Four-day workshop
with Alannah Hopkin

This workshop is now sold out – we are taking names for the waiting list


Payment will be accepted by cheque/postal order (made payable to the Munster Literature Centre), by credit card via PayPal (link provided on registration), or cash (payable in person at The Munster Literature Centre, Frank O'Connor House, 84 Douglas Street, Cork). To book your place please email info(at)munsterlit(dot)ie.

Four-day workshop with Alannah Hopkin:
2020 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellow

Venue: via Zoom – a web-conferencing programme
Time: 7 – 10 October, 4pm – 6pm IST
Size: Limited to 12 participants
Cost: €120 or €100 (concession to unwaged)

In in the four workshop sessions I plan to give students the skills to improve their work and extend its range, and also hope to boost their confidence. Participants will be invited to submit a story of up to 2,500 words by Friday 25 September. 

• The short story doesn't have be finished
• Stories can be fewer than 2500 words (or an extract from a longer short story
• Please type double-spaced and email as a Word document

This will be read aloud in the workshop, and discussed. I supply a list of assessment criteria to work with to ensure consistency and a positive atmosphere. By 18 September (sooner if the course is full before then) I will supply eight stories I admire (Bret Anthony Johnson, Ellen Gilchrist, Kevin Barry, William Trevor etc) for all participants to read. In discussions, the students will learn how to analyse a story with a writer’s eye, to the benefit of their own work. Various approaches to the short story will be investigated, from conventional to the wilder shores. In the final session we will consider how to follow on constructively from this course.

Wednesday: Plot or Not?
How to begin. Where to find your story and how to write it. The importance of keeping a notebook, and reading widely. The difference between a notebook and a journal. How to recognise and stockpile story ideas, so as to avoid facing the proverbial “empty page”. Cultivating the habit of note-taking. The advantages and disadvantages of plot: melodrama versus minimalism. Working on the edge between fact and fiction, an increasingly important frontier. Turning autobiography into story. Plundering both history and contemporary events for story material; learning how to find and build on the stories that are all around you.

Thursday: Finding Your Voice
‘When you listen to the voice in your head it is not Literature that you hear.’ This dictum of Samuel Beckett is central to my own work. But how do you find that voice, and learn to work with it? How can you tell a good voice from a bad one? The obsessive nature of story writing, how to make productive use of your obsessions. Choosing between first person and third person. Developing character through description and/or dialogue. Understanding how written dialogue works. Different ways of presenting a scene: how to create drama and tension and keep the narrative drive going forward.

Friday: Ways of Writing – the Wilder Fringes
‘A Beginning, a Middle and an End – but not necessarily in that order…’
So says the French filmmaker, Jean Luc Godard. We look at alternative ways of structuring a story, the advantages and drawbacks of presenting events in the order that they happened. Framing devices, the story within a story, and other ways of polishing an apparently finished piece. The need to cultivate the habit of constantly revising and rewriting. Improving your writing at the level of individual words, each of which must be exactly right. Paying attention to simile and metaphor, when to use, when to avoid. The importance of reading other short story writers, and writers in translation. Writing exercises will encourage participants to take flight and explore new frontiers.

Saturday: The Point and Beyond
The great William Trevor says that all his stories, however strange or dispassionate they may seem, have “a point”, and that this is usually stated towards the end of the story. Stories, however strange, must have an innate coherence: how can we be sure it’s there? We look at Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice, especially his comments on Chekhov, and Chekhov’s statement on open endings – his inconclusive endings caused outrage initially. Have we come any further as readers/writers of stories?
The rest of the session will be practical: making time for writing in your life. How to get a story ready to send out? Where do you send it? Submsission gateways, online reminders. The pros and cons of competitions. How to cope with rejections. Self-publishing – pros and cons. How to put a collection together and propose it to publishing houses/agents.

Alannah Hopkin’s story collection The Dogs of Inishere was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2017. Her stories have appeared in the London Magazine and The Cork Literary Review, among others, and been short-listed for the RTE Short Story Award. She has published two novels, and worked as a freelance journalist and art critic. Her non-fiction books include Eating Scenery: West Cork, the People & the Place. She regularly hosts events for the Cork International Short Story Festival, the West Cork Literary Festival and Words by Water in her hometown, Kinsale. Her latest book A Very Strange Man: A Memoir of Aidan Higgins is due from New Island in Spring, 2021. She is the 2020 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow.


Additional Information

This is an online workshop, open to anyone in the world. You will need to have access to a device (laptop / tablet / phone / computer) which has a microphone, speakers and camera in order to participate in the workshops. Our paid subscription to Zoom means you can use the free version, which is very user-friendly. The administrator will give as much information and guidance as you need in the days leading up to the workshops, and will be available by phone before and during the workshops to offer technical support. Every effort will be made to make sure that the programme proceeds as advertised but the Munster Literature Centre accepts no responsibility for changes made due to circumstances beyond our control – refunds will be given only if a workshop is cancelled.