Head Above Water Autumn Courses (Bray) now booking

Autumn14CoursePosterUnder the banner of Head Above Water writers, I’m giving a series of classes this Autumn from Beginners to Improvers and to Flash Fiction. My signature class is Creative Practice in Busy Lives & Short Story Essentials. As a psychology and communications studies grad and busy mum, I’m very much aware of how the creative process and producing fiction requires a combination of technique, practice, talent, time, headspace and mental resilience. All these factors combine to assist the new writer in finding confidence, developing skills, producing ever-improving material and pushing through the setbacks (motivation, uncertainty, skill gaps and the vagaries of the publishing industry) to become as productive and successful a writer as possible (where ‘success’ is defined by you.) As a published short story and flash fiction writer who has now produced longer works for submission I want to share the techniques and skills I’ve learned along the way. But what I hope in particular my courses can offer is the encouragement, support and techniques for producing material within our hectic and demanding lives and to help people find mental resilience and verve in their pursuit of a creative life. For those drawn to a creative path I know how important it is for health and happiness to be able to access and develop that side and not be cut off from it through life circumstances or lack of confidence. It with this in mind that I’ve devised the following programme…

Venue: All courses this Autumn will take place in St. Peter’s Centre, (adjacent to the Coach Inn), Dublin Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Creative Writing for Beginners Sunday November 2nd 10am to 1pm  35 euro

(Get Started Writing, develop ideas, understand main elements of storytelling, build your confidence) Full course details and booking.

Creative Practice in Busy Lives & Short Story Essentials Sunday Nov 16th 9.30am to 1pm 35 euro

(Suitable for Beginners and Improvers. Tips to produce writing & maintain writing verve in busy lives plus the essentials of good short story writing. Full course details and booking

Short Story Intensive Workshop (Improvers)  Sunday Nov 30th 9.30am to 1.30pm 45 euro

(Suitable for those writing a while & wanting to develop skills. We will workshop one of your existing stories (in a supportive & encouraging matter) and do further writing exercises. Interactive and full of creative energy!)

Full course details and booking

Writing Fabulous Flash Fiction Sunday Dec 7th 10am to 1pm 35 euro

Flash Fiction is the epitome of writing verve! This versatile, short form is ideal for readers and writers who want to pack meaning and entertainment into bite-sized chunks. With many publishing outlets for material, flash fiction is the perfect way to sharpen writing skills and raise your profile in the writing world. This course will help you produce competent, unique and memorable short fiction.

Full course details and booking


Please share these details particularly with those in the Wicklow and Dublin areas. For each of the courses I hope that you will go home energized and motivated to pursue your creative endeavours. I look forward to meeting some of you there!

James Claffey’s Blood a Cold Blue

Dear folks, I just wanted to let you know about a wonderful new short collection by Irish native and writing pal James Claffey. I first read, and was immediately impressed by James Claffeys’ gorgeous and unusual writing on the peer review and fiction site Fictionaut. James’ new collection has just been published by Press 53 and I interviewed James for writing.ie. James gives a wonderful insight into writing, how Irishness comes across in writing, what he believes are the drawbacks of writing for a market and the challenges as a writer.

You can read the interview here.

Strange tales of love and desire


Given the week that’s in it I thought I’d mention these tales of love and desire. It doesn’t come naturally to shout out about my stories but I’m proud of these and some of them have been published in reputable places and longlisted in major competitions and I’d be happy to have you read them. I’m working away on longer pieces and while I prepare to finish these long projects and send manuscripts away, it’s great to get encouragement and feedback on the way.

These mini story collections all have the theme of love and desire. The first is stranger than the second but they trace the desires and insecurities we all have. If you enjoy reading them please let others know.


Then we would go to bed and I would lie against him, my skin cooling at the point where he touched me. On certain nights he would make love to me and I would feel the grit under my fingernails, the wash of my pleasure against his impenetrable skin.

‘My lover in a stone’

‘Sometimes when I came home from work and she was there before me with the telly on and her feet curled up and her thumb in her mouth and her twisting the guts out of her hair, I used to wonder why we were together. And were we together, or just taking slices out of each other as we slid past.’

