MORE BITS

Here you will find stories, facts, folklore, and a sneak peek at the writing tips you may expect to encounter on Ireland Writer Tours . . . 

A BIT O'CELTIC LORE

'The great Gaels of Ireland are men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.'
-- G.K. Chesterton 1911


Two centuries ago, Celtic tribes dominated Europe from the Black Sea to the British Isles, from Galicia in northwest Spain to Galatia in modern-day Turkey.

Eventually, three main Celtic groups were dominant: The Gauls lived in what is now France, Britons lived in Great Britain, and Gaels lived in Ireland.

Naturally, these different groups of Celts had different dialects and practices, but almost without exception, all Celts believed in life after death. In ancient Ireland, you were born, you lived, you died, and you came back. Then you repeated the whole process over and over and over again. So strong was this belief that you could take out a loan and promise to pay it back in your next lifetime. People spoke to the dead just as they did to the living. And if you died in the middle of an argument, well . . . It wasn’t over ‘til it was over.

 

Details That Will Help You Have a Grand Journey: 
Getting the Most for Your Money and Understanding the Climate

Six weeks from today, Ireland Writer Tours, “Writing a Novel that Sells” conference and tour will begin. Here are some helpful tips for tour participants—and anyone—visiting Europe this summer.

Two questions you should not ask in Europe:
  1. How much is that in dollars?
  2. What is the temperature in Fahrenheit?

Of course, you can ask those questions, but you'll most likely get blank stares in response. Here, dollars are like Monopoly money—paper with numbers on it. And, since the U.S. is pretty much the only country that still uses Fahrenheit, you shouldn’t panic when you hear that the temperature in Galway is 20 degrees.

Why not use this time before you travel to acclimate yourself to Euros and Celsius?

EUROS
This is what Euros look like:
They’re colourful, the coins are heavier than U.S. money, and (at the moment, anyway) they’re worth a bit more than dollars. A good website for keeping track of up-to-the-minute exchange rates is: www.oanda.com.

Ireland is one of 19 nations whose currency is the Euro. Of course, no one can predict with absolute certainty what will happen with international currencies, but there are people who make their living making really accurate predictions. Right now, those people are saying the dollar is doing quite well. That means, now's a good time to exchange currency.

If you wish to make any large purchases while you are visiting Ireland, you will probably find that your credit card offers the best exchange rate, but for little things, you will want to use cash.

TIP: Before you leave the U.S., check to see if your credit card company adds a surcharge for purchases made in other countries. If they do, it is worth getting a credit card that does not add a surcharge. If you need suggestions, let us know. Also, before you leave, notify your credit card company that you will be traveling or they might deactivate your card when you try to use it in Ireland.

When you are in Ireland, if you purchase something with your credit card, the merchant’s till will sometimes offer you a dollar conversion rate. DO NOT TAKE IT! Your U.S. bank will almost always offer you a better conversion rate, so tell the merchant you want your credit card to be billed in Euros.

CELSIUS
In this part of the world, ‘0’ is freezing, while ‘25’ is balmy and warm.

If you purchase an inexpensive, old-fashioned thermometer and keep it near your kitchen or bedroom window, you can compare Celsius and Fahrenheit on a daily basis. That way, by the time you get to Europe, you’ll have a basic understanding of differences in temperature readings.

These two things may seem small now, but when you get here they can make a big difference in your comfort level. Having a basic understanding of Euros and Celsius can make visiting Ireland seem like less of a strange, foreign experience, and more like coming home.



WRITING A NOVEL THAT SELLS
CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

This July, participants in the IWT conference and tour can look forward to beautiful scenery along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as professional feedback on their writing, and workshops and classes taught by two successful author/editors. Here's a tiny taste of the scenery:
And here's the conference schedule, devised by this year's guest author/editors, Heather Webb and Lorie Langdon, in response to the specific needs of the twelve participating writers:

Sunday:
  • Arrival
  • Mini-tour
  • Welcome dinner from the guest authors, Lorie Langdon and Heather Webb
  • Sign up for one-on-ones with Heather and Lorie
Monday:
  • Full day of touring
****writing prompts, games, or discussions
**** Special Topic: Talking about your work in public & gaining confidence  

Tuesday:  A day of structure

Time
Workshop Session
9:00-11:00
Organizing your Novel from start to finish:
*Inciting Incident and beyond
*Plotting and Pantsing techniques
*The Dreaded Outline
*3 & 5 Act Structures
**Maintaining Momentum
11:15-12:45
Pacing:
*Techniques to keep the pages turning, both in scene and for the novel as a whole
*Examining Expert writers
*Exercise
12:45-1:30
Lunch Break!
1:30-3:30
Take Your Readers on a Journey: Setting, Scenery, and Building an Immersive World
*Discussion
*Exercise
3:30-5:00
Editing Techniques: Macro & Micro + The Emotional Journey of Each Draft


Wednesday:
  • Full day of touring
****writing prompts, games, or discussions
****Special topic: Experiencing the day through your character’s eyes

Thursday: Digging into Craft

Time
Workshop Session
9:00-12:00
Creating authentic Characters
*Profiling vs. intuitive discovery
*types of character arcs
*exercises
12:00-1:15
Lunch Break
1:15-2:45
Harnessing voice
*author voice vs. character voice
*techniques to make it shine
3:00-4:00
Guided writing prompts
4:30-5:30
Letting our hair down: Happy Hour Round Table
*Grab a beverage of your choice from the pub & be prepared for constructive sharing and peer editing

Friday:
  • Full day of touring
****writing prompts, games, or discussions
****Special Topic: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

Saturday: Demystifying the Industry

Time
Workshop Session
9:00-10:30
Let’s Talk Shop:
*Genre Expectations & a changing market
*From manuscript to query to agent to editor
*Moving through rejections
10:35-12:00
Query Workshop
*Writing a killer blurb

Saturday: (cont)
  • Afternoon of touring
****writing prompts, games, or discussions
****Special Topic: Writing productivity and discipline

If you're joining us this July, are you excited yet? And if you're not joining us this year, be sure to register for 2018!




RECOMMENDED READING

If you are one of the participants in the July Ireland Writers Tour, just over two months from today, you will be here:
Why not prepare for your trip with some good reads and fun films . . .

Your first tour stop will be a 13th century abbey, now a well-preserved ruin, with loads of interesting history. In order to better understand this haunting location, and others like it, as well as Irish history in general, you might enjoy reading How the Irish Saved Civilization.
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
Not just dry history, this is a compelling read. The narrative is a cross between a once-upon-a-time tale and a detective story and offers an explanation of how Ireland of the Dark Ages eventually brought light back to Europe. You can expect to learn little-known facts while being entertained, and, really, what more can one ask from a book?

McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy 
In this delightful book, Pete McCarthy is a visitor traveling the entire west of Ireland, meeting bizarre people and enjoying the spectacular landscape, all while obeying the rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it.” McCarthy was the Robin Williams of the written word and had a knack for accurately capturing Ireland and Irish people at their best and worst. If you really want to know what to expect when you come to Ireland, avoid the notoriously inaccurate Rick Steves, and read McCarthy’s Bar instead. *Warning: This book will make you laugh out loud, so be prepared for a few stares if you read it in a public place.

Trinity by Leon Uris
If you enjoy historical epics, this is a great one. Ireland’s story is basically a series of invasions. This book tells of the country’s struggle for independence. Uris weaves together the lives of three families: one nationalist, one unionist, and one gentry. He accurately depicts points of view and feelings so that you will come away with a good understanding of the whole north/south conflict and how and why it evolved.

During the tour, you’ll also be visiting the quaint, lovely village where The Quiet Man was filmed in 1951 (John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, directed by John Ford). You might want to watch the film for fun and to get an advance look at the landscape, but do be aware, it’s pure fiction ripe with bad stereotypes!

The Field (1990) Staring Richard Harris and directed by Jim Sheridan is a dramatic but realistic look at rural Irish life. Though the play was originally written in the mid-1960s, the plot and characterizations are timeless. It was filmed in the region you will be visiting.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh This is a dark but engrossing play that takes place in a wilderness outpost in Connemara. You’ll be touring this area (see photo at the top).



Amazing Stories in the Irish Landscape
THE BURREN
If you’d like a dramatic perspective of time and space, without having to be hit by a meteor or propelled into outer space, then you might want to visit the Burren with Ireland Writer Tours this summer. The Burren is an area in western Ireland composed of limestone that has been sculpted by glaciers and erosion, with large underground caves and weather-resistant stone. In the middle of the rolling, green Irish landscape, the Burren looks starkly different, like the surface of the moon. It is a peaceful, windswept area, graced with sea fossils and, in springtime, a strange combination of alpine, Mediterranean, and arctic wildflowers.
In the middle of the Burren, is Poulnabrone, the most famous Irish dolmen portal tomb. Poulnabrone, which means ‘the hole of sorrows,’ dates back to 2500 B.C. Within this chamber and the cracks in the surrounding limestone, the bones of one newborn baby, six juveniles, and 16-22 adults, were buried. (Or, more accurately, REburied after they had been left exposed to the elements.) Also buried with these individuals were grave goods, including tools, a bone pendant, quartz crystals, pottery and arrowheads.
Poulnabrone is only one of approximately seventy ancient tombs in this evocative, lunar landscape. And, the Burren is one of the many places where you may be romanced by a muse, especially since this tour will be sandwiched between two dynamic writing instruction days. 
Aerial view of The Burren
If you haven’t already registered for one of the tours, now’s the time to do it. And let this be the summer your writing takes off!



In just a few weeks, those of you participating in the July tour will be asked to send your pages in so the guest authors can read and offer feedback on your work. If you're not ready yet, you'll want to get a move on! This week, guest author/editor, Heather Webb, offers some tips to help you get some quality writing done. 
 WRITING GOALS THAT STICK
by Heather Webb
 
How do people do it—write 5,000 words per week, crank out dozens of short stories, or even a novel per year? They must have a secret formula. Some cerebral superiority, or maybe just high tech software that prods them when they aren't looking. The rest of us lowly writing humanoids need a plan. A REAL, honest to goodness plan. So here it is. A plan to help you ditch your crappy writing habits and get cranking.

Be Honest
Take a good look at your habits.  Do you spend half of your alotted time screwing around on the internet, texting, or wandering away from your desk to refill your coffee mug? Do you hit your snooze button 17 times, missing your 5 a.m. wake-up call? Be HONEST about your pitfalls. Now work around them.

I can hardly concentrate after eight p.m., therefore, I never schedule writing time in the evenings. I love Twitter and Facebook, as well as reading writers' blogs. Social media is actually FUN for me. This means I have to UNPLUG the modem in my house at times or work in locations sans internet. I love to distract myself with food so I pack snacks to avoid getting up. My phone is my fifth appendage, so I turn it off. I've learned to be honest about my habits to create productive blocks of writing time.

Devise a Schedule
Make a list of times you're most alert--when you can actually feel the creative juices oozing between your ears. If you aren't able to write during those times every day, choose the next best option and nail the time slots down. Do not budge on those blocks of time for ANY reason.
Be Reasonable. If you can only write for two hours effectively, then don't set aside four hours. The last two hours of spinning your wheels will leave you frustrated.

Do a Warm-Up
Before each session, do a warm-up activity to gain your focus. Scan through the next couple of scenes (or notes for a scene) you need to revise or write.  Then, on a notepad, jot down a rough outline of what you will cover in this particular time block. Spend 5-10 minutes listing important points and then begin. It's incredible how much a short amount of direction-focused time helps get the creative machine roaring.
Writing Rewards: Schedule a trip to Tahiti . . . Or Ireland!
Reward Yourself
If I finish this scene, I get a piece of chocolate. If I finish these ten pages, I get a glass of wine.  If I finish this chapter, I get a trip to Tahiti. Okay, I wish, but you get the idea.

Schedule a Write-In
Remember those lock-ins from high school? Everyone stayed up all night eating pizza, throwing water balloons, and playing Capture the Flag in the dark. A few unruly teens would stray under the bleachers and grope each other until a teacher came by with a flashlight and flushed them out. Yeah those.
A write-in won't be as memorable, but far more worthwhile. This is a great way to connect with other writers, break out of writer's block, or find a critique partner. All you need to do is gather at least one other writer (or as many as possible) and select a meeting place. Make a chart of individual goals, as well as a group goal. Get the coffee pot going. Disconnect the internet. And GO! Camaraderie may be just the bit of inspiration you need. And, hey, make it a weekly/monthly thing if you can swing it.

Live Your Life
If the words won't come no matter what you do, put down your proverbial plume. Live your life. Do something active. Watch a movie. Read a book. Travel. Fill yourself up with life's moments; hard work, the dull routine, pleasure. The words will trickle back, slowly, or maybe even flood your being, once you're full of life again.

