Listowel Writers Week

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living.

Listowel Writers’ Week is an international acclaimed literary festival devoted to bringing together writers and audiences at unique and innovative events in the historic and intimate surroundings of Listowel, County Kerry. At the heart of this annual celebration is a commitment to developing and promoting writing talent, underpinned by an organisation that works to the values of partnership, inclusivity and civic responsibility.

A key element of the festival is the programme of literary workshops, a concept that was first introduced at Writers’ Week in 1971 by Bryan MacMahon. These internationally recognised events and their inspirational facilitators will nurture you in an enthusiastic and creatively supportive environment.

Since then the literary workshops continue to be the most popular in the country, enabling writers at all stages of their careers to develop and enhance their creative and business skills.  

The Listowel Writers Week offer you access to those who have already journeyed through the process and who are willing to share their expertise and experience on your own journey to becoming a successful writer. 

This week is a fixture in the Irish events calendar for more than three decades, this very popular festival draws a huge crowd every year and is one of the most friendly and sociable events on the Irish calendar.

In Listowel it is all about writing and the event belongs to writers and those who aspire to write. The Creative Writing Workshops are at the core of the festival and are extremely popular. Prominent Irish and International writers have in the past shared their skills in poetry, fiction, theatre, screen, writing for radio, children’s literature and, more recently, in song writing and comic writing.

The workshops will fill up fast so if you are interested sign up early.

Even if the workshops are not for you, there is still plenty to enjoy – with readings, book launches, seminars, interviews, theatre, literary and historical tours, art exhibitions, music and dance – as well as plenty of chat – there will be something there for you to enjoy.

Hotly contested literary competitions are a feature of Listowel, with €30,000 worth of prizes on offer for short stories in both English and Irish, plays, poetry and memoir writing. There are also competitions for young writers as young as 9 years old or less and for story-telling. There are book readings organised specially for children.

The most valuable and prestigious of these awards is The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, for the best work of published fiction by an Irish author, with a €10,000 prize for the winner. Other competitions  include The Bryan MacMahon Short Story, Duais Foras Na Gaeilge, the Eamon Keane Play and the Kerry County Council Writing for Youth.

The list of winners over the past decades is a veritable who’s who in the fiction world with writers like John McGahern, John Banville, William Trevor and Neil Jordan being joined by Eimear McBride, Gavin Corbett and Eoin McNamee in the last three years.

Some novelists with Irish passports are unaware of their eligibility for this prize. When I read Netherland back in 2008 I was blown away by Joseph O’Neill’s clever crafting of this story of family, identity and politics.

When I saw his handsome face beaming from a page in Vogue and read the accompanying piece about his apartment in the Chelsea Hotel, his very glamorous lifestyle and his Irish grandfather from west Cork, I brought his name to the attention of the literary committee of Listowel Writer’s Week. There was some debate on whether he was Irish and therefore eligible to be considered for the prize.

As a great lover of fiction and no stranger to embellishment I solved all dispute by declaring him to be a second cousin from a very tangled west Cork ancestry. The debate was settled and O’Neill flew to Ireland that year and collected the Kerry Group Fiction Prize for Netherland.

This white liar trawled the Listowel Arms after the award ceremony in search of Joseph so I could fill him in on our fake ancestral lineage. Unfortunately, one of the committee was with him and with great Kerry theatricality introduced Joseph to his cousin Anne. The great novelist ran with the plot, greeted me with a familial hug and even asked about the mythical Cork uncle. At that point a crowd had gathered, buoyed by the emotional story of the long-lost cousins meeting. We were unanimously declared to be the image of each other, very alike around the eyes, more like siblings than cousins.

The Pigott Poetry Prize in association with Listowel Writers’ Week is worth €5,000 + to a poet whose collection is published in the year previous to the festival. This monetary injection can give a poet a financial break that enables him to continue the creative endeavour of writing poetry for our enjoyment.

With writers’ incomes shrinking the image of the poet starving in the garret has become an uncomfortable modern reality. In this centenary year of the 1916 Rising, many of whose leaders were poets, such as Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas McDonagh, it has never seemed more important to champion our poets, preserve our literary heritage and fuel a literary future of poets without a collection published, the Single Poem Competition and the Poetry Collection Competition are well worth entering and can act as a stepping stone to the world of pamplets, chapbooks and publishing.

As a nation we have produced some of the finest playwrights, from Beckett to Shaw, from McDonagh to Friel. The Eamonn Keane Full Length Play is a competition in association with Siamsa Tire. This award is given each year for an original, unperformed and unproduced play in memory of the renowned Listowel-born actor, brother of John B, who twice won the Jacob’s Award. Last year’s winner Sinead Moriarty had her play read in Siamsa Tire in November by the accomplished actors Kate O’Toole and Aoife Duffin. This award allows the playwright an opportunity to see the work performed in a real theatre setting and is a vital stimulus for any writer working in this medium.

The town is sometimes described as the "Literary Capital of Ireland", and a number of internationally known playwrights and authors have lived there, including Bryan MacMahon and John B. Keane. Of Listowel, the latter wrote:

"Beautiful Listowel, serenaded night and day by the gentle waters of the River Feale.

Listowel where it is easier to write than not to write,

Where first love never dies, and the tall streets hide the loveliness,

The heartbreak and the moods, great and small,

Of all the gentle souls of a great and good community.

Sweet, incomparable hometown that shaped and made me."

County Kerry
Republic of Ireland

Tel: +353 68 21074



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