The Ink Tank Creative Writing Group grew out of a two-week Saturday morning class facilitated by author Niamh Boyce and held in Newbridge Library in November 2018. County librarian Mario Corrigan sat in on those first two meetings and encouraged us to form our group. It was his suggestion that we work towards putting together an anthology. We listened, he encouraged, and by October 2019, our first anthology was launched as part of the Kildare Readers Festival.
Early in the planning process, we discussed how we would finance our book and handle income from sales. The decision was made that we would donate any funds raised from sales to a local charity. The charity selected was St. Brigid’s Hospice. We applied to Kildare County Council for a Local Printing Award and financial help and were fortunate to be approved. Our local Life Credit Union sponsored the balance. With funding in place, we could concentrate on the writing. By August, we had a sizable body of work ready for editing. Each piece was discussed and critiqued during our meetings. A point worth making is that if a writers group gives only positive feedback, then nothing is gained for the reader or the writer. It is essential to learn how to effectively critique another’s work. A skill that is difficult to learn but improves with practice.
We were fortunate to have the editing skills of Mario Corrigan, who volunteered to go through each piece with his red pen. To hand over your printed masterpiece in pristine condition, only to have it handed back liberally decorated in red ink, is quite the experience. I, for one, incorporated every one of his suggestions and learned so much about the art of writing from Mario’s red pen. It was also a masterclass on how to critique another’s work.
There were ten contributors to our first anthology. Ten different styles of writing, ten different attitudes to deadlines. We got through it and launched our book in October 2019. Newbridge Library hosted the launch night as part of the Kildare Readers Festival. It was a huge success with attendance in excess of one hundred people. We sold copies of our book in Newbridge Country Market and received massive support from local bookshops, Farrell and Nephew, Newbridge and Woodbine Books, Kilcullen. As our costs were covered by grants and sponsorship, all of the income from sales went directly to our chosen charity. We raised €3000 for St. Brigid’s Hospice.
Buoyed by our success, we decided to work on a second anthology. This time our chosen charity was Hope(D), based in Newbridge. However, by March 2020, Covid 19 reached our shores, and restrictions began. Our group could no longer meet in person. We had a WhatsApp group, and one of our members suggested Zoom. Most of us had never heard of it until that day, but as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so Ink Tank began meeting virtually.
We adapted pretty quickly. Needs must! There were some funny moments, some awkward moments and some embarrassing ones. But at least we were able to continue. In the summer months, when restrictions eased somewhat, we held a few meetings on the Curragh plains. The onset of autumn and weather drove us back to Zoom. We started to meet more regularly than we did before the onset of Covid 19, meeting four times a month rather than two.
Putting the second anthology together on Zoom and under the restrictions was a challenge. Finance was a significant problem. We did not receive any grants and felt it would be wrong to request sponsorship from any business during the pandemic. We agreed that we would cover the costs of printing etc., from our own pocket. Newbridge Library, once again, helped with the editing. Editing is such an important aspect. We remain incredibly grateful to the staff of Newbridge Library for all their hard work.
Once we were all happy with our input, we worked on different layouts. Members of our group put forward suggestions for a title, and ‘Let me tell you something’ was chosen by popular vote. Mac_designco designed our book cover and our posters, and a printer was selected. While there were eleven contributors to the anthology, there were others whose input was just as valuable.
How to promote sales posed a serious problem. We decided on a November launch online, of course. Our local independent bookshops once again came to the fore, stocking our books without commission. We did all we could to direct customers to their websites using our social media accounts. Major thanks are due to Farrell and Nephew, Woodbine Books and Alan Hanna’s bookshop in Dublin, particularly in the period after Christmas when they were closed for months. We were also grateful to Crosses Supervalu in Newbridge, who stocked ‘Let me tell you something’ right up to June 2021 and significantly impacted sales.
I think every relative of every member of Ink Tank received a copy of ‘Let me tell you something’ in their Christmas stocking last year. We did all we could to push sales and were delighted, and slightly amazed, to reach the target we set for ourselves. On August 19th, we handed over a cheque to Hope(D) in the amount of €3000.
Working together as a group during a pandemic has been challenging. It was also the best antidote to the frustrating rolling restrictions. We continue to work together on Zoom and look forward to meeting in person again very shortly.
Journalist and author Eamonn Dillon summed it up in the foreword to Let Me Tell You Something:
The lockdown caused by the Coronavirus epidemic may be a blessing in disguise for the writer as people face fewer distractions than ever before. Conversely the writer has fewer excuses to get up and walk away from a blank page, so the pressure mounts.
While aircraft are grounded and boats tied up, the Ink Tank writers have been journeying throughout this crises-ridden year and in this volume the reader is invited to share their travels.
It is no ordinary time and this is no ordinary book.
(c) Maria McDonald
Ink Tank Creative Writers Group can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Let Me Tell You Something:
Let Me Tell You Something is the second collection of work from the Ink Tank creative writing group. Most of these stories and poems were penned during the coronavirus pandemic; some will reflect the issues around living through lockdowns, most will take you somewhere else entirely. From bus journeys and love affairs to new world orders and old train stations, there is something in this volume to suit every taste. Dip in and read at your leisure – between these pages are plenty of little snippets to fuel your imagination. We hope you enjoy them.
Order your copy online here.