The key is to know yourself and try many tricks until something sticks--then make a routine. Good luck and write on!

It's St. Patrick's Day week, and for those who've booked an Ireland Writers' Tour (and for those who are thinking about booking, you’ll want to hurry!), this post is about one of the sights you'll see this summer. It is, without a doubt, the single most popular sight in Ireland . . . 
The Cliffs of Moher are dramatic 700 foot cliffs at the edge of the Burren, in the far west of Ireland. Imagine Ireland as a giant chocolate cake with green icing on top and floating on a large body of water. It’s as if someone cut off a large slice of that cake, leaving these cliffs at the edge of the plate.

When you stand on the cliffs, the Atlantic crashes dramatically far below and seagulls scream as they soar beneath you. The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone. It is possible to see 300 million year-old river channels cutting through, forming unconformities at the base of the cliffs. Approximately 30,000 birds from 20 different species live on the cliffs.

In the old Irish language, the word Mothar meant ‘ruined fort.’ There was a fort on these cliffs a couple thousand years ago, but even though there is no trace of the thing now, its name still lingers. The Cliffs of Moher, or cliffs of the ruined fort, include an indoor exhibition, a long walkway, and a viewing tower. 
There are loads of stories connected to this place—legends about a mermaid, an eel that ate corpses, and a lost city beneath the waves. Part of the Spanish Armada hid in one of the caves at the bottom of the cliffs, and Napoleon Bonaparte built a signal tower here. Back in 1835, Cornelius O’Brien built an even bigger tower, and in 2009 Dumbledore brought Harry Potter here in the Half-Blood Prince. Register for an Ireland Writers Tour and you will be here too.


If you join an Ireland Writer Tour this summer, you’ll be asked to submit a query-length synopsis of your project, as well as a limited number of manuscript pages. This week, Heather Webb helps you get ready by offering tips about how best to write a query.

Query Musts and Query Faux Pas
by Heather Webb

 As an editor, I’ve been working on loads of queries lately. Writers are gearing up for big spring submissions, just as agents are with editors. I’ve been seeing many with the same mistakes so I thought, I would share the laundry list of what makes a query juicy, what to avoid, and a few other points to making your query a slam-dunk success.

First off, think of the query as a form of pitching yourself and your book. If you can't do that for yourself, who will? We’ll go over queries this July at the Ireland Writer Tour conference, but for now, let’s take a look at some basic query musts and query faux pas.

WHAT'S IN A QUERY? 1. A PROPER GREETING: The only acceptable greeting is "Dear Agent". This is not the actual word "agent", but the agent's NAME spelled correctly! Do not, under any circumstance, leave off the agent's name. It makes it look like you don't really care who reps you, consequently making the agent feel like they are the hired help and not a human being who pours their heart and soul into your works.

2. WHY YOU'RE QUERYING SAID AGENT: Include a sentence or two (max) of why you're querying that particular agent and why you think they will like your novel. ***Caution, do NOT tell them that you love an author or book they rep and that's why you're querying them. Many agents are annoyed by this, especially when you get the information wrong. It makes you come off like a bad car salesman. Comparing elements in your novel to said author, however, is acceptable.

3. BODY OF THE QUERY: Be sure to open with the protagonist by name, mention the antagonist at some point, a couple of poignant details about the plot, and finally, what is at stake. Finish with a strong sentence that makes us dying to know what will happen next. Do not go on and on about the dozens of complicated subplots and character development. The goal here is to tempt the agent to want to read more. Less is more.

4. WORD COUNT & GENRE: Don't forget these important pieces of information! Also consider listing another author, novel, or movie/TV show that has similar elements to your story.

5. A SHORT BIO PARAGRAPH: Describe your writing credits or previous novels if any, writing groups to which you belong, any writing-related degrees or awards, websites/magazines for you write for, or experience that aided you in crafting this particular novel. If you have absolutely nothing to say here that relates to writing, I suggest, at the very least, you join a couple of online groups that you can mention.
Heather with fans

WHAT NOT TO INCLUDE
1. THEMES: Though themes are important, they aren't plot points, which is the WHOLE POINT of a query. Also themes are generic and can be applied to thousands of stories that aren’t yours. For example: “This book follows a woman’s journey to find herself, to conquer her fears, and to become whole again after a life-altering divorce.” This could describe about 5 million books. What makes your book unique is the plot. Besides, agents are intelligent people. I guarantee they'll figure out the themes, simply by looking at the plot and the main conflict. If not through your query, your pages.

2. GROSS COMPARISONS: You may very well be the next Anne Rice, but don't compare yourself to her, lest you want your carefully crafted query deleted. This comes off as amateuresque and egotistical. Anne Rice isn't just an author. She's a brand. It's like comparing your church bulletin to the New York Times. It just doesn't work.

3. YOUR DEGREES: For clarification, you should always include your degrees if they meet the following criteria: A.) it's a writing degree of some sort, B.) it's a degree that boosts your platform, or C.) it's related to the subject about which you have written. Do not include your degree in psychology or math, or communications if you're writing romance novels. They don't correlate. Get my drift? Many agents don't care if you even graduated high school. They want a good story they can sell.

4. QUOTES OR PRAISE: It's great that your friend Kate who's a journalist loves your book, but to include that info is another rookie move. So is going on about how you're an excellent writer and that anyone should be so lucky to represent you. BAD MOVE. Also, an agent doesn't want you to tell them how they should feel about your book. They like to decide for themselves.

5. BUTT KISSING: There's nothing more annoying than obsequiousness. Some agents seem not to mind because they're used to it and they skip over your gushing compliments. But most get irritated enough they delete you immediately.
OTHER TIPS
1. KEEP IT SHORT: Your query should total 250-350 words. Agents like to see white space in an email. It means they have less to read, and it’s easy to read, which is a good thing when their inboxes are flooded every week. Plus, in our lightning-speed, no-deferred-gratification society, faster and punchier is better.

2. GET EYES ON IT: Bang out a few versions and find another writer or query forum to give you feedback. You need at least two pairs of eyes on this sucker, just as you do for your pages. Everyone picks up on different aspects of your tone and style, your work will be stronger with more feedback.

3. DON'T AGONIZE OVER WHERE TO LIST WORD COUNT & GENRE: I’ve noticed writers ask agents dozens of questions at conferences about where you should list the w.c. and genre in the query. This can easily go at the top of the query when you're talking about why you queried the agent, or right before your bio. Agents have different preferences ultimately, and it's impossible to tailor your query to each agent with this sort of minutiae. What matters is a concise, meaty hook that sparks interest in your novel. NOTHING MORE.

