17 – 26 May


Introducing the 2019 Irish Writers Centre ILFDublin Young Writer Delegates

We are excited to introduce the six selected Irish Writers Centre Young Writer Delegates for this year's festival! Well done to James Hudson, Cassia Gaden Gilmartin, Ruth Ennis, Aoife Riach, Fiona Murphy McCormack and Sam Cox. These six young writers will be given festival passes to ten full days of full literary immersion at the festival this May.

Born in Dublin, raised in France, then raised a bit more in Dublin, James Hudson is a speculative fiction writer exploring why we feel the way we feel about the human body. He is currently completing his MA in Creative Writing in UCD, and would like his dissertation to be a first step towards remedying the dearth of transgender fiction in Ireland.

Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?

I’m hoping the recent uptick in Irish speculative fiction will continue. The genre has such a wonderful capacity for insight, and I want the Irish literary scene to let it grow. Speculative fiction is built on 'what if...' and Ireland has been built on so many historical decisions, the number of alternate realities to explore are countless. We should always stay curious and confrontational.

I see a rise in Irish LGBT voices in the future too, especially transgender writers like myself. Reading a book by a trans author for the first time (Nevada by Imogen Binnie) changed my life, and I want Irish trans people to have opportunities like that close to home. Trans Live Art Salon’s Small Trans Library, their trans writing group, and Not4U’s work are unequivocally valuable resources that will only make Irish literature richer with time. I'm very excited by the LGBT themed events at ILFD and I can't wait to attend.

As for my writing, I want to always stay genuine, no matter the genre or the form I'm in. To be true to the stories I'm writing and not let convention get in the way.

Ultimately, I’d like my work to fall into the right person’s hands. I’m not sure who they are, except that they’re asking the same strange questions as me. How does an invisible girl know she’s a girl? Can a robot child be emancipated from its maker? What do our answers say about how we see bodies, gender, parenthood, autonomy? If you’re curious, good, I’m writing for you. Keep an eye out.

Which author has influenced you the most?

I find that so much comes from playing with formatting, visual layout, mixed media and illustration, but I was really holding back until I read 17776: What Football Will Look Like In The Future by Jon Bois. I was really colouring inside the lines in the hopes I’d be taken seriously — especially as a speculative fiction writer, I felt like I had to prove that I was still a ‘proper writer’ even if I wrote sci-fi.

I came across 17776 on a list of speculative fiction literature, and it completely uprooted my idea of what that can be: it’s about talking satellites and immortal humans, it’s not a print book, it goes beyond static text on a page, there are pictures, video, animations, music, and it’s still an easy read. The media and the setting never get in the way of the story, and Jon Bois made this emotional, insightful, easy to read narrative out of the most unconventional but perfectly suited material. You never could have made 17776 as a print book. It would have been bowdlerized. 

There’s something incredibly genuine about Jon Bois’ work that I adore. There are very specific obsessions and incredibly strange ways of exploring them, his work could not have existed in any other form than it does, and I want to bring that level of honesty and openheartedness into everything I create. Strange stories about strange things told in strange ways by strange people.

Cassia Gaden Gilmartin is a recent graduate of Trinity's MPhil in Creative Writing, and now divides her writing time between short stories and a debut novel. A serial arts intern, she has worked for the Irish Writers Centre, Dublin Book Festival and GCN (Gay Community News). Her short fiction has been published by Banshee, Transnational Queer Underground, Eunoia Review and The Bookends Review.

Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?

I love the adventurous directions Irish literature is taking at the moment. Newer publishing houses such as Tramp Press and Skein Press have diversified the literary scene, and there’s more room now for often-marginalised voices. We have the pleasure of drawing on a wider range of influences than ever, and I hope we use that opportunity to keep pushing ourselves towards thematic and formal experimentation.

An important personal project at the moment is the launch of Channel, a new environmentalist journal that I’ll be launching in the coming months alongside poet Elizabeth Murtough. And that project comes out of the hopes I have for today’s literary scene – in the context of the climate crisis, I think we need to pull together work that engages imaginatively with Ireland as a physical landscape and that helps us to envision what we want that landscape to look like in future. There are writers who deal very precisely with the natural and man-made spaces of this country – poets like Eithne Lannon and Jane Clarke, and fiction writers like Kevin Barry and Mike McCormack. There’s a thread of extreme geographical specificity in Irish writing going back to the likes of Ulysses. I think we need to draw together these meditations on the spaces we inhabit, and learn from them.  

I divide my time between short fiction and novel-writing, and I really hope I’ll have some success with both. Much of my work deals with LGBT+ lives, and I hope that over the years I’l find ways to connect with queer writers, to explore our identities collaboratively and to make our presence felt.

Why do you write?

To me, writing is ultimately a means of communication. In a story, I can take a thought I’ve had or an emotional experience I’ve been through, repackage it as belonging to a fictional person whose life is very different from mine, and thereby make it understood by a real, living reader whose life is different again.

Fiction provides a way of sharing feelings that are too painful, or too confusing, for me as a writer to express directly – and I like to think it gives a way for readers, who may be just as pained or confused, to recognise and process the same feelings within themselves. It’s therapeutic, but more importantly it’s a therapy that can be shared by writer and reader, and I think that’s beautiful.

Intellectually, fiction can also offer a way of exploring ideas that are less than fully worked out – it allows for contradiction and ambiguity. As someone inclined to philosophise but also inclined to change my mind and get confused, I need that. As a queer writer and an environmentalist trying to pin down and communicate ideas for change, I find it valuable to explore those ideas on the page. And our less than fully worked out ideas, I think, can bounce off those of others in ways that lead us all towards more coherent thought. Writing allows us to open a dialogue with one another, even when we can’t yet express ourselves articulately within our own minds.

Ruth Ennis is studying Children's Literature in Trinity College Dublin. She has written for Children's Books Ireland, The University Observer, The UCD Caveat Lector, The Dublin Book Festival and The Blue Nib. She aspires to be a children's author, and has a particular interest in poetry and short stories. She currently works as the Marketing and Publicity Officer for The O'Brien Press. 

Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?

Children’s Literature is my area of interest. I think children’s Irish literature is becoming more diverse, more creative, more inclusive, and more celebrated. It is through the relentless, inspiring work by the likes of Children’s Books Ireland, The Ark, and the expanding list of festivals that include or dedicate a children’s programme to their festival that are the core of children’s literature in Ireland. Creating mediums, spaces and communities for children to explore stories they like, challenge those they dislike, and develop their own inspired ideas is so important. We certainly need to continue supporting the literary scene as it exists now, but it is important to consider who will come after us. This is a future I have high hopes for.

I’d like to write stories that will make a child want to read more. I want to offer them characters they recognise in themselves and establish outlets where they can experience what they otherwise wouldn’t, in an honest and unreserved manner. I hope to offer opportunities for my reader to evaluate and learn from the stories I write, and perhaps incorporate new understandings into their own lives. I’m inspired by Sarah Crossan’s #WeAreThePoets initiative, and hope to work towards a similar initiative, with other mediums such as theatre, film, and interactive literature. That said, I have a lot to learn, and am looking forward to becoming more involved in this ever-developing literary scene with every new opportunity.

When and why did you start writing?

Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I picked up the pen, I do have very vivid memories of writing (and directing, and acting in) my first play when I was about ten years old. This is, in part, because Santa Is Sick! was due to be a Christmas play, which we finally showcased in the following March. My friends would be over to the house every day after school, I would sit at the desk and type, print out the pages, cover them with pretty designs and hand them out to everyone to act out. Other instances of my ‘early work’ were my ‘award winning’ Mother’s Day poetry collection (mam was very happy with the flowers I had won for her), my plagiarised short stories based on Marie Curie’s life and the novel I wrote when I was desperate to impress my English teacher.

A substitute teacher came into school when I was around eight years old and asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I told her I wanted to be an author, and so am now under the constant pressure, striving to reach this goal I have set for myself, fifteen years on. Recently, when asked “why do you write?” I responded, “because I wasn’t very good at Irish and maths.” This is true. However, I also remember how reading stories helped make more sense of the world around me, and how it evoked such varying responses in me. I hope to write something that will, in this way, affect at least one person.

Aoife Riach is a feminist witch with a masters degree in Gender & Women's Studies. She’s been a writer for BUST magazine in NYC, and her poetry appears in The Maynooth Review, Maynooth University Literary Journal, Rose Quartz Magazine, Nothing Substantial and Being is Believing by NOT4U Collective. She is currently studying Sexuality and Sexual Health Education and was a finalist in Ireland's 2019 Inter-varsity Poetry Slam. She works in events.

Who in the literary scene (living or dead) would you most like to meet?

Morbid as I am, there are so many dead writers I’d love to have tea and a chat with. Emily Dickinson is a particular favourite and I’m a bit evangelistic about her. Although the popular image of her is an introverted recluse in a white dress, hiding from the world after having her heart broken by an older man, her letters and many of her poems show she was actually ambitious, funny, sarcastic and melodramatic. There’s also a wealth of evidence of a passionate romantic relationship with her sister-in-law Susan, which has been relentlessly erased and written out of history. The first time I read Dickinson’s poem I taste a liquor never brewed – I was in awe - I felt like I could taste it too! That’s my writing goal really, to write even one poem that a reader can taste. Shirley Jackson is another misunderstood hero that I’d love to meet. She used domestic gothic to express the anxieties of 1950s America, and the isolation and frustration of being a woman at the time. Up until quite recently, however, her work, especially its feminist potential, has been widely overlooked and underrated. She seemed like an incredibly interesting person; a snarky outsider who dabbled in tarot and magic and referred to herself as a witch, and her protagonist Merricat Blackwood in my favourite novel We Have Always Lived In The Castle is strange, lovable, and unforgettable. Both Jackson and Dickinson wove beauty and horror into the mundane, feminine, and domestic spheres of their lives, and were woefully overlooked in their lifetimes.

Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?

I’m particularly excited by the increased representation and success of Irish women writers in Ireland and on a global scale, like that of Sally Rooney, Sarah Maria Griffin, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen. We’re also seeing the power of women’s stories in the personal essay collections of astounding writers like Sinead Gleeson and Emilie Pine. I hope to see the future of Irish literature building on this progress, as well as heading towards increased diversity, with more queer and trans voices and more stories from disabled people and people of colour - a more representative literary scene that depicts modern Ireland as it really is, with marginalised people given the platform, support, and space to speak for themselves.

As for myself, I find myself grappling with imposter syndrome. I think it’s a universal struggle for writers starting out to gain the courage to say “I am a writer”, or a “I am a poet”. However I think, as a woman or marginalised person especially, you have to give yourself the permission to do so, and find networks of people in your communities, and advocate for yourself and for each other. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter so many such supportive people, particular in the slam and spoken word scene, and I think the Irish Writers Centre is hugely helpful in facilitating this by providing invaluable programmes such as the Young Writer Delegates. My goal is to one day publish a collection of my poetry, but until then I plan to keep writing, learning and spreading the Good Word of queer Emily Dickinson.

Fiona Murphy McCormack is 23 years old and from Poyntzpass, Co. Armagh. With an MA in Creative Writing from Queens University Belfast and a BA in English and Creative Writing from Glyndwr University.  Fiona's fiction has previously been published in Electric Reads, Germ Magazine, Fearlessly, The Elephant Ladder and Crossways literary review. 

What is your favourite book and why?

This is such a tough question to give any reader, but my go-to answer is always The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I remember staying up all night to finish it in one sitting. It’s the novel I return to most often. Mainly because its protagonist Hazel Grace Lancaster, is this intelligent character who is both living and dying (as we all are, in a morbid way) and articulates so many ideas on the human condition in ways which still alter how I view the world. Because of this book I met with the author, I bonded with many people and I visited Amsterdam where parts of it take place.

Describe your creative process + what is your writing space like?

My creative process is typically to be in the house on my own, sitting at my small and somewhat uncomfortable cramped desk (which is apparently how Colm Tobin works, which seems to pan out well for him.) Usually I will write ideas or the first chapter or even a first draft by long hand, then come to the computer to type edits. It can take me anywhere from ten minutes to two hours but if I like what I’m doing – that feels like the same thing!

Sam Cox is a long-form journalist and non-fiction writer. He has worked as Features Editor with Trinity News, as well as written for the Dublin InQuirer, TN2 Arts magazine and An Consantóir. His topics of interest have ranged from science communication, to experiences within the health system, to life on Irish islands. He studies psychology at Trinity College Dublin.

Where do you see the future of Irish literature going and what are your aspirations for your own writing career?

Irish authors have the potential to bring literature to really amazing places. For me, grief has been a dominant theme in Irish writing and continues to be. I think as a culture, there has been such an experience of trauma, repression and abuse that we’re only beginning to come out of as a society. While there’s an amazing history of pieces addressing these themes, I think new generations will have a unique viewpoint and perspective. It’s not that our generation is untouched by the trauma, but we have that little bit of space from it that’s necessary to do it justice. The essay in particular has tremendous potential to record some of the tales of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. These are the types of stories that have been passed in whispers and half-knowings, but were never acceptable to be written in about in broad daylight. My aspirations are to be part of that recounting. For all of the sorrow and hardship, there has been equal measures of strength and bravery. Doing justice to the reality of life in Ireland during the past 50 or 60 years, recognising the tremendous change we’ve undergone as a society and highlighting the dangers of repeating these mistakes are all so important. Most of all though, I think it’s about accessing the voice of that collective grief in order to help heal. If the time is taken to not only listen, but hear what’s being said, the quality of the literature will naturally reflect that.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration is a hard word for me to connect with writing. It implies something evoked or awoken within the author. Maybe a touching moment or something special, and it’s the writer telling you what they see or feel. I suppose for me, that’s what differentiates fiction and poetry from non-fiction. It’s not how flowery the prose is, which adjectives you use or even how fantastical the events. Essayists have rivalled and even out-done traditional fiction in all of those domains. When I write, my primary difference is that non-fiction has always stemmed from a place of not knowing. I don’t have an answer, or something to say about what I see. I just try to ask ‘what is it that I’m seeing?’ and bring the reader along that journey with me. It’s delving into a question more and more until there’s nothing left to say (or as is more often the case, I run out of space on the page). I look for answers, and I present what I’m given, whether I agree with it or not. I’ll form my own opinions along the way, and I hope the reader will do the same, but I try not to let that influence the outcome. Curiosity is in the place of traditional inspiration. In that regard, I suppose my own ignorance and a battle against it is the source of my inspiration.

Keep an eye across the YWD Instagram and Twitter accounts over the coming weeks to follow the groups throught their literary journeys.