Tag Archives: ireland

Claim Your Writing Place by Deanna Rasch

Photo from Deanna Rasch

Facebook reminded me this week of a trip four years ago. I had the rare and wonderful privilege of spending almost two weeks immersed in writing, steeped in the power that place can exert on creativity and identity.

I applied, in the final year of my MFA in Creative Writing program, to a writing residency in Ireland – a place I’d always dreamed of visiting. Except for the briefest of trips across the border into Mexico and Canada, I was a Gen X-er who’d never traveled outside the United States. I had a list in my pocket of places I’d visit and a current passport, should the opportunity (and funds) ever arise.

Likewise, the MFA was a goal I’d held close for, well, decades, if I’m honest. The program ended up opening the door, as well, to this dream of international travel. My gratitude for this has only grown in the past year, through all the isolation and restrictions.

It took almost two days to make that trip from Colorado to our final destination – an inn on the island off the coast of Ireland called Inis Oirr. It was a “planes, trains, and automobiles” kind of trip. Two planes, a bus, a small ferry boat, a horse drawn buggy (for our luggage), and a hike up a steep cobbled road from the docks, to be exact. The trip was like winding back the decades, one mode of transport at a time.

I’m remembering, as I write this, the crowded Galway park, full of locals enjoying the warmth of a relatively rare sunny day. Our cohort assembled to await the ferry, lying about on the greenest of grass (which is not a myth, by the way ; ) I fell asleep for a bit, exhausted from the travelling, feeling somehow safe in the midst of all that activity. Then came the crisp, refreshing wind in our faces as the ferry boat bumped its way over the rough open sea to the island. The thrill of seeing the island rise up out of the water ahead, crowned by a diadem with castle jewels. The fishy smell of the docks as we hopped off the swaying boat. The clop of horses’ hooves on the cobbles. The lilt of a warm greeting from the innkeeper in Gaelic. The savory smell of fresh seafood chowder for dinner, served with stories from fishermen playing pool nearby about the catch of the day.

Feel that sense of place? : )

I could add a few bumps along the way, to be sure. But I find myself recalling mostly sensations, memories that make me smile. Experience again those spacious moments. Walks by the sea. Sunsets so late at night. Lovely language and kind community. The writing the immersion opened in me.

Perhaps it’s in sharp contrast with feeling so confined much of the past year, between lockdowns and perpetual smoke and ash last summer from the fires here in Colorado. The feeling of loss all around – its own sense of place.

Ireland was an embodied experience of what I’d vicariously tasted as a teen, exploring the strange new worlds of science fiction and fantasy. Places that (as a young queer person who wouldn’t find acceptance for years to come) inspired feelings of hope and belonging in a wider world. Settings and societies that expanded my definitions and horizons beyond the messy, violent urban neighborhood I grew up in. Written by authors who knew how to create new potentialities by conveying a strong sense of place.

John Varley, for example, in his classic Gaia Trilogy, transported me to Titan, the being/world whose 12 distinct lands he personified on the page. Each place – and Gaia as a whole – acted as a foil for the astronauts stranded there (and those soon to follow) requiring characters to confront their limitations and biases. Allowing them to discover fuller identities (including sexual identities). To reach unexpected potentials beyond the limited selves they were on arrival. All through sustained interaction with a place far beyond their current experience.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series pulled me into world where the dragons, themselves, were inextricably tied to the biology of a world inhabited by a people who were (in the original trilogy) beginning to question their ancestry. Their sense of place. Where individuals were questioning their identities as this evolution began. Where young people could empower themselves, be supported in putting hard situations behind them, and pursue their gifts. Could use them in service of surviving, thriving, and creating in this place. Responding to questions whose answers challenged every assumption they’d held about their connections with each other, the dragons, and Pern.

I’ve found myself rereading these and other authors with this talent in the past year. Reaching, almost obsessively, for that expanded sense of place, as my outer world shrank to the size of my apartment. For that spaciousness I’ve always found on the page. What I’m now enjoying, again, through the pictures of my time in Ireland. Revisiting that lived experience of revising, in a deeper way, my sense of place in the world. Seeing it reflected in my writing.

We can be of service, I believe, as writers, by reaching beyond the experience of place we know. Not by appropriating others’ stories, their unique sense of “place.” Rather, by reading those stories – real and fantastic. Stretching our own lived experiences, where we can. Cleaning out head junk that likes to whisper, “What you’ve known is the only place.”

Think of the impact we can have, dear writers, if we work at conveying, as best we can, insights we glean by taking deep dives into place. Imagining less limiting futures. Creating stories and worlds our readers want to visit – even revisit – that expand their own definitions, as others’ stories have for us. The hope and resilience we can help bring to a “place” that really needs it right now. ❤

D.M. Rasch is an author of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction (and an occasional poet) who lives in the Denver, CO area with 2 sister kittens who are pretty tough in the editing department. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and balances being a working writer with her work as a Creative Coach, Mentor, and Editor (as Deanna M. Rasch) in her business, Itinerant Creative Content & Coaching LLC . Find her publications on the linked Amazon page and look forward to upcoming publications: a YA science fiction novel Freedom’s Cost, as well as the first in a series related to her story At the Movies, recently featured in Other Worlds Ink’s anthology, Fix the World: twelve sci-fi writers save the future.

Author Interview: Christine Frost

Christine Frost is a historical and speculative fiction author who explores the lives of real women in history. It is a pleasure to introduce her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Christine FrostMy name is Christine Frost, and I’ve been working in publishing and communications for nearly 20 years. I’m also a teaching assistant and writing instructor for literature courses at Harvard Extension School. In addition to writing novels, I study world history, and it serves as the core inspiration for the stories I create. I love to cook, and whenever possible, I integrate that passion into my novels; I run a series on my blog about the history of cooking in fiction. I live in the Boston area with my husband, and we enjoy Renaissance festivals and everything from sci-fi to historical and epic fantasy series.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I used to staple paper together in elementary school and write and illustrate stories, and during high school, I was very introverted and spent much of my time working on a fantasy trilogy that I’m still developing, though it’s changed a lot. But it all coalesced in the summer of 1994, when my brother died in an accident. He had just recommended that I watch The Crow, starring Brandon Lee. I saw it with his friends while the funeral was being planned, and the movie had an enormous impact on me. The sudden loss threw me into a tailspin—so I began writing a massive work, a dark urban fantasy that was very much influenced by the movie. It was my way of keeping his memory alive. Like the fantasy trilogy I wrote in high school, it remains unfinished and is being redeveloped, but it was while writing that story to help me deal with the grief that I realized I wanted to be an author.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I started working on my master’s degree in literature and creative writing. At the end of a graduate certificate program for communications, I took a creative writing workshop, which led to me applying for the master’s program. I took a number of workshops and courses having to do with medieval literature, such as one on Tolkien’s influences. It was then I really learned how to focus on following through with a story and come to appreciate the intensive revising process.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Dark Lady of Doona is about Grania O’Malley, who is also known as the Irish pirate queen. While I’m a sticker for verisimilitude in my work, the premise is based on speculation that she may have served as a spy in order to help retain her territory at a time when the English were especially brutal in Ireland. So, while it is historical fiction, it has elements of a spy novel, only set in the 1500s during the time of Elizabeth I. It’s about Grania’s strength—in protecting her family, in being a formidable captain who commanded hundreds of men, and making a mark on history at a time when women weren’t as visible in the public realm.

What inspired you to write this book?

The more I read, the more unusual women I find who have been marginalized by history. I want to give them a voice and let them tell their story. It began with my first novel, about the consort to Romanian warlord Vlad Dracula. I have a long list of stories to write based on this idea, and they span all eras and places, from ancient Mesopotamia to Maine during the War of 1812 and beyond. Grania O’Malley was particularly inspiring to me, and learning about medieval Ireland was a wonderful opportunity to explore my family’s heritage.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’d say it’s changed over the years. I was strongly influenced by dense, very complex Gothic novels, but have learned to pare down wording and structure. What I’ve learned from teaching writing is that developing a writing style is always a work in progress.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Grania O’Malley earned the nickname Dark Lady of Doona after conquering a castle. She sought vengeance against a rival clan who killed a lover, and Doona was the name of the castle. As soon as I saw the name while doing research for the book, I knew it had to be the title. It’s poignant, yet shows her tremendous fortitude.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I love finding these incredible women and showing how powerful they were in what has traditionally been considered a man’s world. And it’s never an easy road, no matter what their station in life. They’re often the outliers, the rebels who have a hand in shaping history, even though the recognition was slight or late in the coming. I hope that readers will see Grania O’Malley as a symbol of perseverance—and that it may spark an interest in delving into history to see what fascinating things are there that have important lessons to teach all of us.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I don’t think so. People who know me well may be able to identify little things, quirks and behaviors that help with characterization, but overall, I try to create an authentic portrait for these historical figures, so I stick to what I’ve learned through my research.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

