The Harrington’s bus driver was way behind time when he picked the jaded writer up from the Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat at eight minutes past eight on a damp September Saturday morning.  It would be a bumpy two-hour dash via empty Adrigole and still-sleepy Glengarriff in order to make Cork City in time for the 10.30am train back to Dublin.  Pain throbbing in waves from a recently-busted shoulder was not going to make the journey any easier.  So in order to ‘giorraigh an bhothair’, the writer decided to follow the advice of the late Eamonn Kelly, King of the Seannachai, and tell himself a story in order to ‘shorten the road’….

The previous evening I had enjoyed my ‘Last Supper’ of  Lamb Casserole with gargles of red wine in the company of Sue Booth-Forbes, the director of Anam Cara,  and Mary-Ruth O’ Donnell, an academic from Missouri, here in Ireland to explore a recently-discovered passion for John Millington Synge.  I felt good, with 12,500 new words added in five fluent days to the 50,000 already in the can - or whatever the writer’s equivalent of film footage is called.  As occurred every evening, the talk at the generous Anam Cara table had swayed back and forth; veering between Ireland and America with mention of favourite authors, the world we live in, and our own creative work.


Marine T RobinsonWhen I read about the “Nightmare Book Review Competition” hosted by last year, I knew I had to enter. The challenge was to pen the worst book review possible, a review that any writer would be horrified to receive. My nightmare review was: “This novel deserves a place in the literary canon, from where it should be propelled with great force into the Irish Sea.” I was delighted when I found out that I had won the competition. Finally, I had discovered a forum that rewarded my ability to make inappropriate sarcastic comments. Not only that, but my prize was a three-night stay at the Anam Cara Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat in West Cork, a place I had wanted to visit for years.

The retreat was set up by Sue Booth-Forbes, an experienced writer and editor. The name Anam Cara – Soul Friend was chosen, in part, to pay tribute to the work and writing of John O’ Donoghue. Since 1998, the retreat has played host to many writers and artists and inspired and supported those engaged in creative processes. It is situated near the village of Eyeries in the Beara Peninsula, famed for its beautiful landscape of heather-covered hills, rivers and sea.

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