Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Listowel Writers’ Week

Listowel Writers’ Week would like to wish you all a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day, wherever you are in the world!

St Patrick's Day

Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award

There are still two weeks left to enter our Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award.  The closing date is Friday 29th March 2013, so get scribbling and send your entries to Listowel Writers’ Week, 24, The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry.

The competition, in honour of the late sports journalist and Kerry legend, 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.

Meet Julian Gough, Director of our Writing A Play for Radio Workshop

There are still places available on our range of Literary Workshops. Please click Workshops for full details.  Remember, you can also book online now, or if you prefer, you can still phone the Listowel Writers’ Week office on 068 21074.

Julian Gough (below) is an award-winning author of prose, poetry and radio plays.  His first BBC radio play, The Great Hargeisa Goat Bubble was adapted for stage by Fishamble and the Galway Arts Festival in 2012.  His second, The Great Squanderland Roof, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2012. Julian will direct our Writing a Play for Radio workshop.

Julian-GoughQ.        Did you know from a young age that you would be a writer?

A.        Very young. The sound of my old manual typewriter, clattering away in the womb, gave my poor pregnant mother many a sleepless night… Ah yes, I knew fairly early. I read my first proper book when I was seven. It was Black Beauty, and the ending was so sad it traumatised me. I ran the length of the house, sobbing, to my mother, and said “Never let me read a book again!” But on another level, I was fascinated with the power of that book. I was amazed that someone could just write down some words, and a hundred years later they could go off like a hand grenade in my head. Stories could set off real emotions, in strangers, at a distance. I wanted to do that. I wanted to understand the mystery. So I started writing little stories around then. But they were shite, and I never finished any of them, because I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to build a story so it would stay up. They were mostly about animals. Children’s stories.

 Q.       Who were your early influences?

 A.       David Bowie, for the hairstyles. Great hair is a vital, and often over-looked, part of becoming a great author. More seriously, David Bowie, for the clothes. Influences, influences… Well, towards the end of primary school, in Nenagh CBS, I discovered science fiction, and that was a HUGE influence. You didn’t have to use the real world; you could make up an entire new planet, new society, new technology. So writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl, and some terrible writers like EE “Doc” Smith, who could not write an un-clunky sentence, or create a character who was less than 85% cardboard… but who did tell tales on the most epic, galactic scale. I’d be reading Spacehounds of the IPC under my desk in Irish class. Aliens who lived on the moons of Saturn, at a hundred degrees below zero, who built buildings out of steel-hard ice, and had flammable antifreeze for blood. They thought of water as “molten ice”! This was mind expanding stuff for a kid. And then later, Catch 22, Portnoy’s Complaint, Kurt Vonnegut’s stuff. These were big influences. Samuel Beckett blew my tiny mind. Jane Austen’s Emma – Wow. The way the prose drifted in and out of the heroine’s mind was so good. Masterful control of viewpoint. And her Northanger Abbey was a terrific takedown of the Gothic novel. Parodied a whole genre. Ruthless comedy. Then Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a lot of pop music influenced me. Everything from The Smiths and Prince to Kraftwerk and Faust. From Abba to The Silver Jews. Pop music is another great way of getting strangers to feel emotions at a distance. And I’ve just remembered, my brother Desmond and I made our first radio play when I was about twelve and he was ten. Our father was a fire officer, and his office was full of cool gear. We borrowed our father’s dictaphone, and took turns recording lines of dialogue which we made up as we went along. It was a play about an aircraft being hijacked. I was the pilot, and my brother was the stewardess. I think we both played hijackers. I remember us sitting on my aunt’s lawn in the sunshine with the dictaphone, arguing about what should happen next. I don’t think we finished that one either. With all the arguing, it took us all day to record about a minute and a half of it. I think I wanted more explosions, and Des wanted more romance.

 Q.       Describe your daily schedule

 A.       Fight monsters all night in my sleep. Wake, shower, put on the coffee. Fight monsters all day. I do most of my writing in the mornings, these days. That’s because I’m knackered at night. Back when I was a young fellow and had more energy, I wrote my first published novel, Juno & Juliet, after midnight, in Java’s Cafe in Galway, mostly between midnight and 4am. It wasn’t a grand strategy. It was just very hard for me to get down to work. Eventually, I set myself a target of two hours writing every day. I had to do it, or it would be added to my quota the next day. That’s two hours of actual mental or physical writing; if I sat there for ten minutes thinking about football, even if I was sitting with a pen in my hand, that ten minutes didn’t count. But I would still put off writing all day, and then by midnight I’d be in despair, and finally begin, with a coffee, in Java’s.  I liked the feeling of being alone in the crowd. I liked the white noise of the coffee machine and the conversations around me as I wrote. It was less lonely.

 Q.       Do you use computer or quill?

 A.       Both. My first books were all written longhand. I would type them up, print out the draft, then edit and rewrite on that paper printout in longhand, so everything was in fact written by pen. Black ink UniBall Micro Eye pens, if you’re interested. Now, recently, I’ve trained myself to compose on the computer, and I’ve just written a novel direct to screen. But I still do most of my edits on paper. Though I always use a red pen for rewrites and edits now, as it’s much easier to see what you’ve changed when you’re typing it all up. I did wonder, and worry, would there be a big change, moving from pen to computer. But if anything, the quality of the writing has gone up. The first story I wrote straight to screen was The iHole, which was shortlisted for the BBC International Short Story Award, broadcast on Radio 4, etc. The second one I wrote direct to screen was published in Best British Short Stories 2012. So, no drop in quality, I hope. And it’s a LOT faster. But of course I’m a better typist now, which helps. Pen, keyboard, dictation; the method doesn’t matter. What is important is that the writing method doesn’t get in the way – that you aren’t stumbling over it. Use whatever’s easiest and most natural for you. A great way to force yourself to loosen up and blast out a first draft is a piece of software called Write or Die. And the best piece of software for doing serious writing is Scrivener. It’s designed for writing big, creative projects, and it is magnificent. Word sucks, Word is a business tool, it doesn’t understand creativity, and it hinders you as a writer. Use Scrivener.

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

A.        Oh, the whole thing is a highlight. Lovely people in a good mood. That goes for audience, authors, and organisers. I really enjoyed Germaine Greer last year, The Dubliners, Paul Howard… And the conversations in John B. Keane’s late at night are an art-form in themselves. Really looking forward to coming back.