The McVeigh Residency at The Harrison by Patrick Holloway

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Patrick Holloway

By Patrick Holloway

I first saw a post about the Paul McVeigh Residency online, then within a few days, it was shared among all the writing groups I am in. It really did seem too good to be true and I was already slightly envious of whomever was going to be chosen. It wasn’t just because of the list of the writers I hugely admire—Lucy Caldwell, Wendy Erskine, Bernie McGill, Jan Carson, Kit de Waal—but the very thought that had gone into it, the preparation and care into which the residency was put together.

I applied for the at-home residency, though of course I would have loved to have spent a week in The Harrison in Belfast, but family commitments came first. When I was chosen, I made sure that I had my week set up as if I were at the hotel with the time and space needed to make the most of the residency. From the offset, meeting with the incredible Kit de Waal, set us up for what was to come.

Each writer was open, candid, and extremely generous with their knowledge and experience. No question was off the table and their answers on the publishing world, writing processes, editing, determination, were refreshing and real. Jan spoke openly about all the different avenues for writers and opened my eyes to new ways to explore writing and creativity. My session with Wendy went over the planned time and it was an engaging conversation about publishing, writing (stories and novels), and everything in between. Lucy worked on editing, and she has the sharpest eye and kindest words. It was an unbelievable experience watching her at work and seeing how she tightens sentences and is able to bring a story together, making it more compact and complete. After some bad writing news during the week, I sabotaged Bernie with something of a therapy session, and her insights into the world of writing calmed me, helped me and inspired me. Finally, there was a completely different session with Tony Flynn, the incredible actor. We spoke about writing and performance in general, before working in different exercises to do before doing a public reading. Then worked on how to read in public—I felt like I wanted to get in front of a crowd as soon as the call was over. I should mention too, that it was an incredible honour for these writers to have read my work from the application I sent in and to be so kind in their feedback– this in itself has given me such a boost moving forward.

McVeigh residency

During that week, each session inspired something inside of me. After Lucy’s session I spent time just reading through the collection I am working on, revisiting stories as if for the first time. After Jan’s I spent a few hours doing practical research, trying to think about my future as a professional writer, listing my strengths and how I can use them to basically make money in order to be involved in creative projects. All of the writers spoke about the importance of just thinking and reading, how a lot of the time we carry a guilt around with us if not writing, and in between the moments of writing, editing and researching, I spent chunks of time looking out the window and reflecting, going for a run, and reading new books, while also revisiting ones that have moved me in the past.

After the week of residency, I had a brilliant Zoom call with David from No Alibis Bookstore and Press. I instantly felt at ease chatting to him. We spoke about the piece I wrote for the residency, which won the Bath Short Story Prize, and how that story turned into a novel. He was incredibly encouraging and honest. We spoke about the challenges of getting the first novel out into the world, and then spoke about books, books, books. I was thrilled to receive a box a week later filled with books recommended by David. I have already three of them, one in particular, completely blowing me away (Is Mother Dead, by Vigdis Hjorth).

I also spoke to the brilliant Ann Burtt from Jericho Writers. I should mention here, that the residency was so well thought out, that it didn’t finish with the sessions. I also received membership to: Jericho Writers which includes – all their online events, free courses, blogs, articles and more; free membership to Royal Society of Literature; and, free membership of online Writing.ie. Ana spoke about Jericho Writers in general and the benefits, but we also spoke about my novel, the stage it is at, and how to face what is coming in the best way possible. She spoke about the processes within the publishing world, opening my eyes to scenarios I had never thought of. I also had a truly brilliant talk with Aki Shilz, Director at The Literary Consultancy. She was able to dissect and analyse my tangled mess of thoughts, breaking everything down into clean and clear objectives and steps. We spoke about a new idea for a novel, and how to approach it, what to think about and what to avoid. I am now two chapters into that novel and can’t wait to have the first 30,000 words ready to send The Literary Consultancy for editorial feedback.

The Paul McVeigh Residency was more than I could have imagined. I can honestly say that my writing from here on out will be forever changed and I owe that to him and to each of the professionals who gave their time and guidance. It really did feel like being welcomed into the most caring, encouraging and kind community, and I cannot wait to share the work that stems from this. I also look forward to meeting each one of these people in the future, so I can get them a drink and thank them personally. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited and motivated to get stuck into my writing—2024 looks bright.

(c) Patrick Holloway

About the author

Patrick Holloway is the winner of The 2023 Bath Short Story Prize, The Molly Keane Creative Writing Competition, The Flash 500 Prize, the Allingham Fiction Prize, among others. He was selected by Alexander MacLeod as a Seán Ó Faoláin Mentee in 2023 and was highly commended for the Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Competition. He was the writer selected for the 2023 Paul McVeigh Residency. He was second in The Raymond Carver Short Story contest, The Waterford Poetry Prize, and was highly commended for the Manchester Fiction Prize. He was a finalist for the prestigious Alpine Fellowship for fiction and has been shortlisted for Moth Poetry Prize, Moth Short Story Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Prize, Dermot Healy Poetry Prize, Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award (for both fiction and poetry). His work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The London Magazine, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, Carve, Southword, Overland, The Ilanot Review, The Lonely Crowd, The Moth, and elsewhere. He edits the literary journal, The Four Faced Liar, which is going into its third issue. He has read his work and facilitated workshops at The West Cork Literary Festival, Write by the Sea Literary Festival, Waterford Writers’ Weekend, and Listowel Writers’ Week.

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