Sunday, November 22, 2009

Anam Cara in the News...

Retreat To Get into the Write Frame of Mind
Good food, good company, and seclusion to create. Who could ask for more? Bridget Whelan checks out Anam Cara writer’s retreat.

“GOT to go, I think I’ve a poem coming on.”

After an hour of chat and laughter that covered life, love, and potato blight, a writer excused herself from the dinner table and went back to her study bedroom overlooking the glorious Coulagh Bay on the Beara Peninsula.

It was a typical mealtime at a residential retreat in West Cork that provides writers and artists with good company, good food and, most important of all, time to slow down and listen to those small ideas that might grow into a poem, a painting or a story if given the right nurturing.

My own stay at Anam Cara was funded by a generous bursary from The Society of Authors, granted to buy me the time to work on my second novel.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the five-bedroomed house in an out-of-the-way corner of Cork four miles from Castletownbere during one of the wettest summers in living memory.

Fellow writers had recommended it, and I already knew that it was connected with the prestigious Fish literary organisation: A week at Anam Cara is a prize in one of the international writing competitions that they run every year.

With such excellent credentials, I was hoping for sufficient space and solitude to get down to some serious work. I got that and more.

My fortnight turned out to be both a retreat from routine concerns and an advance into an Irish way of living that reconnected me to my roots.

An added bonus was being able to explore a very damp and beautiful countryside in a borrowed pair of Wellingtons.

Anam Cara has every amenity. There is an upright grand piano in the lounge, and guests can access a DVD collection that most local libraries would envy.

Worries can be steamed away in the sauna, and on one memorable night, I sat in the hot tub on the terrace gazing at the stars as soft West Cork rain washed my face.

In the surrounding five acres, there are ducks and chickens, a magnificent waterfall, hidden walkways and numerous places to rest and drink in the mountain and sea views.

I don’t want to give the impression, however, that it is a superior bed and breakfast.

Guests come either to attend a workshop or to focus on their own project.

There are few rules, but the most important is that this is a place for creative work.

For that reason, the house is quiet between 9.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. every day – and even the postman knows to come on tip-toe.

It is a book-filled sanctuary that offers, in the words of the director Sue Booth-Forbes, the opportunity to “slow down and hear your voice. It is a chance to do your best work.”

The spirit of the retreat is summed up in its name. Anam Cara means “soul friend” in Irish, and it was chosen, in part, as a tribute to the work and writing of the poet and scholar John O’Donohue.

The retreat has an extensive library, and the section devoted to books written by former residents is a testament to the diversity of the work produced since it opened in 1998.

Here hard-hitting action novels sit alongside contemplative verse, and light romantic comedies jostle for shelf space with award-winning short stories.

It had the look and feel of a happy international community, and when I glanced at a visitors’ book on the first night, I was given a flavour of what I could expect: “An idyllic life writing and eating in a little bit of paradise – the mountain, the sea, the sky. Life doesn’t get much better than this.”

If there is a community within the walls of Anam Cara, the community outside also contributes to the success of a creative centre that is firmly embedded in the life of the Beara Peninsula.

During my stay, I went to three dances (and actually danced), visited an art gallery, and attended a birthday party that went on until 4 o’clock in the morning.

How much or how little you socialise is up to each individual artists or writer, but for me – and I think for most other residents – that sense of being included complements what we are trying to do.

The fact that I produced more solid work in 12 days than I had in the previous 12 months is evidence of that.

The view from my bedroom window was also important, even when the wind blew straight off the Atlantic, and the sky was 40 shades of grey.

Looking across Coulagh Bay most days, I could see the shores of Kerry, the part of Ireland that I claim as my own because it was where I went every summer as child, the place that I grew up calling “home.”

It’s still the place that calls me back, but the sad truth is that I now have more graves to visit than relatives.

In coming to Anam Cara and the Beara Peninsula, I found something that I hadn’t anticipated: A new feeling of belonging.

Looking again at the visitors’ book, I know I wasn’t the only resident to experience that connection. “My week here made Ireland real for me,” wrote one guest with an American address.

The Ireland of my childhood no longer exists, but the easy welcome and generosity of spirit I found in a creative community wedded to West Cork reminded me of the Yeats poem:

Whatever it says on my birth certificate, “I am of Ireland,” and I came away with the sense of myself reinforced. And 40,000 words done.

This article, written by Bridget Whelan (Brighton, England), appeared in The Irish Post on 17 October 2009. Bridget's first novel, A Good Confession, is published in the U.S. and the U.K. by Severn House.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Screenwriting Workshop Added to 2010 Schedule

Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot, A Workshop for Screenwriters
Leader: Peter Dunne
One-week Residential Workshop, arriving 21 August and departing 28 August

Much weight has been given to screenplay structure, but understanding structure is not the same as understanding writing. We are all familiar with scripts and films whose plot points fall nicely into place like pieces of a puzzle, yet are still missing an elemental, terribly important something.

The explanation is simple. Though every screenplay plot has a beginning, middle, and end, it's more important and often ignored, complex structural level is that which lies beneath.

Hidden yet hard at work, the Emotional Structure is the script's internal landscape -- its secret architecture that successfully informs the plot with purpose, viscerally connects the internal and external themes, and directly manipulates the tensions and rhythms of the drama's central ideas.

Without understanding Emotional Structure, the beginning, the middle, and the end of your script will have a one hundred percent chance of becoming the beginning, the muddle, and the end. This is because emotion rules the central, most misunderstood and most feared element of a screenplay -- that of the story's underlying meaning. And only by understanding Emotional Structure can we bring solid, creative solutions to the writing process, and meaning to our stories. It is the surest way to turn your script's problems into your script's power.

Fortunately for us, long before God created Hollywood, He created Ireland, home of the real storytellers, and the Beara Peninsula, home of the extraordinary and spiritual setting of Anam Cara. For, surely, He knew that one day every one of us was going to need the perfect place to find the strength and the courage to face the screenwriter's demons.

Writing is hard work. It demands a willingness on our part to expose our innermost selves by creating heroes who become living expressions of our spiritual DNA. That is why, combined with the serene and contemplative ambiance of Anam Cara, this workshop is specifically designed to offer the encouragement, and support, and enlightenment every writer needs, every day.

The workshop welcomes writers of all levels and will be composed of conversations addressing key issues of story, plot, conflict, and dialog; plenty of writing time in comfortable spaces to find your words; plenty of wandering time in beautiful places to find yourself; and private consultations with a special emphasis on helping each writer develop his or her own screenplay's Emotional Structure.

An award-winning producer and writer, Peter Dunne brings three decades of experience in script development, writing, and producing to every project. His experiences as a writer and producer have taken him around the world: from Los Angeles to London, from Portland to Atlanta, from Las Vegas to New Zealand.

Peter served as the Vice President of Development for three Hollywood studios before beginning his career as a screenwriter and producer. Among the projects he has produced and/or written are such classics as
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Melrose Place, Savannah, Police Story, Dallas, Knots Landing, JAG, Nowhere Man, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, and the extraordinary mini-series Sybil.

He has compiled an impressive list of honors along the way that includes the Emmy Award, the George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award, the Scott Newman Award, the Chicago Film Festival's Silver Hugo, and the distinguished Kennedy Foundation Honors, among others.

Peter is the author of the book Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot (A Screenwriter's Guide), published by Quill Driver Press, and is a contributing writer to Quality TV: Contemporary American Television and Beyond, published by I.B. Taurus, London. He teaches screenwriting at the UCLA School of the Arts, Writers' Program, and has been a visiting lecturer at Santa Clara University, The University of Southern California, and The University of Central America in El Salvador.

