Archive for the ‘writing contests’ Category


Great news, Wordfoolery has made the shortlist of the Arts&Culture section of the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards Ireland 2016, hurrah!

Moving from this stage to finalist is based 80% on judging and 20% on public vote – which is where you come in. The public vote is open today (Monday 22nd) and tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd) until midnight. Just press the button below. You’ll need to pick Wordfoolery from the Arts & Culture shortlist and create an account to vote but it’s pretty easy.



Thanks for your support, Grace (a.k.a. Wordfoolery)

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Littlewoods Blog Awards 2016_Judging Round Button_LonglistHello,

Well it isn’t the Man Booker, the Nobel or, mercifully, the Darwin Awards, but I am happy to announce that I’ve scrambled onto the Long List of the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards Ireland 2016.

After this comes the Short List stage (80% judged and 20% public vote – I’ll let you know when it opens for voting, hint hint), then Finalist judging and the awards ceremony is sometime in the autumn.

Congrats to all the other 45 entries on the Arts & Culture Long List – it takes hard work and passion to maintain a blog week after week and a large dash of confidence to risk entering the awards. I’ll be trying to visit my fellow long-listers over the next month.

Grace (a.k.a. @Wordfoolery)

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This week, instead of my usual musings on the origins of unusual words and phrases, I’m going to give a roundup of the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Publishing Day (2015) which I attended last Friday. For my non-writing subscribers, don’t panic, normal service resumes next week.

Patricia, Pauline Clooney, Catherine

Patricia, Pauline Clooney, Catherine

Some background first – this annual event began in 2010 and attendees are limited to short list and long list entrants of the annual short fiction prize. I was lucky enough to make the top ten on my first attempt and was delighted to attend. There were writers from all over Ireland there and for several I spoke to it was their first short fiction submission, so don’t be afraid to enter even if you’re new to writing. There were 300 entrants this year.

Jane Alger gave a welcome address and this was followed by Patricia Deevy (Penguin Ireland) and Faith O’Grady (literary agent) explaining their roles plus a Q&A. I asked about the ebook market in Ireland (as many of my US writing friends are doing well in that field in particular). Patricia said that it wasn’t huge in Ireland but was significant in the UK market. The Easons book buyer (Easons is a large book selling chain in Ireland) later added that the ebook market here has flattened but physical book sales are rising and that overall more books are being sold, so that’s great news for writers!

Then we had the author panel hosted by Sinéad Moriarty (commerical women’s fiction) with Karen Gillece (one half of Karen Perry crime partnership) and Emma Hooper (literary fiction), again with Q&A.

Stephen Boylan (Easons book buyer) gave a great run down on the market and excellent advice on using social media as well as book reviews and book clubs to sell your work and Cliona Lewis (publicity director at Penguin Ireland) spoke about the marketing side of your work as a author once you’ve been taken on by a traditional publishing house. The consensus was that you’re only starting your work once you land a contract and that you sell yourself as much as you sell the book.

Catherine (editor of the RTE Guide) and Patricia (Penguin Ireland) presented a framed copy of her winning short fiction to Pauline Clooney.

After a light lunch and time to chat with the other writers in attendance, Rachel Pierce (editor and also children’s author as Emily Mason) gave an excellent presentation on editing – both the self-editing every writer needs to master and the editing process after the book contract is signed. The authors (including Paul Perry – the other half of that writing partnership) chipped in advice here too. Paul Howard (author of the hilarious Ross O’Carroll Kelly books) must have had burning ears at one point as all agreed he was 100% professional – always happy to engage with readers, booksellers, and media but also always making his deadlines with perfect manuscripts. That will have to be my target now!

Overall a great day and the goodie bag at the end brought a smile to everyone’s face despite the rain which arrived in time to soak us as we left. I took oodles of notes but here’s a selection of my favourites –

  • Penguin Ireland took only one fiction book a year in the last few years. They want the xfactor, strong voice, amazing story.
  • Faith gets 60 submissions weekly but only takes about one client per year. She likes narrative non-fiction like H is for Hawk and The Hare with the Amber Eyes.
  • If your book includes images, you sort out the permissions yourself before approaching the publisher.
  • It’s good to have a plot you can sum up in 1-3 sentences.
  • Luck plays a part – but the more you submit, the more the odds tip in your favour.
  • Don’t market where other writers are, market where readers are – get book bloggers to review you, local papers (not national), local radio, book clubs – six free books could drive word-of-mouth.
  • Publicity starts a year before the book is launched to build word of mouth.
  • Content drives action – post good links, be yourself, consider sharing flash fiction, engage in chatter with readers, connect with your fans.
  • But don’t forget that lots of readers are NOT on social media – that reminded me of my parents who read more books than anybody else I know, but they don’t even own a computer.
  • If you want to get your book listed at Easons email buyers at easons.com to get the application.

