Posted by: mdmusingsie | June 10, 2012

Dublin Writer’s Festival

I’ve discovered that the Writer’s Festivals in Ireland (Cúirt, Listowel Writer’s Week, Dublin Writer’s) are somewhat different than I expected.

What they do represent is a celebration of writers. The primary focus of the sessions is readings (occasionally followed by an open panel discussion) by published authors. These authors range from new, upcoming talents all the way through established big names. All the major categories are represented from fiction to poetry, including music, to non-fiction, children’s through adults and all things in between. They must be praised for their inclusion of events for children, not only to encourage readers, but to begin grooming future writers.

What they didn’t have very much of was workshops that dealt with the business of publishing. I had been expecting a few more sessions on how to get published, including self publishing, how to find an agent or editor, marketing and promotion, and other aspects to assist new writers who have yet to cross that seemingly magical threshold. For the unpublished, it would certainly be nice to have those kind of resources, especially in this age where getting published, at least traditionally, is becoming increasingly difficult.

There were a number of sessions I would have liked to attend at the Dublin Writer’s Festival; however, due to the format where most of the higher profile sessions were evening presentations during the week, it just wasn’t financially feasible for me to spend a week in a hotel. (I’m sure there are more budget friendly options, but I’m admittedly too high maintenance for a hostel.)

I did make it to several sessions on Saturday. The first was with Mary and Bryan Talbot on their graphic novel Dotter of her Father’s Eyes which weaves the tale of Lucia Joyce (James Joyce’s daughter) with Mary Talbot, daughter of a similarly demanding academic James S. Atherton.

Much of the discussion centered on the format. A graphic novel is, in the simplest terms, a comic book for adults, though obviously more lengthy. With both husband and wife published authors in their own right, Mary more on the side of academia, and Bryan a prolific cartoonist and illustrator, this is their first collaboration. While I think graphic novels are an interesting concept that has been gaining more popularity, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s a sign of our sound-bite world with pictures replacing words. I suppose, in a way, it’s just a genre in and of itself, attracting a particular segment of the population. However, currently, the format does not lend itself well to e-readers (except possibly the Apple i-Pad), so distribution is currently limited.

The second event I attended was called Songs of the Scribe-A Gala evening of poetry, prose and song. Obviously, this was right up my alley; especially as the songs combined traditional Irish music with ancient lyrics. Several authors gave readings, some entirely in Irish (where I only caught my cúpla focal) and others in English or mixed. As they were asked to make mention of the writing process itself, the most memorable one was Kevin Power who read excerpts from the journal he keeps while writing. It clearly showed the ups and downs each writer goes through during the writing process. From the good days, when words flow like raging rivers and you really think you’re doing an outstanding job, to the not so good days, where it’s a struggle to even get that pen to touch paper (or fingers on keyboard) and you think it’s all rubbish, he really epitomized the good, bad, and the ugly of being a writer.

Naturally, the music won the day for me, and Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, Dónal O’Connor, Macdara Ó Graham put on a fine performance of Irish music. Pádraigín mentioned that much of the lyrics were really just poems, hand written almost as doodles in the margins of elaborate ancient manuscripts by scribes. The only thing I could fault them for was the use of amplification (i.e. microphones). In the intimate confines of the Dublin Unitarian Church, I think it would have been more beautiful without the technological aid.

Although I would have liked to attend more sessions, I was quite happy with the few I was able to see at the Dublin Festival, and hope to revisit these festivals (the ones I attended and those I wasn’t able to make) next year.

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