I love the grandeur of the Irish Writers Centre at 19 Parnell Square, Dublin. It’s broad front steps bordered by cast iron black railings. The sweep and curve of the shallow staircase when you enter. The paintings. The book lined, wooden floored intimacy of the reception room with tables for you to sit and write, read, chat. The grand Georgian double fronted training room. The warm red painted walls, white high corniced ceiling, the grand windows looking out on the square. However, I’m not sure about the writers.
I attended the launch of the IWC Novel Fair last night along with an assortment of fifty plus men and women of all styles (all varying shades of white though). There was the casual, smart, trendy, bohemian, shabby, capped, colourful – as you’d imagine. Most of us were alone and, what’s the word? Diffident. There is always an air of diffidence among the writers at the IWC.
The discussion panel consisted of Angela Carter, a successful finalist of the Novel Fair from 2013, Dan Bolger from New Island and Martina Devlin, one of last year’s judges and board member. Kate Cunningham, the Communications Officer did the introductions and away we went, excellently chaired by Martina. The questions she posed were incisive, probing and elicited interesting information from Dan as to what he, as a publisher wanted (good authentic writing, clear, empathetic and emotional) and what he might edit out (raunchy sci fi) and from Angela about her experience of the novel fair (it made publishers and editors sit up and take notice).
It was the writers’ questions that made me shiver. ‘Tell us what you mean by “good writing’’’ they cried, ‘could you expand on your answer’. It was plaintive, a wail that hung in the ether by threads from the beautiful Georgian cornices; a silent plea to tell us what to write; to define good. It felt so needy. Surely, as writers, they understand what writing is? Good prose, good dialogue, good character development, good plot, suspense, humour, magic. And no one book can have all those elements. I understand ‘writing’ is a lonely and insecure occupation, but please, writers, don’t make a holy show of yourselves. If you don’t know what good writing is, read more books or give up writing. If you want to know whether your writing is good, read it to people and/or get an editor or a mentor (check the IWC website). Or attend one of the IWC courses or indeed, send it in to the novel fair. Have courage, writers, take heart. Oh, dear, listen to me…maybe I should get out more.
Happy Easter…and writing!