Speaker – Michael Malone, 11th April 2012

When Michael first set foot in the AWC of 1994 it was not with the ease and composure that characterised his presentation on ‘Crime Writing’, to last night’s audience. Apprehensive about his place within the anticipated superior, cravat wearing, intelligentsia, he was surprised by the ensuing years of support, encouragement and sound advice from which he benefitted.

Michael outlined the meandering path his early writing followed, from the ambitious attempt of an eleven year old to redraft ‘Tarka The Otter’, to teenage poetry and even a preliminary sketch of a novel. These skills were to re-emerge in mid-life, Michael initially establishing himself as a poet, before turning to a life of crime (writing, that is).

Despite his current literary successes, Michael is due to publish two books this year (‘Blood Tears’ in June and ‘Carnegie’s Call’ around September), the trials and tribulations of securing the support of an agent and publisher have not passed him by. With waves of hope repeatedly dashed against the unforgiving rocks of ‘rave rejections’, Michael described how tenacity itself would not necessarily secure success. The best way to proceed, he advises, is simply to write on, not waiting for a breakthrough with the first attempt, but refocusing immediately on the next effort.

A keen advocate of self-help, Michael found ways to support his writing by running classes in Creative Writing. He was also pro-active in pursuing outlets for his work by attending conferences, workshops and literary events that would bring him into contact with potentially helpful contacts. Michael urged fellow writers to do likewise, to actively seek out their own opportunities rather than wait to ‘be discovered’.

The key aspects and qualities of good crime writing were outlined with fellow enthusiasts being urged to lead their readers down a path of endless questions towards a satisfying resolution. Michael offered countless hints and insights regarding factors that we can control, those that we can seek to influence and those over which we have no apparent sway whatsoever. Good writing, Michael observed, requires a blend of qualities and skills that can be acquired and refined by effort and a willingness to use feedback productively. Publication, alas, is more challenging in that although it is influenced considerably by the author’s efforts, it is also subject to the vagaries of taste and the publishing market. But as for the good fortune of dreaming up a brilliant opening to a book, or the synchronicity of bumping into the perfect source for the information you simply must have, who knows what good fortune brings such things forth?

A night bursting with pearls of wisdom grown from years of experience, Michael’s thoughts and reflections were well worth the undivided attention they received.

Dorothy Gallagher

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