DBF Interviews: Elizabeth Reapy

Elizabeth Reapy

We are delighted to announce Elizabeth Reapy, Rooney Prize winning author of Red Dirt and Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Writer-In-Residence, as mentor to our IWC/ DBF Young Writer Delegates! You can find out more about the Young Writer Delegates Programme here.

Elizabeth joined us for a chat about her role as mentor, her experiences as a Writer-In-Residence and her advice for up-and-coming writers.


Elizabeth, thanks so much for taking the time out to speak with us today. For the YWD programme, you will be mentoring the four delegates (aged between 18 and 26) – can you tell us more about the stages of the mentorship process, and the opportunities for the delegates to fully immerse themselves in literature events and activities during #DBF2018?

I will be mentoring 4 talented young writers: Jenny Darmody, Laoise Slattery, John Creevy and Sinéad Creedon during #DBF2018.
We’ll be meeting daily to discuss the festival events and investigate topics that have arisen from them. I’ll be offering editorial suggestions and guiding them on their writing for the programme.

You were selected as a Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Writer-in-Residence for November 2017/2018. What have been your favourite milestones and “aha” moments from this experience? 

It’s been a fantastic year and I’ve met such interesting people through it. I had a pretty  intense journey to publication with Red Dirt and had lost touch a bit with the creative, wild side of writing so the uninhibited nature of the library writing groups, where they’d work off prompts and write on the fly, open and excited to put pen to paper and see what happens, has been very liberating for me. Reconnecting with the creative element of writing after being immersed in the business side of it for the past few years was great.
I was uplifted too by the camaraderie and encouragement in the groups, their facilitators are doing a fine job.
My highlight of the year was probably the flash fiction workshop and evening event in association with ILF Dublin. The writers worked off the theme “(Micro) Stories from the City” and produced excellent pieces about Dublin life.
I’ve enjoyed running the Books on Writing Book Club as well, where we’d meet monthly to discuss books like On Writing by Stephen King or Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I love hearing how different people connect to the ideas in the books.

You have a lot of teaching and mentoring experience under your belt, of course, including your teaching experience in Irish and British second level education, and your position as Volunteer Leader at the Fighting Words workshops for teenagers. What advice would you give to young aspiring writers in today’s modern Ireland, with all its distractions of social media and fast-paced digital platforms? 

I suppose with distractions, and I’d do well to heed my own advice here, is to remember you’ve always got a choice. You can choose to switch the phone off or deactivate your account or disconnect from the internet.
Our attention is even more precious nowadays, so becoming aware of the details of your life will make for rich writing. Be conscious as you experience each day. Listen to people. Observe them. Notice through your senses what’s going on around you. Trust your ideas. Read as much as you can too to feed your imagination. Same with other artistic material, music and film etc. Be brazen enough to be yourself. This will all make your creative work intriguing and unique.