An honor to be invited to host an afternoon of creative writing at the Cathedral Quarter Literary Festival in Letterkenny, Donegal recently. Sitting with people who recounted fascinating stories about their experiences in exotic parts of the world such as Africa and South America was both humbling and up-lifting.
Full praise to the organising committee of this multi-faceted festival, including Cathedral Quarter Secretary, Donnan Harvey, who are breathing new life into what is a charming part of the city so steeped in lore.
Using ‘Pretty Ugly’ as illustration, I was not only able to emphasize the need for continuous questioning in the development of plot and character but to link particular scenes in my novel with various landmarks in Donegal including Gola Island, Blood Foreland and Errigal (or, its Druidic name, Lugh’s Mount). I was particularly pleased to hear participants say how much they enjoyed in-class, practical writing exercises we critiqued together as a group.
Reflecting its impressive diversity, the festival itself was filled with gems of entertainment including a classical concert of works by Handel, Joan Trimble (CMC), Hubert Parry and Debussy by the Donegal Chamber Orchestra at Conwal Parish Hall; a photo exhibition by Maciej Wysocki in Donegal Central Library; and a short play by the Lifford Gateway Writers - in an intriguing and innovative setting – the upstairs No. 58 Nightclub in the Central Bar; as well as historical re-enactments.
I was also delighted to meet fellow writer whose surname is similar to my own - Dr. Sophia Hillan (photo above), author of ‘May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland.’ Sophia who led an interesting walking tour of Jane Austen associated sites in Gweedore, northwest Doengal, while discussing the remarkable story of Austen’s nieces, Marianne, Louisa and Cassandra Knight there.
Among the festival sponsors were the Ulster Scots Agency, Raphoe Branch, Dillon’s Hotel and Kinnegar Brewery.