The Moth-Altun Short Story Prize: Open for Submissions


The Lonely Voice: Gearrscéalta as Gaeilge

For the month of March, in tribute to Seachtain na Gaeilge and the various Irish-language events that were happening, we decided to host a special Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions – as gaeilge. Thanks to everyone who submitted stories and helped us spread the word about the event. We are delighted to announce our four winners. They are:

1st: “An Dara Seans” – Majella Ní Dhomhnaill

2nd: “Damhsa an Duilliúir” – Caitríona Ní Chonaola

3rd: “Gile” – Dairena Ní Chinnéide

4th: “An Rógaire Dubh” – Aingeal Seoighe

Congratulations to them and a big thank you to our special guest judge Éilís Ní Dhuibhne for choosing the stories.

Join us at the Irish Writers’ Centre this Thursday, 29th of March at 7pm for a special wine reception and reading, hosted by Mícheál Ó Ruairc.

Everyone is welcome and the event is free. Bigi linn!

Arena Flash Challenge


A free competition from RTE Radio’s Arena show: 

Rules: A story told in 500 words or fewer.

Open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 125.

Quirky, daring, challenging and provocative writing encouraged.

Previously unpublished work only.

Deadline: April 30th.

Winners announced: May 15th

Winner crowned Arena Flash Champion 2012 and four runners up broadcast during Arena Flash Fiction week

Judge: Dave Lordan.

Entries headed ARENA FLASH CHALLENGE to or by post to Arena Flash Challenge, Arena, RTE Radio 1, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

The Lonely Voice: In Conversation with Carmel Mc Mahon


[Photo courtesy of Theo + Theresa]

Carmel Mc Mahon grew up in Ashbourne in Co. Meath. She attended college in the U.S. and worked as a foreign films reviewer. She has published short stories in LeSofa, and the Irish-Australian Heritage Journal. She lives in New York City, and is working on a collection of short stories. Her story, ‘Homo Spiritualis’ was selected for the August Lonely Voice Short Story Introductions. Anthony Glavin was the judge for that month. After a talk with him, she entered the story into New Irish Writing in the Irish Independent and was published.

Here in conversation with Claire Costigan:

Did you always want to write?

Not really, no, but I would say my desire to write was born out of a love of literature. I have always been a reader. When I got to college I was encouraged to consider a career in writing, so I wrote some essays and reviews, but it took a long time to develop my artistic voice.

What made you take the leap to actually penning a story?

It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part; it was more of an instinctual response. The stories write themselves, the good ones do anyway, my job is to show up at the keyboard. A lot of the time I don’t know a story is there in until I start typing. The leap for me was in taking the actions to put them out into the world. I am so grateful to the IWC for providing an informative and suportive environment and so many opportunities for writers.

What is the basis for your inspiration? What influences you?

The big questions have always bothered me. You know, why are we here? What’s the point? That sort of thing. I really would just like to know what it’s all about….I am always actively looking, and I have noticed that on the rare occasion that my mind is uncluttered and my heart is open, I am more likely to recognize a moment that might be a portal into a story. Right now my guiding lights are the visual artists, Agnes Martin, Richard Tuttle and the young New York artist, Theresa Kenney.

Short Story, why this form of writing? What’s its appeal? Do you yourself read this form of writing?

The short story is just what comes out when I sit at the keyboard. It appeals to me because the form does not require the writer to be particularly clever or funny or opinionated, none of which I am, but occasionally, I am struck by an everyday moment that seems to reveal something about what we have to contend with in this human condition. I read short stories all the time. I have William Trevor’s Selected Stories by my bed, and I just reread Colm Tóibín’s The Empty Family. The title story blew me away. And it blew me away again.

How important is the title? “Homo Spiritualis” is so fitting for your tale of the young Irish girl in New York, do you have an anthropological background?

I studied English and philosophy, but when I was working on the story, I saw the Werner Herzog film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, where one of the anthropologists makes the comment that it would be more fitting if we were called Homo Spiritualis rather than Homo Sapiens: He who does not know rather than he who knows. I don’t think that’s a direct translation, but it seemed to illustrate the relationship between the young Irish woman and the old French woman in New York. How these two lost souls find each other, and the mystery of how we sometimes come to impact each others lives, often in subtle, but profound and unexpected ways.

Would you say your writing is character driven?

Oh yes. My characters are the lost, the lonely, the immigrant and the addict. Writing their stories is like painting, where layers of feeling and emotion are built up until a portrait emerges. The action is usually driven by the interiority of the protagonist who simply comes to some realization in the end.

How do you find the editing process of writing?

