Thursday, January 19, 2012

Land of Song

I have just returned from ten inspiring days in Ireland, which strikes me as one of the best possible places for a writer to begin a new year. I was there for Stonecoast in Ireland, a very full week of writing workshops, classes, presentations, readings. I was also there because I have wanted to go to Ireland for a long, long time, and what better excuse than a working visit?

Yes, I played tourist a bit as well. I rode the commuter train along the coast to Bray for a quick look at the landscape. I spent a full morning hiking the cliff path to the lighthouse at Howth (photo below) and around the town and harbor. As a group, we visited the Joyce Tower in Sandycove and the Yeats exhibit at the National Library, and went to see Roddy Doyle’s version of Gogol’s satirical comedy "The Inspector General." Wonderful stuff for writers.

At the Irish National Museum in Dublin I ogled the bog men, whose remarkably well preserved remains remind us of our mortality and also our biological link to the past. As a mystery writer and (in another lifetime) a folklorist, I was fascinated to read that at least two of these men are thought to have been sacrificed to fertility gods more than two thousand years ago. Regardless of their age, human bodies remind us of our own mortality and we can’t seem to help but wonder how people died. The complex emotions that death and violence evoke are a big reason so many of us read, and write, about murder. We have a good notion of what these people looked like in life, what they wore, even what they ate and what ills their bodies suffered. All that is fascinating, but here is what I really wondered as I gazed at the face in the glass case: what did you sing about? whom did you love? What passions motivated your life, and death?

For seven very full days I participated in workshops, classes, and seminars with ten other writers, and in the evenings we went to readings at the Howth Yacht Club. Irish novelist and memoirist Hugo Hamilton and Irish poet Paula Meehan gave master classes, joined us for pub dinners, and gave powerful readings. American-Irish poets Theodore and Annie Deppe, who coordinate the program, also gave readings, as did a wonderful group of American writers – playwrite and novelist Michael Kimball; poets Jessica de Koninck, Adeeba Rana, Patty France; fantasy writer Karen Bovenmeyer; prose writers Cynthia Kraack, Jennifer Wade, Erica Vega. And me. It was exhilarating!

So now I’m back home, settling back into the normal routine. I’m busy as always, touching up this and that as we send Drop Dead on Recall, my first Pets in Focus mystery, down the production line, and writing book two of the series. I’m also working on a few other projects (I always am!). I’m walking the beach and walking the dogs. And I’m processing, slowly and lovingly, the magic that comes of travel to places that are not home where, if we look closely and connect with the people around us, we find that home is bigger than we thought.

Sheila W. Boneham, Ph.D., is the author of the forthcoming "Animals in Focus" mystery Drop Dead on Recall as well as award-winning books about pets including Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat (Alpha, 2005), and fifteen others. Sheila's books are available from your local bookseller and on line. Learn more at


Kathleen Ernst said...

It sounds like a grand trip! I hope to visit Ireland one day, and your photos and description make it all the more enticing.

Robin Allen said...

I've been fascinated by bog people for a while. How cool that you got to see them live and in person. All the other stuff sounds great, too!

Lois Winston said...

Makes me want to hop a plane to Ireland, Sheila!

Vicki Doudera said...

Great description of your workshop experience, Sheila. Love that hike you did to the lighthouse, too! Thanks for sharing.