Be at Belfast Book Festival

Fermanagh Writers is delighted to help get the word out about the Belfast Book Festival, which makes a welcome return from 10 – 13 June with an online programme of live events for book lovers, covering everything from love and politics to Cinderella as a zombie!

Presented by the Crescent Arts Centre, highlights of the festival include Annie Macmanus (BBC Radio 1) unveiling her debut novel ‘Mother, Mother’ which is set in Belfast; Ian McElhinney (‘Derry Girls’) and literary biographer Roy Foster exploring the work of Seamus Heaney; Glenn Patterson (‘The Northern Bank Job’) in conversation with author Conor O’Callaghan; Colm Tóibín (‘Brooklyn’), reading from ‘Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction’ and a special recorded performance from the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, Lemn Sissay. 

For up and coming writers and poets, there will be discussions with industry professionals from the worlds of poetry, prose and publishing about how to get your work seen and heard, and the lucky winners of the Mairtín Crawford Awards for Poetry and Short Story 2021 will also be announced.

For full Belfast Book Festival programme details and to book tickets – priced either £3 or free – visit If the price of events is a problem for some writers, free tickets can be given by sending an email to Be at the Belfast Book Festival and support the arts in Northern Ireland.

Join Us On International Women’s Day

Fermanagh Writers invites you to join us on International Women’s Day. A FREE evening of stories and poems by women writers from the group and others. Tanya Jones, author, blogger and environmentalist will read from her new crime novel and Kate O’Shea will read from her new poetry collection, The Human Condition.

Come along and join us: 8th March, 7.30pm at Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen. All welcome.

Fermanagh Women In Belfast

Trish Bennett at Belfast Book Festival

Last Saturday members of Fermanagh Writers headed off to Belfast to take part in Women Aloud NI’s event at the Belfast Book Festival.
Writers from Women Aloud NI were appearing ‘en masse’ at the Belfast Book Festival . Comprising a rapid-fire readathon and a simultaneous mass reading, this event provided a wonderful opportunity to get a sense of the extraordinary diversity and richness of the women’s writing scene in the North. It was also an introduction to some of Northern Ireland’s finest emerging and established female writers.

Approximately 40 women writers read from their work both individually and together. The list of readers included:

Jane Talbot, Felicity McCall, DJ McCune, Anne McMaster, Belinda

Dianne Ascroft at Belfast Book Festival

Bennetts, Ellie Rose McKee, Sarah McMahon, Trish Bennett, Eibhlinn McAleer, Kelly Creighton, Tara West, Jo Zebedee, Maura Johnston, Nuala McAllister, Pauline Burgess, Helen Hastings, Vicky McFarland, Jenny Methven, Ev McLaughlin, Gaynor Kane, Annemarie Mullan, Lesley Allen, Helen Nicholl, Eimear O’Callaghan, Dominique Hoffman, Catriona King, Hilary McCollum, Caroline Johnstone, Dianne Ascroft, Valerie Christie, Lunatari Stargazer, Mary Montague, Elizabeth McGeown, Olive Broderick, Wilma Kenny, Stephanie Conn, Emma McKervey, Shirley-Anne McMillan, JS Comiskey, Rosemary Morrison, Seanín Hughes ….. and more! Trish Bennett and Dianne Ascroft were the writers who represented Fermanagh Writers.

The buzz and the cameraderie was fantastic and it’s a day which the Fermanagh women will remember for a long time.

Women Aloud members reading at Belfast Book Festival

Getting Ready to Celebrate Francis Ledwidge

Fermanagh Writers is participating in the centenary celebrations for Irish poet, Francis Ledwidge in Enniskillen on 20th July. In preparation for the event members of our group visited the cottage where he was born and raised outside Slane on Monday.The cottage is now a museum dedicated to the poet.

A view from the kitchen into Francis’s boyhood bedroom.

Pauric Dolan playing in a tune in the kitchen beside the dresser.











After our visit to the museum we stopped into the Connyngham Hotel where Ledwidge spent many hours with his friends before he enlisted in the British army during the First World War.

Jenny Brien with museum committee member, Colm Yore.

At the Connyngham Hotel











After lunch we spent the afternoon with one of the Ledwidge Museum committee members, Colm Yore, who told us a bit more about Ledwidge’s life.

Christina Campbell and Jenny Brien with Colm Yore (right)


Fermanagh Writers members with Colm Yore (second from left)

Our last stop before we headed home was Slane Abbey where we visited the grave of Ledwidge’s childhood sweetheart.

In the grounds of Slane Abbey


Fermanagh Writers Women off to the Irish Writers Centre

Last Saturday, 11th March, three members of Fermanagh Writers hauled themselves out of bed early and trundled off on the bus to Dublin.

Kate O'Shea

Kate O’Shea

Trish Bennett

Trish Bennett











The Irish Writers Centre in Dublin and Women Aloud NI teamed up to bring women writers from around the island of Ireland together to celebrate International Women’s Day with a readathon which ran from 11am until 3.30pm. Approximately 80 writers participated, sharing their stories and poems, in three minute bursts.



Dianne Ascroft

Dianne Ascroft

Writers attending the event also donated copies of their books to the Irish Writers Centre’s library. The Fermanagh Writers women brought a copy of our most recent collection of our writing, Tavern Told Tales, to add to the library.




Kate presenting Tavern Told Tales to the Irish Writers Centre

Kate presenting Tavern Told Tales to the Irish Writers Centre



The day concluded with a mass readathon by all the participants in the Garden of Remembrance opposite the Irish Writers Centre.






Women Aloud Fermanagh


The writers who performed at Women Aloud Fermanagh

Last Wednesday, 8th March, the women members of Fermanagh Writers group, joined women writers across Northern Ireland to celebrate International Women’s Day.


Trish Bennett

Mary McElroy

Mary McElroy











Women Aloud NI is a project which aims to raise the profile of the women’s writing scene in Northern Ireland, organising events in every county in the province on International Women’s Day. This is the second year that Fermanagh Writers has hosted the Fermanagh event.

Jenny Brien

                 Jenny Brien

Omagh Writers member, Pheme Glass

Omagh Writers member, Pheme Glass











Fermanagh Women’s Aid manager, Mary McCann, opened the evening with a brief introduction to the work of the organisation.

May Morris

              May Morris

Ruth Leonard

              Ruth Leonard











Then women from Fermanagh, the border counties and Omagh Writers shared their stories and poetry with an attentive audience upstairs in Blakes of the Hollow pub.

Grainne Breen

              Grainne Breen

Teresa Godfrey

            Teresa Godfrey











As we did last year, as well as celebrating International Women’s Day, Fermanagh Writers took the opportunity to raise money for a local charity, charging a small admission fee, which included a copy of our latest publication, Tavern Told Tales. Half the admission price will be donated to Fermanagh Women’s Aid.

Kate O'Shea

Kate O’Shea

Dianne Trimble

Dianne Trimble











Kate O’Shea, the Master of Ceremonies kept the evening running smoothly and Caimin O’Shea provided the technical expertise so that the performers would be heard loud and clear.

Sandra Hale

Sandra Hale

Thanks to Blakes of the Hollow for lallowing us access to a great venue for our performance.

Mindfulness in Writing Workshop This Saturday

Workshops 13th & 14th August, 2016 005Olive Travers, mindfulness/meditation and positive psychology trainer and facilitator, will tutor a Mindfulness in Writing workshop on 4thMarch, 10am-4pm at Fermanagh House.

The workshop will run all day, including group mindfulness exercises during lunch hour. The workshop is free and there is a fee of £6 to include morning tea/coffee/scones and a light lunch.

For information about Olive, visit her website and LinkedIn profile:
Places are limited. Please email to book a place on this workshop.
Writing Workshop 2
This workshop is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
FW New Arts Council logo

Join Our Writing Poetry Workshop with tutor, Monica Corish

Don’t miss Fermanagh Writers’ first workshop of our new season. We have received funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for a new series of writing workshops in 2017 and we are kicking off with one for poets to help them improve their poetry writing skills with tutor, Monica Corish.



