Stonecoast Ireland Summer Workshop 2008 Reunites in Gloucester, MA 2010

Dingaling Reunion in GloucesterDingaling Reunion in GloucesterIn July of 2008 Ted and Annie Deppe led one of their bi-yearly Stonecoast residencies in Dingle, Ireland. We spent an amazing ten days in workshop with each other and learning literary wisdom at the feet of writers like Harry Clifton and Carlo Gébler and reading writers like Eavan Boland, Eamon Grennan, Martin Mcdonagh, Nuala Ní Dhómhnaill, Thomas Moore Edna O'Brien, and William Trevor.

Our Stonecoast Residency in Dingle had such an impact on all of us that we have reunited as a group twice since then, once for dinner in Maine and two weeks ago for a weekend of readings and socializing. Everyone who attended the original residency was able to attend our reunion except for Taryn who has just produced a beautiful baby. Most amazing is how everyone in the group is getting published on a regular basis.

Erin Underwood and Arla Ralston: photo by Dawn C. LemayErin Underwood and Arla Ralston: photo by Dawn C. Lemay

Attending were poets Carol Berg, Dawn C. LeMay, Christine Tierney, fiction writers Taryn Bowe, Arla Ralston, Erin Underwood, Suzanne Van Damme and myself, and creative non-fiction writer Gina Troisi. Fiction workshops were led by Joan Connor (Joan is an amazing writer and her workshop on Point of View in Fiction was a real eye opener for me, it was a more subtle examination of POV than we often see)and poetry workshops by Ted Deppe, with additional seminars by Harry Clifton and Carlo Gébler. Ted Deppe gave in inspirational seminar on The Writer's Journey, especially the triggers that inspire us to write.

Christine Tierney: photo by Dawn C. LeMayChristine Tierney: photo by Dawn C. LeMay

An important part of the week was attending public readings at a bookshop in Dingle. We heard Ted and Annie Deppe read, as well as Joan Connor, the visiting writers, and local writers. For us the culmination of the week was our own public reading; for me it was the first time I had ever read any of my work in public.


Gina Troisi: photo by Dawn C. LeMayGina Troisi: photo by Dawn C. LeMay

It was a week filled with music. Áine Uí Laoith and Eilín Ní Chearna came to the Coastline Guesthouse to play traditional music from the Blasket Islands for us. And any night of the week we could go out and hear live music at any of the numerous pubs in Dingle. 

One of the highlights of our week was our visit to the Blasket Island Centre, a museum which gave us a beautifully tactile introduction to the writers of the Blasket Islands, including Tomás O’Crohan, Peig Sayers, Maurice O’Sullivan, and Eibhlís Ní Shúilleabháin. After lunch at
the museum we took a boat trip to the Great Blasket Island. Here is my video of the trip:


And here is Erin Underwood's video of the trip:


We also explored very old Irish ruins in Ventry. Many of us stayed on for a few more days to travel around Ireland. The days I spent in Dublin had a huge impact on me. Though I'm of Irish descent and my family identifies strongly with our Irish heritage, I was really ignorant of the beauties of the culture and the way the Irish use language. It was a real eye-opener to explore Dublin and see how highly that city prizes its writers, and not just James Joyce.

Dawn C. LeMay and Carol Berg: photo by Dawn C. LeMayDawn C. LeMay and Carol Berg: photo by Dawn C. LeMay

Although I am not a poet myself, I chose to work with Ted Deppe in his poetry workshop and I came away with a much greater sense of the way each word weighs, whether in poetry or out of it. We read Larry Leavis's "Falling Stars" a poem that particularly affected me, as did these linesfrom "Detall" aby Eamon Grennan:


and I began to understand

how a poem can happen: you have your eye on a small

elusive detail, pursuing its music, when a terrible truth

strikes and your heart cries out, being carried off.


My time in Ireland, the workshops, and the readings we did gave me this sense of individual words having weight and facets, each like its own diamond. Ted asked me to introduce Carlo Gébler, and this was part of my introduction:

The best introduction to any writer is the pleasure of his sentences. This is one of the first sentences I read by Carlo Gébler, from his travel book, Driving Through Cuba:
 “Cuba became famous, along with Israel, for having girl soldiers who wore mini-skirts.”
Here’s another one, from his third novel, Work and Play:
“He sat quite still as he watched, letting the snow fall on his outstretched arms which lay along the back of the bench until they too were covered.”
And from his novel How to Murder a Man:
“They were mummer types, in pointy hats that were flour sacks, with holes cut for eyes, and inside-out shifts decorated with ribbons.”
From the history, The Siege of Derry:
“As she made her way along the lanes between the tents, she came upon some oatmeal that had got mixed up with dung on the ground and began to pick it out.”


Suzanne Van Damme: photo by Dawn C. LeMaySuzanne Van Damme: photo by Dawn C. LeMay

Our exposure to these ideas, words, and poetry, the beauty of Dingle, Ted and Annie's strong and supportive leadership which encouraged us to take new risks in our work, and our interactions with each other led all of the writers who participated in the residency to form an very tight bond. It seemed like we spent every evening laughing so hard that we never had enough breath to finish our pints. The bond between us has remained and led us to to reunite, first for a dinner in Maine in 2009 and now for a weekend of talk and sharing work in Gloucester, MA. We are now planning a writer's retreat for next summer. Our experience is a testimony to the wonderful job that Ted and Annie Deppe do of organizing these workshops (they've done ten of these in the last five years!) and of the incredible impact that Ireland, the land of writers and words, can have on a writer of any kind. My only wish is that I was still a student at Stonecoast so that I could attend the winter residency that Ted and Annie organize in Howth. What kind of words would I give birth to in the place where Leopold and Molly Bloom first made love?