Monday, 11 August 2014

Writer's Workshop | Scoil Acla

Photo Credit: Maura Mulligan
Scoil Acla Writer's Group 2014

Hello everyone.

I've mentioned in a couple of posts that I took part in the Scoil Acla Writer's Workshop a couple of weeks ago. Scoil Acla was a summer school established in 1910 on Achill Island  for the teaching of Irish; Piping (Irish War Pipes) and the promotion of music, dance, song, and culture generally. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. People from all over the world, and the length and breadth of Ireland come to attend the Scoil Acla week. There are classes for traditional Irish instruments, Irish courses, Writer's Workshop and a few other non-musical classes are available.

This year was my third year taking part in the Writer's Workshop. There were a lot of familiar faces back this year, which is one of the nicest things about the workshop. Established writer and poet, Macdara Woods was back with us again this year to oversee the week. A few new people showed up to take part in the workshop - with that and a change of venue it took us a couple of days to find our feet. But by Tuesday afternoon we were flying it. 

That's all good and well, Catherine. But what do you actually do?
Good question! For this particular workshop, you are asked to bring forward work that you are happy enough to present to the group. A photocopy of your work is given to each person. You read your piece, followed by someone else reading it back to you, the group digests what has been read, give feedback and pose questions. After the group are finished, it is your chance to respond. It's simply not a case of "We are going to discuss a topic and you will write about it". This workshop doesn't work like that, as some feel that that approach would be too restrictive. It took me a while to get my head around the little system, but I really do appreciate it now. Everyone is on the same page, there's a silent mutual understanding what has to be done. It's great.

What can you present to the group?
Anything! Absolutely anything - be it a poem, a short story or pro. You could present a poem of 15 words, and it could still be just as powerful as a 6 page essay. The group and Macdara himself are 100% open to looking at anything someone has written. The general consensus is that if someone has taken the time to write something, we - as a group - should take the time to appreciate it. Feedback is given in a very respectful manner, and plenty of time is put aside for everyone's work. Nothing is rushed, it's quite relaxed!

The great thing about the week, is that I was looking forward to going in every morning! The hours were pretty much 10 am - 1 pm (tea break in between), leave for lunch and come back for 2/2.30 pm to do a couple more hours work. Although it's very flexible, it's not mandatory to do the full day, and you can choose to come in for the later part of the day of you wish. Like I said, it's quite relaxed!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the week again this year. At the end of the week (on the Friday) we had a night out where we presented our work to the public, our friends and family. I was very happy with how my piece went down with the audience.  It was a hugely  successful night, and a lovely way to end the week.

It's really refreshing to meet like minded people. I've also made new friends down through the years and have stayed in contact with them, I love that aspect to it. At this stage it feels like we are a little family that have a week-long reunion every year. Also, Macdara is such a delight to have working with us, we are very lucky! To be able to bounce ideas off people, tease things out and create something substantial in a supportive environment is really empowering, especially to young people who attend the workshop. It's just wonderful.


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