Optional weekend programme of writing classes

The weekend programme of writing classes at the UL/Frank McCourt Creative Writing Summer School in association with Shannon Airport will be taught by writers who teach the Creative Writing MA at UL, including Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, Kerry Neville, Martin Dyar and Donal Ryan.

Application for the weekend programme of writing classes is open to everyone, but please note that numbers are strictly limited. No previous writing experience is required, but some would be helpful.

FEE for weekend programme of writing classes: (includes all classes, light lunch on Saturday, literary brunch on Sunday with food writer Rachael Kealy, admission to Sunday Miscellany concert, events with Kevin Barry and Julian Gough, Anna Carey, Marian Keyes, Bob Geldof, Arlen House publishers, lectures by Eoin Devereux and Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.)

E200: waged. E150: student/unwaged.

Full details and booking for the weekend programme of writing classes is available at http://frankmccourt.ulfoundation.com/

Informal Queries are welcome at joseph.oconnor@ul.ie





  • 1pm. Registration and orientation for those attending the weekend programme of Creative Writing classes. Participants will be put into three seminar groups, A, B and C and will take each Core Workshop once.
  • 1. 30pm: Introduction (for all attendees), Professor Joseph O’Connor. Aims of the weekend.
  • 1.45 – 3.15 pm: Lecture (for all registered attendees), Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald. Getting to grips with your writing: Plot, structure, story, pitch, publication.
  • 3.30 – 5.30pm: Core Workshop Seminar I
  • Group A – Poetry in the House of Prose, Martin Dyar.
  • Group B – Writing Memoir and Longer Fiction, Kerry Neville
  • Group C – All We Shall Know: Short Stories to Novels, Donal Ryan


SATURDAY May 5th, 9.30 am (or 11.45, as preferred), IRISH WORLD ACADEMY OF MUSIC AND DANCE

  • 9.30 am sharp -11.30 am, (optional), Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald ‘Writing for Young Adults’
  • 11.45 – 1.45pm Core Workshop Seminar II.

Group A – Writing Memoir and Longer Fiction, Kerry Neville

Group B – All We Shall Know: Short Stories to Novels, Donal Ryan

Group C – Poetry in the House of Prose, Martin Dyar.


1.45 -2.30 Lunch (included in cost). Sandwiches, tea and coffee served.


2.30 – 4.30 pm Core Workshop Seminar III

Group A – All We Shall Know: Short Stories to Novels, Donal Ryan

Group B – Poetry in the House of Prose, Martin Dyar.

Group C – Writing Memoir and Longer Fiction, Kerry Neville



SUNDAY MAY 6th, Pavilion Bar, UL North Campus (beside the Irish World Academy), 10 am – 11.45

Food as Storytelling  – an Irish Literary Brunch, led by Rachael Kealy, UL Creative Writing MA graduate and Food Writer.

From Virgil’s salad to Proust’s madeleines, great writers have always used food to enrich their art.   The acts of eating and drinking are innately human, and to write about this is to use a sort of shared shorthand, offering the reader a deeper, more instinctive understanding of the story.

In this session, we’ll look at the history of food in literature, in particular the Irish tradition, which developed parallel narratives of scarcity and abundance.

Taking a number of international authors as examples, we’ll examine the ways in which writers have utilised food: to develop themes; to build characters; and to convey time, place and setting.  We’ll also review the symbiotic relationship between food and literature: food enhances a story, and a story enhances food.

We’ll then break for a light brunch, which will feature a range of dishes inspired by the works of Ireland’s most beloved authors.  Sample George Bernard Shaw’s brown bread, along with the spiced beef of James Joyce’s Dublin or the carved ham of Kate O’Brien’s Limerick.    We’ll finish with a discussion of personal food stories over tea and Samuel Beckett’s ginger snap biscuits.

If they wish, participants are asked to bring a short (50 – 100 words) sample of food writing for possible discussion if we have time: this could be a fond food memory, a brief extract from their own work, or a paragraph from a writer they admire.



