Gladstone's Library recently ran a writing competition based on a mystery portrait of a lady in red that they own. I'm thrilled to have won the flash section of the comp. I'll be going to Wales for a week to write next year as part of my prize. Congrats to Fiona Knowles-Holland who won the short story section. Thanks to the library for supporting fiction writers, particularly those of us who love the shorter forms.

I was half-awake last night thinking (with gratitude) about the week in Gladstone's - Britain's only residential library - deciding I will take the ferry rather than the aeroplane because I am utterly sick of airport shenanigans. You would think there would be more exciting things on my mind like: 'A whole week to myself!' or simply 'Wales!' but, there you go, even half-asleep I am sorting out the practicalities. However I get there, I am looking forward to it hugely. Once again writing provides an exciting and fun opportunity. Ain't life grand.


Join Kevin Barry, Christy Neary, Dave Lordan, Theo Dorgan, Niamh O'Connor, Ruby Barnes and myself at Penfest, Carlow, in mid-September, for workshops (mine is the short story for beginners), talks and readings. All events are free but you need to book.

For bookings and more see their Facebook page or their website.


I am in that strange jet-lag land today - I feel like I'm wading through cottonwool all day. And my lovely Granny-in-law died yesterday, so things are all topsy turvy here.

Delaware was fantastic, as were Pennsylvania and New Jersey; 3 States in 6 days - what fun. Writer Billie Travalini, a native Delawarian, whom I met through a mutual love of short fiction, was my hostess with the mostess in Wilmington, Northern Delaware.
The Lewes Writer's Conference - organised by Billie - was wonderful; lots of enthused and friendly writers and my first taste of the poetry and insights of the rather excellent Devon Miller-Duggan, whose collection Pinning the Bird to the Wall has my brain zinging. In Lewes we stayed with Billie's friends Dr and Mrs Miller, and they couldn't have been sweeter or more welcoming to a wandering Irish writer.

Lilies at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania
So, a few pics. With Granny's death and general exhaustion I haven't the will for more. All thanks to The Arts Council for contributing towards my trip and to Billie and the Millers for hosting me.

Billie's writing desk
Billie Travalini on the deck of her cabin by the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvanian butterfly - it was HUGE
I really fancied this cabin across the river from Billie's
Speed limit sign by the cabin
Me on Billie's Wilmington balcony, Delaware
Amish pie fillings at Booths Corner Farmers' Market, Penn.
Amish produce, Booths Corner
Amish honey, Booths Corner
Bathroom mermaid, Lewes
Billie opening the Lewes Conference
Lighhouse, Lewes - from the ferry to Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May, New Jersey, in the rain
Dellas diner, Cape May, New Jersey - they do a great veggie burger
Me on the Cape May-Lewes ferry

Universal Pictures Launches Emerging Writers Fellowship

Universal Pictures announced on Thursday that it has created an Emerging Writers Fellowship designed to identify and cultivate new and unique voices with a passion for storytelling. 
Emerging writers who are chosen to participate in the program will work within the studio to hone their skills and gain access and exposure to Universal executives, producers and other key industry professionals.  
Universal's co-presidents of production Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum will oversee the fellows. 
“This fellowship is a great opportunity for aspiring writers but it’s also a great opportunity for Universal,” said Cramer.  
“As audiences continue to be even more discerning about the films they see, finding new voices with unique and creative ideas is extremely important for our business,” added Kirschenbaum. 
Under terms approved by the Writers Guild of America West, the Emerging Writers Fellowship will allow Universal the opportunity to expand the community of writers with whom the studio works.
 From the Fellowship's official website:
Fellows admitted into the program will be hired under a writing service agreement and must be committed to working full-time for one year. 
This program is not intended for candidates who received Producer, Director, Assistant Director, Co-producer, Associate Producer, 2nd Unit Director, Director of Photography, Writer or Source Material credits on any feature film commercially released theatrically or television show that has been aired within the U.S. Candidates may not have any attachment to third-party projects that are currently in development. Any candidates who do not meet the aforementioned criteria will be disqualified.
I wonder if "attachment" means that you've been paid to develop something?  What if you haven't but are working with producers/etc.?
Universal Pictures’ will entertain applications for the fellowship beginning on September 3, 2013.  Interested applicants should submit an original screenplay as well as additional background materials in order to be considered.   All semi-finalists will then be asked to submit a second screenplay.  Ten finalists will be selected and interviewed in Los Angeles.  Up to five fellows will be chosen to participate in the program. 
A link to the submission application will be available at midnight on Sept. 3, 2013. Applicants must submit all of the following materials in order to be considered.  Only online submissions will be accepted.  The submission window will only be open for 30 days or until we receive 500 applications (whichever comes first). Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible as only a limited number of submissions will be accepted. Universal Pictures reserves the right to close the application window at any time.
If you want to apply, you'll need a WGA-registered feature script that's a Comedy/Romantic Comedy or Action/Adventure/Thriller (other genres not accepted), two letters of recommendation, a resume, legal release and statement of purpose (see the site for more details.) Note that if you make it to the next round you'll also need to have a second feature ready.