When I submitted the freshly written, “Homo Spiritualis” to the Lonely Voice Short Story Introductions, I had no distance from it and could not see its many flaws. Anthony Glavin gave me the feedback, “Cut it down by a third, and make every line earn its keep.” This has become the editing rule of thumb for me. Space is limited in the short story, so I am learning to pare away everything, but what William Trevor calls the “essential art.”

Do you find feedback necessary for a writer? Are you part of a writers group or do you go it alone?

Oh yes, feedback is very necessary for me, but only in the editing process. When writing, I have a very vague, if any, idea about where the story is going, and part of the joy for me is being in that unknown space, but trusting that it will come together in the end and being utterly exhilarated when it does. The story is very fragile when it is being born, and I don’t want to risk hurting it by exposing it to opinions or criticisms while it is still forming. When I have gotten it to the point where I can’t work on it anymore, I seek feedback from a couple of friends, the writer, Rusha Haljuci, is one. I love her work, and I trust her implicitly. Anthony Glavin’s feedback has influenced everything I have written since last August. Also, if he had not suggested I send “Home Spiritualis” in to New Irish Writing, I would never have thought to do so.

What are your favorite books?

Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Conrad’s The Secret Sharer, Beckett’s Molloy, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North and Euripides, The Bacchae. I always return to these.

Most importantly, how do you unwind after a day of writing?

Haha! Good question. I spent half of my life unwound and zoned out. Today, there is no separation between my life and my writing life. I am just grateful to be alive and fully engaged with my work in this way.

Read Carmel’s story in our online archive HERE.

“Garden of Eden” Flash Fiction Competition

Here’s a competition with a great prize, courtesy of and the Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat in West Cork:

“If you write short stories or you’ve always wanted to learn how, this is the competition for you!
For the second year running, Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat have teamed up with to offer a fabulous prize to one lucky – and talented – writer.

Write us a 250-word short fiction piece, and you could win a place in the Anam Cara “Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems…” workshop retreat led by Vanessa Gebbie, award-winning short story writer, scheduled for the week of 9-15 June 2012.

Anam Cara is set in beautiful countryside on the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork, so our theme is A Garden of Eden.

Please submit your entries to Sue at by Wednesday, 22 March; the winner will be announced on 6 April and the top ten entries published on Please include in your entry the answer to the following question: how many workshops are planned in Anam Cara in 2012? Visit to find out.”

Can You Write a Story in 150 Words or Fewer?

“The Binnacle will sponsor its Eighth International Ultra-Short Competition in the 2011-2012 academic year. We are looking for prose works of 150 words or fewer and poetry of sixteen lines or fewer and fewer than 150 words. All works should have a narrative element to them.

All submissions should be made via email to We prefer that you send your entry both in the body of your e-mail and as an attachment in a .doc, .txt, .odt, or .rtf file (.rtf preferred).

A minimum of $300 in cash prizes will be awarded, with a minimum prize of $50. At least one of the prizes will go to a UMM student.

Please submit no more than two works total, prose and/or poetry.

When you submit your work, please be sure to include your postal address as well as a thirty-five to fifty word self-description.

There is no submission fee. Submissions will be accepted beginning on December 1, 2011. The deadline for submissions will be extended to March 15, 2012. Notifications will be made in the latter half of May, 2012. Publication date will be May, 2012, but printing may not be completed until October, 2012 (probably later). Awards will be made at the time of publication.

Because of the volume of submissions, we are not always able to send notifications to all works that have not made the cut. To gain news about the winners and those who will be included in the edition, please keep checking our website. Look especially on the Updates page. The fact that you may not receive a rejection notification is no reflection on the quality of your work. The large majority of what we receive is well worth publishing, and we are thankful for you sharing it with us.”

Further info HERE.

Frances Macken, Brendan Killeen, Elizabeth Reapy, & Rory Duffy for The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions – Thurs Feb 23rd at 7pm

Greetings, short story fans! Don’t forget to join us tomorrow evening at 7pm for our February event. We will be kicking things off in our new time-slot – the last Thursday of the month.

You can enjoy a glass of wine in the IWC reading room and hear this month’s winners reading their stories. Our features readers are Frances Macken, Brendan Killeen, Elizabeth Reapy, and Rory Duffy. See you there!

Friday Fiction Focus: “Go Trigger, Go” by Mark Kilroy

Joining us this week on Friday Fiction Focus is Mark Kilroy, whose story “Go Trigger, Go” was chosen as one of our May 2011 winners by guest judge Catherine Dunne.

Catherine had the following to say about the story:

Dramatic, compelling opening. Reader is hooked straight away, tension is nicely built towards revelation… Nice spare, tightly-controlled prose. No words wasted in authentic dialogue… Lovely ending. Most impressive piece of writing.