A dual-citizen of the United States and Ireland, Dunne is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, The Irish Writers Union, PEN Ireland, PEN USA, and PEN International. He is currently writing an unauthorized autobiography.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Workshop Added to 2010 Schedule

Workshop Leader: Karen Blomain
One-Week Residential Retreat, arriving Saturday, 12 June and departing Saturday, 19 June

"Come to magnificent Eyeries on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland. In the tranquil setting of Anam Cara, A Retreat for Writers, a relaxed format workshop for writers at all levels of accomplishment, from the novice wishing to try her hand at writing, to the seasoned writer who needs to jump start his muse for a new project, to those wishing to challenge themselves in a different art form or genre. Non-writing spouses/partners welcome; they'll find the peaceful, Irish vistas the perfect getaway and may even find themselves drawn into their own creative outlets.

"Participants are encouraged to bring ideas and dreams rather than existing work. This is a generative workshop, and does not focus on revision or editing. Instead, through daily readings and writing exercises we will explore craft issues of character development, dialog, pacing, tone, sequencing, use of description and exploration of narrative strategies. The workshop sessions are tailored to address the needs of writers in all genres. When reservations are in place, suggested reading information will be supplied."

Karen Blomain is a multi-genre writer, having published in poetry, short fiction, novels, non-fiction, essay, translation and plays. An educator with thirty years of experience in the classroom, she has taught writing workshops for participants at all ages and levels of experience in France, Austria, Russia, Mexico, Ireland and across the US. To learn more about Karen's writing, publishing and workshops (including photos and comments by participants), see her website

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Movie Made in Beara

Neil Jordan made his movie, Ondine, in Castletownbere and around the peninsula during the summer of 2008. It opened at the Toronto Film Festival on 14 September 2009; the following is the review that appeared in Variety on 15 September.

(Ireland - U.S.)

A fairy tale mashed up against the jagged unpleasantries of the modern world, "Ondine" is a film of unusual narrative currents and pungent tonal effects. Literary to its marrow both in its Irish-lilted language and the storytelling tradition upon which it draws, this modestly scaled home-base outing from Neil Jordan is a decidedly specialized affair that will appeal only to certain tastes, but there's plenty to appreciate if you let it seep in. In a market that demands must-see elements especially from indie-style features, the film can't expect more than fair returns.

Making one of his periodic returns to shoot in Ireland, this time to the fishing village of Castletownbere on the rugged Beara peninsula in the Southwest, Jordan here examines ideas related to luck, destiny, the distinction between physical and moral rehabilitation, the advantages of being willing to believe in good fortune, the value of storytelling, and the light and dark sides of fairy tales and life. Some of it is fanciful and some harsh, resulting in a deliberate collision of moods that defines the picture's personality.

"Anything strange or wonderful?" the scrappy fisherman named Syracuse (Colin Farrell) inquires of his 10-year-old daughter upon greeting her, and the two adjectives more or less describe everything that happens in this yarn, beginning with the opening, in which Syracuse raises his fishing net from the bay to find within it a young woman who, unaccountably, is alive. Although fearful she could be an asylum seeker, he prefers to imagine otherwise, that she's Ondine, "the girl who came from the water," a sign that his run of rotten luck is at an end and he may now look forward to seven years of good fortune. Encouraging this view is the fact that his catches increase enormously with her arrival.

As the scruffy fellow relates the yarn in the form of a scarcely disguised kids' story to his daughter, that's what she chooses to believe, too. Annie (Alison Barry), who lives with her disgruntled mom and the latter's loutish boyfriend, is confined to a wheelchair part-time due to weekly dialysis treatments, but has the sharpest mind and most articulate tongue in town. For whatever reason, Ondine (Alicja Bachleda) doesn't want to be seen by outsiders, but Annie is the exception, visiting at the little cottage her dad keeps down by the bay and elaborating on his tale, and local legends, with the conviction that Ondine is one of the selkies -- creatures who periodically emerge from the sea, fall in love with a human and grant a wish, only to return to the deep.

It takes a skilled writer to reconcile these wispy notions with the gritty realism that results, in this instance, in bloody violence, but Jordan is deeply versed in both these narrative veins and able to blend them into a single strand. Even if one can't be too surprised by the eventual revelations of who Ondine is and who she's hiding from, the incongruities remain startling, the plot twists "curiouser and curiouser," as father and daughter like to say. Farfetched as it may be, the little fable makes an appealing case for the idea that, once you look at something a certain way, it will be easier to justify what happens as a consequence of having understood and believed things that way in the first place.

A lone wolf who's been on the wagon for more than two years but can't live down his reputation as the village clown, Syracuse is kind and patient with his beauteous guest, who has a trace of an accent and whose perceived otherworldliness initially enforces a certain distance vis-a-vis her savior. When the inevitable passionate intimacy occurs, it coincides with the arrival in town of a dark stranger and difficulties for all concerned.

The unusual story conception is bolstered by the picture's strong physicality, which derives from cinematographer Christopher Doyle's moody, muscular rendering of coastal County Cork's alternately rocky and verdant landscapes. Bleak one moment, the setting looks like a cousin of Brigadoon the next, with weather that never wants to make up its mind. A notably unusual score by Kjartan Sveinsson at times achieves haunting effects.

Farrell is first-rate as a man with a dicey past who decides the wind has shifted in his favor, even if only for a while. Alert and good at quicksilver mood changes, the actor trades on his personal reputation by investing Syracuse with a healthy, self-deprecating attitude toward his errant past, especially in exchanges with the local priest (Stephen Rea) who knows him all too well. He's also splendid with young Barry, graciously allowing the newcomer to steal every scene she's in; captivating and terribly funny in her matter-of-fact display of Annie's bluntness, intelligence, nonchalant bravery and assertive certainty as to how things are, she gives one of the great kid performances of recent times.

The role of Ondine is tricky in that the character must remain mysterious and undefined for a long stretch, and then not become too ordinary once all is revealed. A Polish thesp who surfaced in the 2007 film "Trade," Bachleda is strong-featured and looks powerful enough to be a creature at home on land or at sea. She is also effective at letting her true and emotional self out at the crucial juncture.

Some of the thicker Irish accents will pose a problem for auds in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Five Ways Culture Can Save Us"

The following article, written by Gerry Godley, appeared in The Irish Times, on Friday, 25 September 2009. Although written about Ireland in these difficult economic times, his perspective on the role that the creative arts can and should play in our societies is universal.

IRISH ARTISTS, your country needs you. If there was a consensus among the high achievers of the Irish diaspora gathered in Farmleigh [an what-to-do-about-the-Irish-economy summit meeting] last weekend, surely this was it. A roll call of totemic figures, including financier Dermot Desmond, philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman, film-maker Neil Jordan and a forthright Minister for Arts, Martin Cullen, all avowed the importance of culture in the economic heavy lifting to come. Earlier this year, its potency in international affairs was underscored by Brian Cowen in New York, when he spoke of how “most Americans encounter Ireland today through culture: whether that is Irish dance and music, Irish film, Irish writing or an Irish play on Broadway”. Mary Robinson asserted its importance in a social fabric context speaking in August at the annual Béal na mBláth commemoration, when she said: “We should listen to our creative artists.”

Like the rest of us, they are each in their own way drawing from the well of our remarkable achievements. Each successive nominee or winner of an Oscar, Tony, Grammy, Golden Globe, Mercury and Man Booker, not to mention this week’s Emmy success, our Nobel Laureate and the world’s most successful rock band, is a jewel hewn from the rich seams of artistic expression that permeate every stratum of Irish life, representing levels of participation surpassed only by our great sporting traditions.

The arts have a vital role to play in our national recovery in five distinct areas.


“Why do the Irish write such good plays?” ran a recent feature headline in the Wall Street Journal, and the New York media’s reportage of Ireland is dominated by culture stories, to an equivalent advertising value of $5 million (€3.4 million) in the second quarter of 2009 alone. Daily on the world’s cinema screens, bookshelves, theatres and concert stages, and in its print, online and broadcast media, Irish artists are our perpetual trade mission, defending and redeeming our global reputation at a time when it is under the most rigorous scrutiny, and offering the most spirited riposte to the perception of a nation in duress. We are economically bloodied, we are culturally unbowed.