‘Truth and Silence’

Such is the hypnotism of skin that I might have eaten you that day or absorbed you the way Venus Flytraps do and perhaps I did, you bit me on the lip when I stole that first kiss and your poison has been with me ever since.

(Originally published in THE VIEW FROM HERE)

‘The Singularity and the Octagonal House’

stories to make you go ooh-3‘Alison Wells’ short book of stories are wonderfully imagined glimpses into the lives of flawed, ordinary people, written with precise and clear prose. The language is imaginative and brings the reader to a place of wonder, with sentences like “Kicking, shouting, blowing bubbles up to the underside of the hard ice.” I was particularly taken with “The Singularity and the Octagonal House.” This story is resplendent. The inherent otherness of her writing is quite something and Wells’ knows her characters and how to engage the reader in their lives.’ 

Amazon UK   Amazon US/IRL


She knew what her lips would taste like; sherbet, bubblegum and sun.’

Life by the Lapels

Knives: that could cut out a piece of me or you, stupid teenage games where we nick each other and mix our blood. We could become blood lovers but it is too late for that. Forks: these are the directions we take when we open our mouths and words come out, clichés with no undoing, ‘I think we should…’, ‘I don’t know if I…’ ‘this isn’t what I…’ Spoons: upstairs in the blissful innocence of sleep, you make the shape of your wife; with your fingers on her back you feel her breathing.


He grinned and raised the Burgundy. Miranda feared for the evening, for the passionate future. She didn’t like the way he fondled his fondue.

Longlisted in the Sean O’ Faolain competition.

‘Burgundy, Bolero and Chicken Supreme’

stories to make you go ahReading Alison Wells’ stories is a bit like climbing into the bathtub she describes in the first story of this fine collection, “Life by the Lapels,” and finding suds that resembled “floating icebergs.” The images are both comforting and jolting; for example, the way Wells describes two people in the story, “Filch,” who “traced each others faces and turned inside out.” Ah! Powerful writing, pleasurable reading.

Amazon UK  Amazon US/IRL

New short story collection, #Fridayflash and Smashwords news

Self-published in a library

Smashwords have just announced an exciting new library initiative for their bestselling titles. Read more about it here.

Publishing is in a state

Here’s a very very interesting article about the state of publishing today and the role of ‘indie’ publishers in that.

Today’s #Fridayflash

Today my #fridayflash short fiction is on the amwriting website which features daily blogposts from authors and fiction on Fridays. My story this week is called Brown and Blue, you can read it here.

Mini short story collections

Many of you who’ve read the blog would have read my #fridayflashes and other fiction. I have many many longer short stories, some published in various magazines and some that have never been read. I’ve decided to release a few mini collections for Kindle ebook and app. Other formats will follow. The first one is called ‘Stories to make you go ‘ah’. There are three stories about love, life and desire. One of the stories in the collection was longlisted in the Sean O’ Faolain prize.

Stories to make you to ‘ah’ UK

Stories to make you go ‘ah’ US/IRELAND

Random Acts of Posting: April 15

Here are some of my writing.ie posts that you may have missed in the last while. Enjoy!

Historical Fiction: Hazel Gaynor’s Titanic Novel The Girl Who Came Home Hazel Gaynor explains the intricacies of writing historical fiction for her Titanic novel.

Love: Writer & Journalist Lucille Redmond on her short story collection Writer and journalist Lucille Redmond’s new ebook of short stories is striking and powerfully descriptive.

Guest post by Dr. Ailsa Cox, founder of the Edge Hill Prize for Short stories. Dr. Ailsa Cox, founder of the Edge Hill Prize on the origins and selection process of this prestigious prize for short story collections.

Emotional Energy and Novel Writing Novel writing requires emotional energy: How do we maintain and access it?

Why Flash Fiction will last What Flash Fiction is and why it’s here to stay

Reading as a writer and my novel is finished!

Today on Writing.ie I ask if being a writer ruins your love of reading.

I’ve also been reading this lovely optimistic and interesting article on the short story by Arminta Wallace in the Irish Times.

Apart from that I’m almost ready to submit my new novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities.  It’s my nanowrimo 2010 novel and I’ve been flat out working really hard on it particularly over the last few months. It’s a story of many layers and I’m pleased with how it’s turned out. One of the main themes is the power of storytelling and the novel contains four standalone short stories. Here’s my blurb for the book.

