Naas Creative Writers’ Group was established in November 2013 as a self-support group for local writers in the Naas area following a creative writing course facilitated by local writer Niamh Boyce, in Naas Library. The group, comprises 17 emerging writers, living in or associated with County Kildare. We meet twice a month in Naas Community Library. A number of group members have had short stories, flash fiction and/or poetry published both on-line and in print journals and magazines. Others have won or been shortlisted for writing competitions. Also, a number have completed, or are in the course of completing, full length novels (as yet unpublished).
Mary Whelan was pivotal in getting the group up and running and she has continued in her role as group coordinator since. We come armed to each group session with a small piece inspired by a suggested prompt and pieces are read out and constructive feedback is given by group members. This gets us writing and knowing that we have a deadline helps us put pen to paper. The feedback we get from each other is invaluable and has helped improve our writing skills and given us encouragement again and again. The meetings are informal and always laced with a bit of healthy banter as we drink our teas and coffees in the Board Room kindly provided to us by Naas Community Library.
Aware that getting published anywhere is getting increasingly difficult, we began to consider publishing an anthology of our own work. We put together an application for a local publishing award from Kildare County Council Arts Department. This involved quite a bit of work and a small sub-group of three members (Mary Whelan, Rose Malone and myself) took on the task of submitting the application and selecting samples from our writers to submit with the application that demonstrated the quality of our work and also to show how our work was influenced and connected to the local area and community.
We were up and running when we were awarded the grant. We were absolutely delighted, but conscious that we were venturing into the unknown world of editing and publishing. We were faced with the sometimes-conflicting objectives of being fair and balanced with all members of the group, while at the same time, ensuring the quality of the pieces submitted to us. We had more material than we needed. We were conscious of potential downstream complications to do with copyright, ISBN numbers and handling money from the grant or from sponsorship and book sales. These were issues that we did not have to deal with in our 5 year’s existence to date. We got the members to formally agree that copyright would remain with the individual authors and also that any profits made from the publication would be used to fund a second book, or to pay for creative writing workshops for the group and that a portion of any profits would be given to a local cancer charity – the Michael Mullan Cancer Fund.
Then we had to select a printer and obtained a number of quotations from local companies. We were to discover that price is not everything and were very fortunate in selecting Naas Printing who, from start to finish were very helpful, practical and patient with all our queries and requests. Getting our Word document into a format that the printer could use was a challenge. It was further complicated by the fact that we wanted to include sketches where there were gaps in the text between authors. Mary however persevered in ensuring that the document progressed in accordance with the printers’ requirements, while Rose and Pat concentrated on editing the pieces that we wanted to include in the collection.
Meanwhile, we were working on the cash flow challenge of having the cash to pay the printer when the book was printed, before we received any income from book sales. The local Credit Union came up trumps and made a significant contribution to become the main sponsor of the anthology. All members of the group personally contributed financially to the project, and many were very successful in obtaining sponsorship from other local businesses. Our cash flow problems were over.
The launch of the book on 15 November was an important milestone for the whole group. With the enormous support of Naas library, a very enjoyable night was arranged for family, friends and invited guests. The book was introduced to the audience by a noted and award-winning local writer, Orla McAlinden, (a previous winner of Short Story of the Year) who also wrote the foreword for the book. The mayor of Naas, Carmel Kelly, did the formal launch and the contributors were each presented with a copy of the book from which they read short samples of their own contributions. Local independent bookshops Barker & Jones in Naas, Farrell and Nephew in Newbridge, the University Bookshop in Maynooth, Woodbine Books in Kilcullen and The Blessington Bookstore in Blessington, have all taken copies for sale and a brisk trade is being reported. Our timing in launching is perfect as it’s an ideal Christmas present. And at €10 a copy is very good value. The production of the anthology has been a challenge and a labour of love and has sometimes involved a steep learning curve. Seeing our work in print and sharing it beyond the group has given great satisfaction and encouragement. It has also cemented bonds of friendship and group cohesion. We will, however, need a period of recuperation before we embark on our next publication.
(c) Pat Mullan
About Cuisle Chill Dara – Heartbeat of Kildare:
Cuisle Chill Dara – Heartbeat of Kildare features 51 pieces from 17 local writers in a variety of styles and topics, including humour, romance, fantasy, science fiction, gothic and adventure, to name but a few.
In the words of award-winning novelist and 2016 Short Story of the Year winner and shortlisted for the 2019 competition, Orla McAlinden who spoke passionately to a rapt audience and penned the Foreword to the anthology: Such a breadth and depth of material, and such a wide-ranging collection, this has turned out to be! From writers at the start of their journey, to pieces penned by already accomplished writers, there is a new treasure on every page. Wonderful evocations of a Kildare and of a world gone past — but fondly remembered— jostle shoulders with writing which evokes the most contemporary face of Ireland and the county. This is a collection to race through in one sitting and then to return to, over and over, to savour and enjoy.
The anthology is available from any member of Naas Creative Writers’ Group and also from;
- Barker & Jones, Naas
- Farrell & Nephew Newbridge
- Woodbine Bookshop, Kilcullen
- University Bookshop, Maynooth
- The Blessington Bookstore
Or order by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Priced at €10 per copy, it’s the ideal Christmas gift.
Cuisle Chill Dara would not have been possible without generous support from Kildare Co. Council, Naas Community Library, Life Credit Union and our other sponsors.