Hennessy 2018 nominees: First Fiction, Emerging Poetry, Emerging Fiction

Introducing the 18 writers shortlisted for this year’s Hennessy Literary Awards

First Fiction

Aaron Finnegan, for "Just This"
Aaron is a 20-year-old student at Trinity College Dublin. He is in his second year of theatre and drama studies. He was born in Drogheda, in Co Louth. "The things that grip us in stories are the things we eventually end up writing about," he says. "For me, it's the details. It's the music you can find in language. It's the genuine need to connect. I tried to capture the sense that everything is bigger than us, and things always have a way of slipping by you."

Maeve McGowan, for "The Summer of Wasps"
Maeve, who lives in Cork, is working on her first collection of stories. "Following the passing of my father, this story emerged as a exploration of the search for reconciliation and redemption. Family relationships are never linear, and sometimes they are downright messy, but the universal themes of love and loss remind us of our essential humanity."

Sam McManus, for "The Dog in the Story"
Sam is a doctor living in Oslo, the Norwegian capital. "I was staying in a house by the fjord in Norway," he says, "surrounded by the books of a man who had died the year before. I found a copy of The Collected Stories of Jack London among them, and that's when the idea of the story began to emerge."

Pat Nolan, for "Women and Other Anthropoids"
Pat, who lives in Blackrock, is a jobbing academic and freelance report writer. He has contributed to RTÉ's A Living Word and is a member of the Inkslingers writing group. "I wanted to write from the point of view of a guy with buckets of self-absorption and no self-knowledge. I thought that the persona lent itself to a comedy of manners. Over an afternoon he encounters lesser beings – a woman, teenagers and Barbary apes."


Marty Thornton, for "The Mighty Quinn"
Marty is a Galway-born writer and musician. He holds a MA in screenwriting, has been commissioned to write for RTÉ's Storyland strand in 2018 and is working on a novel. "Back in the day, I worked in the Warwick [hotel] as a night porter. I watched a tired three-piece [band] murder two steps, while lost souls from a bygone Ireland shuffled around the dance floor. Afterwards, I sat with the band round a Formica table, as they dissected life to the power of ham sandwiches. It was tragic, eerie and utterly compelling."

Emerging Poetry

Louise G Cole, for "Fur Coat and No Knickers" and "Dirty Little Dresses"
Louise performs her poetry at the Word Corner Café at the Dock, Carrick-on Shannon and with the Hermit collective, a group of writers, artists and musicians who stage pop-up shows in the west of Ireland. She was shortlisted for a Hennessy fiction award in 2015. "I try to mix humour with the pathos of life's daily sadnesses: frail, elderly parents, humanity's innate cruelty, bigotry and intolerance, displacement, forgetfulness, environmental disasters."

Chris Connolly, for "Particulars of Bovine Husbandry" and "Old-age Sensibility"
Chris won the 2016 Hennessy award for Best Emerging Fiction. Other awards include the Francis MacManus competition, the Over the Edge Award and the Lascaux Review fiction prize. He completed the MA programme in creative writing at UCD in 2017. "I mostly write stories, and this tends to involve staring at a blank screen for hours on end wondering why it is I can't seem to write anything. It was the resulting burst of frustration from a particularly barren day's work which led to these poems being written."

Eoin Devereux, for "The Bodhi Tree"
Eoin is a professor at the University of Limerick. He has published poetry and stories in Southward, The Bohemyth, Wordlegs, Boyne Berries and Number Eleven. A flash fiction version of his story, Mrs Flood was broadcast on RTÉ. "Nature and gardening in particular feature a great deal in my poetry and short fiction. The Bodhi Tree was inspired by the life of my late father-in-law, Paddy Hanamy, who like Paddy Brassil was a very wise man strongly connected to the natural world."

Billy Fenton, for "Cracked Voices"
Billy has a certificate in creative writing from NUI Maynooth. He lives in south Kilkenny and works in technology. This is his first published poem. "I heard Billie's pain that night, heard the crack in her voice, and I slipped in. There I met the others, the open and the generous, those showing me their lives, all their fears, all their uncertainties, all their joys. Just like mine."

