Having won the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition at the end of 2013, and with the publication of my first collection in the offing, 2014 was set to be a busy year on the writing front and what a year it was! In January, I was Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Prize, and finally got serious about sending my work out to literary magazines and journals.
In February, 2 poems were published on the topical Poetry 24 web-site, including one about the infamous Panti Bliss homophobia scandal at RTE. I was also delighted to read as part of The Ash Sessions: Covers of Love event for St. Valentine's Day and the open mic for Wicked Women's Week.
In March, I started working on developing my own series of online courses (which I now hope to launch in 2015) and had a poem selected for publication in The Pickled Body, an online journal or poetry and art.
In April, I read at The Pickled Body launch at the Ranelagh Arts Centre, was short-listed for the Single Poem Award at Listowel Writers' Week, and was one of nine writers selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2014 - the most prestigious event for emerging poets in Ireland.
In May, I met the other emerging writers at the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series workshop, where we critiqued our poems with Alan Jude Moore and were schooled on reading and delivery of poetry by Theo Dorgan. Later that month, we were introduced over 2 nights of readings at the Irish Writers Centre, as part of the Dublin Writers' Festival. Through Poetry Ireland, I also attended a poetry workshop with Ciaran Berry, as part of the Writers' Festival.
In June, I attended a Mindshift meeting at the Irish Writers Centre - a series of professional development events, for published writers - focusing on PR & Marketing, and received great advice on promoting my book from Nuala Ni Choncuir, June Considine, Lia Mills, Christine Dwyer Hickey and others. I also took part in How Writers Write Poetry, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) run by the International Writer's Programme at the University of Iowa. A great teaching programme - the Iowa Writers Workshop is world-renowned - but I found the feedback process overwhelming, given the sheer numbers involved (around 2000 participants), and focused instead on working through the excellent content.
The summer was a little quieter. July, I found out I was a finalist in the Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition, judged by Wendy Cope, but the news was embargoed and I had to sit on my hands until the results were officially published in September! In August, I had a particularly productive month writing new work and also made the long-list for the Over The Edge New Writer of the Year 2014.
It all kicked off again in September, when 2 poems were accepted for publication, in the Boyne Berries and Abridged literary journals. I also won a coveted spot on a poetry workshop with Don Paterson at the Mountains to Sea Literary Festival, in Dun Laoghaire. It was a great event - not only did I get to critique work with a dozen amazing poets, in the beautiful surrounds of the new Lexicon library complex, but I also got to hear Michael Symmons Roberts, Menna Elfyn and Sinead Morrissey read their work. A whole day of talking poetry with equally passionate writers sparked a host of new ideas and, in the course of the day, the seeds of my second collection were planted. Mslexia magazine published the results of the Women's Poetry Competition 2014 along with some lovely words from Wendy Cope about my poem, After the Storm, in her judge's comments. Ahead of the Referendum, my thoughts on Scottish Independence were published in the Sunday Business Post - sadly, the outcome of the vote was not what I'd hoped. On Culture Night, I took part in the Over The Edge event in Galway, both reading and judging the open-mic competition, alongside poet, Ruth Aylett, followed by an impromptu poetry reading afterwards at The Crane Bar and a great evening catching up with writer friends! I also discovered in September, that I'd made the short-list of the Over The Edge New Writer of the Year and been Highly Commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, for the third year running!
October brought the news that the poem I'd workshopped with Don Paterson, 'Persephone Ascends', was accepted for publication in UK literary journal, Bare Fiction; the Dublin launch of my debut poetry collection was set for 14 November; and my poem, 'CAT Scan', won the Allingham Poetry Competition! I finished off the month with my debut reading at the long-running O'Bheal Poetry Night in Cork and being Highly Commended in the Over The Edge New Writer of the Year 2014.
November kicked off with the Allingham Festival in Donegal, where I was to read my winning poem. Due to a last minute hitch, I was unable to travel and Theo Dorgan kindly stepped into the breach. I had workshopped the poem with him, a few years previously - it was both lovely symmetry and an honour to have him read it at the festival. Later in the month, I made my first film poem, 'The Tiger's Tail', featuring the beautiful black and white street photography of Mike Bors. Then, the big one: the Dublin launch of my debut poetry collection, How To Lose Your Home & Save Your Life - a lovely evening at the Workman's Club, among friends - then off the next day to the Dublin launch of the Skylight 47 literary journal. A writer's work is never done!
December was much more relaxed. I had hoped to join poets Jo Bell, Jacqui Rowe and Roy Marshall to read at the Bare Fiction launch in Birmingham, but the poet budget wasn't up to it! Instead I enjoyed poetry closer to home at the launch of the Poetry Bus literary journal, with a final stop at the Irish Writers' Centre Christmas Party to present a copy of my collection to Irish poet, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, whose poetry class at the Centre is where it all began.
When I walked into my first creative writing class in 2007, and when I joined Nuala's poetry group in 2009, I couldn't have imagined ending up here. It's been an amazing year - a breakthrough year - and 2015 is already shaping up to be an exciting one, with the debut collection to promote and new writing projects to explore.
I'd like to say huge thank you to everyone who has supported my writing this year - in writing groups and workshops, in competitions and journals, in buying my collection or in reading this blog.
Happy New Year - may 2015 bring you everything you wish for!