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What happened to February? I can’t believe it’s over a month since I last posted to Top of the Tent. I worked hard in January to meet some writing deadlines and it was tough, although enjoyable too, despite the fact that the work was taking place on the back of a handful of rejections during the first week of January. Not a good start to the year, but as I said a year ago in Reflections on Rejections, a fiction writer, like other creative types such as visual artists, poets and actors, must be able to take rejection on the chin. Perhaps being turned down for some of my fiction is what prompted me to resort to non-fiction again, an activity I’ve neglected for too long.

It was a treat to return to more critical, slightly more academic writing, and the experience took me back to those never-to-be-repeated full time student days: waking up each morning to focus on (mostly) scholarly activities, the only worry being how to spend the evenings and the weekends. Writing feels different when the aim is clarity in expressing your own ideas sorting out what’s in your own head, rather than the creation of a fictional world and living inside a character’s head. It was also good to take a break from the short stories I’m currently working on and come back to them with fresh, and undoubtedly more critical eyes.

February is gone, but thankfully, it brought some good news as the two non-fiction pieces I submitted were accepted for publication, as were a flash fiction piece and a short story. One thing I’ve realised about the whole submission process is, if rejected, try, try again, ie, with the same piece. When it comes back to you, take another look – read for clues as to why it was rejected, improve it wherever you can, and re-submit. The two fiction pieces I’ve linked to below, were rejected on their first outing and after a tune-up, they were accepted on the second submission to different editors.

When I took the break from writing fiction and had my little scholarly interlude with the essays, I was reminded of the following poem, anonymous from the17th century, extolling the virtues of academic pursuits. It’s not a lifestyle many are fortunate enough to have today since patriotism is long dead, and of course, it was a life open only to the male of the species in the 1600s in Ireland, but still, it’s good to dream.


The Scholar’s Life

Sweet is the scholar’s life,
Busy about his studies,
The sweetest lot in Ireland
As all of you know well.

No king or prince to rule him
Nor lord however mighty,
No rent to the chapterhouse,
No drudging , no dawn-rising.

Dawn-rising or shepherding
Never required of him,
No need to take his turn
As watchman in the night.

He spends a while at chess,
And a while with the pleasant harp
And a further while wooing
And winning lovely women.

His horse-team hale and hearty
At the first coming of Spring;
The harrow for his team
Is a fistful of pens.

* * * * *

And here are those links to my recent publications:

Review of Bernie McGill’s short story collection ‘Sleepwalkers’ in The Incubator Journal

Essay on Michael Hartnett’s ‘Inchicore Haiku’ in The Honest Ulsterman literary journal

My short story, ‘The Moon-faced Girl’ on Englanti Editing’s Finnish website

Link to Haverthorn Magazine, a new literary journal that will feature my flash fiction ‘The First Wife’ in their inaugural issue

* The Scholar’s Life is from An Duanaire 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed (Editors Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella) 1981, 1985, 1990, 1994 and 2002 Foras na Gaeilge.