Majella Kelly, for "Lichenology" and "Funeral"
Majella is from Tuam, Co Galway. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review and Best New British & Irish Poets. She was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. "Why write poetry? For me it's the joy of the writing process, even when it's proving difficult to pin an idea down and put it into words, like trying to catch the wind in a net."

Aoife Lyall, for "Arcania" and "Hermit Crab"
Aoife is from Dublin but now lives in Inverness. She was shortlisted for the 2016 Hennessy Awards and has been published in The Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland Review and other journals. She has just completed her first collection. "Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are shrouded in mystery. I was overwhelmed by my body's power to create and sustain life, and petrified by how easily, and how often, I was relegated to role of life-support: vital by subsidiary. Writing brings me back to myself and gives voice to the wonderful, and terrible, things that need to be spoken about."

Emerging Fiction

Manus Boyle Tobin, for "The Drizzle on the Windscreen"
Manus's play Between the Dawns was staged in Smock Alley Theatre in 2017 as part of The Irish Playback. He holds a MA in creative writing from UCD and is working on his first novel. "This story was inspired by glimpses and snapshots of Dublin and its people. By the housing crisis, homelessness and isolation. By each preceding line that gave way to the next. By the taxi driver who had nowhere to return to when he finished his shift."

Angela Finn, for "The Architect's House in Summer"
Angela lives in Dublin and is working on a collection of linked short stories. Currently studying for an MFA at UCD, she is the grateful recipient of the Caroline Walsh Bursary in Creative Writing. "I wanted to convey the sense of distress felt after the grief of losing a loved one who is still alive. As grief of any sort can be abstract and difficult to articulate, I decided to let the house and its contents do most of the work in this story."

Ellen Kelly, for "This Thing"
Ellen is a sociologist. Her short stories have been broadcast on RTÉ as part of the Francis MacManus short story competition. She is working on her first novel and writes a blog airplaneinthesittingroom.com on parenting five boys. "A professional I once interviewed said, 'If you want something done perfectly, give it to an anorexic'. The words haunted me. I delved deeper and surfaced with this story, giving voice to an internal logic. The sense of control. The stinging isolation when only a wood pigeon seems to understand."

Niall McArdle, for "The Light on the Water"
Niall's work had appeared in Phoenix Irish Short Stories, Banshee, The Honest Ulsterman and The Irish Times. In 2016 he was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award and the RTÉ Francis MacManus short story competition. "I have a love/hate relationship with the sea (possibly because I'm from Booterstown, one of the stinkier parts of Dublin Bay). I had the image of someone running on a beach. I knew she wasn't Irish but had a connection with Ireland. Everything else followed from that."

Ruth McKee, for "There's nothing you can do that can't be done"
Ruth is editor of spontaneity.org magazine, works for Doire Press and is a freelance writer. She was joint winner of the Irish Novel Fair in 2016. She has a PhD from Trinity College Dublin. "As you get older, you realise love heals but also hurts. I wanted this story to show have love comes in beauty and in blood, how it is sibling to despair. I had the thread of a Beatles song running through it, in the hope it would longer in the reader's mind long after the words had ended."

Lani O'Hanlon, for "Undressing the Muse"
Lani is a dance and movement artist who lives in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. Her poetry chapbook The Little Theatre was launched by Thomas McCarthy in 2017. Following on from Undressing the Muse she received an Arts Council travel award in 2017 to research a novel set in Greece and Ireland. "I was travelling to facilitate dance workshops on a Greek island. On the ferry I overheard a woman saying that she was hoping to meet an artist over there – she had been married ton artist before and she was good at it. An idea that she might have buried her own creativity to support his inspired this story."

Maeve O'Lynn, for "Inside"
Maeve completed a PhD on gender and genre in Northern Irish fiction at Ulster University in 2012. She has published in Banshee, The Stinging Fly and The Honest Ulsterman and began collaborating on the Xenophon Project with visual artist Siobhán McGibbon in 2015. "As a Belfast writer, I have always been fascinated by borders and how we carry these divisions within us. I wanted to show the ripple effects of the past on Christine's current life in Dublin decades late and hundreds of miles away. The chaos Brexit is causing, both for political borders and people's sense of personal identity, ties these narratives together."