4. THE GUNSHOT APPROACH IS A BUST: Don't send out a mass query to a bunch of agents. There are a few reasons why. A.) You don’t want to play your entire hand in one go because your piece may need more feedback, ultimately, and you could be wasting your chance with many of these agents. B.) You're demonstrating that you don't give a damn who reps you by not being discerning. This is extremely bad form. I can’t stress how small this business is (something I’ve learned now that I’ve been a part of it for six years). Everyone knows each other. They talk. A lot. They will share your bad behavior. C.) An agent-author relationship should be a partnership. You need to be as selective as they are about choosing their authors. Not every agent will fit the profile of someone you would like to work with. An agent is like a significant other. Choose them with care.

5. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH: This refers back to the whole "one at a time" idea. Research as many agents as possible that rep your genre. Make a spreadsheet or table with their information, when you’ve contacted them, and when they’ve gotten back to you. Use www.querytracker.com to check out agent turn-around time, as well as agent behaviors and protocol. Read Publisher’s Lunch and Publisher’s Weekly to follow who is making sales and to whom, also what sort of books they’re selling. Does Agent 007 enjoy westerns? Do they sell contemporary cowboy romances with elements that match yours? Perfect. Consider querying them.
6. CONTACT THE AGENT’S CLIENTS: Or better yet, their former clients. Get the skinny on how they operate. This is when gossiping is not only okay, but encouraged. Again, think partnership. You want the best person for the job who gets you and your needs and style. **NOTE: Just because an agent sells historicals doesn’t mean she likes American colonial novels. Look into their nuanced tastes.

7. Finally, MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU. If you find your query isn’t getting you anywhere, consider hiring an editor to take a look at it, preferably one with query experience. (Believe it or not, there are plenty who don’t. This is a very specific skill.) But keep at it! Publishing is often a game of “last man standing”. Be that person who won’t be cut down.



Spring in Ireland
Here in Ireland, we’re welcoming spring this month. February 1st marked Imbolc, the ancient festival that heralds the arrival of more light and new life to the land. Right now, all around this island, baby lambs are bouncing across fields on pogo-stick legs, and daffodils are opening to raise their cheerful yellow faces to the sky.

Imbolc honours Bríd, the Goddess of springtime, poetry, childbirth, and the forge (as in the forge of creation). Bríd (pronounced Breej) is a bit like the Greek goddess, Persephone, who came out of the underworld and brought spring with her.
These myths are not only about the return of Spring to the land, but also the return of the Soul from its dwelling in the obscurity of the subconscious mind. In the western world, we tend to get so caught up in outer pursuits that the soul is forgotten. This time of year reminds us of our inner selves rising to the surface, like seedlings. It can stir sleeping ideas into life. Into stories.

The Goddess Bríd pre-dates the Celts, having arrived in Ireland with the Gaels, all the way from what is modern-day Turkey.

There was also a Saint Brigit who may or may not have been derived from the Goddess Bríd. Brigit created a female priesthood in Kildare (meaning Church of the Oak). Since druids worshipped in oak groves, Brigit’s order may be considered female druids. When the Catholic church could not eradicate the cult of Brigit, they made her a saint. Hagiographers claimed she was a nun who founded a convent in Kildare, but that convent was famous for miracles and fertility magic. To this day, Brigit is associated with both magic and springtime.
This is a wonderful time of year to use the fertility of the Earth to fire your imagination and create stories. And, if you’re hoping to join us this summer on an Ireland Writer Tour, it’s the best time to get your manuscript pages ready.



MY PUBLISHING JOURNEY
This week, Lorie Langdon, one of the teaching authors for the August tour, gives us an inside peek at her amazing journey from unpublished writer to the deal with Zondervan/HarperCollins that marked the beginning of her road to success. 

The Uncommon Route:
I’m not sure if there’s a “typical” way to find a literary agent and get a publishing deal. It seems every story is different. But my route was more convoluted than most. The first book I pitched and queried to agents was an adult Time Travel set during the maritime Revolutionary War with an inspirational element. Sounds great, right?

I received rejection after rejection and was told that time travel and God do not mix. Theologically, I disagree. But that’s a different post.

Around this same time my critique partner, Carey Corp, insisted that I read TWILIGHT. I’m not a vampire fan, so it took some convincing. But it hooked me from the first page. Not because it was beautifully written literature, but because I could see myself as a teen in the character of Bella. Because every girl who feels average longs for the extraordinary. That’s when I knew I wanted to write young adult literature.

And I had the perfect story idea.

When I was sixteen I saw the musical Brigadoon and fell in love with the romantic tale of the village that only appears to the modern world once every one hundred years. But one thing always bothered me about the original – during the hundred years that the portal to Brigadoon is closed, the people sleep. Really? They sleep! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with that hundred years.

Coincidentally, Carey had just completed her second young adult novel, so I was picking her brain on voice and technique when somewhere along the way our conversation took a detour. Our ideas for the mythical kingdom of Doon sparked an explosion of evil witches, magic spells, daring adventures, two unique best friends, and heroic princes in kilts … soon it became clear that this story was bigger than the both of us, but that together we could make it amazing.

As soon as we finished the book, we began to research agents and send email queries. Almost immediately, we received requests from agents to read the full manuscript. We were flying high.

A Test of Faith
Months passed with no offers. Our dream agent, Alexandra Machinist, requested to read the full. More time passed. But Carey and I knew Alexandra was meant to be our agent. During that time, I took a trip to Disney World with my family. The trip was a dream come true, but my attention was divided as I constantly checked my phone for responses from agents.


Toward the end of our trip, we were eating in the German Village at Epcot Center and I got the email. Alexandra Machinist rejected. Not wanting to upset my family with my tears, I ran outside and this is what I saw in the sky: TRUST GOD
Looking closely to see the sky writing.
And so, I did. Little did I know, I’d need to keep that message in my heart through more trials. Less than a month later, we had an offer from an agent with a big firm in NY. She had revision suggestions for the manuscript, but Carey and I were more than willing to make the changes she requested. We rewrote and cut chunks of the book, but the agent wasn’t satisfied. She decided we should make our main characters frenemies.

As a writer, there are times when your vision for your project will conflict with other’s opinions. You must decide where your line is, that place that you won’t cross even to accomplish your goal. For Carey and I, making our characters Veronica and Mackenna frenemies was a deal breaker. We strongly believed illustrating a healthy female friendship was one of the greatest strengths of our story. So, we parted ways with our agent.

