30 Jul 2014

Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award

Write short stories? Have a publication track record in creative writing?  Excellent.  Read on so.

The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award is now open for entries.  Not only is this the world's richest competition for a single short story, it's also one of the most prestigious.  Get this … one lucky winner receives a whopping £30,000 and five shortlisted writers each receive £1,000.

But here’s the rub. This competition is for original, unpublished stories up to 6,000 words.  While it's open to writers of any nationality, entrants must have a previous record of publication in creative writing in the UK and Ireland.  The closing date is Friday 26 September 2014.

For more information hop over to The Sunday Times website by clicking here.

Best of luck!

18 Jun 2014

Ghost Wanted

Is this the best job advertisement ever or what? Or maybe it’s not just a job. Maybe it’s the kick-start of a fabulous next book for the talented Katy O’Dowd (www.katyodowd.com) who drew my attention to it earlier on Facebook.


Wanted

Someone to play the part of ghost - or spirit or apparition - soul or personality of a person who has died and has somehow gotten stuck between this plane of existence and the next.

Most researchers believe that these spirits do not know they are dead. Very often they have died under traumatic, unusual or highly emotional circumstances. 

Ghosts can be perceived by the living in a number of ways: through sight (apparitions), sound (voices), smell (fragrances and odours), touch - and sometimes they can just be sensed.

Warning

Applicant must not be of a nervous disposition or be afraid of the dark or of the paranormal.

For more information click HERE. 




16 Jun 2014

The Road to Hell

There’s a behavioural trait many writers share. Some refer to it as displacement activity; others avoidance. Either way, it amounts to the same thing. Writers will do anything and everything to put off the actual moment of writing – plump cushions, deadhead ivy plants, clean the fish tank, pluck eyebrows to arched follicle twin perfections, swig gin, etc.

I’m prone to this myself. It’s been so long since I last updated this blog, I’d almost forgotten I had one. However, I do remember deciding on a few rules when I first started though, chief among them being to post little and often.

Without fail, I’d plonk my bottom down at least twice a week, pull over the keyboard and flex the ten digits into a starting position. I’d allow myself to spend a moment mentally sifting through the grey matter before selecting a suitable topic. I’d then type circa five hundred words give or take. No exceptions.

Following some light editing, I’d click publish and ooh-la-la-voilà – one scintillating blog post would shoot off into the void delivering regular insights into the teeming mind of Caren Kennedy.

Quite. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Which reminds me. The second rule was to dodge clichés like, well, umm, the plague. But feck it. Needs must. If I break off now and start cruising the information superhighway or ferretting in dictionaries in pursuit of an alternative, it could be months before I come back again. Years even. Just think what a loss to the world of English literature that would be.

There. I've clocked up 264 – no – 266 words and am tempted to stop. But I won’t. I can’t. Because if I do stop I’ll have to face the fact that I’m indulging in displacement activity right now by writing this. Today is D-day for starting my new novel, Tough Love.

The door to my office is locked. The windows are shut. The plotline is pinned down. I’m a veritable Reeling in the Years expert on 1980s Ireland. I've given myself a stiff talking to and my home is as clean as it’s ever going to be. There are simply no more excuses I can use to avoid knuckling down and getting stuck in.

On the other hand, woman cannot live on words alone, and although I might be prepared to starve for my art, my ten-year-old daughter isn't. I've just remembered there’s an Arts Council grant application form on my desk that needs filling in and submitting by mid-July. Without the grant, I can’t devote myself exclusively to writing the book, and four weeks hard sweaty labour isn't nearly enough time to do the form justice I reckon.

So, upon mature reflection, I think I’ll get cracking on doing that instead of this and resist doing anything else until I reach the end. Now that would be novel. Goodbye.

6 Dec 2012

Toxic Love & The Single Life



I wrote the following essay a few years ago which I'm posting now in order to remind self that by remaining both married and single, I'm having my cake and munching it - so why complain? I hope you like it. 


Would you look at the time? It’s two hours to the divorce hearing. Yes, I know I should be getting ready instead of sitting here dithering, but give me a moment would you? My feet are freezing and I need to think. The fact is I’m not sure I want a divorce. On the other hand, I definitely need to end the marriage. So, why the cold feet? Well, here’s the thing: As long as I’m married to one disaster, I can’t marry another. Ever.

After all relationship break-ups are no different to childbirth. Women who have more than one child do so because they forgot about the excruciating agony of labour. They also forgot about the sleepless nights, mangled nipples, and years spent struggling to regain control over their bladders and finances rendered incontinent in the process. After the birth of my son, I swore blind I’d never have another. A year later, I swore never again to relationships when I left his father. But what did I go and do? You guessed it. Married another, had my daughter, and swore some more.

Not that I’d be without either of them now of course. The children I mean. And their fathers come to think of it. For without one, I wouldn’t have the other. But being a single parent twice over is a pattern that doesn’t bear repeating. And therein lies the problem.

Except it isn’t. I’m 40. The age at which fertility is not so much in decline but braced for extinction. My egg supply is currently disappearing faster than the Fabergé variety sell at auction and full-blown menopause is but a barren hot-flush away. Divorce or no divorce, nothing short of steroids will see me pregnant again. Problem solved.

Except it isn’t. Being 40 isn’t going to stop me barking up the wrong man again. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m 40! It’s a seller’s market out there for single, straight men! If I couldn’t snare a winner before now, what hope do I have for the future? Particularly given the wibbly-wobbly-thighs, silver streaks, and two children each with a different surname. Could I be any less appealing?

Eh, no. Apparently not. I’ve met someone. And while the optimist in me is tempted to believe he could be the right one this time, I wouldn’t bet on it. The fact is I have the worst possible taste in men.

