First Steps In Writing
One of the great mythologized figures of the book world is the writer who had become an overnight success. A classic example of how this term can be applied is when Ken Bruen was hailed as one after he published his eighth novel The Guards. There is no short cut to literary success and the first hard lesson the aspiring writer has to stomach is that it is a long hard road to seeing a finished book in print.
In fact, it is increasingly difficult for the young writer to find an outlet for his or her work. Publishers - with some notable exceptions - are only generally interested in a new writer if that writer already has a track record. At first glance, there is no apparent training ground where a writer can test the waters and see if the talent is there and it is worthwhile pursuing the craft. Fortunately there remains one type of publication which, despite almost insurmountable difficulties, has proved to be resilient and still survives in various offbeat ways, which allows the young writer an opportunity to have his or her work published, the much maligned literary review, journal, magazine, call it what you will.
It is a personal belief that the real Irish literary renaissance began on the 29th of October, 1940 (a month to the day before Des and Maureen Kenny opened their bookshop on High Street) when the first issue of The Bell was published in Dublin. Founded by Seán Ó Faoláin and Peadar O'Donnell to contrast the stupefying censorship that existed in the Ireland of the time, it became the great Irish literary publication of the forties and fifties where many, now famous, Irish writers such as Brendan Behan and Anthony Cronin first cut their literary teeth.
Of their nature, however, these journals rarely last long as the initial enthusiasm of the founders if fatally dampened by lack of public exposure and ready funds and the review simply disappears. It is therefore a matter of some celebration that the last couple of months have seen a new issue for two reviews, one, The Stinging Fly, published in Dublin and which celebrates its tenth year, and the other ROPES (an acronym for the Review of Postgraduate Studies, the 'E' coming from the last letter of "postgraduate") published in NUIG and which celebrates its sixteenth annual publication.
In the press release accompanying The Stinging Fly we are told that "the main objective in setting up the magazine was to work towards bringing out a well-designed publication that would provide a forum for the very best new Irish and international writing," and this issue provides ample evidence to prove that ten years down the road they are certainly still providing that forum. It contains an in-depth interview with Anne Enright, the work of featured poet Jim McGuire, a preview of the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Poetry Now Festival by its director Belinda McKeon and a list of contributions in poetry and prose by emerging and new writers.
All of this comes in a highly sophisticated publication which gives the contributors an added gravitas. It is heartening to see that the Arts Council is giving significant funding to this worthy review.
No less sophisticated is the current issue of ROPES entitled No Strings Attached and while it may not have the financial backing that its peer has, it certainly doesn't lack excitement and enthusiasm. Some of the contributors are so energetic that they nearly knock each other off the page. Mind you, looking at some of the contributors one might wonder when the postgraduate student is no longer a postgraduate student. This in no way takes away from the bustling energy that emanates from its pages, a significant feature of which is the Art Productions that are present in the central section.
Those reviews, and others such as Cranóg, The Dublin Review, The Shop, ensure that young writer will find their place in the literary ladder, go a long way to ensure a conviction of the Irish literary tradition we claim to be so proud of, and fully deserve our complete support.
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