THE LONELY VOICE: Hello Mark and welcome to Friday Fiction Focus. How did you get started as a writer?

MARK:I wrote poems as a teenager (didn’t we all), then short film scripts, then two longer film scripts that I also directed – and many more that never saw the light of day, (which might be just as well!). I’ve been writing short stories for years but only dedicated myself to them and novel-writing more recently. I think the key is to write about what interests you. If it’s not grabbing you, go on to something else.

THE LONELY VOICE: Subtext is something that is skillfully accomplished in your story “Go Trigger, Go”. How difficult was it to find that balance between what is stated and what is left up to the reader to figure out?

MARK: I like to leave a lot up to the reader. While dialogue can make a story very specific, (and I do my best to control the time and tone within a scene), there are few physical descriptions. A certain ambiguity lets in more light. Of course it takes work to get the balance right, guiding/letting the reader go; it’s what we all struggle for. But no doubt about it, subtext is king. It’s what makes it yours.

THE LONELY VOICE: You have twice been selected as a winner of the The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions. How did you find the experience of attending the events and reading your stories?

MARK: Great, really valuable. When I read “Alterations” in the IWC (in March 2010) I’d never read a story in public before and was nervous but determined to give it a good go. Anthony Glavin, the other three readers and others there were very supportive though. (If You are thinking of doing this, dear writer, DO IT!) When I read “Go Trigger, Go” (then entitled “SpIke” – don’t ask), I had to learn all over again how to read that one. I feel like I really learned from the experience, personally and as a writer, and would read them both better now. It also made me go home and change a phrase or word here and there. Couldn’t recommend it enough.

THE LONELY VOICE: You write across several disciplines – short story, novel, screenplay. Does your writing process differ for each?

MARK: Very much, though we do write in Scenes now in prose, even call them that. Screenplays feel more public, even as you’re alone in your room working on them. They’re a blueprint, capturing essences and hoping they’ll get over all the hurdles intact and onto a screen. I can’t improve on the description (Richard Ford’s?) of the short story as high-wire act, in its purity (or attempt thereat). I’ve written one novel (that’s with an agent), and just starting a second one now, so I haven’t done enough to be able to pronounce too much, but I do know they take stamina. The difference between writing and reading a short story and writing and reading a novel? This first, if it works out, is like meeting an acquaintance in the street and having an amazing conversation with them. The novel on the other hand, is like going for eight pints with them, not all of which will be to the point but hopefully still pleasurable.

THE LONELY VOICE: Can you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?

MARK: Not much, I’m sorry to say, for fear of talking it out. I’ve only just admitted to myself that it’s a novel the last few weeks! Suffice it to say it’s pretty different to my first (still unpublished) novel, especially in terms of constructive ambiguity which I’m big into at the moment.

THE LONELY VOICE: Sounds interesting! Thanks for joining us today, Mark.

MARK: Thanks for the questions and keep up the good work with the Lonely Voice.

“Go Trigger, Go” can be read in our archive HERE.

Glaoch ar Iarratais: Gearrscéalta as Gaeilge/Call for Submissions: Short Stories in the Irish Language

In Áras na Scríbhneoirí déanaimid tréaniarracht tacaíocht a chur ar fáil do scríbhneoirí ag gach céim forbartha agus iad ag foghlaim a gceirde. Dá réir sin, tá ríméad orainn ardán a chur ar fáil do The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions – ócáid mhíosúil dóibh siúd a dteastaíonn uathu gearrscéalta a scríobh anseo ag Áras na Scríbhneoirí, 19 Cearnóg Pharnell, B.Á.C 1. Is suim linn go háirithe ardán a chur ar fáil do scríbhneoirí atá díreach tosnaithe ag scríobh agus nach raibh an deis acu go dtí seo a saothar a léamh go poiblí. Roghnaíonn aoi-mholtóir suas le 4 buaiteoir gach mí agus tabharfar cuireadh dóibh siúd a gcuid scéalta a léamh ag ócáid speisialta in Áras na Scríbhneoirí ar an Déardaoin dheireanach de gach mí.

Tá áthas orainn a fhógairt go mbeimid ag reachtáil ócáid speisialta de The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions ar 29 Márta san Áras trí mheán na Gaeilge. Má theastaíonn uait a bheith mar dhuine de na léitheoirí a bheidh páirteach san ócáid seo, seol an gearrscéal Gaeilge ar mhaith leat a léamh (uasmhéid de 2,500 focal agus gan níos mó ná gearrscéal amháin) agus nóta beathaisnéise gairid (scríofa sa 3ú pearsa) go dtí: Bíodh na nótaí beathaisnéise agus na scéalta scartha óna chéile agus déan deimhin de go bhfuil siad i bhformáid .doc. Níor cheart go mbeadh d’ainm le feiscint ar an scéal. Spriocdháta: Dé Domhnach, 11ú Márta.

