Madeleine D’Arcy’s first short story won an award. Her first collection may too says Colette Sheridan.
CORK writer Madeleine D’Arcy is on the shortlist for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize, beating Booker Award winning author, Hilary Mantel, who was long-listed for the prize, worth £5,000.
Now in its ninth year, the Edge Hill Short Story Prize is the only UK award that recognises excellence in a published collection of short stories. The six shortlisted writers also include Toby Litt and Rose Tremain.
Previous winners of the award include Colm Tóibín, Claire Keegan and Kevin Barry. D’Arcy, shortlisted for her debut collection of short stories, ‘Waiting for the Bullet’, is the only Irish author to make the shortlist this year.
Her publisher is Galway-based Doire Press. D’Arcy’s collection contains stories set in Cork, London and New York.
D’Arcy, who won the Hennessy Award for first fiction as well as the overall Hennessy Award for new Irish writer in 2010, says she felt huge pressure to live up to the fact that she had won the award with the first short story she ever wrote.
“These days, it seems the people winning the award already have support. They have agents and novels ready to come out. Any writer that has just published their first few short stories and shows promise, needs support and structure. I just keep on going, mostly on my own, fumbling my way through.
“The best thing about winning awards or being shortlisted or long-listed is that it gives you encouragement to do better work. You feel you’re on the right track. But I wouldn’t say the Hennessy Award is a passport to a substantial writing career.
"I’m very grateful to them though. They also supported my first short film, ‘Dog Pound,’ starring Frank Kelly, by premiering it at their awards ceremony in 2014.”
D’Arcy gained first class honours on the inaugural MA in creative writing at UCC from 2013-2014. She has been awarded bursaries by the Arts Council and by Cork City Council and has been published in literary journals including the Stinging Fly Press. A former solicitor working in London, D’Arcy returned to Cork with her husband and son in 1999.
Aged 54, D’Arcy has learned that writing takes a long time. “The important thing is not to be too impatient and to send work out only when it’s ready.”
She gives creative writing workshops. “I enjoy reading new work and there seems to be a resurgence in the short story. Publishers seem to feel it’s easier to sell novels. In my view, a lot of novels are actually too long and would be better if they were short stories.
"Book publishing has been in a state of chaos and flux for some time because of the ending of the Net Book Agreement, the internet and self publishing. But now, things are balancing out. People are going back to buying books.”
D’Arcy has no regrets about leaving her legal career although she says that writing has always been “a difficult way to make a living. In this country, you had Anglo-Irish writers like Elizabeth Bowen but they had private incomes.”
Despite the precariousness of a writing career, D’Arcy says that Cork has much to offer writers. She cites the new creative writing module in first-year English at UCC, introduced by the university’s school of English.
“Then you’ve got Ó Bheál (the forum for poets held at the Long Valley Bar), the Lightning Bug (monthly prose readings at Jim Cashman’s pub) and the Munster Literature Centre.”
D’Arcy is currently working on a novel in tandem with a couple of short stories. “I’m anxious to get a final draft of the novel done. But you can put a curse on a novel-in-progress by saying what it’s about.”
The winners of the Edge Hill Prize will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Free Word Centre on Thursday.
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