Sometimes stories can keep a life together; sometimes stories can tear a world apart. Set in the flux of the Celtic bust, Freya’s life is far from perfect. After a traffic accident Freya has lost her memories and somehow gained some she doesn’t recognise. Whilst her archaeologist husband is on the far side of Ireland immersed in the history of a newly found female Bog Body, Freya’s crumbling life is infiltrated and haunted by Glisa who seems to represent a perfect life. For Glisa, her perfect world it isn’t enough and it’s only by telling stories – both her own and those from Freya’s chaotic existence that she can make a life worth living. There’s a sinister undercurrent to Glisa’s life and Freya’s background is uncertain and hidden by her mothers deceit. Fairytales of the past, present and future, mirrors, castles, children present and lost all converge to bring Freya closer to the life she wanted and to threaten Glisa’s very existence.

(If you’ve any constructive criticism for my blurb please let me know, I’m here to learn!)

Hosting: Split Worlds Story: Coming of Age

Emma Newman’s (or EJ. Newman’) Split World project’s aim “is to immerse you in the Split Worlds with a mixture of storytelling, live events and online interactive events culminating in the launch of a five book series.” The Split Worlds “is an urban fantasy setting with gritty noir, fantastical magic, evil faeries and people just trying to drink their tea in peace.” I’m happy to welcome Emma and the Split Worlds series on the blog today. Find out more and read the latest story.

This is the seventeenth tale in a year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here.You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are releasedhere.

Coming of Age

Even though his right leg was cramping and his neck was starting to really hurt, Coll was enjoying himself for the first time in ages. Emily was wearing the jumper he liked best because it was more holes than wool. He watched her long blonde hair sway from side, brushing the top of her jeans as she laughed with two other girls who faded into the background, all three peeling their own apple.

“Is it the right shoulder or the left?”

“The left Cassie, it’s always the left,” Emily said with authority. “Like when you spill salt.”

“To blind the devil so he doesn’t make trouble,” Lilly said.

“Does that make this something to do with the Devil?” Cassie asked.

“No, stupid, it’s just a bit of fun,” Emily replied. “But you have to peel the apple all in one go, if it breaks it means you’ll never marry at all.”

That killed the conversation. Coll smiled, imagining Emily’s making a nice fat ‘C’. He was the only lad with that initial, the twat sniffing around Emily had the initial ‘D’ – for Dave. And Dickhead.

It was Dave’s coming of age weekend, so they’d all been sent off to camp and help prepare him whilst the adults waited at the farm. The lads were off gathering food, he’d had the sense to sneak off to spy on the girls in their yurt, hoping for a glimpse of Emily’s underwear as they changed for the evening gathering. He was sick of being with the others anyway, they were all so desperate to prove how ‘manly’ they were. They were all running around pretending to be cavemen, he was tucked behind the logpile watching the totty. No prizes for guessing who was the most evolved.

Coll dreaded his coming of age, still nursing a desperate hope that his Dad would come to his senses and move them back to the real world before his sixteenth birthday. No way did he want Emily to see him wearing only clothes he’d made himself, bearing a bare chest and a shield – of his own making too. He was hopeless at that kind of stuff.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Emily said, cupping the spiral of peel in one hand as she abandoned the knife and naked apple. She waited for the other two to finish, then they stood in a row, spacing out as much as they could amongst their stuff. “One, two, three!”

They threw the peels over their left shoulders, Coll imagined a clear C made of apple peel landing behind Emily – and not the others.

The trio spun around, Emily gasped, the other two looked briefly confused, then all three gathered around the peel that had landed behind Emily.

“Coll!” Cassie and Lilly gasped in unison, Emily was silent and rather pale.

“That’s creepy,” Lilly said, looking at the others. “Don’t you think so? I threw my peel behind me, not over here.”

“Me too,” Cassie said. “Maybe the spirits are trying to-“

The two girls looked at each other and ran out as Emily stared down at the peel.

Desperate to see, Coll stretched his neck, trying to peep between two unevenly piled logs. He wobbled, sending the top ones spilling onto the ground. Emily’s head snapped up and looked straight at him.

