Small Steps Make the Journey Possible

It has been a while since I paid a visit to here, I think life has been a little upside down for us all. But I feel an update is required and so here I am! By taking small steps I am progressing in my writing life, plus it cancels out the terrifying feeling of being overwhelmed by all we must do.

I finished my Master’s in the University of Limerick and submitted my thesis at the end of August. Where did that year go? I loved every moment of it and would say to anyone of thinking of applying to do so.

My rights reverted back to me for my novels and so I am bringing them out again and they will be available in both formats, eBook and paperback. I am so thrilled about that. I want to thank Tirgearr Publishing for being a supportive and friendly publisher to work with. I am working on two other novels at present. Plus I aim to submit an erotic romance novella soon also. I have submitted some short stories and memory articles to magazines which I am waiting on word of their acceptance or rejection, so fingers crossed lovely people.

In the mean time the two flash fiction stories I share with you (links below) were published and I was interviewed for a local radio station in the US by Tirgearr author, Becky Flade, something I really enjoyed.

This following story is particularly cute, The Orange Flowerpot. I was honoured to be the first author to write for their new children stories section. https://lockdownbabybabble.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/childrens-lit-the-orange-flowerpot-mary-bradford/

I was invited to write a flash of 500 words on the theme, The Summer of 2020. This was published on Ted Atoka’s, FaceBook page Tell Me A Story.

http://A Year like No Other , by Mary Bradford

That’s it for now dear readers. Continue to take care and stay safe.

Mary x

Editing my life.

How are you feeling these days?

It’s hard coming to terms with the different guidelines being thrown at us on all levels of media and even in personal conversations. I was in self-isolation a week before the country was put into Lockdown back in March. It was a long time to be indoors with my thoughts. Like most others, I painted, I did some gardening and of course, I crocheted.

But now that we are out of the different phases and the country is on the move again, we still need to be careful. If I learned anything during my months indoors it is how thin I had spread myself to keep up and connect with others. No wonder pre-CoVid-19 I was tired, stressed and playing catch-up with my time. Like you no doubt, I needed another day in the week to get done all that I thought I needed to do.

So it got me thinking about my life now, do I need to rush out and meet so and so for coffee, for a chat, connect again with the world like before? In fact, I was reminded of how when I edit my writing, my stories are stronger for it. Cutting out the unwanted or not needed baggage in my work is the same in looking after my health. This was brought home to me, even more, when I had to be tested for the Corona Virus, only a few days ago. It was negative thank God, but the worry while waiting was horrendous as I have heart issues. Even after doing everything by the book, how quickly life can change.

The world will keep spinning if I cull my social media presence. So I took the first step and closed some popular social media accounts. Next up is my friends’ list on Facebook. I honestly don’t know most of them because of no interaction. The people I do actually know, I often don’t get to read their posts. Facebook groups are to be culled. I’d rather be active in a few than popping in and skimming many without any real quality connection. In my everyday comings and goings, I have been selective too. I’m not being mean or anti-social, that is not my intention. I would rather be a good friend than one that only pretends to be.

I see all this as editing my life. I will be stronger and better for it.

So think about the stressed-out areas in your life and see if you can make changes that benefit both you and those you love.

What have you learned during lockdown that can improve your way of living?

 

Take the Positives in Life

Hey dear friends, with life on a roller coaster right now, it is easy to lose sight of what makes us happy. There is so much sad news swirling around through all media sources. I have cut out the television, reduced reading the newspapers and when it comes to social media I do a quick scan. Yet I still get to hear the negativity that exists.

In making the decision to keep positive, to take the successes in life no matter what size, it fills me up with energy. A sense of being able to tackle the day no matter how tired I may be or how overwhelmed I feel. I remind myself, I have done well. I think of the nice review left by a reader, a text from a friend saying they were thinking of me, or a request to write a guest blog post for another writer. I’ve listened to bird song and sat in my garden more than before. Nothing life-changing in the grand scheme of things but important to my mind and well being, so therefore very important.

