Here you will find stories, facts, folklore, and a sneak peek at the writing tips you may expect to encounter on Ireland Writer Tours . . .
You can introduce yourself and your project to fellow IWT participants once you get here, or you can start meeting fellow participants now via the Facebook group: ‘Ireland Writer Tour Participants 2023'. If you have any trouble accessing that group, email IWT and we’ll help.
It’s tempting to turn a writing retreat into a retreat from writing. If you make some connections now, and help keep each other accountable, you can accomplish your writing goals that much faster.
A MYSTICAL SIGHT
This magical sight is tucked away in the countryside. You'd likely drive right by it if you weren't watching closely. If you join us for an Ireland Writer Tour this summer, you'll be visiting this place, and if you're like previous participants, you may experience a bit of magic.
What is this? It's a very unusual PAIR of holy wells.
Holy wells are sacred springs that ancient people believed held magical powers. Often these wells were dedicated to one of the gods or goddesses of the area (the ancient Irish worshipped over 300 deities). People came to the wells to give thanks, perform rituals, and leave gifts to deities and nature spirits. Eventually, Christians took over the wells, claiming them for one saint or another. The stories told about such wells were memorable and arresting: The well appeared when a saint shed tears upon leaving this beautiful place, or water burst forth when a holy man struck this rock with his staff. Today, all over Ireland, people still come to these wells to pray, perform rituals, leave gifts.
Most holy wells are hidden and you need a local guide to find them. But once you see a well, you will know it. They are disturbingly beautiful. At nearly every well, you will find an ancient faerie tree or bush covered in offerings of small bits of rag or ribbon tied to the branches. When a rag from an old piece of clothing is tied to the tree, a wish or prayer is made. It is said that the faeries will take the illness or trouble away and, as the rag disintegrates, so does your problem.
Usually, an offering is also made of a coin or memento, but sometimes people leave the most peculiar things: a piece of broken crockery, a shell, a rusted piece of metal, a headless statue, a plastic Virgin Mary. . . When you visit next summer, you may wish to bring a bit of ribbon or a strip of cloth or offering with you to tie to the fairie tree at the holy wells.
The photo above is of a unique pair of holy wells—unique because there are two together instead of the usual one. We will be visiting these wells which are located on either side of an ‘altar,’ with carefully white-washed stones all round. Tobar Mhuire and Tobar Feichin (Mary’s Well and Saint Fechin’s Well) are hidden deep in the Dooghta valley near Lough Corrib in the wild west of Ireland. They offer the cure of enhanced sight. However, in the 1800s, there were those odd individuals who would come to this pair of wells to use a cursing stone, and put a curse on their neighbours. The person who was cursed would die within a year. However, the person who performed the curse would also be struck with bad luck. It is said that a woman named Peggy Griffin, who had performed the curse, went mad and spent the rest of her days wandering the hills, ‘speaking to the ghosts all around her.’
So, when you visit this sight, you may prefer to make a wish or a prayer for something altogether positive. That, along with your week here, will help you hold this beautiful location in fond memory.
If you are one of the participants in the July Ireland Writers Tour, two months from today, you will be standing here:
Why not prepare for your trip with some good reads and fun films . . .
Your first tour stop will be a 14th century abbey, now a well-preserved ruin (see photo above), 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. Written by the director/writer of The Banshees of Inisherin (but much, much better than that film!)
Details That Will
Help You Have a Grand Journey:
Getting the Most for Your Money and Understanding the Climate
If you've registered or the July Ireland Writer Tour, “Plot Your Path to Writing Success,” you're likely thinking about preparing for your up-coming journey.
Though it may seem early, now’s a good time to think about establishing your comfort level when you get here. The less ‘foreign’ things feel, the more comfortable you will be. To help you have a relaxed and happy holiday, here are some helpful tips for tour participants—and anyone—visiting Europe this summer.
There are two questions you should never ask in Europe:
How much is that in dollars?
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 22 degrees.
Why not use this time before you travel to acclimate yourself to Euros and Celsius?
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: https://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 well. That means, now's a good time to exchange
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.
TIPS FOR THE WISE:
1. 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.
2. Exchange rates quoted on the internet are for big banks. Since Chase Manhattan exchanges more money than you probably will, they get a much better rate. So expect to add about 3 cents per Euro to the exchange rate listed on oanda.com.
3. When you exchange dollars for Euros in the U.S., you’ll likely be given large bills. Undoubtedly, you will need a few one or two Euro coins very soon after landing in Ireland. Since many small shops will not be able to change large bills, before leaving the airport, stop and buy a bottle of water or packet of mints so you can get change.
4. It’s important to know that restaurants in Europe usually do NOT offer ‘separate checks.’ This means you will want to have some available cash for restaurant meals and gratuities (excluding those that are pre-paid as part of the tour). If you can’t remember what you’ve already paid for, there’s a list on our website, here: http://www.irelandwritertours.com/p/pricing_17.html
5. 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.