“Coll!” she yelled. “That wasn’t funny.”

“I didn’t touch it, I swear,” he said, glad to straighten up, now able to see his name formed in perfectly spaced apple peel letters. “How could I have?”

“Spying on me too now? Perv!” She ran out.

“Bollocks.” He climbed out of the yurt through the gap he’d used to get in, not wanting to emerge from the doorway when others could be watching.

When he brushed himself down and made his way into the centre of the camp, Emily was huddled with the others a little way away and all three gave him the look of death. He shoved his hands deep in his pockets, pretended not to care and sloped off into the woods. Sod Emily and the stupid peel. Sod Dave and his stupid ceremony. Sod them all.

Coll walked, feeling better the further away he got, deciding he would find a hollow to spend the night in and then go back to the farm after the ceremony. He thought about dead trees blossoming, he thought about the peel, he wished he had a sane father and that his mother hadn’t died. The evening passed in a blur of trees and bitterness.


Coll woke, not aware he’d dozed off. It was dark, his back ached and something was crawling on his cheek. He brushed it off and sat up hurriedly, only then becoming aware of the figures stood around him. The moonlight picked out four belt buckles, four pairs of eyes and a spearhead.

“Coll, you perv, Emily told us what you did.”

“I didn’t do nothin’,” he stood up.

“You hid in the girl’s yurt,” Dave said, jabbing the spear tip towards him. “You broke one of the sacred rules of the camp.”

“Oh piss off Dave, this isn’t a sodding TV show. Go back to camp and play cavemen with someone else, I don’t give a shit about the fact you’ve lived with a bunch of hippies for sixteen years.”

“I’m head of the camp, you broke a sacred rule. You know what that means?”

Coll shrugged, disinterested.

“It means I get to beat the crap out of you and no-one’ll stop me.”

Coll was running before his thoughts could catch up with his legs. Dave was bigger, he had a spear and he fancied Emily; all the odds were against him. He could hear the others joining the chase too, and none of them would take his side, they all wanted to be the alpha male’s favourite.

The ground was uneven, he tripped and regained his footing countless times, the pursuit filling the forest with snapping twigs and guttural shouts. He had no idea where he was going, all he hoped for was a place to hide before he broke an ankle. Then he saw a light up ahead, incredibly bright, he wondered if it was someone with a torch walking their dog. He headed towards it, hoping the imagined dog-walker wouldn’t run away at the sound of a pack of teenagers on the rampage.

He came to a huge log at the edge of a clearing. The light was dead ahead, he vaulted onto the log and leaped off, hoping to gain a good chunk of ground, but when he landed, he wasn’t in a forest any more. The trees were gone, as was everything else, even the ground was obscured by a dense mist. There were no smells, no sounds. There was more light but it was diffuse, like winter sunlight through fog, and when he looked up the sky was silver. He spun around, goggling, then Dave and the rest burst through behind him.

They too stopped, gawped, but Coll started to run, not wanting to be close when they came to their senses. He risked one glance behind and then when he faced forwards again he was back in a black forest bursting with life.

He tripped and fell hard, rolled onto his back and lay there a moment, panting, as he took in the trees and the moon above him. The bright light was gone. He hid, expecting the others to reappear any moment, shivering as the hours passed. It was only when the sun rose, revealing the spearhead and four rusting belt buckles, that Coll stopped believing they would ever be seen again.

Thanks for hosting Alison!

I hope you enjoyed the story. If you would like to find out more about the Split Worlds project, it’s all here: www.splitworlds.com – you can also sign up to get an extra story and get each new story delivered to your inbox every week. If you would like to host a story over the coming year, either let me know in the comments or contact me through the Split Worlds site. Em x

The Stinging Fly: Chat and Submissions

The Stinging Fly is a well respected literary magazine published from Ireland. It’s currently accepting submissions of poetry and short stories (postal) for it’s summer issue until Jan 31st and for all issues until Mar 31.For more details see here.

What’s it like to run a literary magazine these days? What are the challenges and what kind of shape is the short story in? These are some of the questions I asked Declan Meade, editor of the Stinging Fly in a Q & A on my blog (Random Acts of Optimism) on Writing.ie. Check out the interview here.