This workshop is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

FW New Arts Council logo

Allies After All – an excerpt


Today one of our members, Dianne Ascroft, is stopping by our blog to talk about Pearl Harbor and More, a recently released short story collection that she’s been involved in writing and producing.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Pearl Harbor. On 7th December, 1941, a pivotal event took place that changed the face of World War II. Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes carried out a devastating surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

pearl-harbour-finalThe anthology that Dianne has contributed to is a wide-ranging collection of eight stories by a diverse group of authors, who all write wartime fiction. Some of the stories are set at Pearl Harbor itself, in other parts of the United States and in Singapore. Other stories take place in Europe: occupied France, Germany and Northern Ireland. They explore the experiences of U.S. servicemen and women, a German Jew, Japanese Americans, a French countess, an Ulster Home Guard, and many others.

The story about the Ulster Home Guard is Dianne’s contribution to the collection. Allies After All is set in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland during December 1941. As part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland had already been at war for more than two years when her story opens. But, it was the same, yet a different, war than the rest of the United Kingdom was waging. Due to the political and religious tensions in the province, some aspects of Northern Ireland’s experience of the war differed greatly from the rest of the United Kingdom. They faced rationing, the fear of invasion by Axis troops and many saw their loved ones go off to fight. Though, because conscription was never introduced, those who joined the armed forces did so voluntarily and the enlistment rate was lower than in some other parts of the UK. But what the province didn’t supply in manpower, they made up for with industrial output. Northern Ireland’s industries supplied ships, aircraft, munitions and cloth for the armed forces.

County Fermanagh, in the west of the province, did its part for the war effort with increased crop yields and milk production for consumption locally and across the Irish Sea in England. Bordering neutral Ireland, the county was in a unique position. The hardships of rationing were offset by a thriving cross border smuggling trade between the two countries. Yet, at the same time, the Unionists in Fermanagh constantly worried about the proximity of the border, fearing that the IRA would sneak across it to attack local targets, sabotage military operations in the county and aide Axis forces to infiltrate the province. Local defence throughout Northern Ireland was overseen by the police rather than the military, in order to employ their local knowledge to prevent anyone with suspected terrorist connections from being accepted into the Local Defence Force, which later became the Ulster Home Guard.

Northern Ireland was also a staging platform for the Allied troops arriving in the United Kingdom to prepare for the invasion of occupied Europe. This included the Americans. Although America was neutral until the attack on Pearl Harbor pushed them into the war, they had already been in Northern Ireland for months, secretly preparing for their entry into the war. The construction of military installations by American civilian contractors, in various places in the United Kingdom, including County Fermanagh, was already well underway by December 1941.

When Dianne’s story, Allies After All, opens, an American mechanic, Art Miller, working for a civilian company on the construction of ammunition storage dump facilities near Ardess, has a memorable first meeting with Robbie Hetherington, a member of the Local Defence Force in County Fermanagh.

Here’s an excerpt from Dianne’s story:

cow-at-fence“Art yanked the van’s door open. Despite the crazy angle the vehicle was sitting at, in one quick movement he swung himself out of the driver’s seat onto the bumpy, badly surfaced road. Huh, you’d hardly call it a road; it wasn’t much wider than a sidewalk back home. Nothing like the smooth, straight Route 62 that passed through his hometown in New York State. The highway’s surface might crack in the summer heat, but there sure weren’t any craters in it. This was only fit for donkeys and carts. Guess that was about right around here.

Art ran his hand across the back of his neck and up into his sandy crew cut as he stared at the vehicle. His old man had never let them grow their hair when they were kids, and he still had the same haircut he’d had in grade school. Not that he had a beef with that. He had the hair; now he just needed the uniform. He was ready to answer Uncle Sam’s call.

Well, if he ever got this truck outta the hole he would be. What he could sure use right now would be Popeye to come along and lift that tin can outta there. He wasn’t far outside Ardess village but he hadn’t seen anyone around when he drove through it. The place looked like a ghost town. It was more than a mile back to Kiltierney camp. If he started walking, with any luck, a truck headed for the camp would pass him and he could hitch a ride. He’d get someone to come back and tow him out.

As he turned and started walking away from the vehicle, a young man around his own age wearing a heavy khaki overcoat and field service cap cycled toward him on a sturdy black bicycle.

“Hiya, buddy,” Art said to the cyclist when he stopped beside him.

