Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award

The closing date for our Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award has been extended to Friday 29th March 2013.  The competition, in honour of the late sports journalist, is open to writers aged 20 or younger.  Entries should be 500 words max and may be in the form of a report or feature piece on a sports topic or sports personality of your choice. ENTRY IS FREE.

For more on Con Houlihan, click the links below:

 Meet our Workshop Directors

Manchán Magan (below) is probably best known for No Béarla – his documentary series about travelling around Ireland speaking only Irish.  His travel programmes for TG4 explored remote cultures.  He also writes the Magan’s World column for the Irish Times and has written for the Guardian, LA Times and Washington Post.  Manchán is directing our Travel Writing Workshop.

 Manchán-MaganQ.        Did you know from a young age that you would be a writer?

 A.        I showed worryingly latent symptoms of the travel writing disease from an early age. My father would ask me at the breakfast table when I was age 5 to tell the family about my adventures as Manchán from Hongkong. Or Monkong from Hongkong. I was able to provide a visceral sense of my life in the imaginary city, with detailed descriptions of the surroundings and my adventures. I spent most of my youth roaming through internal dream worlds and desperately wanted to convey a sense of these to others. At age 20 I began travelling the world and immediately felt that same urge to capture in words all that I had seen and experienced.

 Q.        Who were your major early influences?

 A.        I found Jacques Costeau unimaginably alluring. His life of travel and adventure made me swoon.  Then in my teens I read all the British travel writing classics from between the wars and couldn’t believe how jingoistic and racist they were. It seemed to me that a new form of travel writing was desperately needed, and then suddenly Redmond O’Hanlon appeared and changed everything – followed by Bill Brysan a decade later.

Q.        Describe your daily schedule.

 A.        I’m in Ghana now. When in traveller mode, I’m up at 7am and out traipsing the streets or the countryside, just lapping it all up, seeing where I end up, what adventures I stumble upon. Insights and phrases generally come to me only during bus journeys and in the evening over a sundowner – the days are too fraught for reflection. When I’m at home in my little hovel in Westmeath, I write from 10am until 3pm, with a one-hour lunch break, during which I listen to American Public Radio, NPR, etc. After 3pm I walk or cycle until dinnertime, then do emails or research in the evening. I don’t own a TV and never will.

 Q.        Do you use computer or quill?

 A.        Laptop. Although the battery has died on the one I’ve with me here in Ghana, and at the moment the generator will run out of diesel and I’ll be left in blackness with these sentences obliterated from the planet. This is my fourth attempt at writing this posting. I daren’t risk going back and checking on spelling or grammer. Amazing how focused one’s writing gets, knowing that the words will vanish in seconds. It’s barely imaginable that the city of Accra is having so many powercuts considering the country now has vast amounts of oil being pumped out of the sea here every day. Ghana is becoming rich quick, but that doesn’t yet mean they can keep the electricity working.

 Q.        For you, what are the highlights/memorable experiences of Listowel Writers’ Week? 

 A.        I had for long yearned to experience Writers Week, but also feared it. I doubted I had the constitution for it. I had heard petrifying stories about the alcohol intake at it. But, my first ever Writers Week last year was a phenomenally enjoyable experience.  The intimacy of the town, (and the booziness), makes it more like a family wedding/reunion than a regular stuck-up literary event. 

Carlo Gebler (below) is the author of several novels including The Eleventh Summer, The Cure, How to Murder a Man and The Dead Eight, which was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.  He has also written several novels for children as well as several plays for both radio and the stage. Carlo will direct our Creative Writing Advanced workshop.

 Carlo-GeblerQ.        Did you know from a young age that you would be a writer?

A.        My mother (Edna O’Brien) read a lot to me.  She read A. A. Milne’s When We Were Young, Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Mommintroll and Sean O’Sullivan’s Folktales of Ireland.  These (and other books) had an extraordinary effect.  Once the writers’ words, carried into my head by mother’s voice, had filled my being, I would fall into a mild trance and, for as long as the trance lasted, I ceased to be anxious and I was somebody else, somebody relatively happy.  I learned to read (I have no recollection of the process – I simply recall, at the age of four or five, being able to look at words and understanding what they meant) and miracle of miracles I discovered when I read books I got the same tranced feeling as I had got when I was read to.  During childhood and adolescence I read and read and the books continued to work their magic. 

 Q.       Who were your major early influences?

A.        Like so many children in England with Irish roots, (the Gebler’s lived in Morden, south London) my brother and I were sent ‘home’ every summer to my mother’s parents, Michael and Helena O’Brien, who lived in County Clare on a working farm; every morning cows were milked and the churns taken by donkey and cart to the creamery.  By 1964 my parents were separated, and my brother and I shuttled between their houses.  My mother lived in Putney, where the writer Nell Dunn (best known probably for Up the Junction) was one of our neighbours.  In the summer of 1966 (at which point I was twelve years old) Nell took us to her father’s villa in Mallorca, and there, one afternoon, she gave me L’Étranger, or The Outsider, by Albert Camus to read, in an edition with an introduction by the critic Cyril Connolly. I carried the book to the terrace, lay on a recliner and started.  When I finished, having read the novel and Connolly’s introduction in one sitting, the sun had sunk below the horizon and the mountains were purple and shadowed.  The Outsider was captivating.  The language was thrillingly laconic and direct, like in an American detective story but instead of bringing to life a US city with Buicks and skyscrapers and private eyes, Camus conjured up Algiers, with its trams, tenements and obdurate white settlers.

After The Outsider, I read with new alertness, much of what I read being books Nell gave me.  Besides more Camus, the highlights were Henry de Montherlant’s The Girls and Pity for Women (I loved the pessimism of these novels), Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, and the short stories of Chekhov and Maupassant, whose narrative brevity and stylistic clarity I’ve tried to emulate ever since.

 Q.        Describe your daily schedule.


A.        I like to get up early: six o’clock in the winter, earlier in summer when there is lots of light.  Sometimes I will go for a walk: otherwise I will potter around the house for an hour: I will clean and lay the fire and I will let out the dog: then I will wake my wife by what she terms (or we both term) the ‘humane waking system’: I bring her coffee and toast in bed and I turn on the bedside radio (BBC Radio 4 obviously because we’re muesli crunching Guardian reading pinkos.)  Then I pop out and buy the papers and by eight o’clock latest I like to be at my desk and working: sometimes this can mean writing, but it can also mean editing, marking (I teach in a couple of universities) or writing emails. And I work through the day breaking only to fetch children home.  Three evenings a week I go to yoga (one of mankind’s greatest if not mankind’s greatest invention): an American runs the class and her instructions are a model of clarity. I only alter my routine when I work away from home: at the moment I go to Dublin on Sundays as I teach in Trinity (at the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing) on Mondays: I’m teaching the M. Phil (and adore it – the teaching I mean): and on Wednesdays I work in HMP Maghaberry where I rejoice in the title writer-in-residence.  I have worked in prisons for the last twenty years (I started in HMP Maze (Long Kesh to truculent Republicans) and I am happy to acknowledge that most of what I know I have learnt talking to prisoners.  Jail has been my education and it has profoundly altered (for the better I hope) how I see the world.

 Q.        Do you use computer or quill?

A.        Mac iBook G4 & Olivetti Lettera 22 (a portable typewriter).  Also the Mont Blanc pen my wife gave me for my 30th birthday.  

 Q.        For you, what are the highlights/memorable experiences of Listowel Writers’ Week?  

 A.        Breakfast in the dining room on bright May mornings and looking out at the racetrack. The older I get the more I need light and the more I am lifted and cheered up by the experience of light.  Light banished melancholy better than anything else.

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