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.
Money and Temperature Conversion may seem like small details 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 less like of a strange, foreign experience, and more like coming home.
Author branding is how you are perceived by readers. It is your “voice” and sets the expectation in their minds for what they are going to get when they pick up one of your books. Think about your favorite author—you know when you read their book what you’re going to get. When you go to their website, or social media, their branding is evident. You won’t find unicorns and puppies on Stephen King’s website, just like you won’t find scary clowns and possessed cats on Colleen Hoover’s website. Author branding is all about the image. The image you create with your internet presence and your body of work. It will be present in your logos, banners, covers, websites, social media, and of course in your writing.
After you’ve made the decision to write in multiple genres, you’ll have to consider whether or not you want to write under one name, or come up with a pseudonym for the other genre. There is no right or wrong way to go about this. But your branding will differ, depending. If you have multiple names, you only need to worry about branding to those names/genres. However, this will require you to have multiple websites and social media platforms. If you decide to write all genres under one name, this requires you to create an internet presence that covers all bases. One thing to keep in mind with author branding, is that you are really branding yourself, it is your voice that readers will be drawn to.
In the case of Nora Roberts who is a prolific romance author, she chose the name J.D. Robb for her suspense genre. When she first started out, the covers of her books would say “Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb.” Now, she’s built up a vast following, and they no longer say Nora Roberts. In her case, the addition of her popular name on the cover helped build the brand and audience for J.D. Robb. J.K. Rowling wrote her adult novels as Robert Galbraith, allegedly because she wanted to start that side of her career fresh, and when she was outed, chose to keep writing under that name for the distinction between names – adult and children’s fiction.
Just as there are many authors who choose to write with multiple author names, there are those who choose to write multiple genres as one name. Stephen King, for example who writes horror as well as science fiction and several other genres. Emma Donoghue writes historical fiction, thriller and gothic. Isabel Allende writes magical realism and mysteries. Kristin Hannah writes contemporary women’s fiction and historical fiction.
If you decide that you’d like to keep one name to write under, are there any common themes you can link together? For example, I write about strong, independent women, and there is always some sort of familial dynamic going on. Can you capitalize on a theme? Can the theme leak into your various genres as a familiar thread your readers can connect with?
Take a look at some of your favorite authors’ websites, their social media. How are they branding themselves and their writing?
Things to consider besides your name(s), are whether you’ll have more than one website, or separate designated genre pages on one website. If you choose to have one website, err on simplicity to avoid reader confusion.
How are you going to tackle the multiple genres in your newsletter? Social media? Keep in mind that your audiences may not be the same, and one may or may not be receptive to hearing about all the books you write. I have multiple newsletters designated to my audiences so that I can focus on one genre for those folks who only care about one, and then a combined on for my cross-genre readers.
Now it’s time for you to do some brainstorming. Answer the following questions when coming up with your plan:
- What genres do you want to write in?
- Will you write under one name, or have multiple pseudonyms?
- How will you brand yourself accordingly—what is the image you want readers to perceive?
- Do you have a central theme?
- How will you handle your logo, website, social media platforms, newsletter?
The Cliffs of Moher are, without a doubt, the most popular sight in Ireland. These dramatic 700 foot cliffs are at the edge of the Burren in the far west of Ireland, and are referred to by some as 'the eighth wonder of the world.'
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.
Within the last decade or so, the landscape of book publishing has changed dramatically, opening the doors to more writers who have stories to tell—and that was when self-publishing, (or indie publishing, not to be confused with indie press or vanity press) became a more viable option for today’s writers.
What exactly is self-publishing, and how do you know if it’s the right move for you? This seems like a relatively easy question; however, I find that a lot of people have a certain idea and not the whole picture.
Self-publishing is the publication of an author’s work by that author with no involvement from a third-party publisher. The author is in control of all elements in regards to the publication process. Essentially, if you are self-publishing a book—YOU are now the publisher.
Now, I must be clear about something—just because you are the publisher DOES NOT mean you have to do all the work yourself. If you did, you wouldn’t have enough time to write. I am a firm believer in parceling out pieces to those who are experienced in critical areas. For example, hiring a cover designer. If you weren’t trained as a graphic designer, then you should not make your own cover. But if you download the program Vellum for example, you can do you own formatting of your finished book easily. A word on editors/copy-editors/proofreaders: every book needs a second set of eyes minimum, and I don’t mean your neighbor, or your spouse—unless they are a professional editor. Having an editor review your work is worth the cost. I can’t tell you how many times a new indie author has forgone this essential element in publishing and has the negative reviews to show for it.
So, what is ALL THE WORK involved in self-publishing?
