Q&A with Anthony Glavin: 3-Day Novel Getting Started Workshop Director

We’re delighted to introduce Anthony Glavin as our 3-Day Novel – Getting Started Workshop Director. Anthony was formerly editor of ‘New Irish Writing’ at the Irish Press and Commissioning Editor for New Island Books. Author of the acclaimed Nighthawk Alley, a second novel, Colours other than Blue will be published in March. He has also published two short story collections, One for Sorrow and The Draughtsman and the Unicorn, and his short fiction has been widely anthologised in Ireland, the UK and the USA.

Q. Have you visited Listowel Writers’ Week before? If so, what were your impressions?

A. I took part in both the 2004 and 2005 Writers’ Weeks, and have been keen to return to Listowel ever since. The two Short Story workshops I facilitated were an absolute pleasure, as was the opportunity to participate in a publishing & editing panel and attend various readings. I also met several fellow writers over a slow pint, and whose friendships I have treasured since, and Listowel town is a treat in itself.

Q. You have a new novel coming out in March. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Colours other than Blue
Colours other than Blue

A. Colours Other Than Blue tells the story of Maeve Maguire who, together with her teenage daughter Katy, has lived in Dublin for nearly 13 years. Set in the pre-boom Ireland of 1988, the novel flashes back to 1950/70s Boston where Maeve grew up with an emotionally complex mother. Struggling with grief at her father’s recent death, Maeve begins to write down memories of her Boston childhood and family life in a notebook.  Over the next nine months a picture begins to emerge of another, more subterranean, sorrow — that of her mother’s death some thirteen years earlier. The novel also recounts how Maeve confronts several other home truths about her life: from love, single motherhood and her relationship with her daughter, to the demanding, if often comic challenges of her day-job. Large stuff, writ small—or at least that’s what I’ve tried to do!

Q.  Can you say something too about how and why you came to write it?

A. The short answer of why I came to write it lies with whatever impulse it is that compels so many of us to story tell.  How I came to write it began with a conversation I had with a stranger on a flight home from Boston to Dublin, returning from my mother’s funeral nearly 20 years ago. That stranger bequeathed me with enough of a storyline to be getting on with, and for which I’ll be forever grateful!

Q. Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?

A. I loved reading from an early age, but don’t think I thought about writing myself until my 19th summer when I kept a journal as I hitch-hiked and bussed some 9,000 miles around the USA. Trying nightly to put down in words what I’d experienced that day was more pleasure than task, and some of the stories I heard from those who gave me lifts, or whom I met along the road, resonated like fiction.

Q. Do you have a favourite time or place to write?

A. The masterful novelist and short story writer Benedict Kiely told me of the several locations within his Donnybrook, Dublin houseNighthawk Alley which he used for different kinds of writing—one for fiction, a second for book reviews, travel columns and other journalism, and a third for letters! I, however do most of my own writing – whether fiction or non-fiction – in my box-room study. But I’m happy to write anywhere I find the time, whether at the kitchen table, in bed, or on the train to Wexford, Galway, Ennis, Sligo or Belfast!  I haven’t as yet tried Catherine Dunne’s sometimes strategy of rising at 5.00 a.m. before either email or phone calls come knocking, but will yet, I think, as it sounds only mighty.

Q, You have been both Editor of ‘New Irish Writing’ at the Irish Press and Commissioning Editor for New Island Books, as well as one of the judges for the Irish Writers Centre Greenbean Novel Fair in 2012, 2014 and 2016. What qualities are you looking for when a short story or novel lands on your desk?

A. Compelling fiction is fashioned from a host of factors, from language and form to characterisation and pacing. But I think it’s a distinctive voice above all, in tandem with strong, graphic writing and an original storyline that work to pull me ever further within the narrative.

Q. Who were your early literary influences?

A. Sherwood Anderson’s magnificent short story collection Winesburg, Ohio which I read in my late teens, or the pared-down prose of Hemingway’s stories and novels; the splendid The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett or anything by William Faulkner, all of whom I read in my early twenties, set me to wishing that I too could write, as did the short stories of Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, or Mary Lavin who I first encountered in The New Yorker. However, fiction draws from more than words alone, and there’s a strong element of storytelling in painters like the American Edward Hopper that always fascinated me – the one or two figures that populate his clapboard houses and redbrick apartment buildings, what looks to be their loneliness, and the questions those paintings seem to pose about those lives.

The Draughtsman and The Unicorn
The Draughtsman and The Unicorn

Q. Who are your favourite fiction writers now?

A. Ah, how much time and space do we have? I’ll just quickly throw out Alice Munro, José Saramago, Marilynne Robinson, Colm Tóibín, Vassily Grossman, Mary Costello and John Le Carré, though I could come up with another fistful of names tomorrow, like Margaret Atwood, W. G. Sebald, Peter Matthiessen… though the latter pair are sadly no longer with us.

Q. What are you reading at the moment?

A. I’ve just finished Catherine Dunne’s riveting and darkly powerful new novel, The Years That Followed, and am taking up Belinda McKeon’s Tender next, along with Donal Ryan’s story collection, A Slanting of the Sun. And yes, there’s another Saramago novel, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis along with Marilynne Robinson’s Lila awaiting on the bedside table.

Q. What do you think are the main benefits of attending a 3-day Creative Writing Workshop?

A. First, and possibly foremost, it’s provides a great opportunity to focus directly on one’s writing practice—or on one’s interest in taking up a writing practice. The group experience is another positive factor. Given that writing is by its nature very much a solitary pursuit, the chance to meet other writers and to share your own and their work can prove hugely stimulating and inspiring.

Q. Briefly, what will you be covering in your Novel Getting Started Workshop?

A. Our workshop will employ both discussion and short writing exercises to explore matters such as form, setting, voice, characterisation and intent, and how plot differs from storyline. However, we’ll also consider how to best keep the writing process moving forward should energy, inspiration or confidence begin to flag, and whether what we love about those novels which have truly moved us might also possibly inform our own craft—and the novels that we want to undertake.

You can book a place on Anthony’s 3-Day Workshop here Novel – Getting Started