“Are you abandoning that vehicle in the middle of the road?” the khaki-uniformed man sputtered.

“Well, it ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s stuck in a hole.”

“You can’t leave it there. It might fall into the wrong hands.”

“Is that so? I don’t see anyone around here. Do you?” Art ran his hand through his hair as he stared at the man. Who is this smart aleck? he thought.

“See here, you certainly can’t leave it there. Spies or terrorists could sneak across the border from Ireland and have it quicker than a fox slips into a henhouse.”

Art raised one eyebrow and snorted. “Yeah? And how do I know you ain’t a Jerry soldier? Who are you, anyway, pal?”

“I’m a Local Defence Volunteer. Let’s see your ID.”

Could this day get any worse? Art really didn’t feel like dealing with this smart aleck right now. He had had it with being pushed around. “Is that a wing of the Boy Scouts?”

Art thought his interrogator looked sore about the wisecrack, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to get that truck out of the hole and get back to camp to finish the repair he’d been working on. If he couldn’t convince the boss to send him home, then he would do his darndest to get this construction project finished lickity-split so he could get outta here.

The uniformed man regarded him stiffly. “It’s the Ulster Special Constabulary.”

“You’re a copper, then?”

“No, Local Defence. Like the Home Guard in England.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of them – aren’t they old guys, soldiers that are over the hill? Marching around with broomsticks.”

“Not in Northern Ireland. We’re part of the police force. And we’re issued Lee–Enfield rifles.”

Art shook his head. The guy looked pretty young to be in some broomstick brigade instead of the army, but what did he care? It was none of his beeswax. Getting this truck out of the hole was. Say, maybe this smart aleck could help him.”

Pearl Harbor and More is available at the following online booksellers: 
Amazon UK  |  Nook  |  iTunes  |  Kobo  |  !Indigo  |  Books2Read

About the author:

dascroft-promo-image1-2Dianne Ascroft is a Canadian writer living in Northern Ireland. She writes historical and contemporary fiction, often with an Irish connection. Her series The Yankee Years is a collection of Short Reads and novels set in World War II–era Northern Ireland.

Her other writing includes a ghost tale inspired by the famous Coonian ghost, An Unbidden Visitor; a short story collection, Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves, and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars.

She lives on a farm near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh and is a member of Fermanagh Writers, Writers Abroad, the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Online Dianne lurks at:

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Sign up for her mailing list:

Thoughts on Ted McCarthy poetry workshop.

Ted McCarthy had that quiet, patrician air, you know that you often saw of men of a certain vintage in those black-and-white movies of yesteryear. I guess it originated from his many years of teaching, that quiet and unassuming persona, that belied both the strength and intelligence of the character. You had the sense that he favoured the craft of poetry, the work that you have to do, to make the more ephemeral and somewhat magical ‘art happen’. He showed how seemingly random stimuli can be the genesis of many a poem, but that the poet has to be both open and available to it; when the muse comes knocking on the door as a poet, you have to let her in, that is a given, but you have to make her welcome or she may not come to your door at all.


He took us through a series of exercies that were pursuant to the cause of the craft of the poetry, I was particularly fascinated how you can take a series of ideas and draw a sketch in prose, before beginning the business of crafting a poem. I am lucky in that most of my work comes readily, almost fully formed, line after line; but even for myself, there are times when everything is all jumbled up like a bowl of spaghetti, thus setting the tangled words down in prose, you may begin to see where and how a poem may be crafted.


Ted also stressed the importance of reading widely and not just the verbal arts but also music, painting, television and film, sculpture – even material that you may not be primarily attracted to, in this way you may gain greater perspectives on you own style and your own way of writing.


There was a further exercise in which by taking a structure,arrived atby a random process, of adopting the word-count of an existing work, this then gives you a frame in which you may paint your own masterpiece; he emphasised that this may be unlikelyto arrive at a finished piece, but it may be a progenitor of one.


I think you can take from Ted’s workshop the importance of working without inhibition, but working on the craft all the same; also freeing yourself from the usual writers’ inhibitions caused by unnecessary fears of failure – he quoted Beckett’s line of ‘failing better’ to this end. We all need to ‘fail better’.


John Llewellyn James