Four-day workshop
with Sara Maitland

One Place on Workshop Remaining


Payment will be accepted by cheque/postal order (made payable to the Munster Literature Centre), by credit card via PayPal (link provided on registration), or cash (payable in person at The Munster Literature Centre, Frank O'Connor House, 84 Douglas Street, Cork). To book your place please email info(at)munsterlit(dot)ie or phone us at +353(0)21 431 2955.

Four-day workshop with Sara Maitland:
2019 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellow


Venue: Nano Nagle Place, Douglas Street, Cork
Time: 25 – 28 September, 9.30am – 12.30pm
Size: Limited to 15 participants
Cost: €150

The rationale behind this workshop is that many of us waste a great deal of time trying to think up plots – storylines. Shakespeare never bothered: he always used old stories, re-envisioned. If it worked for him it might work for us! Old stories, in some cases, have been around for thousands of years – they have been told and re-told over and over. There is a very good chance that they are tougher, more engaging and more psychologically satisfying than any brand-new plot I think up this afternoon.
The skill is in how we tell them, how we write them afresh.

Wednesday: Introduction – to each other and to the workshop
Participants will be invited to share old stories. Usually these turn out to be “fairy stories” but sometimes local legends, myths, historical events, biblical episodes etc.
Writing exercise: outline a modern version (setting, characters etc.) of someone else’s story.
Reading out, feedback and discussion.

Thursday: Place and atmosphere
Descriptive writing has rather gone out of fashion in fiction; this is odd because there is a massive revival of nature writing, which is highly descriptive – description can be great for creating atmosphere. (Hansel and Gretel lost in a city is very different from them lost in the traditional forest!) We will take a walk to find inspiration in the natural world.
Writing exercise: describing place through observation and detail.
Reading out, feedback and discussion.

Friday: Character
One problem with these stories is that they tend to be rather old-fashioned. A substantial number of them have a very old-fashioned view of women and of class (among other things!) Short-form fiction also tends to make character development highly problematic. This workshop will look at strategies for getting around these sorts of problems – including humour.
Writing exercise: creating “modern” characters with fairy tale stories, e.g. the post-modern princess; the not-very-handsome prince.
Reading out, feedback and discussion.

Saturday: Structure and framing
Most of us “know” that fairy stories start with, “Once upon a time” and end with, “They lived happily ever after” (in fact they don’t, but that’s another matter). What they do tend to do is invite readers/hearers into the fictional/fantasy space and release them back into the “real” world at the end. These sorts of techniques for framing and structuring a short story are invaluable and worth exploring.
Writing exercise: try out some opening and closing “devices” including repetition, mirror images and satirical authorial commentary.
Reading out. If anyone over the week developed a full story, they be invited to read it in full to the group – otherwise we will hear and discuss the exercise.

Sara Maitland has published seven novels and seven short story collections, including Moss Witch and Other Stories (Comma Press, 2013). Born in 1950, she studied at Oxford University and lives in Galloway, Scotland. She is the 2019 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow.


Additional Information
If you have limited mobility, please let us know in advance so we can arrange to make the experience as pleasant as possible for you. Every effort will be made to make sure that the programme proceeds as advertised but the Munster Literature Centre accepts no responsibility for changes made due to circumstances beyond our control—refunds will be given only if a workshop is cancelled.