Our artistic community is a nerve that flexes the creative economy muscle. The arts instinctively foster those attributes of the enterprise model articulated in the Government’s framework document Building Ireland’s Smart Economy. Lateral thinking, big ideas, resourcefulness and invention, problem-solving, vision and originality find full expression in the output of Irish artists, and their work percolates many walks of Irish life. Dr Richard Tol at the ESRI: “Innovation is about creativity and skills, just like art is. Soon you will not be able to get a degree in electrical engineering at Princeton without having taken drama. The reasoning is that anyone can acquire skills, but the competitive edge is in creativity. Ireland beats Princeton hands down in the arts.”


There is a reason, certainly not the climate, why thousands are compelled to travel here, and cultural tourism disperses €2.3 billion annually in our local economies. This is a bona fide growth industry in Ireland, with projected upward trends of 15 per cent. As with landscape and heritage, the arts have a starring role in how we give our visitors a unique cultural experience, from our mighty international festivals of the performing arts to our vivid traditional music by a convivial hearth. Long before they arrive, it’s our writers, film-makers and touring performers who whet their appetite to come.


In 2008, some 170,000 jobs or 8.7 per cent of the total workforce were within the culture and creative sectors. Within that employment matrix lie the arts, among them practitioners, technicians, producers, curators, publishers and the other highly skilled disciplines that work together to create art from Ireland. We are an indigenous industry, active in every county, we are wholly Irish-owned, and we are exporters. Our earnings are not repatriated, and we are spending locally.

Why then, given the symbiosis between cultural health and economic recovery, are stakeholders so apprehensive about the immediate future? While the goodwill is universal, understanding of the levers and valves through which culture flows appears limited, at least on the evidence of the McCarthy Report, which if implemented will retard the cultural sector for years. Similarly the Commission on Taxation, which in removing artists’ tax exemption will further erode the subsistence income of Irish artists, the majority of whom would view the average industrial wage as a far away country.

Under the McCarthy recommendations’ targeted savings of €105 million in the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Culture Ireland, the cultural export bureau that has dramatically upped the profile of Irish art internationally, will be axed to effect savings of €4 million annually, and the Irish Film Board will face a similarly perilous future. The Arts Council, which funds thousands of independent artists, professional and voluntary organisations across the State, will see its annual funding reduced to €68 million, contextually the same sum that Anglo is lending its client Zoe Developments to complete the construction of its own CHQ in Docklands.

If the arts sector is a sponge, it’s not a particularly absorbent one. When one considers that the renegotiation of the pharmacy contract alone netted savings in the order of €133 million in the health spend, it seems that so much squeezing of the arts will be required to extract meaningful savings that the patient will not survive the procedure.

This is tacitly acknowledged in McCarthy, which goes so far as to recommend the discontinuing of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism itself, thus rendering us the only State among the EU without a senior arts ministry at cabinet.

At this time of great economic duress, and the solidarity it asks of the collective, I am not arguing for the retention of the tax exemption, continued support to the Arts Council, Culture Ireland and the Irish Film Board, and critically the Department itself, from some myopic sense of entitlement. The arts community is not afraid of thrift and austerity, it has always been our modus vivendi. Rather, it is borne of the hope that when the smoke clears and culture is inevitably identified as a pillar of national recovery, the ecosystem that supports it remains intact. It may also help us determine what shape our society takes, which brings me to my fifth point, for which there is no metric, no measurable output, but it is important.


At their best, our artists steer a course for shore when the waters around us became uncertain. They reflect our shared gift for self-expression, our capacity for resilience and reinvention, and are a catalyst for us to heal and resonate, understand and reconnect. The artist’s voice is woven into our discourse, reconciling the past, imagining a future, and as important now as at any of the precipitous moments when our forefathers called upon its counsel. The citizenship of the artist is always active.

Gerry Godley is director of Improvised Music Co and a member of the National Campaign for the Arts, being launched today by many of our most significant institutions and best-known artists. To join the campaign, see

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Workshop Schedule for 2010 -- So Far!

Creating Compelling Characters
Workshop Guide: Susan Hubbard

One-week Residential Retreat, arriving Saturday, 5 June and departing Saturday, 12 June

"Building three-dimensional characters out of words is an essential part of a writer's craft. Creating characters who are plausible, yet not stereotypical, is central to writing poetry, fiction, essays, plays, and memoirs alike. We aspire to create not merely realistic characters, but fascinating ones who will go on to haunt our readers.

"This intensive workshop invites you to construct a character who will inhabit your next poem, novel, story, or nonfiction piece. Mornings are devoted to discussions, writing exercises, and workshops. Afternoons allow time to write, complete assignments, explore the countryside, or schedule one-on-one conferences with Susan. Evenings are for dining, socializing, dreaming, or writing on your own. Whether you are an aspiring or an experienced writer, this week offers you insights into your character and guidance in finishing your next creative project. We also discuss a range of topics important to the creative writer, including how to get published, find an agent, build a writing discipline, and secure a creative support system.

"Anam Cara is an ideal setting for writers to come together, work hard, savor Sue's excellent cooking, and find sustained inspiration. By the week's end, you'll be refreshed, renewed, and inspired, and you'll return home in the company of a character ready to propel your next work to completion."

Susan Hubbard ( is the award-winning author of six internationally published books, including The Society of S (Simon & Schuster, 2007) and The Year of Disappearances (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Her seventh, The Season of Risks, will be published in 2010. Hubbard's short story collection, Blue Money, won the Janet Heidinger Kakfa Prize for best book of prose by an American woman published in 1999. Her first book, Walking on Ice, received the AWP Short Fiction Prize. Hubbard co-edited 100% Pure Florida Fiction, an anthology. Her short fiction has appeared in TriQuarterly, The Mississippi Review, Ploughshares, and other journals. Her fiction has been translated and published in more than fifteen countries.

Hubbard is Professor of English at the University of Central Florida, and she's taught summer workshops for Cornell University, Stonecoast Writers Workshop, and Split Rock Arts Program. She has received teaching awards from Syracuse University, Cornell University, the University of Central Florida, and the South Atlantic Administrators of Departments of English. Her writers' residencies include Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Djerassi Resident Artists' Project, and Cill Rialaig. In 2002-03, she served as President of Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

The Poem and the Dream
Leaders: Paula Meehan and Juliet Clancy
One-week residential retreat, arriving Saturday, 19 June and departing Saturday, 26 June

Following on from the success of this workshop at Anam Cara in 2008 and 2009, The Poem and the Dream is a midsummer poetry workshop using dreamwork as a tool for poets to make connections to their poetry and as a guide to reading and understanding the poems of self and others. The focus will be poetry, making it and making it better. This workshop is suitable for those starting out and those already writing poetry.

Paula Meehan is an award-winning Irish poet and playwright and a member of Aosdána (established to honour those artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland), and Juliet Clancy is a dreamworker whose mentor is internationally-known dreamworker Jeremy Taylor.

Finding the Story
Leaders: Nessa O'Mahony and Peter Salisbury
Three-day Residential Retreat, arriving 1 July and departing 4 July

Narrative is one of humankind's most ingrained instincts. From the beginnings of time, we have sought ways to tell our story, and that of the world around us. Even in this brave new world of technology, we remain captured by good storytellers, whatever the medium. This workshop will lead participants on a journey to discover narrative technique, using a variety of creative writing and drama practices. The workshop will focus on story outlining, finding and building conflict, plot development and resolution, with individual sessions on how we generate story ideas, how characters generate plot and vice versa, and how we build plot and make it credible and enticing. Participants will be asked to respond to a variety of stimulus and will come to understand the narrative structure inherent in all forms of writing.

Led by Dublin-based writer Nessa O'Mahony and drama facilitator Peter Salisbury, the workshop is aimed at writers of all genres who wish to develop their skills in narrative. Nessa O'Mahony is an award-winning poet who has published two collections of poetry and a verse novel (In Sight of Home, Salmon Poetry, May 2009), and has a PhD in Creative Writing. Peter Salisbury is a writer, director, and drama facilitator, whose clients include The Gaiety School of Acting and the National Learning Network.

