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Emily Chen, centre, winner of the Edna O'Brien Award for Creative Writing in Scariff Community College, pictured with from left, Ian Kelly, Ms. Shulagh Colleran, Aisa Borotai, Roisin Meaney, Izzy O’Brien and Michael Blake. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Students inspired to honour the ‘riches of the written word’

Champion Chatter

THE very first creative writing award in honour of legendary Tuamgraney author Edna O’Brien was presented at Scariff Community College. 

The inaugural winner of the Edna O’Brien Creative Writing Award, which was initiated by teacher Shulagh Colleran in collaboration with Ms O’Brien’s family, was Sixth Year student Emily Chen.

Emily’s poem ‘They Say’, is a highly creative reflection on the importance of trees and forests in sustaining human life. Described by judge and fellow poet Luke Morgan as outstanding among all of the entries, ‘They Say’ emerged as the clear winner.

“It’s creative, its daring and ambitious, and its topical,” Mr Morgan said. “Congratulations to the poet who wrote it, I am very jealous!”

Ms Colleran said that all kinds of writing are encouraged and the aim is to develop the competition year-on-year.

“We want all students at Scariff Community College to look at the trophy and to think, ‘I’d like to win that before I leave the school’,” Ms Colleran said.

“We also want to recognise and encourage the great writing that goes on here and to honour Edna O’Brien, our greatest living writer who happened to grow up just across the road from the school.”

The great author herself sent a note of support, urging students to “continue to appreciate the riches of the written word and to honour it”.

Award-winning Limerick writer Dónal Ryan sent a video message and 12 local writers also attended what was described as a very successful and enjoyable day. Representing Edna O’Brien was her nephew Michael Blake, Chef d’équipe of the Aga Khan-winning Team Ireland. 

Acclaimed author Róisín Meaney presented the award, a striking bog oak sculpture created as a perpetual trophy by Ian Kelly, a past pupil of Scariff Community College. 

“I was delighted to be asked to present the prizes at the inaugural Edna O’Brien Creative Wrtiing Awards at Scarrif Community College on Monday,” Róisín said.

“The competition had been open to all manner of creative writing, but the three winning entries all happened to be poems. It’s always such a joy to witness young writers, be they budding poets, novelists or whatever, getting recognition for their efforts. The three girls were delightfully self-effacing, but I’d bet we’ll hear more of them in the future.”

In addition to congratulating Emily, Róisín praised the work of Aisha Borotai and Izzy O’Brien who received highly commended medals for their poems.

The inspiration for the award came from a contribution by Edna O’Brien to an anthology compiled over three years by Transition Year students. Dear Reader was launched in May and is a collection of letters from people in the community writing about their favourite books and poems

Ms Colleran thanked Creative Ireland who provided funding for the initiative and sculptor Ian Kelly for “going above and beyond in giving his time and energy to the school and to future generations”. 

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at [email protected] or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at [email protected] or telephone 065 6864146.

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