Our Writer in Residence Radhika Iyer has written a blog about finishing her residency at An Táin Arts Centre, read all about it below.
As I entered my mirror-encased studio this morning, a chorus of reflections greeted me, echoing a poignant reminder: today, September 29th marks the final day of my three-month writer’s residency at the An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk.
The central focus of my residency revolved around the adaptation of one of my cherished short stories, ‘Why Are You Here,’ into an immersive performance piece. After refining it through four drafts, the play now resides in its state of Rehearsal draft until further decisions regarding production are made, potentially in 2024. My enthusiasm to collaborate with the An Táin Arts Centre to bring this vision to life is palpable. The process of crafting this performance piece has propelled me along a steep learning curve. While my draft versions were being reviewed, I continued to apply the skills I’ve acquired by adapting another story from my eBook collection into a play.
Throughout this residency, I’ve continued to nurture my writing roots, crafting short stories that resonate with my unique voice. Two of these stories, ‘Surging Back’ and ‘Welcome to the Death,’ have been shared with the An Táin Book Club, inviting members to read them and share their impressions. As the Book Club meeting on Thursday, September 28th approached, apprehension coursed through me. However, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, accompanied by valuable constructive comments. Many of the readers expressed their desire for a longer version of the stories, as they were captivated by the characters and engrossed in the plot. Their applause at the conclusion was a heart-warming gesture. At the end of the session, I was filled with a sense of acceptance and validation as a writer.
Numerous highlights have illuminated my residency journey. Among them, Culture Night stands tall. On that memorable evening, I did a reading of four of my short stories to an audience of about 30+ people. Following the reading, a brief yet engaging Q&A session, guided by Paul Hayes, the Director of the An Táin, gave me the opportunity to talk about my residency. The support and encouraging response I received from family, friends, and fellow attendees will always remain etched in my memory.
Another positive facet of this residency has been the bonds forged with the vibrant artistic community of Dundalk. The shared conversations, laughter, and occasional bursts of song and humming that wafted into my creative space have helped me forge a deep sense of affinity with the An Táin. I’ve made friends with fellow resident artists and those associated with Bó studios. After more than eight years of residing in Dundalk, I’ve finally uncovered the hidden gems of artists’ groups and events.
I had the privilege of gracing the airwaves of Dundalk FM twice during this journey. The first instance occurred in July when I shared insights about my residency, my writing journey, and the wellspring of my inspiration. The second time, in September, I stepped in as a last-minute stand-in to promote Culture Night. Once the host realised I was the writer in residence, he requested a reading. I opened my eBook on my phone to share an excerpt from one of my more harrowing stories, ‘A Bonfire of Shoes’.
The most prevalent highlight has been the visits from dear friends hailing from Dublin, Drogheda, Tinure, Clogherhead, Laytown, Balbriggan, Termonfeckin, Tullyallen, Dunshaughlin, and, of course, Dundalk itself. Their love and unwavering support have been a source of immense joy. Many coffees and lunches were savoured with old and new friends, and there were frequent calls and text messages from those unable to visit.
As I prepare to return to my full-time administrative job in Drogheda on October 2nd, mixed emotions swirl within me. I eagerly anticipate reuniting with friends, yet I’ll undoubtedly miss the An Táin Arts Centre and its amazing people. I’ll yearn for the mornings when I sprung out of bed, brimming with anticipation about the day’s writing endeavours. I’ll sorely miss the luxury of dedicating abundant hours each day to my craft and embracing my identity as a writer and artist. If tasked with encapsulating my residency in a single word, I would choose ‘value.’ This experience has bestowed upon me the ability to truly perceive and appreciate myself as a writer, especially as a female writer with a distinct voice.
Today, within the reflective confines of this mirrored sanctuary, I still see my physical imperfections, but I also discern a faint ray of sunshine, peeping through the windows. This is my beacon of light, my unwavering hope, a sign that reminds me of my inherent value as a writer – a female with a multifaceted background, chronicling the struggles and strength of being female. The only way to nurture and preserve this value is to keep writing, and keep recording my progress and reflections in my journal.
George Bernard Shaw’s profound words epitomise what I feel as I exit this mirrored studio: ‘Art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul’