Every literary taste is catered for at festival

The countdown to the West Cork Literary Festival is underway, COLETTE SHERIDAN talks to festival director Eimear O’Herlihy
Every literary taste is catered for at festival
Emer McLysaght (left) and Sarah Breen (right), pic by Nathalie Marquez Courtney.

WITH more than 70 authors taking part in the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry, there really is something for every literary taste — from crime fiction to literary fiction, with workshops also taking place for people who aspire to being published and need guidance.

The festival, now in its 21st year, which runs from July 12 to 19, started as a fringe event as part of the West Cork Chamber Music Festival.

“It quickly grew as a festival in its own right,” explains festival director, Eimear O’Herlihy.

“Once it became obvious that there was a demand for more literary events, it became a separate festival under the company that organises the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and the Masters of Tradition.”

Eimear, who is already working on next year’ s festival, has been at the helm of the event for five years.

Two major highlights of the festival are Mary Robinson whose book, Climate Justice, was published at the end of last year. Then there’s Graham Norton’s event. His second novel, A Keeper, is the story of a mother’s love and the legacy of the past.

“Graham, who is from Bandon and has a holiday home in West Cork, is happy to be involved in the festival,” says Eimear.

Author Kevin Barry.
Author Kevin Barry.

Another big draw is Kevin Barry, whose latest book is entitled Night Boat to Tangier. He will be reading from his book on Whiddy Island.

“I think Kevin’s events are phenomenal,” says Eimear. “He is such a beautiful writer and has a great sense of humour, which comes across at his readings. He’s happy to chat and always has a great rapport with audiences.”

The authors of the Aisling books, Emer Lysaght and Sarah Breen, will present ‘An evening with Aisling’. Aisling, a quintessential rural girl trying to make it in the Big Smoke, is the subject of two books by the authors that have been entertaining readers for the past couple of years.

John Boyne is doing two events at the festival. He will be reading from his new novel, A Ladder To The Sky, which is about literary ambition and selling one’s soul in pursuit of success. John will also do a reading for teenagers from his young adult novel, My Brother’s Name Is Jessica, which is about the complexity of gender identity and was the subject of a Twitter spat recently.

There will be a joint event with Sebastian Barry, Laureate for Irish Fiction, and Sarah Crossan, Laureate na nÓg. They will be interviewed at the festival about their work.

Tana French, whose latest literary crime novel is The Wych Elm, will be at Bantry House, where she will be interviewed by Oonagh Montague.

The essay is making a comeback as a popular genre. Two talented exponents of it are Sinead Gleeson and Emilie Pine, both of whom have recently published collections of essays.

“Sinead writes across many genres. I’d be a big fan of hers and also of Emilie,” says Eimear.

Historian, Diarmaid Ferriter, will read from his book, On the Edge: Ireland’s Off-shore Islands.

“It’s about how these islands have changed in terms of inhabitants. Diarmaid has written about West Cork islands in the book, including Whiddy Island.

Other writers coming to read at the festival include Joseph O’Connor, whose latest book, Shadow Play, is about Bram Stoker, and Tracy Thorn of the band Everything But The Girl, who’ll be speaking about her memoir, Another Planet, which deals with her teenage years.

Dr Mary Robinson, Chancellor of Trinity College at the Honorary Doctorate Ceremony in Trinity College, will be at the West Cork Literary Festival.
Dr Mary Robinson, Chancellor of Trinity College at the Honorary Doctorate Ceremony in Trinity College, will be at the West Cork Literary Festival.

Debut writer, Catherine Kirwan, whose thriller, Darkest Truth, was recently published, will read from it at Bantry Courthouse. She will share the stage with Catherine Ryan Howard, whose new thriller is due to be published in September.

Eimear says a particularly interesting event will see Mark Boyle reading from his book, The Way Home.

“He lives without any technology in a small holding in Co Galway. Mark, who lives without running water, will be doing an event at Future Forests, a sustainable garden centre outside Bantry. It will be a low-tech event about his book and how he lives.

“I think he had to handwrite his book and post it to his publishers. When we were inviting him to the festival, we had to send him a letter. It’s a good reminder that we all need to slow down a little.”

At the festival, there will be various editors advising nascent writers on how to get published.

Editor-in-residence at this year’s festival is Kishari Widyaratna.

“Kishari is an editor with Picador and is also a contributing editor to the White Review. There will be an opportunity for writers to have one-on-one sessions with her about a piece of writing they’re working on.

“There will be advice on how to bring it forward. These sessions have always proved very popular. We’re delighted to have Kishari on board because she works with a major publisher and also with a literary journal.”

Eimear O'Herlihy, festival dirctor, West Cork Literary Festival, Graham Norton and Zadie Smith at last year's festival.
Eimear O'Herlihy, festival dirctor, West Cork Literary Festival, Graham Norton and Zadie Smith at last year's festival.

Workshops are an important part of the festival. Established writers in novel writing, short stories, crime writing, travel writing and song writing will be on offer.

Eimear said: “The workshops are a great opportunity for someone to come and spend the week at the festival. We have five-day workshops. That may sound like a big commitment but people who do them benefit from the opportunity to reflect on their work. They get to meet fellow participants and also, writers.

“Quite often, people doing the workshops come out with a piece of work at the end of the week.”

The festival also features a number of showcases. The showcase from UCC’s masters in creative writing, will see four MA students read from their work. Alongside lecturer and writer, Eibhear Walsh, they’ll talk about the process of the MA.

This event is for anyone interested in pursuing the masters in creative writing.

There will also be a showcase of writers who have been working with author, Denyse Woods, the Cork County Council writer-in-residence.


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