Local authors share in font of inspiration at Donegal writers’ retreat

Novelist Anthony Quinn speaking at the Writing Retreat
Novelist Anthony Quinn speaking at the Writing Retreat

Wordsmiths from all over the world delved into the craft of writing amid the silver strands and gorse hills of Donegal’s wild Atlantic coast during the inaugural Ireland Writing Retreat at Teac Jack in Gweedore.

The seven day retreat, entitled ‘Forgotten Land, Remembered Words’ showcased readings and discussions with award-wining novelists Anthony Quinn, from Tyrone, and Belfast-born Ken Gregory and Rachael Kelly, as well as ceildhe dancing, hillwalking, and Irish sean-nós singing performances.

The participants, who came from Canada, the US, Australia and England, were gently guided through the writing process, fine tuning and perfecting their work-from the seed of an idea to a high-quality draft, and they also had the opportunity to learn the secrets of lyric writing and ‘cúpla focal’ as Gaeilge.

Quinn, an Amazon best-selling crime author, is launching the UK and Ireland edition of his critically acclaimed debut Disappeared in August, as well as his historical mystery The Blood Dimmed Tide in October.

He praised the organisers of the retreat, Columbia Hillen and her husband Sean, who is no strangers to the literary world himself, having worked as a journalist for Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Times Educational Supplement.

“As well as giving aspiring writers the chance to sharpen their writing skills, the retreat is also about establishing and strengthening a connection to this beautiful little corner of Ireland”, said Quinn.

“The wonderful sea views are like a safe haven for the imagination, and it’s great to see the setting inspire writers from all over the world and all walks of life.

“Novel-writing, whether it’s genre or literary fiction, is a tough art form to get right, still tougher to master.

“The biggest challenge is putting enough emotion and drama into the story so that it will engage the reader. To do this you have to go deep into your own self, your feelings and memories, both conscious and unconscious.

“My most important tip to would-be novelists is not to start by planning your novel from chapter to chapter.

“Let the characters and plot emerge during the writing process. Authors never write the book they want to write, rather they write the book that is in them. In many ways it’s beyond their conscious control, like dreaming. Trusting your subconscious to come up with the goods is part of the fun and suspense of the act of writing.”

Also talking at the retreat was fantasy novelist Kenneth Gregory, whose debut novel ‘The Polaris Whisper,’ the first in a trilogy, was published by Blackstaff Press.

Negotiations are now underway for his novel to be turned into a television series with a movie option.

His second novel in the series is ‘The Poison of Newgrange.’ The third, a modern-day thriller, has the working title of ‘Brinlack,’ a place beside Bloody Foreland in west Donegal. ‘Shahryár’s Heir: A Prince among Thieves’ is his first fantasy novel in a re-invention of the Arabian Nights’ stories.

“Fantasy is a well-celebrated genre of writing and has been for many generations, even Tolkien used Celtic mythology for his ‘Lord of the Rings’ stories,” said Kenneth. “In my work I fuse historical fact with fiction.

“Even in terms of planning a novel, authors have their own strategies. In my case, I had the germ of an idea and wrapped that idea round some of the most mysterious and mystical elements in Ireland, including Newgrange and the Book of Kells.”

The next ‘Forgotten Land. Remembered Words’ Ireland Writing Retreat takes place this September. For more information log onto www.irelandwritingretreat.com