A Page from My Life

A Page from My Life, A Selection of Stories from Ray D’arcy Show Listeners, published by HarperCollins Ireland is available in bookstores now, at €12.99. To benefit LauraLynn Children’s Hospice.

Michelle Walshe

A Page from My Life is a collection of 150 stories from different writers (shortlisted from 2,500 entries) that were submitted to the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 in a competition run during lockdown back in May. The competition was judged by bestselling and award winning writers, Donal Ryan (The Spinning Heart), Emilie Pine (Notes to Self), Emer McLysaght (the Aisling series) and Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl). One of the writers chosen was Michelle Walshe.

Here Michelle tells her story:

‘From the Pier at Portmagee’, a piece I wrote about my time spent living and working as a guide on Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry, is on page 59 of A Page from My Life, the number one bestseller published by HarperCollins Ireland in conjunction with the Ray D’Arcy Radio Show.
Ray asked his listeners to submit a single page about any area of their lives. The stories range from sad to happy, ordinary to extraordinary and emotional to inspirational. The book has been nominated for an An Post Irish Book Award in the Best Irish Published Book category.
I began writing in October 2017. I had no idea how or where to start so I did a blog writing course in The Irish Writers Centre, thinking keeping a blog would motivate me to write regularly. At the same time, I kept an eye out for writing opportunities I entered competitions, applied for bursaries, scholarships, and residencies.
The Irish Times published my first piece. The Irish Examiner, the Sunday Independent, Woman’s Way magazine and The Gloss Magazine published pieces of my work and my blog www.thesparklyshell.com morphed into an online record of my writing achievements.
The first bursary I won was to the John Hewitt Society in Armagh in 2018. I spent a week immersed in the world of professional writing, met other writers, and took creative writing classes. I do not know whether it was the confidence this win gave me or the information I learnt there, or a combination of both, but after July 2018 great writing things happened for me – I was shortlisted in literary competitions, I won a place to pitch a picture book to O’Brien Press on Culture Night, I had a piece published in an anthology and I was shortlisted in an international writing competition.
I kept going. I kept writing, taking classes where and when I could and applying for opportunities. For every success there were multiple rejections, but I found these easier to deal with as I built my writing CV.
I joined Roddy Doyle’s Fighting Words organisation as a volunteer and worked for them in Dublin and Wicklow once a month. I volunteered for the International Literature Festival and the Dalkey Book Festival and I met many famous writers this way.
In 2019 I started writing a book, a memoir, based on a twelve-year period of my life. Extracts from it won the Iceland Writers Retreat, a bursary to the first Creative Non-Fiction Stinging Fly Summer School, a Date with An Agent in conjunction with the International Literature Festival and First Page Pitch as part of Cork World Book Festival.
In 2020, I wrote to distract myself from the horror unfolding on the news. I submitted to www.pendemic.ie a site set up by the John Hewitt Society alumni to record the lockdown period. Irish President, Michael D. Higgins submitted a poem, as did writer John Boyne and the collection has been preserved by UCD as a record of these strange times with its new vocabulary of lockdowns and social distancing. I won a prize in a Bloomsday short-story competition run by the Irish Embassy in Athens. I had a memoir piece shortlisted in the Kilmore Quay Literary Festival. I won a residency to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and managed to spend a week there in between lockdown restrictions. For my staycation I did a short writing retreat at Kylemore Abbey. And I finished my book.
The highlight of this difficult year and of the zigzag writing journey I have been on is being published in ‘A Page from My Life.’ It is a hard year to be published – there are no book launches or if there are, they are online. Bookstores are closed. Festivals are cancelled or have moved online. Writing and publishing, like every other industry has had to adapt and it has done well, beaming international festivals into living rooms, bringing writing and literature to thousands of people. However, writers, being a solitary bunch, thrive on live events, meeting their readers and seeing their book on the shelves. Maybe the future of literary festivals will be a mix – the best of both worlds.
Having ‘A Page from My Life’ in my hands in October 2020 and seeing my name in print has spurred me on to start submitting my book to agents. During this lockdown I am writing cover letters, synopses, and reading and re-reading my manuscript to get it ready for submission.
My hope for 2021 is that it will be a better year for the world but also that it will be the year my book gets published and hopefully by then bookstores will have re-opened.