Goodbye Black June, Hello Bright, Shiny July

June was a pain. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. For one thing the weather was miserable, but in the main it was just a horribly discouraging stretch.  I received more rejections in June then I’d say I did in the first five months of the year combined. Blurgh, as they say, but it’s part of being a writer. Rejections toughen you up! They give you something to fill shoe-boxes with! Hurray for rejection! Which, actually, was the theme of a lecture I once attended by television and comics writer J. Michael Straczynski. ‘If you don’t fail once in a while you’re not doing it right, because that’s how you learn where the wall is,’ Straczynski said. ‘That’s how you learn to adapt, to change, and to get over the wall.’ Actually, it was one of the best talks on the subject of writing – let alone being a human being – that I’ve ever heard.  Made me want to run out of that hall, grab the nearest word-processor and pour out stories into it. If you ever get the chance to hear JMS speak, I highly recommend it! ‘The point is the doing, not the result’.

Still, all of that is an aside to the fact that what I’ve been calling ‘Black June’ seems finally be over (no negative reinforcement there then!). Fail enough times, I suppose, and eventually something is bound to come right.

'The Bear's Necessities'

‘The Bear’s Necessities’

This morning my winning entry in the OxTravels/Daily Telegraph travel writing competition was published. A real thrill to have two pages in a major British newspaper. You can read my piece, ‘The Bear’s Necessities’, along with the two other shortlisted writers, here. Of course, I maintain it “reads” better on the page (how often do you hear that from someone writing a blog?!). Anyway, there it is on the right.

It amuses me too that, of all the pictures the Telegraph could have chosen, they illustrated it with an image I’m *sure* I’ve seen accompanying Sylvia Plath’s ‘The 59th Bear’ before. I’m going to go ahead and take that as a compliment. An eerie, ambiguous compliment…

Anyway, it’s a good feeling to finally have ‘The Bear’s Necessities’ out there. A recollection of Yosemite National Park and the strange etiquette of dealing with its elusive bears,  it’s actually an extract from a longer article about California, wherein I get horribly lost hiking around Montara Mountain and attend an anti-war/pro-war biker rally in San Francisco. It’s good fun. Must try and place the other sections somewhere on the back of this…

Hollywood Irish: John Ford, Abbey Actors and the Irish Revival in Hollywood

The other thing that brightened my Saturday today was the review to the right, a piece I wrote and filed a few weeks ago on Adrian Frazier’s book Hollywood Irish: John Ford, Abbey Actors, and the Irish Revival in Hollywood. You can read it here at the Irish Examiner. This is a really terrific book which, review-speak aside, I highly recommend if you have an interest in Irish identity, representations of Ireland in the United States, or you have simply enjoyed Ford’s The Quiet Man.

I say it almost every time I have something printed there, but I’m very happy to write for the Examiner. There’s genuine support and interest on the part of their Editorial staff, and a proper love of interesting writing to boot.

As a writer, this translates into getting to write substantial pieces on very interesting work. The Frazier article is a case in point; a lovely splash across two pages which does justice to this terrific volume and allows me, with my critic hat at a jaunty angle, an opportunity to get my teeth into the material. The best of all possible worlds.

So, yes, I feel like the negativity of the past month has lifted in the space of a single day! The sun even came out for most of the afternoon.

Roll on Bright, Shiny July…


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