Writing from Within: Haiku and the Spiritual Dimension
Leaders: Maeve O'Sullivan and Kim Richardson
A One-week Residential Retreat, arriving Saturday, 17 July and departing Saturday, 24 July

Following on from the success of their "Writing from Within" workshops held at Anam Cara in July 2007, 2008, and 2009, this workshop is designed to help you develop paths to your inner inspiration -- the path within. Toward this goal, the group will work with the ancient medium of haiku poetry and its related forms, with their links to Zen and its emphasis on mindfulness. Combining the haiku work with meditation, breath and light practices, the outstanding natural beauty of the Béara Peninsula, and the peace and quiet of Anam Cara, the aim is to heighten levels of awareness and to open creative channels.

Maeve O'Sullivan is a leading Irish haiku poet, a founding member of Haiku Ireland, and an experienced haiku workshop leader, and Kim Richardson is a published haiku poet and experienced leader of meditation retreats. Maeve and Kim are joint authors of the haiku collection Double Rainbow, which was launched by Alba Publishing in 2005 and received a number of favourable reviews (see

The Art of Seeing in Ireland: A Workshop for Photographers, Writers, and Visual Artists
Leader: Patrick Keough
One-week Residential Retreat, arriving Saturday, 31 July and departing Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Art of Seeing workshop will give participants creative techniques and exercises for developing heightened awareness (hypersensitivity) to the world, to look beyond mundane and commonplace subject matter, and to break external visual references down into basic lines, forms, colors, values, and textures -- to abstract (frame) these commonplace external references into new and visually interesting compositions in both words and pictures. It's all about learning to see as an artist. These techniques can be applied to any art form; however, we will be focusing on writing (journaling), photography, and sketching during the retreat.

Patrick Keough has taught art, photography, journalism and graphic design for the Community College System of North Carolina for 25 years. He was the Chairman of the Society for Photographic Education Southeast Region from 1996-1999, won First Place for his digital photograph Eyeries Village at the 2002 Carteret Arts Council Art from the Heart Juried Exhibit, and exhibited his Ireland photographs at the Secret Garden Gallery on Ocracoke, North Carolina in 2003. He also showed is Ireland images at Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat and Gallery in Southwest Ireland in the Fall of 2003. He had a One-Man Show of his Ireland photographs at the Jacksonville Arts Council's Gallery during June and July of 2005. Keough published his first book Einstein Place and other Stories in 2006 and has been publishing a series of "blurb" books on his family, travels and journals since 2007. Images from Patrick's, and his daughter Andei's, last trip to Ireland can be seen at: . For more of his work, see:

Visual Storytelling
Leader: Selia Honig
One-week Residential Retreat, arriving Saturday, 14 August and departing Saturday, 21 August

Art making, is, at its best, a communication medium. The story it tells transcends the experience of the maker and speaks more broadly about the experience of being human. The task of the artist, for the most part, is to find a story and the exact materials necessary to do that story justice.

This workshop will allow you to explore visual art making in a variety of media using the landscape of the Beara Peninsula, and the peaceful setting of Anam Cara, as inspiration. Through guided visual journaling and flexible time to explore media and content interests, this week will help you examine and focus on the relationship between narrative, material, and meaning to develop a richer vocabulary in both the craft of visual art making and its function relative to storytelling.

In the mornings, there will be exercises and prompts to both inspire and demonstrate different approaches to visual art making. In the afternoon, these activities can be more fully developed into more finished pieces, or may provide the seed for a series of images done individually or collaboratively, that focus on the narrative. There will be ample opportunities for both peer feedback and as well as individual feedback by the instructor.

This workshop is appropriate for both novices wishing to explore visual art making as well as more experienced artists, and will provide a supportive and rich environment for personal growth in visual art making.

Selila Honig is a visual artist and an award-winning short story writer. She is also an instructor at the Corcoran College of Art in Design, teaching courses in both digital media design, fine art studio, and teacher education. She is studying for a doctorate in teacher education and the arts and frequently writes and speaks on the issues facing the art education field.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In the News...

Thought you might enjoy reading this article about the Beara peninsula that Sheila Boyle (Boston, Massachusett, USA) saw in The Boston Globe today and sent along.

Thought you might also enjoy Krista Tippetts' (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA) latest blog entry about her recent stay at Anam Cara and her interview with John O'Donohue on her NPR programme, Speaking of Faith.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Population Explosion in the Hen House

In part because the chicken flock had been reduced to five by the local fox, I decided to trade away the big white rooster and bring in four Lowmans, two Frizzles (they look like punk rockers), two Golden Brahmas (a rooster and a hen), and two Blueberrys. According to Giana Ferguson, the woman who raised them all, the hens are going to be very good layers. [In the top photo, the Golden Brahma hen is on the left, the two Frizzles in the middle, and the Golden Brahma rooster, who's going to get much bigger, on the right; that's one of the Frizzles in the bottom photo.]

In July, the little black Bantam hen didn't return to the roost at dusk, and Diane Gardner [Jamestown, Indiana, USA], who was letting the flock out it the morning, feeding them, and then shutting them in their house at night, and I thought that the fox had paid another visit. Turns out, 21 days later (after Diane had left), the Bantam reappeared with one fluffy yellow chick following her. She must have been nesting under a Furze bush in the henyard and only leaving her nest to eat and drink when no one was around ... another reminder not to give up hope too soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Best Drinking Water in the World

When feeding the ducks isn't break enough from our creative work, we are now going into Eyeries to pump our drinking water. And it's delicious!!! Here (from left to right) Diane Gardner, Leara Rhodes, Krista Tippetts, and Peg McAuley Byrd fill some of the bottles that will be our supply for about a week. We began making this trek as a result of the Cork County Council cleaning the mains water system, but the combination of the great tasting water and the nostalgia of the process may make pumping our own water a tradition!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Last Workshop Scheduled for 2009

This year's workshop season is proving to be one of the best ever. It began with Paula Meehan, one of Ireland's finest poets, and Juliet Clancy, a gifted dreamworker, combining to provide a powerful, inspirational week for each of the workshop poets as the work they produced will attest.
Coming up in the next two weeks are the Haiku and Meditation and Short Story workshops, both fully subscribed, and from all accounts, the leaders and the participants are enthusiastically looking forward to their time together.
The final workshop of the season will be led by Karen Blomain and Michael Downend. There are a few places left, and judging from the success of their other two, their week here will finish off the year in wonderful style.

Writing in Ireland: A Workshop

Leaders: Karen Blomain, an American novelist, playwright, and poet and Michael Downend, an American playwright and scriptwriting coach

Returning to Anam Cara in 2009 after another very successful workshop in 2008, this relaxed-format offering is designed for writers at all levels of accomplishment -- from the novice wishing to try her hand at writing, to the seasoned writer who needs a jump start for his muse for a new project, to those wishing to challenge themselves in a different art form. Appropriate for all genres. Non-writing spouses/partners welcome; they'll find the peaceful, Irish vistas the perfect getaway and may even find themselves drawn into their own creative outlets.

One-week residential retreat from Saturday, 26 September through Friday, 2 October 2009

For more information about this workshop, please contact Sue at Bookings are limited to a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 15 participants on a first-deposit-in basis.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Anam Cara Cascades...Live!

Susan Hubbard (Orlando, Florida, USA)has brought the Anam Cara cascades to life for the blog. Susan just completed her residency during which she was working on her latest novel and is on her way to present a paper at a conference, "Great Writing of 2009," in Bangor, North Wales. Susan is the author of two collections of short fiction, both winners of national prizes, and four novels. The Society of S was published in May 2007 by Simon & Schuster, and The Year of Disappearances, a sequel, was released in May 2008; the U.S. paperback edition was published June 16, 2009. Her books have been translated and published in more than 15 countries, and her short stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, The Mississippi Review, The North American Review, America West, Kalliope, Ploughshares, and other journals. She is Professor of English at University of Central Florida and co-editor of 100% Pure Florida Fiction, an anthology. (

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Haiku and Meditation Workshop Update!

