Nick Flynn’s most recent books include: This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire (Norton, 2020); and Stay: threads, collaborations, and conversations (Ze Books, 2020), which documents twenty-five years of his collaborations with artists, filmmakers, and composers. He is also the author of five collections of poetry, including I Will Destroy You (Graywolf, 2019). His bestselling memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Norton, 2004), was made into a film starring Robert DeNiro (Focus Features, 2012), and has been translated into fifteen languages. www.nickflynn.org
Photographer William (Bill) O’Leary joined the Washington Post in 1984 and has won numerous awards for his photojournalism, most recently the from the White House News Photographers Assn (2021) and he received the Pulitzer Prize (2022) for his coverage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A native of Washington DC, his family emigrated from County Kerry, Ireland. He is the third generation of O’Leary’s in Washington newspapers. He was married to Jacki Lyden in Clifden Ireland in 2004.
I want to thank Jacki, Liz, (Elizabeth Rosner) and all my fellow writers for helping me reconnect with my memoir. I've felt so discouraged and confused about the way forward with this project, and now I feel excited to get back in there and attempt to make it more the book I want it to be. This was exactly the result I wanted from the workshop and I got it! What a joy and relief! Falling in love with Ireland and all of you was just the butter on the brown bread.
I sat with Jacki in the garden under an arbor in the beautiful air of Connemara and we shared a pot of tea and discussed my draft.
I poured and she prodded, asking the questions that kicked started a new first chapter. That first chapter was the one the publisher singled out when he offered me the contract for my half-finished biography/memoir ‘Sweet Man’. (Allen and Unwin, Australia)
Love comes in . . .at the eye, . . . and through the ears (that melodious West Ireland accent) and through the nose (the smell of a properly brewed pot of tea), and through the feet (bouncing on the bog peat) and through the fingertips (that hold the pencil or type on the keyboard). With all that love the words will appear on the page, infused with many layers of meaning and aptitude and verve."
In a cozy inn, set in a breathtakingly beautiful place, a small group of dedicated, intelligent writers wrote, read, listened, and offered each other supportive responses and critique. And talked. And ate. And walked the grounds, around town, and in Connemara National Park. And did yoga. And listened to music. And learned about Bronze Age Ireland. And laughed. And even sang, once, and I am not a singer, believe me. I left with a clearer sense of what was and wasn’t working on the page, actionable direction for how to get the pages to start adding up to a book, and a new group of smart, cool writing friends. What a productive and inspiriting workshop!
This workshop was simply life-changing.
When I was in Ireland
Singing broke out in a pub
I had no choice
But to join in
I was met by friends
And strangers who became friends
Who became more
Who started as my own cliches, formed
At first sight, and then —
Mouths opened and words poured out from them
More felt than simply spoken
Rain never came
Again and again
We went outside, onto rocks, into wind, over bog
We went inside, and shared
Again and again
We joined in pairs and threes and fours
And sometimes all of us,
Each drifting away and toward
Joining and departing and joining again.
When I was in Ireland
Singing broke out behind wide windows that framed an wider ocean
And we, all of us,
had no choice
But to join in.