At 22, I fell in love with an alcoholic and had his baby. At first I thought he was exciting and charming. And then I didn’t. By the time our son was born I wanted him dead. Not only did he hog my gas supply during labour, he winked at me. Repeatedly. The winking stopped when I missed a grab for the mask and latched onto the family jewels instead. In fairness he took the pain. But not as a man I’m afraid. More as a choirboy scaling high-do octaves. By the end even I agreed he deserved a drink. As ever ‘just the one’ morphed into a three day bender and it was his brother who drove me home.

After that, every time he left the house I would imagine him falling under a bus. Then I would imagine the police arriving to break the news. Death was instant, they’d say. Then I would imagine the funeral, and what I’d wear, and what hymns I’d choose, and how dignified I’d be accepting sympathy.

But he didn’t die. Rather, he guzzled the rent money, we got evicted, and I made good my escape, pushing the baby, dragging the suitcases. We’d have taken a cab but he’d emptied my purse while I was packing.

Cut to a few years later and I’d recovered sufficiently from the alcoholic to shave my legs, get out and get sociable again. But what did I go and do? You guessed it. Jumped straight back into toxic love again. This time with a married man - no divorce pending. What can I say? I understood him; his wife didn’t. Or so I deluded myself into believing at the time. How stupid can one woman be?

Plenty stupid. Two short planks of wood stupid. Inevitably the affair sizzled and fried rebounding me into a blur of meaningless flings until one day I woke up and decided I needed a husband. And a baby. In that short order.

Crash. Bang. Wallop. No sooner had I decided this then I bumped into the divorce-in-waiting – an Egyptian diving instructor I met while vacationing on the Red Sea. Talk about mistakes. This was a clangour. What on earth was I thinking? But then again I wasn’t thinking. I was too busy being seduced by melting brown eyes and pectorals to die for.

I can see it all so clearly now. But of course back then I could see nothing of the sort. All I could see was the man of my dreams – Omar Sharif meets Yul Brynner – standing on my hotel balcony, legs akimbo, hands on hips. “Wait for me in Cairo,” he growled in a spine-tingling foreign accent, tossing aside the folds of his white robe and jumping over the railing back from whence he came.

I was impressed. Bowled over. Knocked out. As much by the commanding Romeo romance routine as by the whiff of danger wafting through the jasmine scented night air. Egypt has forbidding rules governing horizontal activities between unmarrieds. Had the patrolling god-squad caught us canoodling, they’d have bounced him black and blue up and down a police cell.

He wasn’t caught. And he did follow me to Cairo. But whereas I sped across the desert reclining on board a tourist bus under army escort, he puttered far behind on a scooter which collapsed on arrival.

Most people leave their holiday romances at the airport. I imported mine six months later and married him. Friends and family gave the marriage two minutes but in fact it lasted three years.

It wasn’t the clash of cultures that ended our marriage, or the language barrier, or even the five miscarriages it took to produce our daughter. It wasn’t even the relocation to Egypt coinciding with my son erupting into his teens. Although none of this helped. The marriage ended because of an argument over dental floss and school fees.

Up until then the Egyptian had shown only an average interest in oral hygiene. The sudden obsession with flossing, coupled with refusals to pay my son’s school fees, begged only one question: Who’s been eating my porridge?

Ho, hum. What goes around comes round. She understood him apparently. I didn’t. Not that I gave a toss about the affair. That side of our marriage had ended long since. Around about the same time he called his mother to check if it was okay to feed our daughter solids. She was two months old at the time and gagging for the hard stuff. What was I supposed to do? After that I resumed reading in bed. Up until then I told myself I didn’t mind switching the lamp off because it bothered him. But I did mind. It drove me crazy lying there night after night with fingers itching to tear open a book to know I was not alone.

It was my son’s education that mattered. Not least because I was the one paying for it. Not the Egyptian. Where else could my son go if not to the international school?

“Back to his grandparents in Ireland,” he ordered. “You and the baby stay here.”

Yeah, right. Like that was ever going to happen. Fuck you we’re out of here, was my first thought. Fuck me, was my second. Getting my daughter out of Egypt would be impossible if he objected. Yes, I really was that naive. As I type, I cringe. And there’s no excuse for it. I blubbered like a toddler when I watching Sally Field limping towards the American Embassy gripping her daughter’s hand in the film Not Without My Daughter. But like every other woman who has found herself in that situation, I didn’t believe it could happen to me.

Well it did and what happened next was dust. He went to work and I grabbed the children and headed straight for the airport, never once looking back at what I was leaving behind. I had all that I needed with me – the children, cash for flights, and my daughter’s Irish passport. I left the Egyptian everything. It wasn’t just the school fees I paid for. I paid for the house, furnishings, banana trees and a share in a diving business.

Still, there’s no point in getting my knickers in a twist about all that now. What price freedom? The marriage is over and there’s an end to it.

Except it isn’t. I still have to sign on the dotted divorce line, remember? Which brings me neatly back to where I wandered off the point: What’s to stop me repeating past mistakes? A one-way ticket to the looney bin that’s what. I need another husband like I need a hole in the head. Problem solved.

Except it isn’t. The other reason I started writing this was to figure out what to do about the date-in-waiting. But much like sliced bread, it’s obvious now that I’ve thought about it. I shall go out with him. Why not? I deserve a treat. Not that I’ve any plans to shave my legs just yet. And if I do that’s as far as it goes. Period. Occasional dating is the perfect solution to the married but single parenting life. It will give me something to look forward to outside of children and work and still leave me free to read in bed at night.

Right. That’s that settled then and times a wasting. I’ve children to care for and the single life to enjoy.

Goodbye.