Due to popular demand for an alternative, shortened, format this year, Writing from Within 2009, led by Maeve O'Sullivan and Kim Richardson, will now run from Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th July 2009 as a "long weekend" workshop. While tuition in some of the forms related to haiku have of necessity been cut back, along with a number of meditations, the workshop leaders are confident that the integrity and essential values of the weeklong workshop will be maintained.

This workshop is designed to help you develop paths to your own inner inspiration, whether you write for page, screen or stage, fiction, non-fiction or poetry. To help develop this "path within," we work with the ancient medium of haiku poetry and related forms, with its links to the spiritual tradition of Zen Buddhism and its emphasis on "mindfulness." The discipline, conciseness and necessary sense of awareness in these poetic forms is both an end in itself and an aid in the creation of other art forms, such as poetry, fiction, play- and screenwriting and the visual arts.

Combining the haiku work with meditation, breath and light practices, the outstanding natural beauty of Ireland's Béara Peninsula and the peace and quiet of Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat and gardens, our aim is to heighten our levels of awareness, finding a path to the "principle within," which is the true source of our inspiration.

"…it is only those things evolved out of (our) inner being that we can claim as (our) own"
D T Suzuki

We will aim to come away from this workshop with a deepened sense of where our writing comes from and a heightened level of awareness that will help us strengthen our individual creative skills.

Here's what the weekend of workshop and retreat to Anam Cara has in store for you:

Thursday, 23 July

Arrival and settling into where you'll be staying either at Anam Cara or a nearby B&B).

8:30 P.M. Introductory dinner at Anam Cara

9:15-10:00 P.M. Short introduction to the workshop. “Tour de Table” and short guided meditation (See note below.*)

Friday 24th July

8:30 A.M. Breakfast where you are staying

10:00 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Workshop session with coffee break

Basic introduction to the haiku form – both conventional (5-7-5 syllables) and freeform versions, including some history and examples from both the canon and from contemporary writers. Basic guidelines for writing haiku will be given, plus an opportunity to write some (including a short walk to local beach #1 and back, weather permitting).

1:15-2:15 P.M. Lunch at Anam Cara

2:30-5:00 P.M. Workshop session with coffee break

Guided meditation and labyrinth walk (See note below.*)

5:00-6:30 P.M. Free time

7:30 P.M. Dinner at Anam Cara

Evening: Free time, optional -- sunset meditation

Saturday 25th July

8:30 A.M. Breakfast where you are staying

10:00 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Workshop session with coffee break

An introduction to tanka, a solo five-line form related to the haiku. This will include an exercise to produce a number of tan-renga, a five-line form written by two people.

1:15-2:15 P.M. Lunch at Anam Cara

2:30-5:00 P.M. Workshop session with coffee break

Second “ginko” or "composition stroll" to local beach #2, followed by an (optional) workshop of the resulting haiku

5:00- 6:30 P.M. Free time

7:30 P.M. Dinner at Anam Cara

Evening: Proposed music/singing session with all singers and musicians welcome to participate by presenting their "party pieces." If you’re not musically inclined, a recitation is acceptable!

Sunday 26th July

8:30 A.M. Breakfast where you are staying

10:00-11:00 A.M. “Wrap-up” session with questions and feedback; short closing meditation

12:00 P.M. Departure

*Note: Meditation sessions will include some or all of the following: guided meditations, breath practices, labyrinth meditation. The overall focus or theme will be “Awareness”. Participants will also be encouraged to spend some time on their own with suggested practices.

General Workshop Notes:

1. Although we aim to cover all the above over the long weekend, the order and detail of some of the sessions may change as we go along, if we feel it would improve or enhance the experience. Also, the ratio of "technical" to "meditation/contemplation" sessions (and the content of these last) will vary from day-to-day, depending on the dynamic of the group and the ground to be covered.

2. There will be "handouts" covering the main workshop sessions, including suggested further reading and links to online resources, and the principal meditation/contemplation practices. There will also be a temporary "library" of collections and anthologies of haiku and related forms, essays and other materials at Anam Cara during the weekend.

3. Bring good weatherproof/waterproof clothing (including a jacket with a hood) and boots for walking, something to sit on if you like to use a meditation cushion, stool or mat, and a pocket notebook and pencil.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Workshop Leaders:

Workshop leaders Maeve O'Sullivan and Kim Richardson jointly bring their deep skills and experience to this important training. Based in Dublin, Maeve is a leading Irish haiku poet, founder member of Haiku Ireland, and co-author, with Kim, of the haiku collection Double Rainbow (Alba Publishing, 2005). She is also an experienced haiku workshop leader and tutor of journalism, specialising in writing skills. Kim, who lives near London, is a partner in an editorial and design team developing information books for publishers, a published haiku poet, and a member of the Redthread Haiku Sanga.

Representative Feedback from former Workshop Participants:

"The content of the course was clearly well-prepared and thoughtfully presented. For me, the combination of meditation and writing practice was well-balanced. Overall a dynamic, challenging and rewarding week. Beautiful and peaceful surroundings too. This experience will stay in my heart for a long time. Many thanks to you both."

"Excellent – beautifully and sensitively facilitated – a collaborative approach made all the exercises, haiku and awareness so memorable…I was looking for a different retreat experience, and got it."

"The workshops were cogent, organised and very well conducted. I thought the feedback and critical comments were extremely helpful and done with grace. The atmosphere, setting and nurturing were just what was needed to support the work."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Workshop Fee Includes:

1. Workshop tuition and meditation/exercise sessions

2. Room and full board (including all drinks except alcoholic beverages; it's byob) with your own room and bath (either at Anam Cara or a nearby B&B; transportation to and from B&Bs to Anam Cara provided if it's not a good day for the short, scenic walk)

3. Access to all the amenities at Anam Cara (including the common working areas, the movie and music loft, the conservatory, the hot tub overlooking Coulagh Bay (bring your swimming costume), the sauna, and the five acres of garden and riverbank grove with 32+ quiet nooks and crannies

Workshop Fee: €450

To hold your place for this workshop, please contact me; I will pencil you in and send along information about traveling to and from Anam Cara. You can then confirm your booking by sending a 50% deposit (€225 or the Euro equivalent in your currency). Rooms at Anam Cara are booked on a first-deposit-in basis.

"Writing from Within" is limited to a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 15 participants on a first-deposit-in basis.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Anam Cara from the Air

John Eagle, the local photographer who produces most of the postcards of this area, stopped by a few days ago to give me this picture, which he had just taken as he was flying back from his latest photo shoot in the Irish Lights Eurocopter 13. The labryinth is in the meadow at the far west of Anam Cara's five acres and was created by Mary Lynn Jamison (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA) after Kim Richardson (Uxbridge, England) marked its position with bamboo stakes.

As a result of his keen interest in lighthouses, John has produced a book, An Eagle's View of Irish Lighthouses (, featuring his photographs of Ireland's own. John often presents slide shows of his work here at Anam Cara; he also leads photographic safaris around the peninsula. (

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Make Way for Ducklings!

Yesterday, 25 May 2009, my grandson Lucas turned 5 years old!!!, and Princess Leia celebrated the day by producing these six beautiful ducklings. One of the oldest Anam Cara ducks, she is a Tufted Magpie with a bunch of feathers on either side of her head in Princess Leia-style. It takes twenty-eight days of nearly constant warmth from the duck's body for ducklings to hatch out, and Princess Leia's brood was right on schedule. She was away from the nest for just a few minutes each day to get food and water as well as to get her feathers wet in the pond. The egg shells need a certain amount of moisture to make it possible for the ducklings to develop and to peck their way out at hatching time, and the Princess gets it exactly right every year. This is her 8th batch of ducklings!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From The New York Times, 15 May 2009

Hello, Mr. Heartache

by Jincy Willett

Holly Frick, the writer at the heart of Sarah Dunn’s new novel, hates the term chick lit. Since we never actually get to read her own novel, “Hello, Mr. Heartache” — whose horrible title was imposed by her publisher’s marketing department — we can’t be certain that she hasn’t actually written “fiction by and for women,” the generally agreed-­upon definition of that loathsome term. But the novel in which Holly herself appears was definitely not written just for women, no matter how it’s packaged. True, the protagonist is female, the setting is Manhattan, and the focus is on relationships — and there’s a big shopping scene. True, mostly women will read it. But then women are the ones mostly reading every­thing. Besides, it’s not about shoes. And the shopping is for books, at the Strand. Also, unlike chick lit, chick TV and chick movies, Secrets to Happiness is actually funny.

