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Tell Your Own Story

The Red Line Book Festival by Phyl Herbert

Article by Phyl Herbert ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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It’s a big deal to be invited to read at a festival. To be honest it’s a wake-up call. The alarm bells deafen and you wonder if you can write at all. The backward glance through my stories became intensified and I read my work again through a very critical microscopic lens.

Writing in private and reading in public, to state the obvious, are two very different activities. Writing in private is when the mind is navigating territory as yet unexplored and reading in public is presenting the result to an audience. I was fortunate to have had a collection of short stories published by Arlen House in 2015 and a second edition in 2016. The Price of Desire, was the culmination of work produced over a number of years. Classes, Writing Groups and Workshops were the beginning stages of my writing path. The M.Phil in Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin taught me how to write to a deadline. You don’t have to go to university though to learn that. There is only one way to write…………. Sit down, fill the blank page, get the feed back – then edit, edit, and edit again.

I came to the physical act of writing quite late in life but I was always engaged with the word, spoken and written, and I’ve always thought in sentences with a rainbow of images somewhere about. The dramatic word was my first love. The Focus Theatre , under the direction of Deirdre O’Connell was where I learnt about acting and directing. It was the early seventies and Stanislavski’s use of improvisation was then a new technique, in Ireland anyway. It entailed the art of creating drama without a script. Simply put it was an exercise in building a character, creating a place and devising a situation where something might happen, some activity that would transform the character and bring the story forward to a conclusion. Writing a story is somewhat similar. Dialogue is the currency of drama and the use of words have to be budgeted and spent wisely making sure they do the work of driving the action forward.
Book Launches are a common happening in this country and over the course of many years I have been to more than a few. The ones I remember are the ones that made an impact on me. I think it’s true to say it’s because of the combination of language and the drama within the narrative.

When I was invited to read at The Red Line Festival I panicked and thought my stories which I had read at many festivals now needed a rest. Something new was essential. The story as printed and published on the page is a final piece of work. it’s static and permanent. The thought occurred to me that a monologue was a moving piece of writing, it could change with every performance. Grace came to me as a character that could be portrayed in ten minutes, the exact amount of time that ‘Staccato’ request from their writers. Last November I read a story at their permanent place of residence – Toner’s Pub in Baggot Street. Writers and musicians perform once a month and each writer reads for ten minutes dovetailing with musicians. The format works brilliantly and the mix is eclectic. I thought that a monologue would fit the fast moving Staccato like pace of the evening.

Grace is a woman in her fifties with a secret past life. Towards the end of the monologue the secret comes to life. Characters like Grace interest me greatly as a writer. The older woman in literature is not seen as sexy and the question I ask myself is – ‘why isn’t she.’ Desire goes on until the grave. I’m drawn to exploring characters whose past experiences converge with their present lives. Human nature doesn’t change, we still need air to breath, love to blossom. Social mores are what change and perhaps the ways of telling a story, but the building blocks are always words and images.

Merci Horan (left) is the actress who performs the monologue. I have seen Merci perform at several private functions and I knew immediately when writing Grace that I had the very woman that would fit the role. Grace will be performed as part of the Staccato event on 13th October at The Cherry Tree Pub in Walkinstown.

(c) Phyl Herbert

The Red Line Festival takes place on 13th October 2017, at The Cherry Tree Pub in Walkinstown, Dublin.

About The Price of Desire:

In Phyl Herbert’s collection, twin sisters share an uneasy reunion in a spa hotel, as secrets bubble up between them; an aging farmer wakes to an empty day, filled only with the sour legacy of betrayal; and a young woman makes a startling bid for freedom with Freddie Mercury’s golden voice ringing
in her ears.

Order your copy online here.

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PHYL HERBERT - Lives in Dublin. Her writing career began in 2008 after completing an M.Phil in Creative Writing in Trinity College. ‘THE PRICE OF DESIRE’ a collection of short stories published in 2016 by ARLEN HOUSE has been short-listed and long-listed in prestigious competitions including The Kate O’Brien, Edge Hill and Writing.ie. She is author and director of the monologue ‘MY NAME IS GRACIE’. MERCI HORAN - Lives in Dublin. She has performed regularly in plays and musicals and is delighted to have been chosen by Phyl to play ‘Gracie’ for the Red Line Book Festival audiences.
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