As for the limit of 500 applications - I can only imagine that Universal's site will crash when thousands of writers try to submit.

Good luck!


It's Women Rule Writer's 6 year blogoversary today, which is hard to believe. So much has happened to me in those six years: divorce, remarriage, new baby, new books, new friends, lots and lots of writing related trips and festivals and conferences. One of the many things I love about being a writer - and about being an active blogger - is that even at this age and stage of life it is possible to make new and proper friends through what I do. There can be very few jobs that provide that opportunity.

I love blogging, I must say. Even if most of the time it feels as though I am talking into the wind. I know there are lurkers out there who never comment, and I know there are those who comment only the odd time. Anyway, I want to thank those of you who do read this blog for taking the time.

I have made tentative moves re. setting up the Irish Literary Bloggers Association and I will be doing more on that towards the end of the year. Things are too hectic for me to do much with it at the moment as I have 3 USA trips in the next 3 months as well as a new fiction chapbook and spring's novel to prepare for. But if you are interested in joining or getting involved email me at nuala AT nualanichonchuir DOT com.

Anyway, to celebrate 6 years a-blogging, I am having a little giveaway. Just leave a comment to be in the draw and I will give one of my books to one lovely blog reader. Simple as that.

Screenwriting links: Friday, August 9


Two one-day masterclasses with poet Stephen Murray in Galway Arts Centre this month. All info in poster above and more info from

The wrong way to network

Thanks to Justin Kremer for alerting me to Marc Ensign's amazing/horrifying article about a "semi-professional networker" who spammed a ton of people he had just met in the hopes that they could submit their poor female friends to his romantic advances. Some tidbits:
sorry about this mass email, but it’s more efficient on my end. i’m also kind of a “semi-professional networker” with 10,000 people in my gmail contacts list, 1,000 friends on my various FB accts (even though i don’t use FB myself), 1,000 followers on Twitter, and google will “auto populate” my name, so perhaps some of you “beginning” networkers will learn some tips of how i’m always trying to create a “win-win” (this skill set was stressed a lot when i got my MBA from NYU) 
These are my Hard (Objective) Dating Parameters which are NOT Flexible:
(this means I am only willing to pay for introductions if ALL these criteria are met)
(if you want to set me up w someone missing 1 of these criteria, I may accept, but will not pay for that)
  • Age 27-35 (ideally 28-34)
  • No kids, wants kids in the next 1-2 years
  • College graduate, doesn’t have to be a great school, but needs to have finished the degree
  • Skinny (i.e. dress size 0-2, if you don’t know what that means (many men don’t) it means very skinny)
  • Caucasian (not black, not Hispanic, not Asian)
  • Healthy lifestyle (defined as no smoking, no drugs, good diet, no hard drinking)
Where, where to begin?

First off, this guy may not actually be the most abhorrent dude looking for a woman this way. In case you want to feel even more hopeless about dating, be sure to read this Elle 'Ask E. Jean' column from last year about an entrepreneur looking for help finding a woman who's "very thin (but not because she’s starving herself or has food issues—I want someone who will be thin her entire life)" and has some anatomically improbable sexual abilities I won't repeat here.  

Dating facepalms aside, Mr. "Professional Networker" has provided an amusing launchpad for a discussion about networking - a necessity in the entertainment industry that most people hate or at least struggle with. A few years ago, I blogged about respectful networking - but it might be a good time for an update. Here's the basic rule: don't ask strangers for favors right off the bat. Stop thinking, "how can they help me?" Instead, ask, "how can we help each other?" Look at it like making friends. Ideally, you can all climb the ladder together and help people along the way. At the beginning, most of your contacts probably won't be able to get you an agent or buy your script (news flash: you're probably not ready for that, anyway), but maybe they can give you notes or tell you about assistant job openings. Slow down. Relax.

Also, don't be that person who shamelessly accosts big writers after panels. Why would they want to help you before their friends, loyal assistants, etc.? Make friends, because people want to help their friends. Don't be frustrated or discouraged by this; at some point, you're going to be the friend who's getting a favor.

(And this really should go without saying, but don't show up late to a networking event, spam a ton of people with a grammatically incorrect email, brag like an asshole and ask people to find you a fictional perfect woman. If you need a date, at least be self-aware, funny and generous with your money like this ad exec who's offering her friends $10,000 for a husband.)

