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Posted 16 June 2009

UCD student, Susan Stairs shortlisted for Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award

UCD Literary Tradition Continues

MA in Creative Writing student, Susan Stairs, has been shortlisted for the Davy Byrne’s Irish Writing Award for her short story The Rescue. Selected by competition judge, US author Richard Ford, as one of the final six from an original entry of 800 and a long list of 30, this achievement is all the more remarkable as Stairs, a published author of visual arts books, has only very recently turned to fiction.

The Davy Brynes Irish Writing Award is Ireland’s biggest short story competition and the world’s richest prize (€25,000) for a single short story. The award, organised by The Stinging Fly, in association with The Irish Times, was previously held in 2004, when Anne Enright, who went on to win the Man Booker prize in 2007, was declared the overall winner.

Competition judge, Richard Ford describes Stairs’ story as ‘a nervy, tightly compressed, and alarmingly brief story of human extremis; children hurtling to the ends of the too-short tethers connecting them to human existence. Graceful and knowing in its stripped-out and plumbed bleakness, it is a love story – of a kind – but a kind in which love scarcely avails.’

The other writers on this year’s shortlist are Claire Keegan, Mary Leland, Molly Mc Closkey, Kathleen Murray and Eoin McNamee. The overall winner will be announced in Davy Byrnes, Dublin, on Monday 22nd June 2009.

A course in Creative Writing at the Irish Writers’ Centre prompted Stairs to apply to the MA in Creative Writing Programme in UCD in 2008. She feels that participation on the course has been a hugely rewarding and stimulating experience. “The instruction, feedback and attention given to the students by tutors James Ryan, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, Harry Clifton and Frank McGuinness have been invaluable to my development as a writer.” Says Stairs “Similarly, the encouragement of fellow students on the course has been hugely beneficial.” She is currently working on a novel, part of which will form her final thesis for the MA Programme.

“The MA in Creative Writing has acted as a catalyst for writers from a wide range of backgrounds.” James Ryan, director of creative writing programmes at UCD explains. “In the very short space of time since we began we have seen a number of our students singled out in prestigious writers’ competitions.”

Helena Nolan, a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing [2008], whose poem, "Gap Year" was among the winners in this year's FISH International Poetry Prize, was highly commended by the Judge, (Peter Fallon of Gallery Press). The poem will be published in the Winners' Anthology from FISH Publishing this summer. Helena has been invited to read at the launch of the Anthology, which is a regular feature of the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry (6-12 July).

As a working mother [Dept. of Foreign Affairs] in my early 40's, the Creative Writing Masters at UCD was a very special and rewarding time in my life, a chance to focus on and develop my writing, to immerse myself in that world for two precious days each week, in the company of talented, enthusiastic writers and dedicated and experienced teachers. While the "art" of writing may be something inherent and instinctive, the "craft", like all artistic skills, can be taught and honed, and the atmosphere and structure of the MA course at UCD was ideal for this. More than anything though, the bond that developed, among classmates and between class and teachers, is what is truly valuable in the long run.’

Mariad Whisker [MA Creative Writing 2008-09] was recently short-listed for the International FISH Publishing Prize in Flash Fiction with her story, Something New.

Born in Belfast, Whisker studied for her B.A. in Fashion and Textiles at Manchester Polytechnic and has worked as a fashion designer in London, Dublin and Los Angeles. Her collections have been available in retail stores such as Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Liberty’s and Harrods in London, and Havana, Brown Thomas and House of Fraser in Dublin .

After moving to Los Angeles in 1994 she studied Creative Writing at U.C.L.A. (University College of Los Angeles). Her short story, Apache Territory was short-listed in the Ian St. James Award in London and was published in the Ian St. James Award magazine. Whisker has recently put her career as a fashion designer on hold while she pursues her MA in Creative Writing at U.C.D. Currently she is working towards publishing a book of her short stories.

Caroline Dowling, a student in the current MA class, has recently been awarded a Kildare Co Council Tyrone Guthrie Bursary to spend a fortnight at the Writers’ retreat working towards a collection of poems.

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UCD student, Susan Stairs shortlisted for Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award