The Wonder Workshop – and a new precept!

Prepping my Wonder workshop. Under supervision!

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Clare County Library would I give a poetry workshop based around the book Wonder by RJ Palacio.  Halimah, a teacher from Ennistymon Vocational School, had approached them with the request.

At first, I was hesitant: writing poetry around another book? Would that be restrictive? How to cram a  workshop around a few hundred pages when I’ve only got 90 minutes to do so? And I don’t have children. Wonder had slipped under my radar. I watched an interview with the author on youtube.

I told Dolores in the library service that I’d develop something around several themes, especially that of bullying. [Coincidentally, this week the call-in show on our national radio station is full of adults talking about bullying: their own or their children’s; even now-grown-up bullies who have sought out their childhood victims to apologise. These discussions and stories are happening while their children are in school.]

The other thing I said was that the children would have to have read the whole book!

Well, I needn’t have worried on that score. I soon learned from a Facebook post by Banner Books in Ennistymon that this was very much a community read.  A ‘One Book, One Community’ project in fact.

The One Book, One Community has a programme of events around Wonder:
Readings with local primary schools
Poster competition with local primary schools
Ennistymon Vocational School afternoon tea book club on 13 November at the Falls Hotel & Spa
EVS Poetry workshop on 14 November [That would be me, I guess!]
EVS Coffee morning on 19 November
Wonder film showing at the Falls Hotel on 22 November to round off the whole project.

AND SO … tomorrow I head to Ennistymon to give two workshops to over forty First Years from Ennistymon Vocational School. It’s a couple of firsts for me: my first secondary-school poetry workshops, and the first time that I’ve specifically designed a workshop around a theme – let alone another genre of writing!

Thanks, Ennistymon and thanks, Clare County Library Service. It’s good to be pushed beyond our comfort zones. That’s today’s precept. I’m sure Auggie would approve.

Image result for wonder book

A Working Holiday: Bellaghy, Annaghmakerrig, AT the Edge

It’s impossible not to feel that autumn is creeping in. Had to put on the woolly socks last night, and the light is dying in the western sky so much earlier these evenings. Even Bessa the cat is back sitting on my lap, or on her car mat in the sitting room!

Sanctuary!                                                                                                                                                    After a busy summer, I can’t wait to get back to the haven that awaits at Annaghmakerrig: a whole week to myself. And though it is a working week, it will be fantastic to have no distractions; to knuckle down to a steady period of writing. This stay will be interesting. No new collection to redraft or to edit and collate. A variety of focus:  a poetry project with national school children to prepare, a radio brief, and then – only then – more poetry.

But first, to Bellaghy . . .                                                                                                                              … and the overnight stay that had to be abandoned a couple of years ago. Since then, the Home Place has been built, and I’m looking forward to my overnight visit.  The poem ‘Grave Good’, in my collection This Little World was written about my first, flying trip to Bellaghy; made less than a year after Seamus Heaney died.  This time around, I’ll be there just a few days before the fifth anniversary of his death. Hard to believe it’s been five years.

No rest for the wicked.                                                                                                                While I’m up Ulster way, I’ll be reading on Tuesday 28 August at Cavan Library for AT the Edge – hosted by the indefatigable Kate Ennals. There are three AT the Edge sessions this year, so I’m chuffed to have been invited to take part in one of them. Tanya Farrelly and David Butler are motoring up from Bray, Co. Wicklow for the evening, and there’ll be an open mic also. Kick off is at 6.30pm.

If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, drop by!

 

 

Getting on with it

Basically, I’m getting on with it.

I’ve been preparing the manuscript of my first poetry collection. And I invested in a week at beautiful Annaghmakerrig to give myself a good run at re-drafting newer poems, as well as looking over the older ones. Of course, being where I was, the first thing I did after unpacking was to sit down and write a new poem. It was a great start to the week and set me up well for the next day’s writing. No trips off on the gatch this time, apart to Newbliss for the newspaper.

© Karen J McDonnell

It was wonderful being back in ‘my old room’! They’re very good to me in that place. I had tweeted Miss Warby to let her know I was on my way. She tweeted ‘Welcome, darling.’ when I arrived! Spoilt, I was, pure spoilt.  It was lovely to meet a whole new bunch of people – artists and writers, musicians and a dancer. But, typical in Ireland, it turned out that the writer Liz Nugent and I had met – many moons ago! A long story, and you’re not getting it here.            The nightly dinners were a joy – great food and conversation – sometimes presided over by the Centre’s director, Rob.  Many thanks to vegetarian Helen who was our cook on St. Paddy’s Day. she went beyond the call of duty: The ham was scrummmmmy.

Home to reality, and writing, writing, writing. But also a moment or two to enjoy the fact that Marie Lecrivain, guest editor at Al-Khemia Poetica had published my contribution for National Women’s Day in the U.S., and on St. Patrick’s Day at that. Nice one, Marie.

You can have a look at it here:

http://alkhemiapoetica.blogspot.ie/2017/03/national-womens-month-karen-j_17.html

Also came news that my poem, ‘A Bad Dose’, had been shortlisted for Cúirt/UCHG Poems for Patience, 2017.  I was delighted. And a tie this year – well done to poets Lorna Shaughnessy and Marie Cadden on their joint win. Both of their poems will be printed and hung in University Hospital Galway. It’s a great idea, I think.

This week I’m formatting the manuscript and this is what I was doing two mornings ago:

Pieces of poetry
© Karen J McDonnell

Each slip of paper is a title of a poem. Talk about getting into shape!

Wish me luck, lads.

 

Be.COMing a dot com

OOOOH! There’s posh!

I invested a few more euros that I don’t have, and had myself dot.commed.

My website is now karenjmcdonnell.com

Apart from that, the song remains the same – as Led Zeppelin might have said.  There’s a new post up today on my Writer’s Blog: the second one about writers’ retreats.

My writing continues apace. I’ve been re-drafting since the summer trips to Annaghmakerrig and the John Hewitt Intl. Summer School, and I’ve been submitting work. We will pass speedily over the competitions I’ve entered!

My little compadre keeps me company as I slave over a hot PC.

Bessa, aka CAT.
Bessa, aka CAT.

I think this year has been about development, and stepping up to the poetic block. And that’s no bad thing.

Keep on truckin’, bad hombres and nasty women!

I'm not sure about the copyright on this - I'd be glad to rectify that.
I’m not sure about the copyright on this – I’d be glad to rectify that.

 

Speakin’ the words …

Just a quick thank you to everyone who turned up last Friday night to the Record Break Café in Ennis for Poetry Corner readings by myself and Donal O’Conaill,  & music and song from Emer O’Flaherty.

At the Record Break. photo C. The Poetry Collective
At the Record Break. photo C. The Poetry Collective

I really appreciated the reaction to the poems. Some were new poems on their first night out; they were very shy.

Now, my lovelies, you should go to Sinéad’s café when you are next in Ennis. The coffee is stonkin’ and the chocolate & caramel cake looks divine.  I’m heading back there soon for a slice.

In other writing matters – I’ve just posted a blog about the Walter Macken centenary. You can click on ‘blog’ above, or here.  I’d be glad to get your comments.