Sometimes you will meet people who are farther along in their careers than you, and they might even be cool and nice - but be wary of asking for favors too quickly. If they want to help you, they'll offer. Many writers and producers in the industry like to be mentors - but not everyone does. You can't force it to happen. You might simply start by asking for advice, and see what develops after that. Tip 1: if you're asking things over email, be succinct. Too many new writers bombard people with rambling five-paragraph emails. Pros are busy. The shorter your email, the less likely people are to get annoyed and ignore you. Tip 2: be specific with what you ask for. When people say things to me like, "I want to be a writer, now what?" I think maybe they haven't done their homework, and I feel like it's a lot of work for me to figure out where to start. Being specific with my internship supervisor is what got me a job at an agency. Tip 3: don't ask a million questions or favors. Tip 4: remember that everyone likes to be congratulated on their successes. If you see someone pop up in the trades, you can send a super short "congrats" email without a question or request for a favor attached. Go Into The Story has some more good networking email tips here.

If you're really bad at networking or feel really nervous meeting new people, just remember that we all came here for a reason - and we all have a lot in common. Talk about your favorite shows or movies. Maybe even talk about (gasp!) something non-work-related for a second. I wasted a good fifteen minutes on Twitter tonight talking about the best burgers in LA. Be a human. If you go to a big networking event, you can also make an attainable goal for yourself, like that you're going to talk to at least two new people, or that you're not allowed to look at your phone for more than a minute at a time. Remember that there are probably a lot of other people dreading it the same way you are.

When you're new to the industry, I say go ahead and meet as many people as you can, whether it's forming a writing group or doing drinks with assistants you talk to on the phone at your job. But at some point, you'll probably let go of the "I have to meet everyone!!" mentality and just start hanging out with the people who have become your friends. You'll develop an aversion to all the well vodka, and you'll realize that you can't hit it off with everyone, anyway. It's just the natural order of things. Sometimes people you met once and didn't stay in touch with make a big sale or get a promotion, while other people you devoted a lot of time to end up quitting the industry to teach English in Cambodia, rendering them useless in your climb up the ladder. It happens. Gotta let it go.


My 2009 published short story collection Nude is now available for Kindle. Yay! With thanks to Salt for giving me permission to digitize it and to my husband for doing all the hard work to get it formatted. It's priced at £4.04 on and US$6.18 on which equates to about €4.65.

Nude was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize, and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler said of it, 'Nakedness rather than sex is the theme of Nuala Ní Chonchúir's Nude, nakedness and hiding linked like natural opposites, the delicacy of encounters and then the blunt proposition, the subterfuge and the revelation. Over it all is an elegant simplicity of language, a quilt of metaphor. Art and beauty are the threads that hold it together and ravel the lives of her characters. A beautiful collection of stories about beauty.'


There is a lot happening in my world these days and I am torn between this, that and the other, busy as busy can be(e). I am having fun reading the stories sent in for my guest editorship of The Stinging Fly. 330 flash stories and 262 longer stories were subbed for the issue so there is a ton of reading to do. There are some absolute gems among the stories - my 'YES' pile is enormous and it is going to be very difficult to trim that down.

I fly out to Delaware in the USA in 10 days or so for a writers' conference run by writer friend Billie Travilini whom I meet at the International Short Story Conference every two years. I have been to lots of cool places in the States and, much as I love NY etc., it is always fascinating to visit smaller, more obscure places like Lewes,a sweet coastal town dubbed 'the first town in the first State'. And it's wonderful to experience these places in the company of other writers.

Other than that I am finishing Novel #3, editing  Novel #2 and prepping for the publication of Of Dublin and Other Fictions - my chapbook of short-shorts/flash that is being published in the USA in September. Cover art has now been secured - I can't wait to reveal it. It is by a Donegal-resident Spanish artist and it is both witty and pretty. The chapbook launch takes place in San Francisco at the American Conference for Irish Studies.

I also had a very productive meeting with the New Island team last week to discuss Novel #2 which will be out next spring. We still haven't locked down the title - I want to use an adapted quote from a poem as the title so I am awaiting permission from Harper Collins in the USA. I got a friendly email from them last week (from an Irish employee!) so I have all fingers crossed that it works out. Again, I hope to reveal the title for that shortly. As the novel is mostly set in Scotland, I have been planning the launch - think whiskey and shortbread and lots of tartan :)

Novel #2 features a paperweight that becomes central to the plot. I own that paperweight and today my friend the photographer Úna Spain is going to photograph it with a view to it being used as cover art for the book. I can't wait to see the images and send them on to New Island to consider.

Also Salt, who published my story collection Nude, have given me permission to digitize the book. I thought it would be a very simple process (it's not really - lots of formatting issues) so my lovely husband has taken over that task and is working on it. Nude for Kindle available very soon! And at a special introductory price.

It's all good.