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New Irish Writing

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Article by Vanessa O'Loughlin ©.
Posted in Resources (, ).

The new age of the short story is truly here, and is marked by the arrival of a fabulous 32-page supplement in May 2nd’s Irish Independent, titled Hennessy Irish Writing Today, ‘a magazine celebrating what’s best in contemporary literature’. They say “here’s something completely new, a quality literary journal featuring top writers and available free to a mass readership…”

An initiative developed by pillar of Irish publishing Dermot Bolger and a man who has an eye for discovering great new writers, Ciaran Carty, with valuable assistance from the Arts Coucil, this bi-annual free magazine features recent winners of the annual Hennessy Literary Awards as well as some of Ireland’s biggest literary names. The New Irish Writing competition that inspires it is sponsored by Hennessy  – Richard Hennessy was one of the Wild Geese who fled Ireland to join the army King Louis XV, who settled in Cognac and developed the brandy that bears his name – and appears on the last Saturday of each month in the Review section of the Irish Independent. The competition has been the launch pad for some of Ireland’s greatest writers like Joseph O’Connor, recent recipient of the Irish PEN Award and whose adaption of My Cousin Rachel is currently a massive hit at The Gate Theatre.

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Ciaran Carty told writing.ie “Our primary aim is to help emerging writers to build their literary careers and reach a wider readership by being published alongside leading names in Irish literature. We hope to champion the short story form and also highlight the work of smaller literary journals.The short story form is more robust that some critics realise. What it needs is ready access to a wide audience. Hennessy Irish Writing Today will provide this, as the New Irish Writing Page already does, by being available free through The Irish Independent to a readership of almost 600,000.”

In this edition, writers Sara O’Loughlin (whose stunning picture features on the cover), Sara Berkeley, Angela Finn, Sinead O’Loughlin, Leanne O’Sulllivan, Orfhlaith Foyle and Mike McCormack share the limelight with the Paul Durcan, Emma Donoghue and the fabulous Carlo Gebler whose ‘Notes from a Working Novelist’ is a must read. Colum McCann, Anthony Cronin, Anthony Glavin all contribute, and we get an exciting insight into Joseph O’Connor’s work in progress, Cian and Catherine.

In addition, the distinguished judges of the Hennessy Literary Awards reveal how the award itself was born  from the dreams of the great David Marcus who established the New Irish Writing Page in The Irish Press in 1968. Marcus founded the “literary quarterly Irish Writing in 1946 and published Samuel Beckett before Waiting for Godot was written and when the author was virtually unknown”,

As the Irish Independent explains, “The New Irish Writing Page has flourished since its move to the Irish Independent … with first-time writer Pat O’Connor following up his debut on the page in May [2011] by winning the Frank O’Connor International Prize for a single short story with The Haggard. Chosen from an entry of 750 stories from throughout the world, the judges declared O’Connor the “clear winner by a country kilometre.” The prize for best collection of short stories was won by Edna O’Brien.

‘Since the Hennessy Awards were launched in 1971, they’ve helped launch the literary careers of a new generation of Irish writers, including Joseph O’ConnorColum McCann, Phillip O’Ceallaigh, Alan Monaghan, Dermot Healy, Neil JordanPatrick McCabeFrank McGuinness, Anne Enright, Deirdre Madden, Hugo Hamilton and many others.”

This year the 41st winner Niamh Boyce was revealed at a star studded ceremony at the French Ambassador’s residence last month. Kate Dempsey was there for writing.ie, and you can read about ithere. A fabulous new talent, Niamh said “It’s only the seventh time a poet has won the award, which makes it an added honour.”

At the same ceremony, John Boyne has been inducted into the Hennessy Literary Awards hall of fame, his thoughts: “I am joining the ranks of some of the greatest Irish writers of our time, authors who have meant a great deal to me over the course of my own life,” John’s ten novels include the best selling The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, and The Absolutist, out in paperback with Black Swan now. Past inductees of the Hall of Fame include Sebastian Barry, Dermot Bolger, Frank McGuinness, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton and Neil Jordan.

Ciaran Carty revealed to writing.ie that the editors of Hennessy Irish Writing Today “are drawing on our many personal contacts among publishers and agents, and also established writers who are constantly on the lookout for new writers and eager to encourage them”  and will be “monitoring work by writers emerging in the New Irish Writing Page  and other literary outlets both in Ireland and abroad.”

This magazine marks a turning point in Irish writing, bringing the short story to a wider readership, While the short story is a form that is hugely popular in the United States, it has been known to struggle in Ireland, despite our tradition of story telling. With new reading devices, in our modern fast paced environment, where time is at a premium and the sound byte rules, the short story, a literary byte, is set to make a comeback that will undoubtedly see Irish writer’s dominating the world literary scene.


(c) Vanessa O'Loughlin May 2012

The New Writing Page, edited by Ciaran Carty, appears in the Weekend Review in the Irish Independent on the last Saturday of each month, and is open to writers who are Irish or who are resident in Ireland. Entries may be submitted (with a SAE) to: New Irish Writing, The Irish Independent, 27/32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1.

Submit up to six poems. Stories should not exceed 2,200 words. Remember to include your name, e-mail address and phone number.

Writers whose work appears in the page will be put forward for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award. Each category winner will receive a trophy and €1,500, while the New Writer of the Year receives an additional €2,500.

Read the Resource in this section chronologically.