With this in mind, I want to share the latest good news I received. A poem I wrote in a whim was published on the pendemic.ie website and now along with other writers, it is to be archived for 100 years in University College Dublin library. Our wonderful President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins has shared a poem too that will be added to the collection. So I’m in wonderful company for sure.

http://pendemic.ie/self-isolation-a-poem-by-mary-bradford/

http://pendemic.ie/take-care-a-poem-by-president-of-ireland-uachtaran-na-heireann-michael-d-higgins/

http://pendemic.ie/announcement-pendemic-to-be-preserved-by-irish-poetry-reading-archive-at-ucd-library/

Look around you, listen to the good news stories. Take every nice word shared with you and store it all up for the doubtful days. It takes practice but like anything it can become a part of your daily habit.

Stay Safe x

 

 

When looking back, reflect with a friend

As the sun sets on another year, we all start to think where we are in our lives, work, relationships, health, and even financial. In some ways the year, 2019 has flown by and then in others I found it to be a long year. I sat the other day reading different reviews of the months gone by in magazines and such and on TV, they were reviewing the past decade, this all got me thinking. In fact it highlighted how I can’t think back to what happened last week never mind the start of the year. So to ease my weakness to recall stuff I went to visit a friend that I’d not met since August last or was it September? This friend, Maggie Doolin, is a writing friend. In fact she is a close friend, (put aside the first fact I’d not seen her in about four months) and beause we are close friends, we don’t keep track of when we meet, we just pick up from where we left off.

I was also suffering from cabin fever, I had not left my house in over a week and she had not left hers in a day, so we joyously met, hugged, drank tea, ate chicken sandwiches and lots of chocolate Mikados and talked. We chatted for eight hours and it was glorious. Laughter and more laughter echoed around us as we recalled the year gone by. It wasn’t all plain sailing, we grieved for loved ones lost, health issues that tried to better us but thankfully failed and some that have lingered, staying well beyond their welcome date.

We each reminded the other of our successes in our writing lives, little ones and big ones, the rejections too and the dreams we shared at the start of the year. Our goals were discussed with affection and then the despair when we hadn’t reached one or two. But throwing the kettle on again for another cup of tea and a log on the fire, we huddled down with notebooks and planned for the future 2020.

When it was time for me to hit the road for home, I felt refreshed, recharged and relief.

Why did we not meet for four months you may ask, well I started at University of Limerick studying for my Masters of English in Creative Writing, and she, Maggie has a novel to promote, yep, she signed a publishing contract for her first novel and is busy with all that brings. I shall have more news on that in Spring. Such exciting times ahead.

Looking back over the year wasn’t so hard after all, when done in the company of a true friend.

Happy New Year, and may it be a healthy, happy, filled with blessings one.

Mary xx

A New Chapter in Life

Howdy, folks, well I’ve finished week three of a very exciting chapter in my life. I applied earlier this year and have been accepted for a MA (Master in Arts) in Creative Writing at the wonderful University of Limerick (UL).
Am I happy? I’m over the moon. It is a massive and major step for me as I’ve never been to college and I’m (ahem) late fifties. So when applying I was nervous, doubtful, praying, and everything in between that I was, 

1: Doing the right thing and 2: I would be accepted.

Obviously I was successful, I’m here aren’t I? Silly me, anyway the first morning was daunting. Traveling to and fro to the university means an early start and I don’t do mornings. But now I’m up at six thirty and out the door at seven fifteen the latest.

Breakfast in UL

When I arrive on campus, I either go to the library (which is amazing and where I’m sneaking time to write this) or sit in my car (especially if it’s lashing, which in Ireland is a kinda given) and write. I am using my time more effectively and my energy for writing/creating has soared. I am overflowing with ideas and notes are being taken which by the time I get around to working on them, I shall probably have forgotten what I meant, the scribbling is bad in places in fairness.

Morning Moon UL

My fellow students are friendly, talented and top class. I am lucky to be surrounded by such giving people. Although any time I’ve needed help navigating the vast grounds of UL, everyone has been so helpful. There is an amazing air of togetherness drifting through the university, every corner, corridor, pathway is filled with wanting to encourage each other, to help, to belong.

 

I could go on but I shall report again on my experience. But for now, it’s head down and write, write and read. Wait until I tell you about my awakening in poetry, I can’t get over it, honestly you’ll be wanting to grab a poetry book and sink into it. All for another post though.

The Living Bridge, UL

 

 

John Hewitt Society, part 2

While thinking about this post and going over again all the wonderful events, it really brought home, how important receiving the full bursary was for me. Armagh is up north in Ireland and I live down south, so it was a four and a half hour car journey minimum, which to be honest would have made me reconsider travelling the distance and the cost involved. Having received the award, made it more accessible, so again, thank you to the JHS International Sumer School 2019.
My week began attending an address from Judith Thompson, Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of the conflict in Northern Ireland. An interesting and informative talk that set the bar high for the rest of the week, which each event after reached and soared beyond. My favourite event of all was the talk delivered by Professor of Modern Irish History, Diarmaid Ferriter of University College Dublin and the interview following it. His address was titled, The Problem Child Nobody Wants: The Irish Border 1919-2019. I could have listened to him forever, his books are too many to mention but do look him up.
Also other events that captivated me, was the interview with Ann Cleeves, author of over 25 novels and the author behind ITV’s Vera and BBC One’s Shetland. Such a lady and lovely to chat with. Kevin Barry, author of Nightboat to Tangier, read from his new book and entertained us all with his pearls of wisdom. Jo Spain, crime writer shared her writing habits etc. as part of a Crime Writing Panel.
Poetry was not forgotten by any means. In fact I was so taken with the poets who attended, I have dabbled in this genre since hearing the poetry and I must admit, I’m enjoying it. Poets, Mary Jean Chan and Billy Ramsell stood out for me. Again, down to earth people who gave time for a chat afterwards. Not to mention, Billy Collins, twice US Poet Laureate who held us spell-bound.
There was theatre to attend in the evenings, art exhibitions launched, music to listen to, and friends to be made, (New Yorker, Joanne and Donegalian, Lorraine) plus many others, Pat, Bill, Stephen, all in my workshop, the list is endless. Plus food and wine receptions, many other talks and events.
On the closing day we were presented with out certificates of attendance by the lady Mayoress of Armagh and had our photos taken with her.
It really was a busy, interesting, packed, and exciting week. I’d urge everyone to attend if only once. There was so much more that I have not covered here, but honestly, it was brilliant. The open mic on the last night? Fantastic!

I’ve come home with a car load of books to read, memories to savor, ideas and ambition to reach for the stars and know that I can.
Like all events/festivals, you get from them what you put in so it is worth making the effort when attending to learn and involve yourself in what is going on around you.


From left to right:
Top: Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter, Mary Jean Chan, Kevin Barry
Bottom: Ann Cleeves, Mick Herron and Jo Spain (in centre of photo).



John Hewitt Society in Armagh, part 1.

When I applied for a bursary in April of this year, I did so filled with doubt that I would receive it. I knew of the John Hewitt Society (JHS) Summer School from writing friends who attended previously. So when I got the email telling me I had been successful in my application and I was being awarded a full bursary, my delight soared through the rafters.

Travelling up on my own from county Cork, I must admit to being nervous. Although I’ve travelled solo to places like California and Toulouse and elsewhere for writing, this was my first bursary. I felt so grateful to the committee and to my own Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs who sponser writers from the Republic with the JHS in Armagh.

So who is John Hewitt? John was an Ulster poet and political activist born in Belfast in 1907 and died in 1987. He formed many friendships, starting conversations that crossed religious and political divides. He was the first writer-in-residence in Queens University, Belfast. The JHS is in exsistence since 1988 and promotes the same belief as the poet that literature, arts and culture transfers across all boundaries. Our identities and common experiences unites us more than any of the divisions that exsist. By gifting with help from their sponsers and main funders, writers from the Republic are welcomed through their bursary schemes to take part. Of course you do not need to be in receipt of a bursary to attend. The Summer School is open to all and everyone to enjoy the many workshops and events that are in the programme for the week. To find out more visit their website at the following link, https://www.johnhewittsociety.org/

I shall write more in another post telling what I did and how the week went as there is so much to share with you all.

Tiny part of the registration table

A Week Away

Each year I do my utmost to get a way for a week with some writing friends for the sole purpose of writing. I have been to some foreign shores, like Chester in England, Toulouse in France, and Huntington Bay in California, USA as well as staying in beautiful Ireland. So many places in counties, Wexford, Galway, Waterford, Dublin, Tipperary, Clare and many more.

To make this week happen, my writing income must pay for it. It is sort of my treat to myself for working hard. Believe me there is nothing easy about the life of a writer. I saved hard for this. When I am thinking about where to go, I try to either go somewhere I’ve always wanted to go (France) or to meet up with new writing friends (California & England). This year, I along with three other writing friends opted to go to county Kerry here in the Emerald Isle. We booked via AirBnB and found this glorious house nestled at the foothills of the Kerry mountains, in particular, Seefinn mountain.

