The Who and Why of writing a book in Donegal

By Agatha Masterson


By Agatha Masterson



The Who and Why of writing a book in Donegal

MEAS Writers at the launch of their new collection of short stories, "Wild Atlantic Words" (from left): Charlie Garratt, Ann Garratt, Darren Gallagher, Malachy Sweeney, Sally Neary, Marie Hanniga

Local writer Ann Garratt has taken some time out to talk with me about her involvement in the compilation and production of the MEAS writers’ book of short stories, Wild Atlantic Words.

MEAS writers group have been in existence since 2007, the group grew out of a creative writing workshop, funded by the VEC and organised by ‘MEAS’ which means respect in Irish.

The group of writers of three men and four women have been meeting in various locations to hone their literary skills and writing talents. Writers from Lifford, Killybegs, Mountcharles and Dunkineely are ably represented in the stories of the newly produced Wild Atlantic Words. Each of the writers produced three short stories for the book, immersed with local and emotional connections from the west coast and Donegal.

So why did they decide to begin writing the book? Ann explains that Clarrie Pringle had always had an ambition to produce a collection of short stories as a publication and so began the writing and crafting. Meeting one evening a week in each other’s homes since April 2016 the creative endeavour began. With the help of editing by Carolyn Farrar the musings and writings became a reality.

The publication has been produced with with financial assistance from the Education & Training Board (ETB), local councillor John Campbell and Donegal County Council Arts office.

The group have amassed a wealth of writing experience, Ann has published her memoir, Marie Hannigan has written for Fair City, amongst other things. Charlie, Darren and Malachy have all published books recently. Sally Neery has read on Sunday Miscellany and more recently, both Ann and Sally have read at the Allingham Arts Festival. Ann says “reactions to the book from other people have been all positive and with lots of encouragement”.

I asked Ann about the dynamics of writing in a mixed group. “Having both men and women in the group lends itself to different views ‘a new perspective.’ Everyone is encouraged to write something for the night which you bring and read . The rest in the group critique it in a positive and encouraging way. Fledgling writers can be put off so easily by negative comments so you have to be sensitive to people’s efforts. It is a well-balanced group, supportive, not negative.”

Ann explains that writing does not come easy to her. Writing, editing, re-working it, and always being careful to make the piece real. She recounts that when she gets ‘stuck’ in writing she then applies the mantra of co-writer Marie Hannigan whose favourite saying is “Dig deep”. “Impact on the emotions and draw it out.” Ann imparts her advice for aspiring writers. “There are different methods of writing, some plan everything, some start with a few words, others tell the story and then write about it, everyone is different but the important thing is to keep writing everyday”.

Finally Ann says: “The stories in Wild Atlantic Words are fictional, of humour, horror, sadness and some will make the reader smile as they look back at the past”. The tales are far reaching and pull on memories, events, characters and emotional recall from varied locations along the west coast and in particular Donegal.

Wild Atlantic Words was officially launched recently in the Manhattan Steakhouse, Donegal Town by Mayor Patricia Callaghan and Donegal County Councillor John Campbell. With Christmas in mind it would certainly make a lovely present.

The book is available locally from Four Masters Donegal Town, Novel Idea Ballyshannon, Easons book shops Letterkenny and on line at Amazon and on Kindle.