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With the late Bryan McMahon at the Maurice Walsh Award ceremony in Kerry in 1995

    These stories won best-in-issue as voted on by readers of these magazines:


Here is an extract from a longer talk often given as a prelude to a public reading of “Lost Notes”:

Tools are for working with – so how can a writer work with his or her imagination? Lots of people are interested in the mechanics of writing, the craft of writing, and writing is a craft that can be learned and worked on. So can imagination. It can be worked on, too. There’s an idea that imagination is something you either have or haven’t got. You’re born with it, or not, whichever the case may be. People think imagination is a mystical process. In many ways it is. People think the same about writing in general: it’s a mystery, an art, which cannot be learned. In the case of highly gifted writers (geniuses!) that may be so, but you can make yourself learn the craft of writing good stories. Equally you can learn the craft of using your imagination. As an example I’d like to read a short story, which starts out as a fairly mundane idea. This is the title story from the collection LOST NOTES. This story won the Maurice Walsh Award some years back. I’ll read until the last page or so. I’ll then pause because I’d like to talk a little about the ending before reading it, because the imaginative twist at the end is what makes the story an award-winner.

The inspiration for Lost Notes comes from a beautiful mountain lough high up in the hills of Donegal. I like to go fishing for trout in those mountain loughs, but they can be hard to get to. To find some of them you need an ordnance survey map and you need to let somebody know where you’re going and what time to expect you back. The pleasure is not just in the fishing, but getting to the lough in the first place. These loughs can be very remote and very desolate and always hauntingly beautiful. It was after finding such a place that I decided to base a story on it. I sat down to write. I had the location but it took a while for the idea to come – a good enough hook to hang a storyline on. Eventually I decided to write a story about a man and a boy going fishing – except they’re not fishing for fish. To find out just what they are fishing for, and what the imaginative twist is, you’ll have to read the story.


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