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All the way from the Emerald Isle!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

So much to be thankful for...

Thanksgiving dealt us a very sad blow this year. A very dear and longtime friend of mine lost a baby (her first). We are (all) devastated by this sad news and cannot comprehend how something likes this could happen.

As Thanksgiving has come and gone and we grieve silently for our friends loss, we realise just how much we have to be thankful for in this world. It does not matter if we are knee deep in recession, it does not matter if there are job cuts, it does not matter if we cannot afford the bright and shiny toys for the children.

All that matters is that we have each other. We are happy. We are healthy. We are loved.

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Monday, November 23, 2009

A visit with Irish Author Brian Leyden

A visit from Brian Leyden to NUI Galway last week left many of us meandering around campus afterwards scribbling poems on pieces of paper. I have written all the pertinent information you need to know about this very talented Irish Author down below but before you swan on down their to read it, let me tell you what I loved about this guy.

1. He is making a comfortable living as an Author in Ireland today (yeah!)
2. He thinks we (students) have a huge advantage because we can learn what the publishers out there are looking for and then give it to them!
3. He read a poem by WB Yeats.

Admittedly Yeats is of my all time favourite poets so this was a shoe in for Brian Leyden were he looking for 'class appeal'. It was not what he read, but how he read it. He had his book laid out on the table in front of him as if he needed it for reassurance. He looked around the room and his voice hypnotised us for as long as it took him to recite this piece.

Adam's Curse

We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'

And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, "To be born woman is to know -
Although they do not talk of it at school -
That we must labour to be beautiful.'

I said, "It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Our teacher had to break the silence with a big 'bula bus' after Brian finished blindly reciting this gorgeous piece as us students were mesmerized. A standing ovation was in order but we were transfixed in time. Wishing, dreaming, hoping that someday, someone like Brian would stand up in a room full of people and read one of our poems - just like that!

A quick look at who Brian Leyden is:
An Irish Novelist, short story writer and teacher of Creative Writing. He also conducts writers workshops for adults. The winner of the Francis McManus Short Story Award 1988, and recipient of the Arts Council Bursary in Literature, 1993.

Short stories: Departures (Brandon, 1996), Novel Death and Penalty, (Brandon 1996).

Anthologies: The Alphabet Garden, (Brandon 1994),Irish Christmas Stories 2, (Bloomsbury, 1997), Brandon Book Of Irish Short Stories, (Brandon, 1998) Plays: Salvage, (with Wille Conlon, 1987) Experiments In Magic, (1989) Ink And Lunacy, (with Willie Conlon, 1990). Radio Documentaries: No Meadows In Manhattan, (RTE , 1991), Even The Walls Were Sweatin, (RTE, 1997)

I am searching around the archives of our local RTE (TV STATION) to see if I can get some recordings of his work to upload for y'all to have a would be a great distraction on a rainy day!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Would ya look at that sky!

Be forewarned my friends when you hear an Irish person talking about the 'look of that sky' you can only expect to be headed into a lengthy conversation relating to the last few centuries of 'The Weather'. God knows if the weather was a little less rainy around here it would be Costa Del Ireland and a lot of what we love about our little island (rural and underdeveloped countryside, brilliant beaches and coast lines) would be long gone.

So the last few days have been a bit of a drag. OK - a bit of a swim would be more appropriate. If you are not wearing your wellies it is because you like having wet toes and wearing sodden socks at work or at school.

When the sky (above) looks like this, the outcome is never good. Because it does not get too warm around these parts (especially this time of year) the most you can expect is a great dumping of rain that might last for days, and days, and days. And when it's done - maybe a few more days.

For the most part, we all gather in the pubs (or canteen at school) and give the tired topic of the weather at least a half hours worth of due diligence before we realise we are as typically Irish as they come and it is time to change the subject and converse on more important things that may be going on outside the metropolis of Galway, Ireland.

Thankfully, a lot of people are totally uninhibited by the wetness of this island and carry on about their normal day and others just hole up in a local cozy pub and wait for it to pass.
There are times (like today) when something happens (due to the weather) that really makes you pause and think and probably even stop for a few minutes to be thankful that you are happy, and healthy and alive.

Four young women (students from the University) were killed last night in a car accident when their car hydroplaned hitting an oncoming truck. A fifth young woman and the driver of the truck are in critical condition.

Drip, Drip, Plop...................................

Drip, Drip, Plop................................

Please God - make the rain stop.

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Oh me, oh my, it's Pumpkin Pie!

I love Autumn! I do. Although born in the dead of Irish winter, I think I was supposed to be an Autumn babe. I got married in the lovely Canadian Autumn and this season will always be my favourite, albeit wet here in my lovely Ireland .

When entertaining (something we rarely do now that I am back at school) I have always paid particular attention to my table. Ensuring that it is dressed and ready for the feasting burden we are about to bestow upon it, is almost as important as the feast itself. Last night the question arose as to what we would be doing for Thanksgiving (not celebrated in Ireland of course) and I started obsessing over one of my favourite desserts - Pumpkin Pie.

Yes - we have ample fresh Pumpkin laying around the house since the feast of Halloween last week, but you and I both know that no matter how hard you try, our how talented your husband is in the kitchen, it does not taste as good as the silky stuff out a can. My search began and came to a crashing halt as I realised that there is not a can of pumpkin to be found in Ireland.

I know, sounds a little dramatic even for me, but the sense of panic and urgent need for this spicy scent and sweetness of this sticky sublime pie has taken over my brain and I cannot live without at least ONE bite! Is ANYONE listening to me????

