The Totleigh Barton Magic


Two weeks have already passed since I returned from my Masterclass Residency at Totleigh Barton, but the magic continues… My stay was a exhilarating initiation into my year as a Jerwood/Arvon mentee. I met eight wonderful writers – you can read about them here – and we were spun into various states of creativity during our workshops. We rewrote some D.H. Lawrence; we recast fairy tales into plays, diagnosing Rapunzel with Stockholm syndrome and introducing IVF into the Sleeping Beauty story; and we wrote a load of poems in three hours. We cooked and ate and drank – very, very well. And on the final night, compèred by the incomparable Sarah, we shared readings of our work-in-progress. Time to turn to my novel in earnest. Long may the Totleigh Barton magic continue!

Awarded Jerwood/Arvon Mentorship 2015/16


I am thrilled to have been awarded a place on the 2015/16 Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.

The scheme, funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, selects three fiction writers, three poets and three playwrights to work with a mentor in their field. And so, over the next year, I’ll be working on my novel with the wonderful Ross Raisin who wrote ‘Waterline’ and, one of my all-time favourites, ‘God’s Own Country’.

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead, which starts with a masterclass residency in Arvon’s Totleigh Barton. Nine Go to Devon!

Until Only the Mountain Remains

Carol Farrelly reading at the launch
Reading on the night

Next Friday, I will be reading at an evening of story-telling and poetry, Until Only the Mountain Remains, at the Talbot Rice Gallery.  This evening is the culmination of a project inspired by the artist Christopher Orr’s current exhibition, ‘The Beguiled Eye’. I’m  looking forward to reading and to hearing how other writers such as Dilys Rose, Jane McKie and Allyson Stack have interpreted Orr’s haunting paintings. My story, ‘Silent One’, is a response to the  painting of that name. We see a couple standing by a gorge, looking down at a face that appears to float in the darkness  We cannot see their faces. We don’t know their reactions, but their body language is strangely relaxed, unperturbed. And so I wondered why this might be.

My story can be read online.

‘Silent One’, Christopher Orr

RLS Q&A: ‘In the Footsteps of Stevenson’


Another year and it’s Robert Louis Stevenson Day in Edinburgh once more! Edinburgh City of Literature has again rustled up a terrific programme of RLS events. As part of the celebrations, Edinburgh City of Literature have run a series of interviews entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Stevenson’ and you can read my Q&A here.  Last year, I was an RLS Fellow and enjoyed a summer of writing in the beautiful village of Grez-sur-Loing, where Stevenson spent many summers. Other interviewees include the writer James Robertson, actor Nigel Planer and poet Andrew Motion. Follow their following footsteps...

Irish Times Shortlisted: ‘This Means War’


The shortlist for the Irish Times short story competition ‘This Means War’ has been announced  and I’m over the moon to be one of the eight chosen writers!

To mark the centenary of the Great War, the Irish Times has run a series of eight stories this summer on the theme of war. Stark and beautiful stories by writers such as Donal Ryan and Mary Costello have appeared. The Times opened up the final story to submissions, judged by Donal Ryan, Aifric Campbell and Eilis Ni Dhuibhne. All the shortlisted stories are published in this week’s  Irish Times.

My story, ‘Deathwatch Beetle’, explores one Irishman’s experience of World War One: a war that came to be overshadowed in Ireland by the War of Independence.

I’m especially delighted to have this story published as one of the characters from my novel in progess, appears here as a child. Backstory fledged.

Brendon Deacy will illustrate the winning story, to be published tomorrow.  I would have loved Deacy to have interpreted my deathwatch-beetle character – his artwork for the series has been stunning. I look forward to enjoying the winner’s entry, and Deacy’s art, tomorrow.


Brendon Deacy’s artwork for John Connolly’s story ‘Mud’

Offside Stories Winner: The Pride and the Passion

Pride and Passion

Great news. My short story, ‘Neutral Ground’, has been awarded first place in The Pride and the Passion: Offside Stories Competition. This competition invited poetry and prose that explored all sides of the beautiful game. My story focuses on one of football’s darkest days, the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Two voices, a father and son’s, narrate across a span of twenty years.

The judges were Ian McMillan, poet, presenter of R3’s beloved ‘The Verb’, and owner of that wonderful voice; and Alex Davis, editor and publisher. Here are their words on my story: ‘This story really brought to life the tragic events of Hillsborough, and the use of the time stamps and short paragraphs was very effective in showing just how quickly things turned tragic that afternoon. The writing was sharp and spare, using a careful choice of language to great effect, and more importantly it did something short stories are so good at – providing a real emotional clout. Brilliant stuff.’

Ben Wilkinson won first prize in the poetry section with a poem on John Barnes. I really enjoyed Ben’s sonnet ‘The Catch’ last month, in The Guardian’s Saturday poem series. And so, I look forward to reading the anthology.

Fish Prize Shortlisted, Revising and Ducks


It’s been all quiet on the writing-news front recently as I complete work on my novel. Like a duck, I’m all pedalling legs below the surface. It was lovely, therefore, to discover yesterday that one of my short stories was shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize 2014. The competition received 1560 stories.  Not in the final anthology, but nearly there. It’s good to know this story is on the right tracks.

And to finish with a return to daffy ducks – ’cause why not? – here’s an article I’ve long loved from The Guardian by Angus Watson, about the surprising and exquisite sound ducks make in the moment of landing. Why? Because all their flapping awkwardness vanishes. ‘Just as onlookers put their hands to their mouths in dread, the duck produces the perfect ending… and glides like Cleopatra’s barge.’ Rereading, I thought it a lovely analogy to the (ideal) writing process.