My early years were influenced by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake’s fabulous Gormenghast series, and Neil Gaiman. I love epic fantasy in particular, but Neil Gaiman’s innovative style and how he uses myth and urban fantasy is very inspirational to me. In recent years, I’ve become fond of Modernist authors such as John Dos Passos, and reading Cormac McCarthy was a game-changer in terms of learning about how beautifully lyrical yet sparse writing styles can be, even when portraying the depths of the bleakest worlds.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I’ve been fortunate in this regard. When working on my master’s, I had the opportunity to learn from Stratis Haviaris, who was the founding editor of the Harvard Review, and Paul Harding, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Tinkers in 2010. I’m immensely grateful to have been able to work with them both.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I have a background in graphic design, so I did this one myself.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up. All too often, as a student and teacher, I’ve heard people say writing is hard. It is, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Dig deep—get into the soul of your writing style by reading your work out loud; don’t be afraid to revise until it feels right—you’ll know when it resonates with you. And like many other writers advise, read as much as possible. Go outside of your favorite genres and explore everything you can. You never know what amazing new influences you may gain.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you to all the readers out there! Your feedback and reviews have helped me evolve as a writer, and I’ve enjoyed hearing from many of you.

Dark Lady of Doona  Book CoverChristine Frost
Boston, MA


Imprint: Her Raven Domain Productions


Author Interview: Judy Leslie

I find it such a pleasure to introduce a writer from my home town of Kirkland, WA here on No Wasted Ink. Historical Fiction is a particular favorite genre of mine and Judy has written a wonderful one set in the 19th century Victorian era.

Author Judy LeslieMy name is Judy Leslie and I live in the rainy pacific northwest with my husband Ralph and my dog Rosemary. I have two grown daughters who live in the area. I lived in Europe for two and a half years and my oldest daughter was born in Liege, Belgium. I enjoy traveling Europe and went to Ireland last year to do research for my novel. I am also an amateur photographer, artist and enjoy cooking.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as soon as I could hold a pencil and scratch out letters on the page. I wasn’t too good at spelling but I could embellish what the A and B’s meant to anyone that would listen. At the age of 21, I owned an antique shop in the historic town of Bellingham, Washington where I became interested in writing historical fiction after researching all the “junk” in my shop.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote short stories and poetry in high school. While working at my day job I wrote a historic novel about the Midwest. It was my training novel and maybe someday I will publish it. Over the years I took many writing classes. However, I didn’t get serious about publishing until a few years ago when I signed up at the local university for their literary fiction program and then the popular fiction certificate program. That is where I learned how to structure a story and I began writing my current novel.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

For the Love of Ireland is about Margaret Sullivan, an American female journalist with the Chicago Tribune who publishes under a male name to hide her gender. On a trip to Ireland she meets an Irish rebel and gets swept up by his ideas for Ireland’s independence. However, Margaret happens to be married to a man with his own ambitions and ideas on how to free Ireland. When she turns to her husband for help Margaret finds herself struggling not only for Ireland’s freedom, but her own as well.

For the Love of Ireland is based on a true story about a Chicago couple during the late 1880’s, the Irish Land League, and the secret Irish-American organization the Clan na Gael.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was doing research on the Irish in Chicago and uncovered the story about Margaret and Alexander Sullivan and the secret Clan na Gael. I had no idea to what extend the Irish in America had gone to in order to help those in their homeland. My characters were all fascinating people with their own story to tell, as you will learn when you read the book.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I do a lot of research and then let it percolate for a while. I make an outline with a story arch, but I let my characters have a lot of control on what they want to say. I write in a notebook and on the computer about 8 hours a day. I like poetic prose to describe emotions, but will cut it if it doesn’t fit. I also like getting down to the story and don’t dwell too much on the color of a room or what everyone wore.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It was easy. My characters were motivated by their love of Ireland and right or wrong, that love justified their actions in the story.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, just like Ireland, women didn’t always have the freedom to do what they wanted to do in the past and often they made huge sacrifices in order to survive. We forget that marriage for love was rare in the 1800s and that women were not allowed to compete with men. The fact that Margaret Sullivan and the Parnell women chose to buck the norm was a remarkable feat for a women at that time.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The story characters and situations in my novel are based on the real lives and actual historic events. I just fictionalized their interactions and certain parts for dramatic effect. I tried to stay true to how they would have behaved according to the research I did on each one of them. My novel is a work of fiction and not a biography and I did have to bend the truth to fit the story especially at the end.

I think women of today can relate to my protagonist and the sacrifices she made while pursuing her goals. Also, as far as the love interest goes most of us have had a secret crush on someone we could never have. I fantasied about a guy I dated when I was 19 for years after I was married and had children. When I finally met up with the man again I realized that I fallen in love with my fantasy of him and not who he really was.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I can’t name any particular author that influenced my writing. My stepfather gave me a book of Longfellow’s poems when I was 16 that was dated 1906 that had belonged to his grandmother and one of the poems became my guiding light.

A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day. . .
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

For the Love of Ireland Book CoverJudy Leslie
Kirkland, WA