Yes, thank God. My good friend Natalie at my favourite local foodie shop is on the ball.
"Well", says she, "there usually is a can of that stuff knocking about the lowest shelf around this time of the year, but I don't see it here today. A few yanks come looking for it around the end of November last year, so we got a bit delivered to threw on a shelf and then we were left trying to shift it for the rest of the year. Last year, I ordered in twelve cans of it, and seeing as only seven of them moved, we reduced the order to less than half this year. Those are already spoken for, so should I put your name on one of the cans for next year then dear?"
(the above is a sad but true story)
OK - fit to be tied and wanting someone to kill me now, as I will not be getting what I want for at least another few weeks (and let's face it, I am not really all that patient!) I worked on the best frowny face I could muster and (after peeling those leftover pumpkins) my handsome Chef once again delivered!

Whatcha need:
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree - canned.
(use the fresh stuff if like me you feel the need for martyrdom)
3/4 cup sugar in the raw
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
2 tablespoons water
A whole pod of vanilla bean scraped out (trust me)
1 unbaked 9 inch pastry shell. (Yes, he uses the frozen one and it is perfect).
In a great big bowl - pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and flour and mix well. Add eggs; keep mixing. Add evaporated milk, water, and vanilla; and you guessed mix some more. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan. Bake at 220° Celsius for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 180° and bake about 35 minutes longer, or until center is set.

Yum, yum, yumba!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today's rainy day!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hugo Kelly

Entering into the second week of our visiting writers series we had an inspirational visit from the lovely and talented Mr. Hugo Kelly.

A fiction writer and an active member of the very successful Galway writers' group Talking Stick. Hugo has won over twenty awards for his short fiction works in Ireland and in Great Britain including most recently the Brian Moore Award.

Hugo works full time at the James Hardiman Library at NUIG and has been writing since his youth. After his stint in University he took a year out at the age of 23 to write his first novel and admitted it was not his best work. There was a similar vibe to talk he gave - because he (again, like our writer last week Nuala Ní Chonchúir) brought the realities of being a writer in Ireland today up close and personal.

Mr. Kelly took us through the early years of his writing career sharing with us tips of the trade and what he did to keep busy and get his name out there. He was not interested in being a martyr , and has never felt the need to suffer for his art. He feels very fortunate to have found a job he really likes (Information Librarian) at NUIG. He gets to earn a decent wage and still pursue his passion.

Hugo read one of his pieces from a chapbook of his titled Night. Day Follows. The story began with a young man trying to hang himself in the kitchen and the ghosts of his parents arrive and a conversation ensues. It was a great piece. There is some talent required in writing about something disturbing like a man trying to hang himself and making it so ordinary as the ghosts of his parents carried on reading the newspaper and telling him not to use a roller to paint his ceilings as it wastes good paint. Yes - enjoyed by the whole class!

Looking forward to next week!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Nuala Ní Chonchúir

With barely a day off from school over Halloween, I entered into the second half of the semester to discover another cool and exciting part of my creative writing course. For the remainder of this semester I will get to meet several very talented Irish writers. Yeah!

Seeing as I am not allowed to write any kind of a personal review of the visiting writer for my school report - it has to be 'report on the content, respond to the visits etc.' I am using my WiseBlog so that you can get the WiseREADreview on who they are, what they write and whether or not you should all be breaking down the doors to your local rag shop to buy their stuff.

Let's start with the lovely and talented Nuala Ní Chonchúir. Born (1970) and raised in Dublin and well educated (BA in Irish, Trinity College; MA in Translation Studies, Dublin City University), Nuala is a full time writer and poet now residing in the lovely town of Ballinasloe, County Galway (only a few minutes out the road from me).

It was fantastic to sit and listen to her story. A mother of three (one being a brand new one) she did not sugar coat the life of a writer in Ireland. She gave a realistic impression of what her life is like as a full time writer in Ireland with everything from salary earned to still waiting to get paid a year later for an appearance stateside! I got the vibe afterwards that some of my younger classmates felt a little disillusioned by her visit. They are still so young and believe that they are the next J.K. Rowling. They have visions of enormous book advances filling their bank accounts upon writing the first chapter of their novellas! Gawd - life has embittered me, hasn't it!

Nuala spoke of the difficulties of being your own PR person. Having to constantly be selling your self and asking someone to 'give her a gig'. I suppose I can equate this to owning your own business and constantly striving to keep customers coming in the door!

Nuala has already published two collections of short fiction and also two poetry collections. Her most recent book is a short story collection Nude.

There were several points I made note of during my time with her. The ones that stand out in my mind and certainly something for any young aspiring writer to adhere to can be pinpointed right here:

  • If you want to write short fiction/poetry etc.- start reading short fiction/poetry etc.
  • Claim your space and make time to write (with three young children under foot - she is sooooooooooo my hero right now!)
  • BE VISIBLE! Read the literary rags. See what they print, then start submitting your work. Enter competitions. This builds up your 'writing CV'.
  • Your 'Writers Name' - is it the right name for you? Do you need to change it? OK - here I am lucky! When I married I changed my name so Móna Wise it is!
  • Think carefully about titles.
  • Show - don't Tell. You are going to see a lot of this, because this is the phrase used most frequently by all our teachers to date.
  • Last and by no means least - WRITE. Write in the morning, write in the afternoon, write at night. Carry a notebook with you everywhere you go.

We did not get to read a sample of her work during class so I cannot comment on what I think about her style etc. but I will be checking out her new book as soon as we get it at school.

This was the first of our 'visiting writers' to NUIG. Stay tuned for the next one!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


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