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A chat with our writing tutors

We asked some authors who have been wonderful tutors at 'Ireland Writing Retreat' over the last five years how their writing lives have developed since they were last teaching with us, and if they consider entering writing awards a worthwhile activity.

Here are their answers.

Anthony Quinn (r) shares a relaxed moment with other authors and retreat participants

Since I was a tutor at ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ my novels ‘Undertow’ and ‘The Listeners’ have been published to critical acclaim in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and The Irish Times, which also picked ‘The Listeners’ as one of its Best Crime Novels of 2019.

‘Undertow’ was translated into German and published as Gestrandet, earning great reviews in Der Spiegel, Kulturnews and other German newspapers. My next novel, ‘Turncoat,’ will be published in November. 

I have also been teaching creative writing at Queens University Belfast, on the undergraduate and Masters Degree courses, and have just finished a post as Cavan Writer-in-Residence, which was funded by the Cavan Arts Office and the Irish Arts Council.

I wrote about my time in Cavan and the benefits of story-telling during these unsettled, precarious years of Brexit in an Irish Times article.

On Writing Awards

I'd heartily recommend emerging writers submit to writing competitions. They are a great platform to launch a writing career and a boost to the creative ego. Entering Ireland Writing Retreat’s Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) competition is a fantastic opportunity to open new and exciting doors, and to encounter inspirational people and landscapes. 

Since my time as a tutor at the Ireland Writing Retreat in 2018 my debut novel, 'A Knife in the Fog,' was an Edgar Finalist for Best First Novel, winning the Silver Falchion for Best Mystery at Killer Nashville while the audiobook won Audiofile Magazine’s 2019 Earphone Award for Mystery and Suspense. It has since been released in Japan by Hayakawa Publishing.

My second novel, 'Queen’s Gambit,' released in September 2019 to strong reviews.

I’ve also sold an essay to a Catholic magazine regarding my experiences walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. 

On Writing Awards

There are thousands of new titles coming out every week, all clamoring for the readers’ attention. Whatever you can do to distinguish yourself from other writers all desperate to sell their book, the better. Having served as a tutor at the 'Ireland Writing Retreat' I can testify that the degree of individual attention and skilled mentoring each student receives helps them along the journey of self-discovery every writer undertakes to find their voice, and their audience. 

Tutoring by Belfast author, Danny Morrison (center) was so appreciated at our retreat, he received a spontaneous choral rendering of 'Danny Boy' by grateful participants.

As well as teaching I also review books, edit and proof manuscripts, and organise literary events and guest interviews at Belfast’s Féile an Phobail, one of the largest community festivals in Ireland.

My nonfiction book, ‘Then The Walls Came Down – A Prison Journal,’ about my experiences as a political prisoner in Ireland, has been re-issued in paperback and is also on Kindle.

In June 2016, I hosted several creative writing classes at ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ and never tire of meeting new people, especially those who have overcome modesty or apprehension because it does take courage to declare you want to be a writer. I can only hope that I impart some of the knowledge I have gained over decades of writing and reading, and perhaps save the novice from repeating my mistakes in not identifying where strengths lie, as well as acknowledging weaknesses. For example, I cannot write science fiction and know nothing about zombies!

On Writing Awards

Writing awards are a great opportunity for emerging writers to compete with their peers and have their work published and acknowledged, and the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) is a particularly generous offering.

I remember the first payment I ever received for a piece of writing and the elation was indescribable. I remember winning a poetry competition and at last I felt endorsed, affirmed, and as described by Cavafy in The First Step, I was now a member of the ‘city of ideas.’

A smiling Rachael Kelly (l) is introduced at our writing retreat by Sean Hillen.

When I tutored at ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ I had just published my first non-fiction book, ‘Mark Antony in Popular Culture.’  I have since published my debut novel, the science fiction thriller ‘Edge of Heaven,’ released in 2016 and re-released this year with a new publisher, NewCon Press.

I’ve also received an Artists Career Enhancement Scheme award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This supported the writing of my second novel, which will also be published by NewCon Press.

On Writing Awards

Competitions are a level playing field for emerging writers. Awards (like the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards) are an excellent way to build up a writing biography. I always encourage writers to enter as many competitions as they can.

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