At the Irish Writers’ Centre we are committed to supporting writers at every stage of their development. With this in mind, we are delighted to host – The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions– a monthly event for emerging writers here at the Centre – 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. We are particularly interested in providing a platform for emerging writers, who previously may not have had the opportunity to read their work in public. Up to 4 winners are selected each month by a guest judge and invited to read their stories at a special event at the Irish Writers’ Centre on the last Thursday of each month.

We are pleased to announce that on March, 29th we will be hosting a special Irish-language Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions event. If you would like to be one of the featured readers at this event, please send the Irish-language short story you would like to read (max 2,500 words and limited to one entry per person) and a short bio (written in the 3rd person) to: Please attach bios and stories separately and make sure they are in .doc format. Your name should not appear on the story. Deadline: Sunday, March 11th.

Friday Fiction Focus: “Weeds” by Sheila Armstrong

Welcome to our brand new weekly feature: Friday Fiction Focus. Each week, we will select one story from our online archive and invite its author to chat with us.

First up, we have Sheila Armstrong, who has twice been a winner of The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions – in October 2011 and January 2012. Today, we are looking at her short story, “Weeds” which was chosen as one of our October 2011 winners by special guest judge John MacKenna, who had the following to say about the story:

The narrative voice is strong, clear, effective and beautifully realised. There’s an air of bitter-sweetness in this story. A wonderful clash of the individual and society but also the discomfort of a child caught between a strong and determined parent and the perception society has of that parent. Landscape plays an equally important part in the story and its inclusion is captured with subtlety and skill.

THE LONELY VOICE: Hello Sheila, and welcome to Friday Fiction Focus. You’re currently a post-graduate student in Trinity College, so I imagine you are quite busy! Do you find it difficult to find time for writing and do you have a set writing routine?

SHEILA: Last term I was working as an intern on top of the M. Phil, so this term is much easier in comparison. My college work means I have to read a lot; usually three books a week, so I am busy. I’ve never been good at routines, and with writing it’s no different. Writing is usually something I do late at night when I can’t sleep, so my only schedule is insomnia! Otherwise, if I get an idea I have to write it down straight away, whether it’s on a bus, in class, or in a pub. Being a young student who wants to be a writer is difficult – the words ‘life experience’ get thrown around a lot, and I sometimes worry that the only great thing I’ll ever write will be on my death-bed at the age of eighty-two.

THE LONELY VOICE: Can you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?

SHEILA: I wasn’t working on anything for a long time. I have confidence issues with my writing and find it difficult to stick with things for long after the thousand word mark. Recently, though, I’ve noticed that a lot of my scribbles have similar themes, so I’m trying to combine them together into something a bit more solid and tangible. A novel would be my ultimate aim, but it seems very far off at the moment.

THE LONELY VOICE: Landscape and setting play a big part in your short story “Weeds”. Is this something that you like to explore in your work?

SHEILA: I wrote most of “Weeds” while I was sitting in a field in Connemara. I saw a vegetable garden in the distance that really did look like a fresh grave, so I wrote about it. Not very inspirational, but it’s the truth! I grew up in the countryside, so I think I’ll always write about that. But what seems to happen is that it gets twisted – death and decay always seem to creep in somehow.

THE LONELY VOICE: Which short story writers do you admire?

SHEILA: I don’t follow very many writers, I just come across stories randomly and love them. The one person I can read over and over again, though, is Roald Dahl. His short stories are the perfect mix of creepiness and irony, and I love them. They’ve stayed with me for years and I’d love to be able to write something as enduring as that.

THE LONELY VOICE: What advice, if any, would you give to aspiring fiction writers?

SHEILA: I’m definitely still an aspiring fiction writer myself, so I’ll just pass on the two best pieces of advice that I’ve ever gotten. Write what you know. I used to hate writing about my personal experiences, but I was told to stop fighting them, and embrace them. I’m not sure if it has worked, but it’s easier to write now. The other advice is to stand up straight and speak loudly. Being a shy person with confidence issues makes a lot of things difficult for me, but if I apply this to thought processes as well as situations, it helps a lot.

THE LONELY VOICE: Thanks very much, Sheila. We look forward to reading more of your work in the future!

Sheila’s story “Weeds” is available to read in our archive HERE.