University Concert Hall, noon – 2 pm

Live recording before an audience of the RTE Radio 1 programme ‘Sunday Miscellany’, featuring a host of musicians and writers with UL connections, including Joseph O’Connor, Donal Ryan, Martin Dyar, Mary O’Malley and Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.

Booking details to be announced.


2 pm – 3 pm:

Don’t Judge a Book Just By The CoverPunk and Creativity. An illustrated Lecture with live music with Professor Eoin Devereux.  Eoin’s talk will focus on his life-long relationship with punk music, the connections between literature and punk and the important lessons which punk provides for creative writers.  The talk will feature live music performances by Section 17.

Venue to be announced, will be on the UL Campus.


3.15 – 4.45: Submitting Your Work to a Publisher, with Alan Hayes of acclaimed publishing firm Arlen House.

Venue to be announced, will be on the UL campus.


5pm – 6 pm: Concluding reading/performance: Details to be announced




Poetry in the House of Prose, with Martin Dyar

The American writer Carson McCullers once referred to poetry as ‘the best way for a serious writer to begin’. While some poets might not be willing to embrace the idea of their art form as a kind of stepping stone, there’s no doubt that an exploration of the similarities and differences inherent to the relationship between poetry and prose can yield rich fruit; that one, indeed, can be used to illuminate the secrets of the other. But what can the fiction writer learn from poetry? And what, coming the other way, might the poet gain by reading novels and stories? Along with poetry writing exercises and discussion, this class looks closely at excerpts from the work of John Cheever, Alice Munro, Carson McCullers, Wallace Stevens, Bernard O’Donoghue and Robert Frost, inquiring into ideas of narrative, voice, and lyricism, and their importance, whatever the form, to the art of holding the reader.


Writing Memoir and Longer Fiction: How To See the Forest Through the Trees, with Dr Kerry Neville

This session will explore how we might expand a brief, concentrated short story or personal essay into a long story or long-form essay, one that stores time and revels in the necessary extravagance of words and ideas at play. How do we move from a single thread to a complexly woven tapestry? How can a longer length allow us to explore the tangles that we trim when brevity is the aim? Participants are invited to bring one of their short stories or short personal essays for use in our exercises.

Getting to Grips With Your Writing, with Professor Sarah Moore

This session will draw on research in creativity to help support your own creative practice and processes. Together, we’ll explore some of the proven ways that good writing habits can be initiated and nourished. We’ll engage in writing exercises and reflect on approaches designed to feed your fluency. The main purpose of this session will be to banish the voices of doubt that often haunt people’s early creative efforts while also keeping a strong eye on how the quality of your writing can grow and strengthen over time.

Writing for Young Adults, with Professor Sarah Moore

Suggested readings for Prof Moore’s workshops:

  • King, Stephen (2010) On writing: a memoir of the craft, 10thanniversary edition New York, Simon & Schuster.
  • Ray, Robert and Norris, Bret (2005) The Weekend Novelist, London, A&C Black.
  • Scott Bell, James (2004) Plot and Structure Cincinnati, Writers’ Digest Books. · Zerubavel, E. (1999) The Clockwork Muse, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.

All We Shall Know: Short Stories to Novels, with Donal Ryan

In my workshop we’ll discuss voice and writing in voices: the distinctions between them, the perils and pitfalls that we all encounter on the path to narrative harmony, the payoffs for the writer when he or she encounters that moment when things start to click into place and feel right, and how best to recognize that moment. We’ll also discuss writing in the first person: the strange intimacy that can develop between writer and character; the limitations and frustrations of the mode; and (to awkwardly paraphrase French novelist Olivier Adam) the art of tuning one’s internal radio receiver to the exact right frequency so that all one must do is listen. I’ll talk about my own struggle with self-consciousness and doubt, how I eventually managed to put them aside, and the limitless power and freedom to be gained from heeding Frank McCourt’s advice to keep it simple, keep it real and be your own writer.

Attendees might find these novels interesting:

  • Between Dog and Wolf by Elske Rahill.
  • The Black Snow by Paul Lynch.
  • A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride.

I also recommend Maiden Names, the debut poetry collection of Martin Dyar. The novels are all available online and on Kindle. Maiden Names is available from kennys.ie, who deliver worldwide.