Taken at the site of St. Finian’s Well

Walking on the country roads, finding local holy wells, off-track cottages, we soaked it all up. Eating a couple of nights in nearby restaurants and cooking at home other evenings, we got to balance our mini-holiday/writing week in a nice way.

If you can do this, I mean getting away, it is so worth it for your writing life. The buzz you get from being surrounded by like minded individuals, bouncing ideas, sharing awkward plots, stealing solace in quiet corners, it all feeds in to your belief and confidence in yourself and the words you spill on to the page.

I was so impressed with the wonderful house we were in I made a video walking around outside it. I plan to post it on this website (if I can manage it of course) on a page I hope to put all future videos on. Wish me luck!

Give, not Give Up, this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season in the Christian church leading up to Easter. As a child, I would give up sweets and so would my friends. But through the years instead of giving up and seeing this time of year as doing without for 40 days, I changed it. I decided to do something positive, simple tasks, like smiling more, helping others if I see they need it. I’m not speaking just about family but strangers, those I meet in the supermarket, or other public places, maybe the park. Have you seen a mother struggling with a toddler and a buggy? Have you asked her if she needs help to lift it up the steps to the library, train/bus platform?

So as this Lenten season begins it got me thinking more. How can we bring this side of life, the positive, the good in us out, and show respect for others, through our writing? Which led me to my characters.

Do your characters in your novels/stories have manners? I am a big believer in saying thank you to those who help me or show me kindness. When writing dialogue, do you include the words please and thank you where appropriate? Would your character hold the door open for those following them out the exit or entering the building? What about the older person trying to manage their shopping on the bus, give them their seat?

I guess what I’m saying is, today’s world is very fast and exclusive, instead of being inclusive and watching out for others. Every day we read of rising crime, attacks on people, violence etc. and often the films, the TV series, the video games are cited as being an influence. So if we influence people through these violent vicious nasty programmes can we not try to influence people by making our characters do nice things for each other? I know we must have our baddie, I’m not talking about our work being all sugar and sweet, but a simple thing like having a character say, “Pass me the coffee please,” or have your detective hold the door as he goes in to the police station while he’s thinking of his latest case. Simple gestures.

Maybe I sound daft, maybe I am daft, but it’s how I feel this Ash Wednesday. If enough of us show kindness and helpfulness, surely it can rub off on more and more. After all, a smile is the most contagious thing ever. So smile and make someone else feel good as well as yourself.

Vision Boards and Garth Brooks

While I was chatting with a close friend of mine, we were discussing our goals for this year. Stuff we really wanted to mark off our To Do List once and for all. 

So I came up with a Vision Board. A simple notice board with my goals pinned on to it. Not in a list form but separately. Beneath each title piece, I will stick on the steps I take to make this goal or desire achievable as the year goes by. The important word in the last sentence is steps, little and manageable so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the bigger picture. 

Write up a calendar for a week, place it near your pin board so you have a clear vision of what you are doing and when. On Monday you might write your blog post, Tuesday you will check out competition submissions, Wednesday work on your novel, Thursday, research etc. Put down what applies to you reaching what it is you want. Each of these baby steps are putting you on the next rung of the ladder to get you to the top. As the year goes by, I shall see where I am making progress and where I need to improve. This is a simple method or reminder of what my path is and if it’s the correct one for me.

 

If by the end of the year, I have not had success in all my goals, it will serve as a reminder that I did work towards it and will encourage me to keep going. After all, Rome was not built in a day. 

Don’t forget to pin photos or pictures of people you admire or want to emulate on this board too. Having visual aids helps keep our focus and mind on what matters to us. Important also is not to fear changing your goals, maybe what you thought you wanted isn’t right for you, then work for what is, what it is that suits where you want to be in life. Sometimes what we think we want can be so wrong. I love Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers. Believe me, I have so many unanswered prayers, I am very grateful for them. 

This is a link to Garth’s song for you to enjoyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GuA5PZx3K4 

In other news, I’ve finished the writing of my third novel, and have a bunch of exciting stuff going on around me right now. If you haven’t got into The Lacey Taylor story yet, you can start at My Husband’s Sin and Don’t Call Me Mum, and enjoy the many Letters From Lacey here on the site! 

Happy Writing