ABOUT ME AND THE WORK
To become a professional writer I returned to third level education at NUI Galway as a fulltime student in my mid-forties.
I revelled in and excelled at that four year academic apprenticeship. (See CV.)
My writing spore took root there, was nurtured and grew.
The previous four decades were spent in another apprenticeship, to the craft of living.
My writing decants elements from those two experiences, enables self-orientation in the world and allows me explore the oddity and pathos of the human condition.
Memory can be a capricious loom, an unreliable weaver, a chameleon that wafts the strands of narrative by which we define ourselves.
My memories of growing up in north Galway are scant but real: we lived a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle, old fashioned and strict but fair parents, love in abundance, censorious storytelling, farming, kindness, neighbours and Catholicism – a happy childhood and a miraculous alchemy when I consider the remoteness, hard work and lack of material comfort.
THE ART OF WRITING
I’ve been discovering all my life, taking note, making notes, jotting down minute details of place, fictionalising the actual, studying human behaviour, analysing reactions, transcribing phonetics, eavesdropping, making up characters to match the made-up phrases I put in their mouths.
My close friends have always given me notebooks, nice pens and pencils.
I’ve been successful with fiction, radio plays and autobiographical essays selected for broadcast.
I’ve written winning poems for no reason only that they came to me.
I’ve written very short stories on postcards, sincere love letters and eulogies.
I have no label for myself because I write in different genres. I am the blackbird that sallies between whitethorn and ash, a visiting flirtation with each.
My mantra is the 3D’s – Driven, Deadline, Discipline.
My self-belief can be a delicate creed, vulnerable as a paper boat, my words silent as mimes. At other times, the ideas, imaginings, characters and concepts are as robust as the giant horse chestnut I grew from a storm-severed limb and as healthy as a good marriage. Most days it’s somewhere in between.
I am always alone when I write.
I value silence and privacy above all else.
WHERE I WRITE
From April to October I write in a shed, a working shed, not a bespoke writer’s cabin with carpet, curtains, electricity and heat.
Under my oversized desk are recycled rag rug beds for the loyal Labrador. Baskets for three cats are haphazardly arranged. I have a solid chair and thick woollen blankets.
The swallows nest in rafters (often dive bombing the cats), green waxy ivy leaves tap the clouded window pane, a white hydrangea clings to whitewashed walls, the rain-pelted, galvanised roof is muse and music.
In winter I write in a small east-facing room where my desk (the workbench) faces a dawn-watching window, framing the old wooden gate that’s hung between two stone pillars. A canopy of mountain ash provides shade between them and me until the winter leaves scatter and I’m left with clusters of brown, elliptic-winged seed vessels that hang from bare branches. Like bunches of rattling brown keys, I watch them harden, scatter and self-propagate, a most vigorous and profuse natural regenerator.
I am an early riser. Most winter mornings when I work from home, it is a joy to watch the winding boreen morph from dark to a gradual grey into a slow ribbon of daylight.
I have no grandiose notions about the writing.
It is my job.
When I write, I go to work.
I approach it with working class attitude. I do not poeticise.
I keep the tools sharpened, diesel in the van, my lunch packed and the finished product in mind.