While entering story competitions and having work appear in publications is very exciting for a young writer, there is something very special about the first time you see one of your stories in an actual book. Dermot Bolger was someone whose work I deeply admired. I had not long before read and been blown away by The Journey Home, a stark, tough novel about Dublin in the dark eighties, when he contacted me to see if I had a piece to contribute to a collection of stories written by Irish writers abroad.
At the time, Joe O’Connor and Emma Donoghue were living in London, Harry Clifton was in Africa, Colum McCann was in Texas, Sarah Berkeley in San Francisco, and Eamonn Wall and myself formed part of the burgeoning New Irish arts community in New York. The amazing thing was that during the eighties and early nineties, anybody living abroad, let alone writers, were nothing less than the national black sheep – the cheek of them to have emigrated leaving the rest of the Irish in the badlands of eighties Ireland! It was a crime that was dealt with by cruel silence.
Enter Dermot Bolger (who had, himself, made a personal decision not to emigrate) with Ireland in Exile, which was, in effect, the first collection and recognition of the contemporary generation of scribes that had left – as many generations had left before. With its cogent introduction by Joseph O’Connor and daring to present the nascent talents of many who would subsequetly become household names, its a book in which I’m very proud to be included.
To read my very early nineties contribution, The Suitcase, click here.