The Second Round   
After a few weeks of mourning, we began to send out queries again. Almost immediately we received a full request from a new agent, Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. She stayed up all night reading the manuscript and offered us representation the following day. We set up a call. She adored the book, but she wanted us to make major revisions.

After rewriting our hearts out for our previous agent, to no avail, we weren’t ready to do it again. Our trust had been broken. So we turned down Nicole’s offer.

Fast forward nine months and approximately seventy-five queries later. (I have the spreadsheet list to prove it.) We still didn’t have any offers. Carey was ready to self-publish DOON. She’d previously self-published a solo YA novel with good success. But my lifelong dream had been to see my books on bookstore shelves. I believed that DOON would be that book. We just had to trust.

During those long months of queries, a friend had signed with Nicole Resciniti and received a YA deal with Disney Hyperion. And I began to question whether turning down her offer had been the right decision.

Finally, we received an offer from a literary agent. We spoke to this woman for hours on the phone. She believed in Doon, loved the story and the writing, but she’d never sold a young adult book. Her connections were all with editors of adult fiction.

As Carey and I were considering her offer, we found out that Nicole had asked our mutual friend if we’d found an agent yet. Thankfully, Nicole gave us another chance and read DOON again. We set up a call. She still loved the book and she still wanted big revisions, but Carey and I were ready. We signed with Nicole, worked our butts off for months shaping up the manuscript, and wrote blurbs for three more books so she could pitch it as a series.

When Nicole took DOON out on submission to publishers it felt like a miracle. Like I could breathe again. But as with everything in publishing, it took time. After four long months, Nicole got us both on the phone. We had an offer! Zondervan/HarperCollins, one of the biggest Christian publishers in the world, had started a brand new imprint called Blink YA Books. Their mission was to publish mainstream books with a positive message and they were offering us a four-book deal as one of their lead titles!

We accepted the offer. The first DOON book was released in 2013 and the last one, FOREVER DOON, released this past summer.

As an agent, Nicole has been a God-send. Her belief in my work has never wavered. Last year, Blink published my first solo novel, a YA romantic mystery called GILT HOLLOW. And I have just accepted a deal for a YA historical retelling that will release in 2017.

Sometimes you just need to wait and trust.


 


VENTURE BEYOND YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND GAIN GREAT REWARDS
Here’s an excellent question to consider at the beginning of the year: Have you taken any BIG ACTION to launch yourself out of your current situation and closer to the life of your dreams?

If you’re doing the same things over and over again, you're going to keep getting the same results you've always gotten. It stands to reason, if you want to create a new and better life, you’ll have to try something new, something different, something BIG.

For instance, do you tell yourself you’ll starting writing that novel on the weekend, only to have the weekend roll around and you go out with friends instead?

Do you plan to get up an hour earlier each morning so you can write, and then push the snooze button until you have to get up?

Or maybe you have a completed manuscript you think is strong, but it got rejected so many times you gave up on it?

If you want a lucrative publishing contract, or if you want to see your book in print, you’ll have to take action to make those things happen.

One HUGE thing you can do is to consider an intensive writing week in Ireland with individualized coaching from multi-published authors and editors, combined with tours of breath-taking locations.

By enrolling in this conference/retreat, you will get the tools, resources, and training you need to become a published author. And, if you’re already published, it can help you move ahead to bigger sales and better deals.

Imagine what a week in Ireland could do for your writing, and your life!



LANDING AN AGENT AIN'T NO CINDERELLA STORY
by Heather Webb
My agent story is a fun one to tell, at least for me. I don’t have five trunk novels. I didn’t query hundreds of agents and field pages and pages of rejections. One might call my story the Cinderella story. Kind of. (Well, other than the three years and hundreds of hours of writing, revising, studying craft, going to conferences, and wiping breast milk off of my ink-filled pages.) Where was I? Oh, right. The Cinderella story.

It began with one completed manuscript, four full requests (all from cons), and two measly rounds of revisions. I sent out BECOMING JOSEPHINE, sure that I would have agents vying to sign me. Within two weeks I had two rejections and two requested rewrites. Not bad, right? I was DEVASTATED. I was so new at the game, I didn’t realize that was actually good odds—a quasi fifty percent return rate.

I don’t know if I’m a perfectionist or hard-headed (probably both), but four people sending my manuscript back to me was enough for me to realize IT JUST WASN’T READY.

So I rewrote and rewrote for another six months and I picked up new crit partners. They hacked the holy hell out of that manuscript and then, I took a deep breath, and reentered the dangerous world of THE GREAT AGENT SEARCH.

I sent out about six more queries and hit another conference. This time, I was SHOT DOWN. The intro didn’t grab them. There were…issues.

Another bloody hacking took place.

A month passed. And suddenly, a brilliant light of inspiration stabbed me in the brain matter. I knew what I had to do! I rewrote my intro for the fifteenth time until that bad boy was sparkling. And on to another conference I went, but this time, I felt different. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t pace or obsess. In fact, I possessed an almost eerie sense of calm. I knew deep down that I had done absolutely everything I could. (Plus the Tarot cards told me a new partnership was at hand. Go ahead, snicker. But those things are always right.)

This is the part where I go all Cinderella on you.

All four agents at the round table readings requested. Another approached me at the con who hadn’t even read my pages, but she’d heard they were good (!!) and get this—the best part—she followed ME into the bathroom!

Wait, there’s, more! Something else miraculous happened. Within two weeks of that last conference, four OTHER agents asked for exclusives, one of which was in my top three A-list agents. I didn’t know what to do…so I did anything any self-respecting writer would do. I got drunk with my girlfriends. I mean, this was nuts! I was so confused. What happened if more than one agent offered? What if…GASP…none did after all that?

I didn’t sleep well for the next two weeks. And finally, I heard back from my fairy godmother.

The email came that said: LET’S TALK THIS WEEK. My future agent/fairy godmother (and A-lister) offered rep on the spot and she hadn’t even read the full manuscript. She was trying to beat out the others, so I’ve been told, and she knew she wanted to represent me after reading the first half. I wound up having the extreme pleasure (and distress) of turning down several other agents.

Cinderella-like, right?

But you see, I worked hard, I researched incessantly, I reached out to other writers, I played the game. Plus I had a strategy. I exercised serious caution before wallpapering the inboxes of every agent in publishing with my query letter. I waited for valuable feedback each time. And one of the most important pieces to this fairy tale is that I had met 85% of the agents I queried in person. This immediately catapulted me out of the slush pile.

This business is all about staying the course. But it’s also a combination of caution and bold moves. Know where that line is. Remember that it’s a subjective business, but it’s also one that responds well to professionalism, ball-busting hard work, and persistence. So many writers like to read about success stories because they want to find that magical combination of steps that lead to success. But the only magic out there is believing in yourself. If you believe you have what it takes, one day you may find yourself reliving the Cinderella story.

TOO MANY CASTLES TO COUNT
In Ireland, castles are like hiccups. One pops up every few minutes when you’re driving across the countryside. Some have been painstakingly restored, but many are crumbling yet still beautiful ruins. Most are located on bodies of water, which made them easier to defend, and now makes them positively breath-taking. Unlike fairy tale castles, these are the genuine article, with most of the structures dating back to the 12th through 16th centuries. That means the castles were usually tower houses or keeps, built so that the people inside could be protected.
The renaissance period in Ireland was fraught with peril, and overrun by a bunch of angry white dudes greedy for land. The Normans swept across the country to the west, defeating the High Kings of Ireland; the War of the Roses created a wave of trouble beyond British shores; rebelling Anglo-Irish and Gaelic families wacked off heads and asked questions later; the Battle of Kinsale was a total nightmare; and then there was that whole Cromwellian load of crap. All this fighting meant that castles were a necessary practicality.

Consequently, a real castle doesn’t usually look like Cinderella’s Magic Kingdom digs at Disneyland. That structure is a hollow façade (so Hollywood) based on the Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. Neuschwanstein was built by wacky King Ludwig in the late 19th century when people no longer needed to live in castles for protection. To put it in perspective, Ludwig was more or less deposed for spending too much on his castle.
This coming summer, Ireland Writer Tours will include multiple castles in both the JULY and AUGUST tours. In addition to countless drive-byes, where ruins will be visible, and stories told, we’ll also be spending private time with specific famous castles.
In JULY, there’s a magnificent structure dating as far back as the 12th century, complete with a moat and a Rapunzel tower. Though we’ll be touring the grounds, the interior is off limits (unless you want to be sneaky!) The second castle in July is a privately-owned 14th century tower house that is so haunted, a psychic medium used to travel from Scotland to teach classes there. We’ll be having dinner in the tower room and visiting the haunted bedrooms. Sometimes the toilets even flush themselves.
In AUGUST, in addition to several drive-byes and photo op castles with brief visits, we have a special highlight. It will include a docent-guided afternoon in a 15th century castle tower house on the picturesque shore of Lough Leane. This tour is particularly appropriate for anyone writing or planning a project that takes place in a castle because there will be details about daily life in the castle, including everything from what people ate, where they slept, how and why they bathed infrequently, even the oddities involved with going to the loo. The docent also describes harrowing defence and battle practices, as well as architectural details and building methods.

For a more in-depth look at the sights included on each tour, click on the 'Itinerary-July' tab and the 'Itinerary-August' tab, above.

There's nothing quite as spiritually enlightening for a writer as travel to a new place, learning how other civilizations lived, and walking a few miles in a real, or imagined, ancestor’s shoes.







Lorie Langdon on
HOW TO OVERCOME DREAM KILLERS

Lorie is one of the guest author/editors for the August 2017 Ireland Writer Tour. Here, she offers some sound and valuable advice for writers, derived from personal experience . . .

We all know them, those people who think it’s their purpose on earth to direct the lives of others—to suck the life out of our “impractical” dreams with logic and statistics. They have the best intentions, but they can’t seem to stop themselves from painting the worst case scenario. If we aren’t careful, their doomsday predictions will cause us to veer off the path we know in our hearts we are meant to take.

To understand my Dream Killer experience, let’s take a quick peek into the past . . .

Story telling is in my blood. Even as a little girl, the dramas I created for Barbie, Skipper, and Ken would take days to act out. But it wasn’t until I discovered reading fiction that my obsessive affair with words began. I would spend hours upon hours in my room with Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, L. Frank Baum, or Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still remember the intense excitement of discovering a new book at the local library and running all the way home so I could devour it like a pint of triple chocolate ice cream.
So, it was no surprise to anyone that I chose journalism as my major in college. It wasn’t fiction, but at that time writing my own novels hadn’t even entered my mind. I imagined myself as an investigative reporter, chasing the facts that would make a good story, great!
At the beginning of my junior year at Miami University, I was well on my way to my dream job, when a “well-intentioned” professor sat me down and gave me the talk. You know the one: “You’ll never make any money writing for a newspaper. It’s pure grunt work, writing stories about old women who take in stray cats. It’s a waste of your talent.”

The hours are horrible – don’t you want to have a family some day?”

And then the clincher: “What you really need to do is broadcast journalism. With your looks, you could get a job at a big network!”

Ah hello, introvert here. Just reading aloud in front of the class made me hyperventilate. Sure, I wanted adventure, but behind the scenes. Not in front of a camera where hundreds of thousands of people could scrutinize my every move! But I also didn’t want to write uninteresting stories for no money and work crazy hours. So, I went to my guidance counselor and changed my major to the uber-practical Sociology with an emphasis in Human Resources.

Since I’ve been pursuing writing as a career, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “The chances of anything you write being in a bookstore are astronomically low.” Or “So you write kids stories, but what’s your real job?” Or “I have a friend who’s tried to get her books published for the past fifteen years and she has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing, I doubt you’ll be able to do better.”

I’m happy to report that unlike that naive college girl who let one professor talk her out of her chosen profession, I didn’t listen. I kept writing and I kept perfecting my craft, attending workshops, reading books, and making connections in the publishing world. And I let the skeptical comments fuel my determination.

If you have a dream, no matter how impractical or unrealistic, do everything within your power to pursue it. Work toward that goal every single day until you accomplish it. I’m not saying it will be easy or there won’t be times you want to give up, but don’t you dare listen to the Dream Killers out there who want you to fit their mold of success!

And yes, my fifth published novel hit bookstores this September.

Take that, you Dream Killers!


DRACULA WAS IRISH!

Yeah, it sounds crazy, but it’s probably true. The inspiration for Dracula was a short Irish guy.

Abraham (Bram, to his friends) Stoker, the author of DRACULA, was born in Dublin, Ireland 169 years ago last Tuesday (November 8th). If you take the Hop On/Hop Off tour of Dublin, you’ll be shown the house where he lived.

The month in which he was born, November, is referred to as ‘Samhain’ (pronounced Sah-win) in Irish. It’s a holiday that begins on the 31st of October, and marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the Celtic new year. The hollow or hallow season, is an entire month when the veil between worlds is thin, and communicating with spirits or entities in other dimensions is easiest. It is, perhaps, this time of year when Bram began to write the work for which he became famous, the gothic novel, DRACULA.
Many people believe that the antagonist of the novel, Count Dracula, was based on Vlad the Impaler. In fact, the many cinematic versions of the novel do utilize this belief. However, Stoker’s research notes for DRACULA do not indicate that he had detailed biographical knowledge of Vlad the Impaler. Instead, Bob Curran, a lecturer in Celtic History and Folklore at the University of Ulster, suggests it is more likely that Stoker’s inspiration came from the Irish legend of Abhartach.

Abhartach (the Irish word for ‘dwarf’) was a malformed magician and a dreadful tyrant who perpetrated great cruelties on people, until he was vanquished and slain by a neighbouring chieftain. But for years after his death, Abhartach rose from his grave to drink the blood of his subjects. He didn’t stop until he was dug up and reburied, head-first, in the ground.

It is possible to visit Abhartach’s grave in Errigal, County Derry. Oddly, the wretched dwarf’s resting place is called ‘The Giant’s Grave.’
So, if you want inspiration for something to write—or maybe even someone in spirit form to ‘dictate’ their story to you—November is the perfect time to ask for their assistance. Especially if you’re writing, or would like to write, historical fiction or anything with a historical influence, there are likely spirits who will gladly help you. After all, just because someone no longer has a physical body doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in a little popularity.

Next summer’s guest authors find inspiration in much the same way Bram Stoker did, and will have loads of informative pointers to share during Ireland Writer Tours in July and August 2017. Plan to join us and learn about everything from plotting, characterization, and querying, to marketing and self-publishing. You can even find out about the inspiration behind Heather Webb’s look at the 19th century heroine of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, Trisha Leaver’s visualization of the truth behind the Lizzie Borden murders in SWEET MADNESS, Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s motivation to create the fact-based historical fantasy, KITSUNE-TSUKI, and Lorie Langdon’s highland fling with her historical-fantasy DOON characters.

To find out more, please click on the links above.


MAKING TIME TO WRITE
(In Time for Nanowrimo!)
If you're like most writers, you struggle to find the time to write. But like accomplishing any important goal, time can’t be found to write. It must be made.

If you’d like to join us in July or August for one of the Ireland Writer Tours, it’s not too early to start readying your manuscript. A month or more before the tour begins, you will be asked to send a certain number of pages to the guest authors for their feedback. In order to use their feedback to your best advantage, you’ll want to make sure the pages you send are as good as you can make them. No better time than November and Nanowrimo, to start readying your manuscript. To help you with that task, we’ve gleaned words of wisdom from next summer’s guest authors, as well as a few other talented authors, all with varying schedules and advice. There’s bound to be a plan here that can suit you . . .
HEATHER WEBB (http://www.heatherwebbauthor.com/) is a successful, multi-published author and editor who’ll be teaching this July in Ireland. She started writing with an infant and a two year old at home.

“Luckily, I didn’t work full-time on top of this, but I did do part-time teaching and tutoring, and had no money for daycare and no family nearby. This is a toughie. You’re exhausted from the lack of sleep and barely keeping up with regular routine chores. How in the world can you fit in writing time? Everyone says to write while the kids nap, but for me, that wasn’t possible. I needed sleep then as well. What worked for me was to find an hour or two every other day or so when my husband came home from work. But the bulk of my writing didn’t happen until the weekends. I committed to write every Saturday and Sunday morning from seven to noon. I left plenty of milk in the fridge, packed my computer bag, and parked my derrière at Starbucks. Every.Single.Weekend. It helped eliminate distractions, and my leaving the house became a routine the family grew to expect. Just like a regular work or school schedule.”

Today, Heather’s schedule looks something like this:
7:00-8:00 is kids, coffee, and social media.
8:00-9:30 is some sort of exercise.
9:30-11:30 is writing time.
12:30-1:30 is lunch, emails, and perhaps a walk or some sort of movement.
1:30-3:30 is writing time.
3:30--- Kid pickups. If you don’t have kids, take a break for an hour and then sit down for another hour or two, or until you accomplish your goal.

LORIE LANGDON (http://www.lorielangdon.com/) is a successful multi-published young adult author who’ll be teaching in Ireland this August. She has these words of advice about writing schedules:
 
“I am blessed to write as my full-time career and I treat it as such. I begin writing each morning as soon as my kids leave for school. I set and keep a word count goal at least five days a week. Once I reach that goal for the day, I will either move on to other tasks such as marketing and promotion, or if I'm feeling inspired, I'll keep writing. When you don't have a deadline it can be easy to procrastinate, so my best advice is to write every day. Set a goal for yourself, even if it's just a paragraph a day, and stick to it. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish if you break your goals into smaller, more manageable chunks. Don't think about writing a whole novel. Think about writing the first paragraph, then the first chapter, then the second chapter, etc. Before you know it, you'll have a complete novel."
TRISHA LEAVER (www.trishaleaver.com) has published five books in four different genres, is the mother of three children, has found the time to mentor writers in at least two different contests and will be teaching at her first Ireland Writer Tour this July. She offers this advice about scheduling:

“Carving out time each day to devote to writing when you’re already juggling a job, family, competing deadlines and a hectic carpool schedule is hard, and there were days—weeks—I thought it near impossible. My writing got pushed to the back burner, the thing on the bottom of my list that I did only after everything and everyone else in my life was taken care of. It was only recently, when I started viewing my writing as a priority, that I began actually scheduling blocks of time to write each day. I turn off the internet, silence my phone, shut out the outside world and actually sit down and put pen to paper (or in my case fingers to keyboard). No interruptions. No exceptions. Somedays it’s a brief two hours, others I am fortunate to have eight creatively-filled hours to myself. Is all my time spent writing? Absolutely not! In fact on some days, it seems I do more deleting than writing, but setting aside a creative block of time each day has not only made me a more productive writer, but a happier, more balanced person.”