My Favourite Editing Tips from the Day

  • Draft one is dreadful, it is meant to be.
  • Draft two is draft one minus 10% (I totally agree with this).
  • Write the book you need to write, don’t cling to the one you think you should write. (Paul Perry)
  • Be brave. (Emma Hooper)
  • Ask why and what if of every plot point.
  • There are always structural issues – you know where they are, so fix them.
  • Consider changing character genders or collating minor characters.
  • What is your character most afraid of? Make it happen to them.
  • Ebook sampling takes the first 15% so make sure that sings.
  • Each chapter must pay its way.
  • Do not panic and rush your ending, control it, make it satisfying. Then rewrite the start because you know your characters properly now.
  • Unsure on viewpoint or first person vs. third? Try a few chapters and see what works best. It’s like getting your jeans to fit properly. (Emma Hooper)
  • Trying to clear out your “used too often words”? Use wordle to make a visual graphic of your language and see what you are over-using (Emma Hooper)

Until next week happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


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This week’s word is jacquerie which I came across in Richard Killeen’s excellent “A Timeline of Irish History”. I’d highly recommend it for any student of Irish history or historic fiction writer as it gives a clear rundown of the key events in Irish history from 8000 BC to 1970 AD in a little over a hundred pages – no mean feat.

Killeen was talking about an insurrection in 1641 in Ulster which became a jacquerie against the plantation of the region. Plantation in this case having little to do with crops and more to do with importing settlers who would be loyal to the crown and giving them land regardless of current occupants. The uprising resulted in thousands of settlers being killed and lasted for more than a year.

But what is a jacquerie? Of obvious French origin, the term denotes a peasant’s revolt. The original jacquerie began in northern France in 1358 with peasants rising against their nobles during the Hundred Year War. Jacques was seen as a typical French peasant’s name and hence named the uprising they caused. Plus the jacket worn by the peasants was called a jacque and their doomed leader Guillaume Cale was nicknamed Jack Goodfellow (Jacque Bonhomme) by the chronicler of the event.

Defeat of the Jacquerie "Jacquerie meaux" by Jean Froissart

Defeat of the Jacquerie
“Jacquerie meaux” by Jean Froissart

The jacquerie was put down with brutal force within a couple of months but no doubt the idea of a spontaneous peasant uprising shook the nobles. It took another four hundred years for France to become a republic during the French Revolution.

Until next time as French ladder-carriers say – “mind your head, we’re going to have a revolution”,


p.s. just to prove that entering a writing contest even when you know there will be hundreds of entries is always worth a go – I made it into the top ten of the 2015 RTE/Penguin Ireland short fiction prize with “Seeing Clearly” a story I wrote this April during CampNaNo. I’m surprised and delighted in equal measure and can’t wait to attend the publishing day in September which is my runner-up prize.

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Regular wordfoolers will know that I write things other than this blog. Many of you do that yourselves. So when I found myself compiling a list of literary and arts festivals in Ireland this week (trying to plan a trip to one next year) I thought it might be useful for you too.

If you’re using these details I can tell you that they’re correct today (24th of September 2014) – do please check the sites of the individual festivals for up to date programme listings and prices etc. The festivals are listed by start date and a surprising number of them overlap! I’ve paid particular attention to the presence/absence of writing workshops. American wordfoolers will be more familiar with the term writing conferences. The main difference you will note is the lack of publisher/agent pitching sessions – those are a rarity here.

Until next time happy wordfooling, reading and writing,


6-8 March 2015, Ennis, Co. Clare, Ennis bookclub festival, www.ennisbookclubfestival.com

Festival for readers, especially those in book clubs. Plenty of readings, theatre, and tours. No workshops for writers.

18-22 March 2015, Mountains to Sea, September, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, www.mountainstosea.ie

Large festival. International and Irish authors (genre and literary) give readings, RTE Sunday Miscellany broadcast, and panel discussions. Also a few writing workshops and a stream of Children’s Books events and Family Events. I attended this in 2013 and it was good.

20-23 March 2014, Waterford Writers’ Weekend, Co. Waterford, www.waterfordcity.ie

Lots of events for kids including workshops. Also book launches, readings, writing workshops – €25 about getting published, poetry, writing history, and crime writing.

27 Mar-6 Apr, Five Lamps Arts Festival, Dublin, www.fivelampsarts.ie

Dance, film, children’s events, community, music, theatre, visual arts, and literature make up the mix here. No writing workshops.

4-6 April, Franco-Irish Literary Festival, Dublin, www.francoirishliteraryfestival.com

Dual language literary festival and the events appear to be free to attend. No workshops.

8-13 April 2014, Cuirt International Festival of Literature, Galway city, http://www.cuirt.ie/en

Features Cuirt Labs – workshops for younger and teen school-aged writers. Four writing workshops – experimental fiction, poetry editing, online writing, fiction editing (€24 each). Also lectures, readings, theatre, song-writing etc.

11-13 April 2014, Women in Media, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, www.wimballybunion.com

Focus on female Irish journalism – print, radio, TV. No workshops.

29 Apr-5 May 2014, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Drogheda Arts Festival, www.droghedaartsfestival.ie

Music, art, film, theatre, poetry, literature, tours, family. Interview with Nicola Pierce about her work and new novel. No writing workshops. The Millmount and Beaulieu house events are great for kids – I’ve attended these in previous years.

15-17 May 2015, Ballymaloe, Co. Cork, Ballymaloe Lit Fest, http://www.litfest.ie/

If you’re a writer that loves food, gardening, wine etc then this is the one for you. Cookbook authors abound and the writing workshops focus on food writing and food photography. There’s also a Fringe festival in the aptly named Big Shed.

28 May-1 June 2014, Listowel Writers’ Week, Listowel, Kerry www.writersweek.ie

Very large festival. Events include walks, theatre, readings, book launches, discussions, film club, poetry, and a fringe section. 12 workshops for adult writers about novels, creative writing, non fiction, travel writing, theatre, fiction for teens etc. They run as half-day workshops on three days and cost €175 and are taught by well-known authors. The week also includes National Children’s Literary Festival and it encompasses author talks, school visits, writing workshops for young writers, storytelling, drama and fun.

29 May-7 June, Carlow Arts Festival, Carlow, http://carlowartsfestival.com

This festival covers visual arts, theatre, music, spoken word, and street art and it also encompasses the Borris House Festival of Writing & Ideas (good range of international writers speaking in stately home, no workshops) and History Festival of Ireland at Huntington Castle (talks on various periods of history, no workshops)

12-15 June, Lismore, Co. Waterford, Immrama Lismore Festival of Travel Writing, www.lismoreimmrama.com

Niche festival but set in a lovely town and with novelties like a literary breakfast and a Gregorian mass. One travel writing workshop. Sounds like a good one for the armchair traveller.

19-22 June 2014, Dalkey book festival, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, www.dalkeybookfestival.org

Mainly readings and interviews plus a couple of interesting debates. Good mix of Irish authors and international heavy hitters. No writing workshops.

26-28 June 2015, Hay Festival – Kells, Kells, Co. Meath, www.hayfestival.com/kells

Large festival with Irish and International authors – literary, non-fiction and some genre, readings, concerts, cooking demos, films, family tree talk, wine&cheese event, includes a very strong stream aimed at children (including writing workshops), drama, talks, rare book auction, art trail, RTE Arena broadcast. No adult writing workshops in 2014.

6-12 July 2014, Bantry, Cork, West Cork Literary Festival, www.westcorkmusic.ie/literaryfestival/

Clear focus on writing with events for adults (readings – even one on Whiddy Island, interviews) and for children with a good range of Irish and international writers. The well-known Fish anthology is launched at this festival annually. Good range of writing workshops on variety of topics – writing for children, business of writing, memoir, flash, scriptwriting, travel, and historical fiction.

12-13 July 2014, Trim, Co. Meath, Trim Satire Festival, swiftsatirefestival.com

Focus on satire! Highlights include the Swift Lecture, poetry open mic, walking tour, their writing competition, and theatre.

7-16 August 2015, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Co. Kilkenny, www.kilkennyarts.ie

Theatre, music, street performance, children’s events, cartooning workshops. No writing workshops.

5-7 Sep 2014, Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival, Co. Cork, http://capeclearstorytelling.com/

One island, lots of international and Irish storytellers. Then sit back and enjoy. No workshops.

16-20 September 2014, Cork, Cork International Short Story Festival, www.corkshortstory.net

Readings, interviews, seminars, and two major short story awards. Features four workshops for writers – each running for four half-days and costing €150-180 on topics of short fiction, novel, and poetry. The writers presenting are a mix of Irish and international. There’s also a flash fiction session.

18-28 September 2014, Clifden, Co. Galway, Clifden Community Arts Festival, www.clifdenartsweek.ie

Festival covers music, comedy, visual arts, theatre, film, spoken word. Great variety of events in my favourite town west of the Shannon, with some of my favourite Irish authors presenting. Events include a wide range of art exhibitions, varied music (jazz, classical, trad, etc.) from well-known musicians, readings, poetry workshop (€10), aerial workshop, a herb walk, street theatre, and book launches.

19-28 September 2014, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Kinsale Arts Festival, www.kinsaleartsfestival.com

Festival covers visual arts, performance, music, food, words (banter sessions were public interviews with writers and others), comedy, film and family events. They also ran six workshops, mostly art, including creative writing with Roger McGough who writes great poetry. I love the idea of the festival wine club!

26-28 September 2014, Dublin Festival of History, Dublin Castle, www.dublinfestivalofhistory.ie

Lectures about history by history authors Irish and International, one historic fiction writing workshop with major author, films, walking tours, discussions.

2-5 October 2014, Dromineer Lit Fest, Lough Derg, Tipperary, dromineerliteraryfestival.ie

Small festival. Three workshops – one about flash fiction, 2 hours, €15. Half of the events are poetry, bit of social fun too, and some author readings and interviews. Mostly Irish literature authors presenting rather than overseas authors or genre authors.

13-16 November 2014, Smock Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin Book Festival, www.dublinbookfestival.com

Discussions, book launches, readings, RTE Arena live, walking tours, exhibitions, and one panel discussion about getting an agent (note – this is not a pitching event). There’s also a children’s and schools’ stream. No writing workshops.

If you can’t make it to these festivals then consider a course at The Irish Writers’ Centre (http://www.writerscentre.ie/)

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You know something, sometimes it’s a good idea to take a chance. When I spotted the Blog Awards Ireland earlier this year I entered on a whim, absolutely positive that I’d have no chance because a blog about unusual words is niche by definition. I thought it would be good to see what other bloggers in Ireland were up to and maybe “borrow” some inspiration. I also liked that the awards are judged rather than voted for, as this removes the popularity contest element.

I was happy to make the longlist (120), delighted and surprised to make the shortlist (40), but now I’m completely stunned to have made the finalists (10) in the Arts and Culture category.

Check out the rest of the finalists – there are some really good blogs out there on the most diverse topics.

Still reeling,

A flustered Wordfoolery.

blog awards ireland


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This week’s word is pep. Pep can be used as a noun or a verb. You can have pep in your step if you’re walking in a lively fashion and in that sense it’s another word for energy. You can pep someone’s spirits to transfer that vigor to them. It’s a short bouncy word which sounds full of speed and invention.

But where does pep come from? It sounds like hepcat jivetalk slang or a shortening of a soft drink name from the US.

Merriam Webster reckons it dates from 1912 but gives no further information. The Online Etymology Dictionary (an excellent resource) adds that pep is a shortened form of pepper (yes, the spice) which was used as a term for energy from as early as 1847. But if you look in the dictionary now you won’t find that meaning for pepper. So pep took over from pepper for that usage at some point.

Peppy pepper

Peppy pepper

Other uses for pep include pep rally (from 1945) and pep talk (from 1926). I’ve always wondered what a pep rally is but wikipedia informs me this is because they exist mostly in North America – basically they’re a meeting of students before a big game to get them cheering for their home team. There could be music, games, and lots of noise I suspect.

As for pep talk, well if your boss gives you one of those you’re meant to come out of it filled with “can do” pep and energy so that makes sense.

Just be glad that we don’t throw pepper at each other at rallies or pep talks because it would only make me sneeze.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


p.s. Wordfoolery has been nominated for the Blog Awards Ireland 2014 in the Arts and Culture category. You don’t need to vote for me as it is assessed by judges but you might enjoy browsing the list of other blogs nominated. You can see the long list here.

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