Alan McMonagle

1970- ; b. Co. Sligo; ed. Galway NUI (MA in Writing); short listed for the Fish Short-story Award, 2006; Sean O'Faolain Short Story, 2007; issued short-stories collections Liar Liar (2008), nominated for the 2009 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and Psychotic Episodes (2013), revolving around two patients in a psychiatric ward and which was also [forthcoming from Picador] Ithaca (2017); his radio-plays Mayday and Oscar Night have been broadcast on RTÉ1 (Drama on One, 2013, 2014) - the latter (shortlisted for PJ O’Connor Drama Award; his story “Bleeding Boy” appeared in The Irish Times (3 Jan. 2016)]; McMonagle offered a course in writing at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Feb. 2016; he signed a two-book deal with Picador in 2015 and lives in Galway.

McMonagle has taken residencies at the Professional Artists’ Retreat in Yaddo (NY 2010), the Banff Centre for Creativity (Canada, 2010 - where Pyschotic Episodes was written), the Fundación Valparaiso (Spain, 2012). He was a recipient of an Arts Council of Ireland bursary, 2007; contrib. stories to numerous Irish and North-America journals including The Adirondack Review, The Valparaiso Fiction Review, Natural Bridge, Grain [ed. Sylvia Legris in Canada], Prairie Fire, Southword and The Stinging Fly; Winner of the Writing Spirit Short-story Award, 2011; shortlisted for the Fish short-story award, 2006; shortlisted for William Trevor-Elizabeth Bowen Short-story award, 2011; nominated for the Pushcart Prize, 2011; joint-winner of Jonathan Swift Award short story award, 2011; shortlisted for the Molly Keane Short-story Award, 2012.

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Fiction, Liar Liar (Salthill: Wordsonthestreet, 2008), 164pp.; Psychotic Episodes (Dublin: Arlen House 2013), 192pp; forthcoming, Ithaca (Picador 2017) [novel]. Drama, Mayday (2013); Oscar Night, in “Drama on One” (RTÉ1, Jan. 2014). See also “Bleeding Boy”, in The Irish Times (3 Jan. 2016), review section [available online].

Ithaca [forthcoming] - set in summer 2009. The boom times are over, and 11-year-old Jason Lowry is preoccupied with thoughts of the Da he has never known. Meantime, his vodka-swilling, swings-from-the-hip Ma, Jacinta, is busy entertaining her latest boyfriend and indulging her fondness for joyriding in the nearest available car. Fed up with his Ma’s antics, Jason strikes up a fast friendship with the girl who hangs out at the Swamp. Together, they conjure exotic adventure, heroic lifestyles and a host of improbable “mock-ups” of Jason’s elusive Da. Fuelling her risk-taking nature, the girl goads, nudges and prods Jason deeper into unsafe territory, until what began as innocent pretence soon threatens to tailspin into a netherworld of danger and very real harm. Treading a blurry line between helter-skelter comedy and quiet desperation, Ithaca is the darkly comic story of how far a lonely boy will go to secure his mother’s love. (See ‘Picador acquires two novels from ... Alan McMonagle’, in The Irish Times, 6 Nov. 2015 - available online.)

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Psychotic episodes (2013)

 “Olanzapine is supposed to stave off anxiety. Who are they trying to kid? It barely delays the voices. But there’s no talking to them. Instead, it increases my appetite. I have ballooned so much I bob. Watch out, one or two call out when I head towards them. Others grunt and flick me away. Duloxetine is supposed to cheer us up. Fleming laughs at that and asks do they stock Hitler’s gas. Then he falls asleep. Fleming falls asleep everywhere.
 Sometimes we swap days. Fleming takes Wednesday and I take Tuesday. Sometimes we swap medication. When we do we become fat and tired together, then duck out to the garden, lie down side by side among the rose bushes and nap. Oh look, they say when they find us, the heavy sleepers.
 But most of the time we just drift. Around here we like to travel incognito.”

—In Conversation with Alan McMonagle at Short Story Ireland (2011) - online; accessed 05.01.2016.

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Screwed in Ireland: ‘This seems to me to be an especially fertile moment for writing in Ireland,’ he said. ‘We’re a nation of storytellers, and right now there are so many stories to tell about how people are trying to cope with hardships or with changes brought about by globalization, technology, immigration, our relationship with Europe. I believe its going to be several years before we’ll be able to look back on this period - by then, hopefully, the overall situation will have changed for the better for many — and see what sense our writers made of it, and also what this time meant for the Irish.’

‘No, I’m not explicitly cynical in my writing, because, in a way, I don’t have to be. You see, everybody in Ireland knows that we’ve been screwed by irresponsible speculators and politicians. We all know that the people we wanted to be able to trust have let us down. So now, for me, as an Irishman and a writer, what interests me is the dynamics of this relationship, and the hurt, suspicion, fear, confusion, mistrust, and other emotions and uncertainty that have emerged as a result of the economic downturn.’ (Edward M. Gómez, review-article at Hyperallergic, 23 Oct. 2013 - online; accessed 05.01.2016.)

More: ‘In fact [...] I don’t really see myself as an Irish or a European writer, per se, but rather as a writer who is from and who is based in Ireland, who writes in English. It’s the Hiberno-English of Ireland that is my native language in which I write, a language rich in special words, rhythms, and points of view about the use and expressiveness of the language itself to which, if anything, I might feel a sense of ‘responsibility,’ but maybe that’s not the right word. What I feel instead is a sense of rootedness in this language, and it’s certainly a key part of my writing and that of other contemporary Irish writers. Listen to them read their works, to how they - we - tend to describe people, places or events, and hear how this language sings. I hear it around me all the time. If anything, maybe it’s this language to which I want to be true.’

Also remarks made on fellow-Galway writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s literary blog - quoted here: ‘I try to use humor to bring something unfunny into relief. I don’t always succeed but when I do, it is very satisfying. Woody Allen says comedy equals tragedy plus time. I think humor and tragedy run together, [they] coexist.’ (Quoted in Edward M. Gómez, op. cit.)

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Oscar (14 Jan. RTE 2014) -Leading ladies Annabelle & Miranda meet the cheeky Oscar: It’s Oscar Night in the off-the-beaten-track home of aging sisters Annabelle and Miranda. The two ladies have been living together for years. A love of movies and a mutual dependency sustain them. The Oscar Ceremony has become an annual ritual and the two sisters make themselves comfortable in front of the TV with bowls of snacks and red wine. The banter becomes a little edgier as they turn it upon themselves. At some point there is a knock on the door. An escaped felon is in need of some shelter and some quick cash! With Maire Hastings (Glenroe) and Áine Ní Mhuirí (Ballykissangel) who together with Emmet Kirwan (Fair City, Veronica Guerin). See RTE - Drama on One - online.

“Shaping the Short Story” with Alan McMonagle at The Irish Writers' Centre (Parnell Sq., Dublin)
‘A short story is an arrow in flight. Deploying a mix of theory, exercise and class discussion, this eight-week course will steer participants through the elements of an effective short story: beginnings and endings; voice, tone and point-of-view; characterisation and dialogue; language and setting. Participants will examine the objectives of a short story, reference proven masters and apply topics covered to prompt-based exercises. Suitable for committed beginners and those who have been writing for some time’. [8 weeks commencing 1 Feb. 2016 - see online.]