Tom Sigafoos

margaret atwoodAbout the writing life, Margaret Atwood says: “You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

Quoted from The Writer’s Almanac, 18 Nov 2018 on Margaret Atwood’s birthday, which ought to be an international holiday.

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Updates and Hidden Gems: The 2017 Allingham Festival

Tom Sigafoos

susan mckay

On Nov 9-12, the 2017 Allingham Festival will bring writers, artists, workshops and excitement to Ballyshannon. Please note the following updates in the schedule, and please join in the daytime events and other “Hidden Gems” of the Allingham Festival.


  • Thursday
    • Festival Opening – “No Woman’s Land” – Susan McKay (pictured) will speak about her life and career as a cross-border journalist – 8:00 pm in the Abbey Centre, following a wine reception. OPENING NIGHT PROGRAMME SPONSORED BY AIB.
  • Friday
    • John D. Ruddy / “Manny Man” – 11:30 am Friday in the Abbey Centre – see detail below
    • Jo McCusker – 2:00 pm Friday in the Abbey Centre – see detail below
    • “Songs of Erne” musical programme – 8:00 pm in St Anne’s Church
  • Saturday
    • High-tech vinyl cutting and design by The Fab Lab – a free event, but pre-booking is essential for limited seats – 10:30 am, The Mall

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Poetry and Story Inspired by Myth: The Cailleach

Saturday, November 25, 10:30 – 5:30, Hazelwood Suite, Sligo Park Hotel. Cost €80 / €70 if payment received by November 19. To book, go to, for more info contact

CailleachShe is the Hag of Winter, both female and male, the end and the beginning, the gateway to the ancestors, she is the dark before birth and the dark we fear. And, in her wild and withered dryness, she is the juicy source of our best writing…

This is the second in a series of “Poetry and Story Inspired by Myth” workshops led by award-winning writer and AWA certified writing group leader Monica Corish.

The workshop will take place in the Sligo Park Hotel on Pearse Road, halfway between Queen Maeve’s Cairn on Knocknarea and the Cailleach a Bherra’s House in the Ballygawley Hills, in the heart of Sligo’s ritual landscape. What better place to meet your mythic muse?


Literary Highlights of the Allingham Festival 2017

Poetry Masterclass; Fighting Words; The Art of Awareness; Literary Lunch; Wild Atlantic Writers; and lots, lots more… Book all events through Eventbrite. More info at

Allingham 2017 logo

  • Friday, 10:30 – 11:30 Fighting Words Information Session, with Sean Love – for anyone interested in learning about Fighting Words, the free creative writing programme for students of all ages in Ireland.
  • Friday, 11:30 – 12:30: Fighting Words Volunteer Training, for those who have already completed the application process – if you are interested in applying in time for this training, please email
  • Friday, 13:30 – 15:30: The Art of Awareness: A Creativity Workshop for Adults, with Olive Travers
  • Friday, 16:00 – 17:30: Wild Atlantic Writers, with Mick Delap, Winifred McNulty, Monica Corish and Enda McGloin.
  • Saturday, 9:00 – 12:00: Poetry Workshop with Moya Cannon: “Stitching the Inner and the Outer World Together”. This workshop is aimed at those who have been writing poetry for some time – places limited to 10. Participants are asked to send two pieces of work to before October 31st.
  • Saturday 12:30 – 15:00: Literary Lunch in Nirvana: Splendid Food; Jim Keane Flash Fiction Award; Allingham Poetry Award; launch of “Grace” by Paul Lynch
  • Saturday 15:30 – 17:00: Mike McCormack, author of “Solar Bones”, in conversation with Sinead Crowley, RTE Arts and Media Correspondent.
  • Saturday 19:00 – 20:00: History Ireland Hedge School: William Allingham – “An Irish poet but not a national poet”? Moderated by Tommy Graham, editor of History Ireland.

Do you have what it takes to be a Fighting Words volunteer?

Fighting Words is coming to South Donegal/North Leitrim/North Sligo/West Fermanagh, and we are looking for volunteers!  Have you got what it takes? Have a browse on the Fighting Words website: to learn more, or come along to an information session at Bundoran Library on Monday, October 9 from 12 till 1.


From the website:

What kind of people volunteer at Fighting Words?

Everyone! All tutoring at Fighting Words is free and delivered by teams of volunteer writing tutors.  We have over 400 volunteer tutors – people from all walks of life – including third level students (from all disciplines!), retired people, writers (both professional and aspiring), teachers, journalists, visual artists, musicians and filmmakers – just to name a few.

What kind of skills do I need to volunteer at Fighting Words?

Anyone who enjoys working in a creative environment with the individuals and groups that come to our centres – and is a good listener –  is welcome to volunteer. You don’t need to be a writer or a teacher to be a Fighting Words volunteer writing tutor.

What kind of commitment to I have to give?

Volunteering with Fighting Words is totally flexible because your time is a valuable resource.  Tutors choose the days and times they come in using our online calendar for Dublin, Glencree and Cork.  You simply click on the day you’d like to come in and sign up. For example, we have tutors who choose to come in on the same day every week on the same day, tutors who come in for a week or two in the summer and tutors who come in a few times a year for evening workshops. In Mayo, the local volunteer co-ordinator will contact you by email about our monthly workshops.

There is no minimum time commitment – and we mean that!

Celebrating Cuba in Ballyshannon!

The Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Dr. Hermes Herrera Hernández will be the Guest of Honour at the Official Opening of Emer O’Shea’s fabulous ‘Celebrating Cuba – From the Bluestacks to the Carribean’, a photographic exhibition at the Abbey Arts Centre, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, at 6 pm  (prior to the carnival parade) on Saturday  October 7.

The exhibition is sponsored by Donegal County Council as a Bluestacks Festival Event. Refreshments will be served  and a wee taste of salsa may be on the menu. Prints of the images can be ordered and all profits will go to Dr.David Hickey’s Fund for Medical Aid for Cuba. Everyone is welcome, RSVP Emer O’Shea  0860219023,

Deadline Extended for Allingham Flash Fiction and Poetry Competitions

Dig out your best work, there is still time to enter. Up to 5 poems, max 40 lines; up to 5 flash fiction pieces, max 800 words.  Moya Cannon will judge the poetry competition, Paul Lynch the flash fiction, and Monica Corish will be the filter judge for both competitions. Read all about it at

And keep an eye on the Allingham website for news of lots of splendid writerly events, including a poetry masterclass from Moya, a book launch from Paul, and readings from all three judges.


Tai Chi in Bundoran

Highly recommended

Tom Sigafoos

yin yang tai chi

Roisin Cassidy of Chen Ireland ( is offering a free “taster” session of Tai Chi training at the new Bundoran Community Centre on Tuesday, 19 Sept from 8 to 9pm. I’ve participated in the Chen Ireland classes with Roisin and Gill Keogh for years. They are great instructors, truly supportive for people — including older people — who are just getting started. I encourage everyone to come along and give it a try.

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Creative writing on Thursday mornings in Bundoran Community Centre

Bundoran Community Centre is offering a new ETB-funded creative writing class on Thursday mornings, 10.30 – 12.30,  starting September 28.

The cost for 7 sessions is only €14. The classes will be led by local creative writing tutor Monica Corish. Places are limited, so contact to book your place, or phone 071-982-9675.


Bundoran Community Centre Creative Writing Logo