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A Writer’s Room: R.M. Clarke

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Article by R.M. Clarke ©.
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Where I write is always shifting. Being in the process of finding a permanent home, I have had to learn the art of literary vagabondry. Sometimes it might be a kitchen table – not the whole one, mind; only the bit that isn’t drowned in papers, torn envelopes, and breakfast plates that haven’t yet been put in the dishwasher – others, one of the cafes I keep on rotation, with ample plug sockets and good coffee. Often I will arm myself only with my notebook and a few recently sharpened pencils, or a water and fade proof Uni Pin Fine Line in 0.3, if I’m feeling particularly reckless; sometimes I have to lug my laptop along with me, avail of the free wifi. But all this moving around, all this lifting and loading and unloading and untangling of wires has taken its toll on my laptop, which now sports the equivalent of a broken right shoulder that yawns open threateningly whenever I prise it open or closed. I had always theoretically agreed with Woolf’s iconic testimony, but now I truly understand how right she was. It is difficult to settle down into the deep, meditative space required to write when the roaring lunchtime rush is bubbling up around you, or there is only ever a quarter of the table available for you to spread your notes out over, or you know that in a few hours the café you’ve commandeered as your home of the moment will be closed. Being creative is about entering an unlimited state; if externally imposed, non-negotiable limits on your space or time are there from the beginning there is an extra impediment to jumping into the freefall of artistic flow. To be truly free, you must have the secure footing that one’s own ‘room’ provides.

And yet, I manage. The pull to write is too strong to be ignored. I’ve honed a new skill, learning to flow with the migratory hours grabbed here and there in between errands and obligations and the work to pay the bills. The trick is to find as many home comforts as possible in the moment – the most comfortable chair in the warmest, quietest spot in the café with the best coffee; an extra ten minutes to clear the kitchen table of its chaos and light a delicious candle on its now empty, possible surface. A favourite cup and saucer – vintage china with blue rivers and gold stars inherited from a fastidious grandmother, or a handmade Arran Street East second that I treated myself to in one of their sales. Fresh flowers, bought or foraged on the regular walks I take to rush clear thought back into my brain again. Music: essential. Wordless, gentle, warming; Spotify make excellent, no-thought-required playlists, like 4am Comedown, Low-key or Deep Focus. The Meditative Mind channel on YouTube has good offerings, too; a favourite is the Gregorian Chant at 432hz, which reminds me of the utter peace I once held stumbling across the 5 o’clock service in St. Paul’s one winter afternoon.

My writer’s space is all about cultivating peace wherever and however I can manage it. I have moved around all my life, rarely settling – apart from during my secondary school years – for longer than two or three years at a time, often less. This pattern of kitchen table to café was what sustained my writing in between auditions and acting jobs when I lived and worked the ‘cattle mart’ in London, and it remains similar now as I balance recording sessions in various studios around Dublin – in my other life I’m a voiceover artist – and my writing. That central space, the one that is certain, deeply rooted and unchanging, is not there, never has been, and so I have learned ways, in my restless, nomadic state, to re-create it. Which may be why when I light a candle I opt for the scent of fire – Peat by Field Apothecary, anything with feu or ‘turf’ in it – in the absence of my own, true one; a hearth in place of a hearth.

(c) R.M. Clarke

About The Glass Door:

Then the leaves whispered, the branches creaked. Something was up above, watching. Hello? She could feel eyes upon her. She knew she was not alone anymore: Who’s there? Then a voice came back to her: You found me. After all this time.

The Glass Door is a haunting investigation into the deep, complex and often frightening labyrinth of the human mind, where three generations of Irish women learn to tread the difficult path of reconciling individual identity with social approval. It is a novel about absence and brokenness and longing, and a small and fractured family trying to figure things, and each other, out.

Set in the 1970s and 80s between the east coast of Ireland and London, Rosie’s story unfolds as she and her unwed mother Sandra chase her reluctant father across the sea, where he slips through their grasp and disappears, leaving emptiness in Rosie’s hand where a work-roughened palm should be. Mother and daughter are forced by failure and poverty to return home to the bitter embrace of Rosie’s grandmother, Marie, whose love for her daughter and granddaughter is poisoned by her desire for social acceptance. But the strange child Rosie grows increasingly stranger, especially at night, when her unpredictable behaviour becomes both frightening and dangerous. Sandra, coming under growing pressure, both from Marie and the society she lives in, must find a new man to take Rosie’s father’s place. But once she does things only get worse for her and Rosie. After years spent enduring years an increasingly disturbed home life, everything comes to a deadly climax.

Order your copy online here.


R.M. Clarke began her career as an actress in 2006, moving behind the scenes into voiceover and writing some years later. Her stories have been published in The Irish Times, Spontaneity, Losslit, The Open Pen Anthology and written for Dublin 2020. Her debut novel, The Glass Door, won the ‘Discovery’ award at the Dalkey Book Festival and The Irish Writers Centre Greenbean Novel Fair 2016. She is editor of and contributor to The Broken Spiral anthology in aid of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, published in 2017 with the assistance of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. She was part of the 2018 XBorders:Accord writing project in association with the Irish Writers Centre and Arts Council Northern Ireland. She holds a BA and the Gold Medal in English from Trinity College Dublin. She lives in Wicklow.
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