Friday 24th was the last day of Maynooth University SWIFT 2015. It's an odd feeling getting to the end of the week. There is certainly some relief around getting to this point relatively unscathed but there is some sadness that the magic is ending, at least for the moment. Because this is our second summer institute I know that the Day 5 also marks the beginning of this group continuing to connect and collaborate. I am confident that it also marks the next stage in the development of this idea (movement?) in Ireland. We can say that we have now completed our second summer institute. We can say that there is every likelihood that we will run a summer institute again next year - 2016. We can be relatively sure that we will expand the work to a second site on the island of Ireland, maybe even a third. So, on the last day it's a blend of endings and beginnings.
On this last day we had two demos - one from Sarah and one from Claire. My life spilled over into the day and I had to miss the best part of Sarah's demo and all of Claire's so I cannot comment on them. All I can say is that I heard they were wonderful and model examples of what we are hoping for from demos. I urge my co-director Deirdre to reply to this blog post to fill in the gaps.
Following the demos we had author's chair which was wonderful. Last year I was anxious about how author's chair would work - I think that was more about how I would feel sitting up there reading my work than about how it would work conceptually! This year, as last year, it was a great success. The diversity of the work, the honesty, the variety of voice and the range of emotions was breathtaking. We had such a talented group of writers in the room that I am sorry we didn't hear more of their writing during the week (note to self to try to factor more of this in next year!)
Following author's chair we had two contributions from past fellows, Eileen and Clair. Eileen explored, in the limited time available, memoir and challenged us to consider the difference between memoir and autobiography. We wrote to two prompts: 'I remember when ...' and 'I don't remember when ... ' We were urged not to stop in an attempt to silence the internal editor. After the exercise we chatted about how it was and what we wrote. Clair ended the day by inspiring us to consider getting published and showing us the nitty gritty of what might be involved. It was very useful to see the different stages and players that make up the publishing world. Hopefully we weren't put off!
The day finished pretty much on time. Deirdre and I thanked the group. It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with everyone all week. I have learned and laughed so much. I look forward to the next steps on the journey ...