Castleconnell author has the write stuff for international success

THE O’CONNORS, well know for building the famous Castleconnell angling cots for generations, have always been good with their hands.

THE O’CONNORS, well know for building the famous Castleconnell angling cots for generations, have always been good with their hands.

And while Pat O’Connor is a dab hand at boat building too, it is with a pen in his hand that he is making waves.

Pat, from The Tontines, has won the 2011 Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Prize at the 12th annual Cork International Short Story Festival.

The 52 year-old was chosen from an entry of over 750 stories from authors around the world. It is three years since the award has been won by an Irish writer, and in presenting the prize, the judges stated that the Castleconnell man’s story was the “clear winner by a country kilometre”.

“To actually win it you would have to say there is some luck in it because it is subjective but getting on the final shortlist of six out of that amount is really a big honour.

“They would be looking for stories of quality and would weed out the ones they thought were the best and then make a decision,” said Pat.

This isn’t a flash in the pan for Pat. He was shortlisted for the same award last year, and this year had a story shortlisted for the Francis McManus Short Story Award with RTE 1. He is currently shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing award.

Pat describes his winning short story “The Haggard” as a “comical rustic romp”.

“It’s centred around a solitary country man and his interactions with the real world. My brother said it’s like a string of jokes and exaggerations that the two of us go on with but in the literary field they have never heard anything like it,” said Pat, who is married to Joan Garahy and has two children Padraig and Art.

The story will be available to read on the Southword Journal on from November.

Pat has always enjoyed writing but it is only in recent years he has been able to devote more time to it. As a young pupil in St Munchin’s Pat began writing short stories but after leaving Limerick to study in UCD he found he had less and less time to devote himself to his craft.

A qualified geologist Pat spent years travelling the globe working with exploration companies from his base in Dublin.

About eight years ago they decided to return home to Castleconnell and do up the family home in The Tontines and ancestral cottage in the village.

Once those projects were completed around four years ago Pat now spends half his time writing and the other half pursuing business interests.

“I never had time for it before now, I was never able to get stories finished. I did write a novel that had been done in dribs and drabs over a long time that very nearly got published. Now I’ve nearly 20 short stories written,” says Pat.

As only one or two publishers in Ireland publish short stories he says even to get one published is very difficult not to mind a collection.

“Getting a deal to publish a collection is like winning the lotto,” said Pat.

However, winning prizes like this will certainly help narrow his odds. Pat is a regular reader at “The Nail”, a monthly review of poetry, prose and plays run by the Limerick Writers Centre. The next session is on Tuesday, October 4 at 8pm in Foley’s Bar on Sarsfield Street.

Limerick Writers Centre also run writing workshops for aspiring writers, which Pat takes part in. For further information about Limerick Writers Centre contact Dominic Taylor on 087 2996409.

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