LAURA VANARENDONK BAUGH (www.lauravanarendonkbaugh.com) has been published in multiple genres and won multiple awards. She'll be teaching in Ireland this August, and here are a few of her time management secrets:

“Because (like most of us) I don't have the luxury of being a full-time writer with no other commitments, there are times when I have to set it aside. Last year I had to stop working on my NaNo project because I had a deadline to turn in 10 hours of conference lectures -- that was a panic moment for my word count goals. (I did make it, whew!) At other times I can block out tracts of time specifically for writing. This week I booked a day just for writing and made a 10,000 word day. (Yay!) Most of the time it's somewhere in between, an hour or several in an evening. I don't own a television, so that saves me some creative time, but I am self-employed, so that means my waking hours are office hours, and that cuts into time. Right now, I have two books on deadline, plus I have several conference lectures to prepare and turn in, and a video to make. This means I'm scheduling my time far more tightly than usual, and I'll be alternating editing and writing two different projects during November. I'm already stockpiling the chocolate. Wish me luck!”

JULIE DAO, (http://www.juliedao.com/) a previous Ireland Writer Tour participant, scored a 3-book, 6-figure deal this year with her young adult fantasy, FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS. Here’s how she managed her schedule to accomplish that feat:

“Like many other writers, I work a full-time job from 9 to 5. The evenings and weekends are my time to write and work on my book. When I get home I have to eat dinner and shower and unwind, and then when I'm feeling rested, I will open up my laptop and start working. Some nights I will allow myself to take a break if I'm feeling too tired, because I think that being exhausted is not conducive to creativity. But otherwise I try to work for at least a couple of hours before I go to bed. The weekends can vary quite a bit because sometimes I will have plans and I need to work around those plans

in order to find writing time. If I don't have anything going on I will often write for a total of 5 to 6 hours with breaks in between. I try to tell myself that all of these little bits and pieces will eventually add up into a book and it's more about quality than quantity and how fast you can write!”

EMILY LAYNE, (http://www.emilylaynewriter.com/p/home_17.html) a prolific writer of young adult fiction, has this to say:

“Inspiration is a fickle friend. If I only wrote when inspired, I’d never finish a book! With a schedule tangled up with working, blogging, and keeping house, daily writing goals are necessary. Here’s the three-step plan that works for me:

Step One: Plot your book in entirety. It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan. But knowing where you’re going makes a world of difference.

Step Two: Set a goal. I use an app on my phone called WordOneLite. I guesstimate my book’s end word count, key in how soon I want to finish it, and the app will give me a daily word count to reach my goal.

Step Three: Write! I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Though certainly not easy!

Using this method, I was able to write THESE WICKED WATERS, the YA thriller that landed me my agent, in fourteen days. That’s right, I wrote 61,748 words in fourteen days. Of course, TWW needed a lot of editing. But it was written, and now on submission!

SANDRA CLARKE (www.sjclarke.com) is an award-winning author of romantic suspense. Even with her hectic schedule, she’s managed to make time for the writing priority.

“When it came to finding time to write, I found every excuse in the book. A hibernating muse, a full time job, excessive volunteer hours with two organizations, kids, needy foster dogs—you get the picture. The more the pressure built, the more my creative energy faded. By the time I got home at the end of the day my brain was mush. Sitting in front of the blank screen became something I dreaded.

So I spent copious amounts of time researching how to better use my time. Procrastination at its finest. One of these searches led me to a theory by Brian Tracy from his book EAT THAT FROG. The frog is the one task you dread. So make it the first thing you do each day.

I got it: Get it out of the way so you don't spend the day obsessing about how you'll get it done and then feel disappointed when life happens and it gets pushed aside once again.

I had an agent waiting for my full manuscript and I'd yet to finish the book! I had to find a way to make it fit into my life. So I told fellow writer friends and made them my accountability partners. Then I set my alarm for 5:00 am Monday morning.

Setting a word count goal wasn't going to work for me because I had to get to work regardless of my progress. So I gave myself a time limit and permission to write as little or as much as I could. Not writing meant I got up early for nothing and that would just piss me off. So I wrote at five am, Monday to Friday. I gave myself weekends off to do the fun bits, which for me are things like researching, reading writerly blogs and taking writing workshops.

The plan worked. It more than worked. I looked forward to writing every weekday. I was proud of the book's progress and my critique group liked the raw first-draft pages I submitted. Yay! Those too-early morning words weren't the crap I'd feared. This new routine fit. I actually looked forward to my writing days and even got words in on the weekends.

When life got in the way big time with my mother's death, my daily writing became a place of solace. My mother was a huge supporter and seeing the book through to the end was my way of thanking her.

Early morning words aren't for everyone. That's not the point of this. Finding what works for you, what helps you face the real fear – that’s the goal.”

Finally, if you’re one of the zillions of writers joining in Nanowrimo, know that these authors will likely be in the trenches too. As Heather Webb puts it:

“This year, I'm using the inspiration and energy of Nanowrimo to finish edits on a work in progress as well as crank out 20,000 words on a brand new novel. In other words, my schedule will be tighter than usual, but who can resist all of that creative gusto rippling through the writer-sphere? I'm on it! Good luck to those of you who are joining me!”


If you join us for the tour in August 2017, you'll visit the pub featured in this Guinness ad, and learn the whole story behind it:



The Fourteen Tribal Flags of Galway
If you join us for the July tour, you'll be based in County Galway and visiting:

Galway, City of the Tribes
If you're flying in from the U.S., you'll likely be arriving in this country early in the morning. From Dublin or Shannon, you’ll catch the bus or train to Galway City, where we will collect you at 2 pm to begin the retreat/tour. That means you’re likely to have a couple of hours to explore, so this post will give you some helpful information and an introduction to Galway, The City of the Tribes.

For six centuries, between 1250 and 1850, fourteen families dominated political, commercial, and social life in the City of Galway. They were the families of Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Deane, Font, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett. They were mostly Norman, but also Irish, Welsh and English.

These families lost much of their power and land with the invasion of Cromwell and his forces in the mid-1600s. At that time, Cromwell referred to the fourteen families as ‘The Tribes of Galway.’ It was meant to be a derogatory label, but the people later adopted that name themselves as a mark of defiance.

When you arrive in Galway, either by bus or train, you may notice one or two of the roundabouts. Each one is named after one of the tribes. Leave your bags in the holding area at the station and have a look around this small city. Let yourself join the tribal energy. You might want to stroll down the cobblestoned Shop Street, buy a gelato, watch the street performers, visit a vintage clothing boutique, a new bookshop, or a shop full of used books. You might pass Lynch’s Castle (where the first ‘lynching’ occurred) and walk on to the Claddagh pier where you are likely to encounter a large number of swans. Or, you could just go from the station to the pub across the street, or the tea room at the hotel next door, and relax with a cuppa. Whatever you decide to do, remember to head back to the station for your 2 pm pick-up and the next part of your adventure to unfold!