a longlist, narrowing that down to a shortlist of five by early May. Shortlisting is carried out by staff and postgraduates, in consultation with the three main judges. It’s a difficult and painstaking process; there can be no simple tick-box procedure. Broadly speaking, we’re looking for something that compels us to read on, something exciting in the language, and something that fully exploits the short story form. There are many gifted writers who don’t quite make the shortlist.  One or two of their stories may be outstanding, but they haven’t maintained that high standard across the whole collection. Other collections are too limited in style or subject matter, so that you feel that each story is a variation of the one that came before.

Last year the shortlisting process was made even more difficult by a record-breaking longlist. Bloomsbury had named 2012 ‘the year of the short story’, and other publishers, both independent and mainstream, seemed to share that sentiment. Even extending the shortlist to six (Kevin Barry, Emma Donoghue, Jon McGregor, Adam Marek, Jane Rogers, Lucy Wood) meant excluding some authors who in another year might have been finalists. As Graham Mort said, accepting the prize 2011, ‘literary prizes were never intended to provoke competition alone, but to celebrate diversity, quality and commitment’. The seven shortlists so far have been an inventory of the most exciting writing in the British Isles, including work by Jackie Kay, Helen Simpson, Anne Enright, A.L. Kennedy, Robert Shearman and many others.

The 2014 judging panel includes last year’s winner, Kevin Barry, Katie Allen of welovethisbook.com and Carys Bray who was the first winner of a third award category, presented for a story by a current MA Creative Writing student at Edge Hill. Her collection, Sweet Home, was subsequently published by Salt to great acclaim. With Carys on the panel, the prize has come full circle, completing the inextricable links between short story writing and reading, which turn emerging talents into established authors.

The award ceremony this year will be on 3rd July at the Free Word Centre in London. I have no idea who will be on the shortlist this year, let alone who the winner will be.

The judges’ discussions have always been spirited and amicable, fuelled by enthusiasm for the short story form, and the decisions have been difficult but always unanimous. None of us know exactly what we’re looking for, but we always recognize it when we see it.

To see terms and conditions and how to enter the competition, go to Edge Hill Prize

Davy Byrnes Short Story Award 2014

The Stinging Fly are delighted to announce the return of the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award — Ireland’s biggest short story competition.

Prize fund: €15,000 for the best short story, plus five runner-up prizes of €1,000

Competition Judges: Anne Enright, Yiyun Li and Jon McGregor

—The competition is open to Irish citizens and to writers who are resident or were born in the thirty-two counties.

—Entries must consist of a previously unpublished short story written in English. The maximum word count is 15,000 words, no minimum. Only one story per entrant.

—We will be accepting entries from December 1st 2013. No online entries. Entries must be posted/delivered to Davy Byrnes Short Story Award, c/o Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin City Libraries, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.

—The deadline for receipt of entries is Monday, Feb 3rd 2014. There is a €10 entry fee, payable online or by cheque/postal order.

—The six short-listed writers will be announced in late May/early June 2014 and the overall winner announced in June 2014.

The competition is sponsored by Davy Byrnes and organised by The Stinging Fly in association with Dublin UNESCO City of Literature

For further information about the award — and to enter your story! — please visit our website.

What the judges say:

The Davy Byrnes Award is given to a story that has the writer’s name removed, the judges of the prize have been more international than local and the prize money is substantial. These three things meant the world to me when I won in 2004, a time when I felt washed up on the shores of the Irish boom. The short story yields truth more easily than any other form, and these truths abide in changing times. As a writer turned judge, I am looking for a story that could not have been written any other way; that is as good as it wants to be; that is the just the right size for itself.

—Anne Enright

I am a staunch advocate for short stories, and respect any organisation/effort that supports stories and story writers. I am thrilled to be serving as a judge for the Davy Byrnes Award. As for what I look for in a short story, to borrow from Tolstoy: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ There are stories written like happy families, which one reads and forgets the moment one puts them down. But the stories that belong to the category of unhappy families, they can do all kinds of things: they touch a reader, or leave a wound that never heals; they challenge a reader’s view, or even infuriate a reader; they lead to a desire in the reader’s heart to be more eloquent in his ways of responding to the story yet leave the reader more speechless than before. A good story is like someone one does not want to miss in life.

—Yiyun Li

I’m both thrilled and slightly daunted to be taking part in judging the Davy Byrnes Award this year. Thrilled, because it’s a prize with an astounding track record of unearthing great talent and excellent stories; the previous judges have clearly had a very sharp reading eye. Daunted, for pretty much the same reasons. There’s a lot to live up to.

What I look for in a short story is a kind of intensity of purpose and a clarity of expression; something which holds my attention and rings clearly in my reading mind. For me, this is mostly something in the voice on the page; something in the control of the syntax, which immediately puts me in the world of that story. If it’s there, it usually kicks in within the first few lines; after that, it’s just a matter of seeing whether the writer can really keep it up.

—Jon McGregor