Young Irish writers are ‘dazzling in scope and originality’

Award-winning novelist Joseph O’Connor’s inaugural lecture as Professor of Creative Writing at UL

Ellen McCourt, wife of the late Frank McCourt, with Professor Joseph O’Connor before his inaugural lecture as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. Photograph: Alan Place/FusionShooters

Ellen McCourt, wife of the late Frank McCourt, with Professor Joseph O’Connor before his inaugural lecture as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. Photograph: Alan Place/FusionShooters

 

Award-winning novelist Joseph O’Connor has described up and coming young Irish writers as “dazzling in their scope and originality”.

Speaking before his inaugural lecture as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick, the acclaimed novelist said teaching has brought him back to the “well spring of why he wanted to become a writer”.

Mr O’Connor was appointed as the inaugural Frank McCourt Chair in Creative Writing at UL last year.

“Young Irish writers are so hard working, they are much more focussed on having a career than my generation of writers would have been when we were in our twenties. They are influenced by writers from all over the world. They are very outward looking and not insular, passionate and hardworking . . . to be surrounded by that level of enthusiasm and is very replenishing.

“The applications we get from young Irish writers are just dazzling in their scope and their originality and their ambition,” he added.

Speaking about the advice he gives to his 12 students on the MA in Creative Writing programme at UL, the author of eight published novels, including the million-selling Star of the Sea said: “I say to the students that writing is actually a lot more like a marriage than it’s like falling in love. You make a commitment to writing and you have good days with it, and you have bad days with it.

“Some times you have a little row with writing and you’re not sure why you and writing should have ended up together at all, but then you make up, and you hope that in the long term it will be worth it and that’s the level of commitment that it requires.”

“Writing isn’t for everybody, one of the myths about writing is the muse; that I can only write when I am inspired, but a professional writer develops a skill of being able to write all the time. You have got to meet the muse half way, you don’t wait for her to come and knock on your door you go out and find her, so that’s just one of the realities of a writer’s life, you need to make writing a part of your life, preferably on a daily basis.”

Frank McCourt’s widow Ellen McCourt was among the guests of honour at last night’s inaugural lecture held at the Irish World Music Academy in UL.

Mrs McCourt said her late husband and Joseph O’Connor shared a “similar sensibility”.

“I think Frank would be extremely pleased that Joseph holds this first chair,” she said.

Mrs McCourt also spoke about the importance of having a liberal arts education. “Somewhere in there, the arts should play a part, because we are really educating the whole person and you really shouldn’t be just on a one track programme.”