Tag Archives: a writer’s life

My Shanghai Writer’s Residency by Leanne O’Sullivan

In September 2009, on the invitation of the Shanghai Writers’ Association, I was able to spend two extraordinary months in Shanghai on a writer’s residency.  I travelled there with Cork writer, Conal Creedon, who was also awarded the residency and who kept me entertained and laughing throughout the trip.  I think we both felt that we had travelled thousands of miles away from what was familiar and everyday, not just in a literal, geographical sense but in a host of ’felt’ ways as well. Certainly we realized that this was not the so-called People’s Republic of Cork!

What then was it? Shanghai is an incredible and vibrant city, and as Conal put it, a forests of skyscrapers, taxis, and Tangle Twister roads. However, despite the impact of the unfamiliar, the remarkable friendliness and welcoming nature of the Shanghai people made us feel very at home.  I remember one particular day, Conal and I wanted to buy flowers for Peihua, a wonderful woman from the SWA.  We found a florist nearby, but arrived without a clue about how to place our
order.  I looked around outside and approached a group of young people, telling them our problem.  Thankfully, they spoke English and were more than happy to help!  They spent about a half an hour
translating, correcting and helping us feel completely welcome.

Thank you, Shanghai, for such a warm and stimulating experience. I hope to come back some day!

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Roll Up Your Sleeves and Write by Lory Manrique-Hyland

In the Paris Review I read this quote from Julio Cortazar: “My subconscious is in the process of working through a story – when I am dreaming, it’s being written inside there.”

Eh, no, Julio, it isn’t. The subconscious is a valuable tool in helping you to figure out what steps you want to take next with your story or poem. You can dream about what your characters will do, what to cut, what to expand–but it won’t actually sit down and write the frickin’ thing for you. It won’t check your word count, and spot continuity errors, making sure characters don’t get on a train in Paris and get off in Toronto.  If your subconscious had its way, characters would get on in Dublin, drink a cup of tea and a live octopus sandwich, then get off at the next stop – Kinshasa.

Works by Dadaists aside, what I’m getting at is that while the subconscious is clearly an important contributor to the process of creation, it’s you in your conscious state that has to put in the hard graft. Wide awake and desperately fighting the urge to check Facebook, you must sit there for really long periods of time and fill in all the detail your subconscious has ignored. The subconscious can help with epiphanies, realisations, revelations and unique approaches. It’ll rip the mask of people and reveal your mother. But, it won’t write 60,000 words for you. It won’t even write one.

I like these writer quotes, often cleverly excerpted by the editors of The Paris Review in order to instigate discussion. I understand that they’re taken out of context and pasted as a headline. But they irk me because I don’t like the image of writer as mysterious, as soothsayer, as evangelist, as aloof, as genius. Though in the end he or she may be these things, in the first instance, the writer is you and me; and for people like you and me to write something good, it takes hard work. You become the evangelist and the soothsayer when you work at it, over and over and over again. When you put in the graft and come out the other side having done it. The work – the effort to be put in – is accessible to all. You just have to do it.

 

Lory Manrique-Hyland will be reading at the Cork Spring Literary Festival with Ian Duhig & Valérie Rouzeau on Friday 18th February 9.00pm, Metropole Hotel, Cork

Follow Lory on Twitter: @lorymanrique

Follow Lory on Facebook: facebook.com/ManriqueHyland

Lory Blogs at http://motherblogging.blogspot.com

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