As you guys know by now, I met Derek Landy (!) on his book tour in Dublin, got my picture taken with him (!!), and asked him to sign three of my Skulduggery Pleasant books (!!!).
Definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
However, he wasn’t the only author I met (and learned from) on my study abroad trip. During the six weeks of my program, four Irish authors came in to talk to my classmates and I about writing, life, and many many other things. While I had never heard of any of them before, I certainly got to talk to them for much longer than I did with Derek (because the line for the signing was so long lmao) and it was great to pick their brains for advice.
One of our assignments in the Dublin Summer Writing Workshop was to post some brief thoughts on the author talk we had just attended, so I’m going to recap my fav advice from each author.
As Mr. Bolger has been writing since the eighties and has had quite a few novels, plays, and poems published over the years, he has a lot of experience with how your writing changes over time. Therefore, what I took away from his talk was his observation that he could not have written his first book at any other time in his life, could not have written his latest at the age he was when he wrote his first, et cetera.
“It just wouldn’t be the same story,” he said, and added that your experiences and state of mind influence everything that you write: They are inseparable from the story itself, even if you don’t realize it at the time. I appreciated his perspective since, as a twenty-year-old, I clearly don’t have as many years under my belt!
Morris, on the other hand, is a relatively young writer. He is currently the editor of The Stinging Fly, a literary magazine that is evidently THE place to be published if you want to be recognized as an up-and-coming Irish writer.
During his talk, we examined multiple drafts of his short story “Fugue,” which we’d read previously, and discussed what did and didn’t work in each one. It was amazing to see the differences between each new version, especially since I consider the finished product to be one of the best short works I’ve read in a while! We talked about how some techniques (the use of certain tenses, framing the narration through a blog post or letter, et cetera) aren’t inherently bad, but when they’re not right for a particular story, you’ll know – because they’ll be terrible.
Máire T. Robinson
Her big piece of advice? Try not to take long breaks, especially in the middle of a big project. In her case, she recently had a baby, interrupting her writing “flow,” and she admitted that it’s been hard to get back into her old habit. (Happily, however, she says she has made some progress!)
She also recommended the Pomodoro technique to stay focused while writing, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy and writerly inside because that’s exactly what I use for studying and writing and sometimes even reading! 99% of the time I’m either easily distracted by the internet or running low on spoons due to poor mental health, so breaking tasks up into Pomodoros makes even the biggest of projects more bearable. It’s basically the entire reason I’ve gotten anything done in the past year, so it was very validating to hear a Real Live Author™ mention it.
As a teenager, McLaughlin dreamed of being a lawyer someday. Eventually, her hard work paid off and she spent years in a career she loved. However, during a long period of illness bad enough to force her to quit her job, she discovered that she loved writing. Gradually, she has transitioned to writing full-time.
If that’s not motivational, I don’t know what is. Although I’m currently majoring in subjects that will hopefully aid me in all my Writerly Pursuits, who knows what kind of job I’ll work in order to pay the bills? Sometimes I worry that I’ll find myself doing something that leaves very little time for writing, so McLaughlin’s words were very reassuring because they reminded me that your life can (and probably will) veer off in an unexpected and unusual direction.
Oh, before I forget, she also stressed the importance of joining a writing group! I’m already ahead of the game on this one since I both participate in and volunteer with the Iowa Writers’ House, an organization based in/around my college town, and it reminded me how necessary community is for writers. I had a little community with my classmates for the first half of this summer, but now I’m on my own until I head back to Iowa City for the fall semester. I’ll hang in there, but I gotta admit it can be a little lonely at times. WRITING FRIENDS NEARBY = GOOD, WRITING FRIENDS FAR AWAY = BAD AND ALSO SAD.
Have you read any work by these authors? What is the latest piece of writing advice you found most useful? I’d love to know; I could use all the writing help/inspiration I can get!