We’d like to share this email and letter with you...
Last year’s winner, Maire Collins, sent us this email and letter, telling us what winning the Dalkey Short Story Prize meant to her. This is the full and unedited email. We thought it would inspire you...
Thanks for your email and sorry it has taken so long to reply. I’d be delighted to help in any way I can with publicity for this year’s festival. There is no problem using my name on social media and in any other form of PR.
Since winning the competition, I’ve dabbled in writing. I’d love to say I had written the great Irish novel but I haven’t! It’s been a great year and the feedback has been amazing. The most unlikely people managed to access the story. A friend picked up a copy of Books Ireland while in the waiting room of her dentist. She just couldn’t get over the fact that there I was looking at her from the page as she was trying not to think about root canal treatment!
In January, I wandered into Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop to discreetly pick up a copy of Books Ireland. Charlie happened to be inside the door and offered his congratulations. I felt 10 feet tall. Books Ireland got in touch with me a few weeks later to say Charlie’s had run out of copies and had to order more. I swear it wasn’t me who had bought the entire delivery!
The children told their teachers and school friends that their mother was now a ’published author’. I received text messages from various teachers asking if I could come in, read my story and talk to pupils about writing. An invitation came from an Arts Festival in Kerry asking if I’d like to take part and read my story. The live interview I did on Radio na Gaeltachta shortly after winning was something I agreed to do thinking nobody would hear it. I was wrong and half the known world seemed to have been tuned in that morning!
We’ve just returned from seven weeks in Kerry where, on more than one occasion, I had people discuss your competition and my story while standing at the checkout in the local shop. I’m always flabbergasted when someone mentions it.
I’ve jotted down a few lines in reply to your email Anna and have attached them. Let me know if there is anything else I can do.
That was Maire’s email. Here is her letter.
The title of her story in Irish, ‘Scairbhin na gCuach’ translates to ‘An undefined period of unsettled weather in April/May.’
‘When Dalkey Creates awarded my story first prize in their short story competition, I was surprised. What did I know about writing? Nothing. My degree is not in English, I’d never done a writing course and I’m not a voracious reader.
Mine was a deeply personal story. Nobody knew I had written it, let alone entered it in a competition. Hearing it was short-listed, initially left me shocked and worried. How was I to tell my family, particularly my father, that I had written a story in which they all feature? I didn’t share the news with many as I thought I’d never hear another word about it.
Then it won. I phoned my dad, the protagonist in the tale. ‘The story is about us,’ I said and assured him it could be withdrawn from the competition if he wasn’t comfortable with it. He agreed to read it. I’ll never forget the three words he uttered when he phoned me back - ‘Let it go.’
From time to time, ideas have entered my head, tumbling like laundry in a machine.
‘Scairbhin na gCuach’ is a simple story based on a trip to town on a wet day. Very little happened that day but I knew by the end of it that I had witnessed a quiet story unfold. It went round and round in my head for a few weeks before I got a chance to get it down on paper. It wasn’t difficult. If anything, it was exciting as I hurried to get the words on the page. Each beat was only too familiar to me. As I wrote, it felt as if much-needed oxygen was going back into my lungs, my head was clearing and my stomach, settling.
When my youngest child heard I was to receive a cheque for a thousand euro, she asked, ‘does this mean you’re a thousandaire?’ The excitement on winning the competition was with my family for months...and then it was published earlier this year.
Winning the Dalkey Short Story Prize has encouraged me to create headspace to see and to listen. We are surrounded by stories. I know I can tell some of them and once I’ve separated the colours, I know I will write them.’
Maire Collins is from Dingle, Co. Kerry. She lives in Salthill, County Galway with her husband and three children. Her winning story was her first piece of writing and is available to read on the Dalkey Creates competition page.