Not long back from a week-long residency in an artist's retreat in County Kerry called Cill Rialaig. The brain-child of the amazing Noelle Campbell Sharpe, it is a restored famine village - all stone houses! - overlooking beautiful Ballinskelligs Bay. All around us, mountain and field with sheep, before us a stretch of blue water dotted with islands. Ahhhhhh. I got to work on my latest novel The Magdalene, a book I started 25 years ago and have finally returned to! It is incredibly complicated and I needed to lay down plot time-lines and character chronologies while wrestling the structure into shape. Done and dusted! As the summer solstice occurred while I was there, I got a decent bonfire going and called out the other residents to enjoy it. Made several wonderful new friends, a Finnish visual artist Sirpa Pyykko, an American poet Jodie Hollander and an American visual artist Kathy Kissik. We've all agreed to meet up again, possibly in a retreat somewhere in Finland. If you pop over to my regular blog you'll see a few pics of nearby Skellig Michael, a place that was on my bucket list and I finally got to see. All in all, a brilliant week that also included jumping into the pristine, freezing-cold, glorious sea.
I've been invited to give a "show and tell" at the wonderful Bray Arts Club on the seafront in my hometown of Bray. As most of the members of this club are artists themselves - painters, musicians, sculptors, actors, playwrights, novelists and the like - I'll be drawing aside the curtain to show how the wizard worked away on her dials and cranks. I'll present a Powerpoint with images of the mansions that inspired Dunesfort House (all Scottish houses, some now in ruins) and landscapes of the Outer Hebrides and images of the Callanish Stones. I'll also bring my original workbook from the trip that I took to northern Scotland with my dear departed friend Dr Nena Hardie (who makes a cameo appearance in the first and last chapters); the huge sheets of paper that helped me plot the structure of seven days and nights; and the photographs of people who resemble my characters. Looking forward to the night and to hearing the other presenters as well. Got a little chuckle when I saw that the poster called me "Olwen Melling." Life imitates art. Here's the link to the Bray Arts site: brayarts.com