Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Interview with Celine Mescall

              Celine Mescall Graces and Blessings From Ireland.

My guest is Celine Mescall who has recently launched her book Graces and Blessings from Ireland.
Thank you Celine for sharing your writing journey.
Celine blogs at 

and her book is available in shops and online at

Your book Graces and Blessing from Ireland has been evolving for quite some time-can you remember when you had the idea originally and what prompted it?
The graces have been in my head and on pieces of paper for close to thirty years. The first one I consciously wrote (in my head) was the blessing for breastfeeding when my I was feeding my infant daughter but the notion of publishing my collection of Graces and Blessings is relatively recent and the final year of my creative writing course gave me the push I needed to do it.

Would you describe your book as spiritual?
I suppose graces and blessings come from that part of me which is quiet and reflective and appreciative of life. Maybe that makes it spiritual.

You have lived and worked abroad for a number of years –does this experience influence and appear in your work?
Absolutely Mary. My time in Brazil though it was many years ago had a huge impact on the person I am today. I had lived a fairly sheltered life at home and in the UK but Brazil  was a different story. With no electricity, no water and no roads everything was a challenge and trying to be effective as a voluntary worker took its toll physically. But far more importantly my time there opened my eyes to injustice and inequality and the daily struggle of the poor and disenfranchised for a decent life.

How do you structure your writing time-daily, weekly, so many words per day/week?
Structure, I’m afraid is not a word that pops up too often in my writing life. I often write on a whim or when a thought occurs to me. During the Maynooth course I had structures and deadlines which I managed to make for the most part but my writing these days could be four lines of a poem one day and a grace or blessing the next.

What are you most grateful for in your life?
I do believe that I am blessed with my children, my family and friends and my surroundings. I am grateful that my mother is well and still reciting monologues at eighty-nine and a half and that my children sleep safely at night.
I live on the banks of the Kings River in Kilkenny surrounded by hills, trees and birds. I am thankful for the heron I sometimes see, the ripples made by leaping fish which I usually miss, the colourful finches at the feeder, the tinkle of dry falling leaves and the smell of new-cut grass. I am grateful when I dig up beetroot or pick apples or bite into juicy corn which I've just cooked and slathered with butter.
I thank God for all of those thing and much more..

Are difficult life /childhood experiences good for a writer?
That’s a question which makes me stop and think. So many of the “How to” books will advise you to write about what you know and so I suppose if you’ve had difficult or traumatic experiences in life you may want to write about them. On the other hand you may never want to write of your experiences but having had them you may be better able to understand the characters you are creating in your writing and give more depth to them.
I wrote a short story about an  experience in Brazil which was published in the “Moths Against Glass” anthology and in the RTA quarterly magazine. Since then friends have suggested that I write some more about Brazil and certainly I would love to write about some of the wonderful people I met there and the effect their life stories had on my life.

What’s the best thing about seeing your published /finished work on sale?
How can I explain the feeling. When I held my little book for the first time and rubbed my hand over the pages and smelled that new book smell it was like holding a baby for the first time and smelling that new-born smell and counting fingers and toes….magical!
Now when I see it in book shops I am mightily pleased.

What made you a writer? Family/ childhood/ background /life experiences?
When we were little my mother knitted all our jumpers and socks, made our dresses and petticoats on the sewing machine while my father mended our shoes, fixed our bikes and designed all sorts of wonderful contraptions on paper, so I grew up in a house that was creative by necessity. All eleven of us have followed their example to some extent or other from creating wonderful gardens to making quilts, painting pictures, designing interiors, baking cakes or building motorbikes. We have songwriting too and monologue reciting and poetry writing so I guess it's in the blood.

What was the most difficult part of getting your book to the publishing stage?
Because I published Graces and Blessings myself I was able to manage the process and any difficulties were ironed out in-house. Helena Duggan who illustrated the book, designed it and did the lay-out  had most of the headaches but we worked as a team and were both present when the first pages came off the press. We didn’t pop champagne then but went for a good cup of coffee.

What surprised you most about the process?
I hadn’t realised the amount of work that is involved in the design and lay-out but the big surprise was the editing and word checking and spelling. We read and checked and read and checked and yet ended up with a mistake in the text. I try to ignore it!

Who/what has helped you most along your writing journey?
What has helped me most along my writing journey is the great writings I have read, not necessarily the classics but books that excited me and books that saddened me and books that made me stay up all night. We got a school library when I was in sixth class and could borrow books on Fridays, I hardly ever slept a Friday night after that because of Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and all the other books which opened doors to different worlds.
Of course the people who tutored me and nurtured me and encouraged me also played a big part both in my writing and in my life back as far as my schoolteachers. I’m thinking now of Gerry Moran and Suzanne Power and John McKenna who were my most recent teachers but before that there was David Rice and Kathleen Thorne in Killaloe and many, many others. I also think of my writing group and how we depend on each other's good will and the confidence we have in knowing that we want only the best for each other. My writing group gently tended my seedling graces, watered and fertilized them and rejoiced with me when Graces and Blessings was harvested.

Do you need to write?
A big yes to that. I’ve always written, whether letters or diaries or musings on life or angry outbursts to politicians or trying to clear my head. I've avoided some tricky situations which I might have regretted by writing it all down and then throwing it in the fire.
Putting it on paper is my way.

Advice for anyone writing?    You will do it when the time is right.

Does writing make you happy?
Absolutely, particularly poetry, be it two lines or twenty. I love to read poetry. I’ve written in the middle of the night because some words woke me and when my anthology poem “A Thinking Walk in the Woods” wrote itself in my head, I couldn’t wait to get home to put it on paper. That was an extremely happy moment.

Are you a thinker or dreamer or do’er?
 I love projects and am constantly looking around to see what I will do next. It might be knocking down a wall or putting up a polytunnel or making a batch of tomato sauce but all the while I am creating scenarios in my head or reliving scenes from the past. Doing and thinking go hand in hand but not so much dreaming, unless I include those "what if" moments.

What do you like to do to relax?
I love the garden especially growing anything we can eat and am relaxed and happy out there, much more relaxed than doing housework.
I read most days, however since doing the Maynooth course I am a bit more circumspect about my reading material and find myself being critical of things like sentence length or poor editing or over-use of exclamation marks!! (I blame Suzanne for that)
I love music and though I'm not musical myself there is music in my family and my own two are very musical. When Michael, my son, is home he will sometimes sit at the piano and play all my favourites while I'm preparing dinner or at night Kate will pick up her guitar and sing away quite contentedly for an hour or more. What more could a body ask for?

The book has been very well received and needless to say I am delighted. There was that awful moment of doubt before publication when I asked myself what I was at and was it foolish to think anyone might read my little book but thankfully I have been proved wrong. Wallowing in that good feeling is enough for the moment.

Blog at gracesandblessings.wordpress.com

Available in shops and online at gracesandblessings@tictail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment