I can never pinpoint exactly when the desire to write arose in me. Like a shadow self, it has always been there, sitting quietly alongside me. In my 38th year, the birthing of the writer in me gently pushed out. I had never deliberately sat down to write before, and as my thoughts scurried onto the blank page, I felt alive and connected, and oh, how the day flew! Thereafter, my writing stopped as quickly as it had started as I got busy and lost in other things.
But, in October, 2010, the forgotten writer in me, started to nudge again, demanding attention, so I headed to my first Hay House writers workshop in London, a wonderful and stretching experience indeed. Then, by chance in July 2011, I attended one of Vanessa O’Loughlin’s excellent workshops. She gave me honest, clear, and practical advice about writing and getting published. In her own quiet way, Vanessa issued an invitation to me, to step outside my own disquiet and give expression to the writers’ dream in me.
Shortly afterwards I designed two workshops, called B U and Inspire. As the workshops progressed so many aspiring writers began to emerge from within the groups. Most had never written before, and they did not know where to start, or, how to go about it. Emerging strong on the author’s battlefield was our old enemy called writer’s fear. He presented in so many forms; fear of not being good enough to write, fear of not be educated enough, fear of being judged, fear of not enough time to produce a book, fear of not being able to find the money to publish, fear of promoting it, fear of the book not selling well and the fear of fear itself. However, as a group their burning desire to write forged strongly ahead and unified them in a determination to do whatever was necessary to get their stories out there. The common vision for the book was that it would demonstrate to others the resilience of the human spirit in the battle of life and inspire them to keep going no matter what. The Inspire group wanted to highlight to others through their own experiences, that the path of life can be arduous, that much courage is needed, but that you can come through it and shine.
The hardest part of writing this book was making the decision to write it. But after this decision was made, we knuckled down to the practicalities, putting first things first. A sub-group was formed and a team leader assigned. Team goals were written down, and the criteria for what would go into the book fully agreed upon. Quotes for printing the book were sought locally. Proposals were drafted to fund the book and thankfully, my employer the HSE West agreed to fund the Inspire Project. Poetry and short story submissions were sourced from participants on the Inspire and B U workshops. A two week deadline was put in place, and by the end of the two weeks, we had a folder full of submissions! The team leader and his team read aloud each submission, to see if it fitted the criteria of being inspiring. The book format, and sectional categories were decided upon. Linda Duffy prepared the questions for the section called Inspired Interviews and subsequently conducted all nine interviews. Avril Fennell took all the photographs for the book. Ashton Coles designed and hand painted the cover of the book and the four sectional dividers. Marianne Lavelle, Kieran McGlynn, and Maureen Bennett did all the proofreading. Don Parkinson, the team leader, motivated the team and propelled the book forward to the printing stage. David Cryan set up the Inspire Project facebook page, to promote the book launch and all associated project activities. The last job the group did was to find a name for the book. The title Smiles and Tears was democratically chosen as being the firm favourite.
The Inspire Project launched Smiles and Tears six weeks later on June 30th in a local hotel. The book was sold for Euro 8.99 on the night and all proceeds from the sale of the book went to our five designated charities. The writers read out their poetry and short stories to an audience of over ninety people.
It was a moving and inspirational night, and the writers got to see their own words in print. More importantly, they witnessed the look of pride on the faces of their family and friends. The audience was blown away by the depth of the material. There was not a dry eye in the place when Kieran McGlynn read his short story. “Happiness Comes to Those Who Wait”. One cannot convey the stillness and awe in the room when Risteard Lloyd read his poem “Eyes Speak a Language”. Equally noticeable was the smiles of appreciation on the audiences faces when Peter McGarry, Kieran Fallon and Avril Fennell did their masterful recitations. When Don Parkinson read his poem “The Innocence of Childhood”, the audience quietly and inwardly slipped back in time to their own childhood. And, when Marianne Lavelle read the “Dance of Life”, we all felt the magic of the heart speak aloud. The audience recognised that hope was threaded throughout this book, in the silvery stitching of each individual experience. All the authors gave their absolute best, worked long hours into the night to make it happen.
When a writer’s heart calls, it compels you to take action, trust it, and your platform will build itself. It is amazing to think our little book has travelled out from a small room in Boyle, to the UK, Brussels, Los Angeles and all over Ireland. I have learned that things do not always work out as we have planned them, in fact they usually work out far better. If you would like to a copy of the book, please find us on Facebook,the Inspire Project, Boyle or contact Pauline McNamee on 087 9859419.