Almost Forgot St. Paddy

Wow, 1:30 p.m. and I just realized it’s St. Patrick’s Day. There’s no reason I ought to remember except that I’m part O’Brien and those O’Briens like to spread around their Catholic guilt — even within my heathen veins.


Interestingly enough, I’m emmersed in all things Irish at this moment. I’m swimming in mist and rain, in gloom and dreariness. I’m exploring drystone walls and green landscapes, Celtic tumuli and Medieval relics. Atmospherics everywhere, or so I hope.

My novel is about as contrary to St. Patrick and his missionary goodness as you can get. If anything, I might, just possibly, poke a little fun at Catholicism. No offense to anyone; I figure I can because it’s a sickness that runs in my family. (Kidding! Kind of.)

I’m on the tail-end of this revision. Really. I am. Down to the individual words. Got a wearying list of them I’m “Find”ing because I ran into them too often while reading the printed manuscript. Various forms of the words “shiver” and “lurk.” “Gaze.” “Creak.” “Glance.”

And, for some reason, “smile,” too. Despite the fact that my characters are running around on a serious quest, I’ve got them smiling alot–usually as subterfuge. Gotta remedy that.

This is THE most boring revision task. But it’s necessary, so return I must. Back to all those blasted smiles.

Have you noticed that you fall back on certain words when drafting your stories?

A Guinness? Please!

ireland3a.jpgSaturday night I found myself at Kell’s Pub with a writer-friend named Bonnie. She was in town for a night, and we caught up on our gossip and writerly doings in the midst of partying 20-somethings. We’d originally met on the Maui Writers Conference circuit, and, speaking of St. Patrick and all good things Irish, we roomed together during an Irish writers retreat in 2006.

Here we are at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary.

We get on well for many reasons. We believe in each others’ writing (she’s the better artist, actually), aren’t drama-queens, and appreciate space and independent behavior. In fact, she’d heard the following through the small-world-writers-conference grapevine — it’s truly bizarre how insular and petty that world can be: Apparently, we earned ourselves a snobbish reputation during the retreat!


One evening after a day of writing and workshopping, a few of us decided to dine together. Word went around, and our cozy group of four turned into a loud and demanding 25. I couldn’t stand it. Neither could Bonnie. So we opted out with nice excuses and ended up at a local’s pub (no tourists there!). We ate our sandwiches and sipped our Guinnesses alongside a couple of old codgers we barely understood. This was perfect for us.

ireland5.jpgWere we snobs? Maybe, maybe not. Our flight wasn’t personal to any individual — it was the herd itself. Peer dynamics can be tough for those of us with lone-wolf tendencies. Besides, what difference could our departure possibly have had on the rest of the group? None. Or so we innocently assumed as we said our goodbyes.

I raise a St. Patrick’s Day toast to all “snobbish” individualists everywhere!






P.S. Check out this St. Patrick.

I snapped this shot in a village church during a 2004 novel-research trip. At the time, it struck me as, uh, colorful. Not the usual saintly statue so worth remembering. Low and behold, the image came in handy a few months ago when he made a surprise cameo appearance in my current first draft.