New York, with which Holly feels “trapped in an abusive relationship,” is generously featured, and the usual tourist spots are included — Central Park, the Cloisters, the bar at the Carlyle. But this isn’t the glamorous, romantic version of Manhattan. Holly really works for a living, writing for a not-very-successful children’s cable TV show, and she doesn’t make enough money to navigate the city with careless ease. Her New York is the kind of place where desperate characters throw a party in a BMW showroom to introduce a perfume that smells like Fruit Roll-Ups.

For a novel about a writer, Secrets to Happiness is refreshingly straight­forward about the profession. An old boyfriend is outraged to discover that Holly has used him in her novel in a recognizable way. Like any pro, she claims this is naïve nonsense: fictional characters have multiple inspirations; he’s just being paranoid and narcissistic. In reality, of course, she has changed only his name and the color of his eyes. Why slog through Imagination Land when you’ve got the character right there in your memory and you don’t owe him a damn thing? And Holly doesn’t just behave like a writer; she has a writer’s perceptions. In the middle of sex — satisfying sex — with a man she loves, she finds herself face-to-face with a pile of books on his nightstand. Of course, she tunes out to read the titles on the spines.

Granted, Secrets to Happiness doesn’t have a whole lot of narrative pull. Holly starts out semi-divorced and lonely and meanders through a series of amusing, somewhat disjointed episodes on her way to what promises to be a hopeful resolution. She’s so sensible and clever that we don’t really worry about her judgment. All around her, doleful characters make poor choices, but Holly is morally grounded, which makes her attractive to people who aren’t. When they behave badly, they can count on her to notice, but without being intrusive about it. Holly’s best friend confesses that she has cheated on her husband and wants Holly to meet the guy. But Holly declines, explaining that she feels guilty even knowing about the infidelity. “Somebody should feel guilty,” she adds, “and I tend to feel all the feelings in the room.” Amazingly, she can pull off a statement like that without being tiresome or priggish.

In the end, what makes Dunn’s novel such a pleasure to read is the very thing that keeps it from being a breathless page-turner: Holly’s singular spirituality. She may be as baffled as everyone else about how to achieve happiness, but she also knows that happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In a world — fictional and non- — where doing a good thing gets you accused of having a messiah complex, and doing whatever you want is justified as following your path, Holly never stops trying to figure out where her duty lies. Underneath it all — the sex, the shopping, the city — she’s an old-fashioned heroine. Also funny.

Jincy Willett’s most recent novel is The Writing Class. Photo of Sarah by Lizzie Himmel. Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn, 277 pp., Little, Brown & Company, $23.99

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Late Breaking News!!!

From the Irish Book Awards web site:

"On a night of huge excitement, glamour, and no little humour, The Fourth Annual Irish Book Awards produced a stellar cast of category winners, principal amongst them, novelist Sebastian Barry, whose Secret Scripture carried off both the Tubridy Show Listeners' Choice award and the Hughes & Hughes Novel of the Year award. Other winners were: Seamus Heaney and Dennis O'Driscoll, Marian Keyes, Ronan O'Gara, Ronan O'Brien, Alice Taylor, Alex Barclay, Benji Bennett and Derek Landy. Hosted by the elegant and eloquent Miriam O'Callaghan, the evening delivered several moments of magic most notably in the wonderful and moving speeches delivered late in the night by Lifetime Achievement Winner, Edna O'Brien and presenter Seamus Heaney. Many congratulations to all our winners."

Alex won for Blood Runs Cold, "a heart-stopping thriller, featuring FBI Agent Ren Bryce, in which kidnap and murder collide. When an FBI agent is found dead on the white slopes of Quandary Peak in Colorado, a brilliant but volatile agent, Ren, is drafted in from Denver to lead the investigation. Alex Barclay is the rising star of the hard-boiled genre."

Published by Harper Collins, her first novel, Darkhouse, and second, The Caller, both followed NYPD Detective Joe Lucchesi as he tracked down and brought to justice serial killers, each with his own unique approach to his work. Alex is currently writing her fourth novel, another of Agent Bryce's cases.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Anam Cara Cascade May/June 2009

Happy Beltane/May Day! Summer is a-comin' in! In Ireland, this day is the beginning of the "lighted half" of the year when the sun begins to set later in the evening and the hawthorn blossoms. Beltane was celebrated in Celtic times with the lighting of bonfires to banish the long nights of winter and to mark the coming of summer and fertility. The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel (the "bright one"), and the Gaelic word teine ("fire"), giving the name bealttainn, meaning "right fire." The hawthorn blossom was worn as it was believed to be a potent magical plant, and it is still considered unlucky to bring the blossom inside the house at any time except May Eve (30 April).

When Christianity came to Ireland, the month of May became the Virgin Mary's month and May Day her celebration day, taking such forms as works of art and school skits in which her head is adorned with flowers. Another popular remembrance of the day is the giving of "May baskets," small baskets of flowers and/or sweets, usually left anonymously on neighbours' doorsteps.

In honour of the day that's in it, I hope that you find this issue of The Anam Cara Cascade to be a basket of "useful things" left on your doorstep and that you will follow and contribute to the Anam Cara blog at as well as send along work that you would like to have included in this bi-monthly newsletter. You can reach me through the new email address or the web site Please also send any photos that you would like to have added to the Picture Gallery to the e-mail address and include a short description of the image.

I send my best wishes to you for a wonderful May Day and for your continued success with your own creative work, Sue

Anam Cara Updates

Questions You Need Answers For

Writer-in-residence Bobbie Dahdi Cole (Killarney, New Brunswick, Canada,) suggests that there be a section in the newsletter where questions can be posed and, hopefully, answers provided. Please respond to Bobbie directly and/or the so that we can make the information available in the next newsletter. Here's Bobbie's query:

"I thought maybe you or the residents might be able to recommend a good printer - I want to self-publish a work I'm putting the finishing touches to currently. I've done a little research in the bookshops, and although nearly everything comes from the Far East these days, there are some lovely 'old' style books, thick paper and ragged edges to pages, that are printed in the US or Canada. Any recommend-ations?"

Alums Receive a 10% Discount

Once you have been on retreat to Anam Cara, you will receive a 10% discount on your chosen room rate on all subsequent residencies.

Poultry Report

The duck house is now a maternity ward as five ducks are laying eggs in their individual nesting boxes. As she does every year, Princes Leia has begun setting first and, in her now traditional way, covers herself with straw to the point that you have to look two or three times to see that she's not just a pile of the stuff. Once they have begun to sit on their eggs, the ducks leave their nests only to eat and drink and swim in the pond. Over time, I've learned that it's ok if they leave their nests for a bit each day and that their wet feathers help keep the egg shells at the right thickness for the ducklings to be able to peck their way out when they're ready.

Self-catering Cottage

If you are interested in a short- or long-term stay in Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula, you could rent West End Cottage, a fully furnished, two-bedroom home on the main street in town. For more information, contact Sue at

Workshops Scheduled for 2009

For more information about any of these workshops, please contact Sue at Bookings for each workshop arelimited to a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 15 participants on a first-deposit-in basis.

The Poem and the Dream
Leaders: Paula Meehan, an award-winning Irish poet and playwright and a member of Aosdána (established to honour those artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland), and Juliet Clancy, a dreamworker whose mentor is internationally-known dreamworker Jeremy Taylor.

One-week residential retreat from Saturday, 27 June through Friday, 3 July 2009

Following on from the success of this workshop at Anam Cara last summer, The Poem and the Dream is a midsummer poetry workshop using dreamwork as a tool for poets to make connections to their poetry and as a guide to reading and understanding the poems of self and others. The focus will be poetry, making it and making it better. This workshop is suitable for those starting out and those already writing poetry.

Writing from Within: Haiku and the Spiritual Dimension
Leaders: Maeve O'Sullivan, a leading Irish haiku poet, a founding member of Haiku Ireland, and an experienced haiku workshop leader, and Kim Richardson, a published haiku poet and experienced leader of meditation retreats

One-week residential retreat from Saturday, 18 July through Friday, 24 July 2009

Also following on from the success of their Writing from Within workshops held at Anam Cara in July 2007 and 2008, this workshop is again designed to help you develop paths to your inner inspiration -- the path within. Toward this goal, the group will work with the ancient medium of haiku poetry and its related forms, with their links to Zen and its emphasis on mindfulness. Combining the haiku work with meditation, breath and light practices, the outstanding natural beauty of the BéaraPeninsula and the peace and quiet of Anam Cara, the aim is to heighten levels of awareness and to open creative channels.

Writing the Short Story
Leader: Leo Cullen, an Irish short story writer, novelist, and regular contributor to "Sunday Miscellany" (national radio programme)

Three-day residential or non-residential retreat from Wednesday, 29 July 2009 through Friday, 31 July 2009

Working through the senses, the workshop will explore the building blocks of the short story -- character development, location, and plot.

Writing in Ireland: A Workshop
Leaders: Karen Blomain, an American novelist, playwright, and poet, and Michael Downend, an American playwright and scriptwriting coach

One-week residential retreat from Saturday, 26 September through Friday, 2 October 2009

Returning to Anam Cara in 2009 after a great success in 2008, this relaxed-format workshop is designed for writers at all levels of accomplishment -- from the novice wishing to try her hand at writing, to the seasoned writer who needs a jump start for his muse for a new project, to those wishing to challenge themselves in a different art form. Appropriate for all genres. Non-writing spouses/partners welcome; they'll find the peaceful, Irish vistas the perfect getaway and may even find themselves drawn into their own creative outlets.

A Gift That Keeps on Giving

If you're looking for the perfect present for that creative someone in your life, how about a retreat to Anam Cara? Just let me know, and I'll send along a gift card that you can present, leaving the booking arrangements to be made later.

Resident Updates

Gerry Galvin (Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland, has just learned that his story "Nightgames" is a runner-up in the Fish Publishing Short, Short Fiction contest and will be included in the anthology that is to be launched in July 2009.

Iseult Murphy (Blackrock, Co. Louth, Ireland, has been accepted into the Horror Writers Association.

Tania Hershman (Jerusalem, Israel, sent the following message to the members of The Short Review. "Two newspaper articles on short stories appeared in major broadsheets (NY Times, Guardian) on the same day [4 April]. Have we slipped through a wormhole into another dimension? Welcome, I say... bring it on! Read all about it:"

Bobbie Dahdi Cole (Killarney, New Brunswick, Canada, ), who originally came to Anam Cara as a writer-in-residence, is now creating art. The piece shown here was inspired by Judges 5 and is entitled "Sisera's Mother" (36" X 26.5," mixed media (primarily silk). It is currently on exhibition at the University of New Brunswick as part of a Canadian Women for Peace project.

Vanessa Gebbie (Rigmer, East Sussex, UK, has a new website -- She also has a story in a new anthology, One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories (
OneWorldStories/One_World_A_Global_Anthology_of_Short_Stories.html). The anthology is published by New Internationalist and was launched at The Oxford Literary Festival in April 2009. Nineteen writers from fourteen different countries came together, thanks to the Internet, and explored through fiction what it was to live in the world we do, divided by tensions and conflicts caused by physical, cultural, class, colour and creed boundaries but sharing a common humanity. "We were joined by Pulitzer Prize winner (and visitor to Anam Cara) Jhumpa Lahiri, and Orange Prize Winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who both contributed stories. All royalties are being donated to Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. To purchase the book online, go to, or


LitMatch: "More than just a directory, LitMatch is the free source for literary agent information that allows writers to organize their search for representation and track their submissions online!" See

Original Writing: "Some of the most Irish poets and novelists have published themselves. Whether by actually running a publishing company, which also published other writers or directly publishing their own work, Ireland's literary world would be lacking some of its best-known writers if they hadn't published themselves.

"Historically, it has never presented a problem, the poet Walt Whitman being one eminent example. In this age, publishing oneself online or by using a computer publishing programme is a commonplace. Dublin-based publisher Original Writing helps authors to self-publish, but it does somewhat more than that. Original Writing is Ireland's leading self-publishing company, who work across all genres and publish in hardback and softback, dedicated to providing authors with affordable and straightforward ways of getting their work into print and making it available for sale online. They are also shortly to undertake distribution. The books produced are of a very high quality in terms of both design and print production. Details are obtainable at +353 (0)87 217 8138,, or

HungerMountain Fundraising Auction: "Beginning May 1 at 9:00 A.M. PST, we hope you will join in to support HungerMountain's non-profit Fundraising Auction, featuring items of literary interest for writers, readers and collectors. To view HungerMountain's auction items, use ebay's search tool to find "Hunger Mountain Fundraising," and you'll get a full list of the items, with full descriptions and images ( This auction is also the premiere of the Stinehour Broadside Award. The Stinehour Broadside Award Series of limited edition, signed and numbered broadsides will be available exclusively through auction, while supplies last. Broadsides will begin with number 1 of 100 and continue on a consecutive basis as bids are won. Award winners for HungerMountain's first three years are Alice Hoffman, Neil Shepard and David Rivard. All donations are tax-deductible and support HungerMountain's mission to publish outstanding creative work by both established and emerging writers and artists."

WritersDiaryLive: From Deryck Payne, "There is a BETA website that may interest your members. It is a resource that lists a large number of creative writing competitions presented in diary/calendar form. It covers the USA, Ireland, and the UK --" is a free literary sharing website where writers can upload, view and share their writing. We do not judge or reject! Our goal at is simple -- to serve the literary community with the opportunity to have their work online and out in the world. With the disappearance of many literary magazines, is providing the blank pages for writers to fill. Feel free to post in any of the following categories: fiction, poetry, non-fiction, remembrance and assorted writings. To view someone's writing, just click on the link and a pdf version of the piece will open in your browser. Read it, comment on it and, most importantly, enjoy it! (;

Submissions and Competitions

Bray Arts Journal: Now publishing its eighth volume, this monthly arts magazine is supported by the Bray Council, Wicklow Council, CASC and the Heather House Hotel. E-mail submissions to Anne Fitzgerald at or post your typed submissions to: The Editor BAJ "Casino," Killarney Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow. The deadline is the 15th of each month. The journal's web site is

Chinese International Figure Painting Competition: The New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) is sponsoring the NTDTV 2009 Chinese International Figure Painting Competition, one in their series of world cultural and art events. The Competition features works of figure oil painting expressing meritorious traditional Chinese virtues and values with classical western realistic methods. Its purpose is to promote cultural exchange and the art of figure painting that portrays pure truth, pure compassion, and pure beauty. More details are available at

Artists Wanted: Artists Wanted presents Art vs. Design, an international open call for art and design that asks the question: "In a world of images, which has shaped our lives more: Art or Design?" To find the answer, we need YOU to enter the dialogue. The Top Artist or Designer will be selected by a panel of judges and will have his or her work presented in a massive scale gallery opening at the NewMuseum in NYC. The winner and entrants will both receive a number of prizes. For more information, see The deadline is 11:59 P.M., May 31, 2009.

New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest: This contest is accepting scripts through June 30, 2009 for new works that: 1. Enhance self-realization; 2. Support peace and social justice; 3. Foster new understanding of minority issues that focus on racial, ethnic and gender discrimination both in the United States and abroad; 4. Empower youth to build healthy inner foundations; 5. Educate to gain further insight into healthy social/emotional living; 6. Shed new light on religious, spiritual, and cultural differences and issues; 7. Build respect for cultural expression and identity in a world that is experiencing rapid globalization; or 8. Explore the widening gap between the values this country was founded on and the values we present to the world today. For guidelines and an application form, see

Incredible Prayers, A James S. Bell Project: "Guideposts is launching a series of 12 books on various aspects of prayer and how people from every walk of life have been transformed through God's responses. These books will be mailed monthly as part of a book club promotion and will be exclusive to this readership. I am now collecting submissions for the first three books in the series and would welcome as many stories as you wish to submit. Submissions can be up to 2000 words. Each story should have a creative title, an attention-grabbing lead, main body explaining a conflict or challenge, and a resolution. These need to be descriptive and compelling personal experience stories-not simply testimonies. We prefer original stories, but you may also submit previously published stories. The payment is $25 for stories under 1000 words, and $50 for longer stories. You may retain the rights to publish the stories in magazines and books with smaller distribution sources. We are accepting manuscripts from now until at least June 15 for the first three volumes. We'll announce the finalists for the first volume around October 15. Please include on each manuscript-not in headers or simply in the e-mail-your name, contact information (address, phone, e-mail, rights offered) and a bio of up to 30 words. Please attach you submission to the e-mail rather than cut and paste the text into the body. Please direct all inquiries and manuscript submissions to my colleague, Jeanette Littleton at"


The International Artaud Workshop and Balinese Fringe Festival will be held May 22, 2009 - June 7, 2009. A fourteen-day theatre festival with all-day workshops, the event implements the Balinese performance elements that Antonin Artaud found in the ritualistic Balinese theatre. It takes place in the BaliPurnatiCenter for the Arts
Sukawati, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. For more information, contact Aole T. Miller, Creative Director, STUDIO 5, 421 Classon Avenue, Studio 5, Brooklyn, NY 11238, PH: 347-351-8430, FAX: 718-789-1965,

Crash!Boom!Bau!: "Scenography Now!" and the Bauhaus Lab 2009 present, in the frame of the Bauhaus Year 2009, a festival for the contemporary scenographical arts -- Crash!Boom!Bau! The festival takes place from May 1st to the 17th 2009 at Theaterhaus Jena in Germany in co-operation with the AA in London, the C3 in Budapest, and the Stage Studio of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. For more information and the programming, see:

From the Neighbourhood

The following happened a while ago in Dublin, and even though it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock, it's true. Honest.

John Bradford, a Dublin University student, was on the side of the road hitchhiking on a very dark night and in the midst of a storm. The night was rolling in, and no car went by. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly, he saw a car slowly coming towards him and stop. John, desperate for shelter and, without thinking about it, got into the car and closed the door...only to realize there was nobody behind the wheel, and the engine wasn't on!!

The car started moving slowly. John looked at the road ahead and saw a curve approaching. Scared, he started to pray, begging for his life. Then, just before the car hit the curve, a hand appeared through the window and turned the wheel. John, paralyzed with terror, watched as the hand repeatedly came through the window, but never touched or harmed him. Shortly thereafter, John saw the lights of a pub appear down the road. So, gathering strength, he jumped out of the car and ran to the pub. Wet and out of breath, he rushed inside and started telling everybody about the horrible experience he had just had. A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realized he was crying and...wasn't drunk.

Suddenly the door opened, and two other people walked in from the stormy night. They, like John, were also soaked and out of breath. Looking around, and seeing John Bradford sobbing at the bar, one said to the other, "Look, Paddy,there's the idiot that got in the car while we were pushin' it."

From Writers- and Artists-in-Residence

From a Writer-in-Residence: Cauvery Madhavan (Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland,

The following is an example of the essays written for her column, "Paddy Indian," for The Evening Herald.

I sit here alone, with just a cappuccino for company and on the radio a local Austrian band serenades me with Eurovisionesque passion -- the type of performance that has you in stitches because of the genitalia-defining leotard of the aging lead singer, but inevitably gets you foot-tapping and joining the chorus, belting a full-throated mein gott, mein lieben ist wunderbar along with the backing singers.

So why am I here? I'm a failed skier, that's why. I thought I did everything that was needed, even bought ski gear that wouldn't make my bum look too big, paying over the odds for one with a stylishly concealed tummy buster.

"You don't vorry, ja?" said Dieter, the ski instructor. The family had insisted that I should have one-to-one tuition so I could catch up with them because last year I broke my thumb at our very first lesson, so they were a season ahead of me and fairly competent. But, back to this year and Dieter - "I vill hold you, if you fall, ja? So now, I go backwards down ze zlope and you try ze snow plough action with your skis towards me, ja?"

I nodded unhappily and what followed was this: I just ploughed the man into the piste. He should have known the extreme velocity that a woman with a concealed tummy panel in her ski trousers can reach on a slippery slope. A three-year-old Austrian toddler skied past, taking expert evasive action to avoid carving up Dieter's face.

"Ve vill try again, ja?"

I thought of my children and how eager they were for me to join them on the slopes. I had imagined myself and the husband zigzagging downhill, exchanging secret smiles as we planned the après-ski. I had pictured us lunching at the mountain top terrace, the air crisp, the banter friendly, recounting the morning's skiing.

Instead, I now lay in the snow contemplating the fact that skiing was not unlike marriage and motherhood -- all those slippery slopes and awkward turns. Under me, Dieter stirred again. "Vill you move, please?" I did, sliding off to this café at the bottom of the slope. I can see my family skiing down the final run now and I have ordered three hot chocolates and a beer -- I may have failed ski school, but I know a thing or two about my squad.

From an Artist-in-Residence: Ann Tracy (Tucson, Arizona, USA, created "Ode to Virginia Woolf." ( 10"x 20"x 2" acrylic and mixed media on canvas), after reading the section on Virginia Woolf in Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer. The book and the section were recommended by Mary L. Bradford (Leesburg, Virginia, USA,, whom Ann met at Anam Cara and from whom she is still receiving inspiration by e-mail. This work is Ann's response to this entry in Virginia Woolf's diary, "We're splinters & mosaics; not, as they used to hold, immaculate, monolithic, consistent wholes."


The following recipe fits firmly into the "comfort food" category that a lot of the dishes at Anam Cara fall into:

Totable Tuna Bake

1 C sliced celery
½ C chopped onion
¼ C butter

2 10 ¾ oz cans condensed cream of celery soup
1 ½ C shredded cheddar cheese
1 C milk
½ C mayonnaise

8 oz pk medium noodles, cooked
3 6 oz cans tuna, drained and coarsely flaked
1 4 oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
¼ C sliced pimiento stuffed olives

2 C soft bread crumbs
¼ C toasted sliced almonds

In saucepan, cook celery and onion in half of the butter till tender. Stir in soup, cheese, milk, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Fold in noodles, tuna, mushrooms, and olives. Turn into 13"x 9"x 2" baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375˚F. for 20 minutes. Melt remaining butter. Mix with bread crumbs. Sprinkle around edges of baking dish. Arrange almonds in center. Bake till heated through, 10 to 15 minutes more. Serves 10 to 12. From Lois Menzies and Naomi B. Larson

I'm also including here a repeat of the recipe included in the last newsletter because something technological grabbed and threw away a very important ingredient, the milk, but then you probably discovered that if you tried to make the pancakes!

Bernie's Pancakes

3 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 ½ - 2 teaspoons bacon drippings
3 tablespoons baking powder
3 eggs
2 ½ - 3 cups milk

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Contribution that the Arts Make

Karl Paulnack, the Music Department head at Boston Conservatory, wrote this essay based on his speech to incoming freshmen, and it is, gratefully, making the rounds on the internet. Michael Untiedt, an artist from Denver, Colorado, passed it along to me, saying "I think much of what he speaks of can be applied to painting, but only when we aspire to accomplish more than simply creating an image-driven artifact!" May Mr. Paulnack's words inspire all who explore and work in the creative arts.

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “you’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day. At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.
Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship bet ween invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during Worl d War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in t he front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?”

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevys. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.