- Beta Readers
- Cover Art
- Legal aspects (business entity, copyright, piracy, etc…)
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is this: don’t rush it. Take your time and put out the best work possible, so that you succeed.
Most unbaptised children, as well as victims of murder, disease or suicide, were buried in a lisheen. One such lisheen lies in the Ower countryside of County Galway, on the Black River. It is atop an ancient Iron Age ring fort, which is now an overgrown forest. To previous generations, this ruin would have been a ‘faerie fort,’ a landscape haunted by the fey. A place in between worlds, much like the ‘Limbo,’ unbaptised babies would be resigned to. To reach the lisheen, you have to traverse around briars and prickly hawthorne trees. In the springtime, the ground in this forest is covered in beautiful white wild garlic flowers. Always there is an air of extreme peacefulness here—an almost eerie calm—occasionally punctuated by the fluting of birds in the trees overhead and the rush of the river far below.
The land slopes down into the forest and the ground is covered in tumbled, moss-covered stones. Headstones.
In the centre of this forest is a large rectangular mound of stones which it is said was once an altar where the local Franciscan monks said mass during the time of the Cromwell invasion.
If you're joining us this summer, prepare to be inspired!
There’s no doubt about it, having a full-time job takes up the majority of our waking hours, making writing a challenge. I would suggest making a list of priorities and how much time you’d like to spend on each activity. Once you’ve done that, create a writing calendar of some sort. (I use a separate planner from the family calendar to keep it all straight. Anything writing-related from blog posts to speaking engagements to actual writing, I fill in on this calendar.) Treat your writing them as if it’s a non-negotiable appointment. If you tend to get home and want to crash with fatigue, try staying at work one extra hour in the evening, or getting in to work an extra hour early and spend it writing. This way when you come home, you’ve accomplished your writing and can shift into relaxation mode. Perhaps you prefer some down time first, and then write late at night. Set an attainable goal, check in with a writing partner, and get busy. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, it just needs to be effective, focused time.
I started writing with a two year old and an infant. 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.
The most important thing to do during this time is to be kind to yourself. This sort of survival existence won’t last forever, though it may feel like it at the time. Take the time when you can, knowing you plan to move into a more regular schedule when the babies either sleep through the night, or go off to school.
THE WRITER WHO JUGGLES MULTIPLE JOBS
This type of schedule presents its own problems. With fits and stops dispersed throughout your day or work week, it can be tough to find your flow. But just like the others, it’s important to block off chunks of scheduled time that are non-negotiable. Also, consider setting up a strict routine that helps you shift your brain into fiction mode. Clear off any clutter on your desk. Make a soundtrack associated with the book that you play each time you sit down to begin. Light candles. Prepare your mind space with this series of signals that mean “fiction time!”. This sort of repetitive practice has been studied at length and is proven to work. It may help you make the most of your truncated time.
Believe it or not, many who write full time wrestle with time management. It isn’t that they don’t have enough hours in the day, it’s that staying focused for long periods can be a challenge. For one, everyone is online during the week so Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are pinging like crazy. Your inbox is flooded with emails. There’s also this notion that writers don’t really “work” so friends want to meet for lunch, family wants to drop by, and so on. Distractions abound. Sometimes having less time means you’re more devoted to your writing periods. Isn’t there a saying about the busier you are, the more you accomplish? To you full-timers I say this: make a daily word count goal or page number if editing. Work in blocks of time, just like the others scrounging up time.
For example, my schedule looks 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.
· Studies show we stay focused better for shorter chunks of time and that three hours is the maximum quality time spent on a project at one time. Breaking up the day keeps productivity at a maximum.
· Find a writer friend who shares the same schedule as you do. Check in with each other the same time every day and do sprints. You can sprint against each other for highest word count, or you can just set goals for the hour and check in once the hour is concluded to check each other’s progress. Being held accountable to someone is a terrific way to stay motivated.
· Establish a routine to get your mind into fiction writing mode
· Set a timer after 30 minute or one-hour time periods so you feel the ticking away of valuable time. It’s this weird psychology but it works
· Use internet-blocker software to keep yourself off of social media
· Set up a system of rewards when small and large goals are accomplished. (ex: If I write 350 words this hour, I can spend 10 minutes on social media.)
What it all boils down to is HOW MUCH YOU WANT THIS. If you’re passionate about writing, you’ll make time, even in the smallest increments, to spend with your characters. If you find you’re constantly frustrated about how little you’re accomplishing, it might be time to reassess your priorities. Perhaps there are changes you can make to your schedule to maximize productivity. Above all, keep at it! Persistence in the face of frustration is the key to success.
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!
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”
― G.K. Chesterton
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, which probably made for some pretty confusing conversations.
One thing that united all these different tribes of Celts was their belief 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.
Even more fun than the road signs will be the people you meet. At least some of them will have names that either frustrate you or make you laugh. Lee Mack explains it far better than I can: