BY EMMA CONNOLLY
A GLENGARRIFF woman is celebrating after winning one of the country’s most prestigious literary prizes.
Claire Zwaartman was awarded the first prize, out of a record 1,800 entries, in the RTÉ Radio 1 Short Story Competition in honour of Francis MacManus, winning €3000.
Claire only started writing fiction last year and has just completed a masters in creative writing in UCC.
Her winning short story ‘Ashes’ looks at a pair of siblings scattering their father’s ashes.
It is about the complicated nature of family, disharmony and moving on. Claire, who also works as a cook in the kitchen in the Eccles Hotel said it was ‘in response to personal tragedies in my life with my parents.’
‘It came from that but I didn’t want it to be a whingey piece so I attempted humour in there as well,’ she said.
The win, she said, was ‘out of the blue.’
‘To even be shortlisted was huge for me. Anything after that was going to be the icing on the cake. I only sent the story in two days before the deadline as I wanted to get into the habit of sending stuff out – I completely forgot about it after that.’
She said the hospitality industry was a rich place to get inspiration and see people’s characters.
She plans to use her winnings to pay off some debts and enjoy some travel in the spring.
Married to tree surgeon Colin Quinn, she said he was hugely supportive of her work.
‘The plan now is to get back to writing. There’s lots of things, including a novel and other short stories, that I started during the year that I need to get back to.
‘The win is huge for me but I know when I sit down with my laptop I’ll have to put it to one side. It’s a love-hate process,’ she added.
Speaking at an event held in the Irish Architectural Archive on Merrion Square in Dublin last week, judge Cormac Kinsella said: ‘What impressed me most about Ashes was, despite its length, the reader is given a fully realised world that the characters inhabit. I finished the story knowing them so well and the lives that they lived.’
He added: ‘It’s an economy and precision of language that is very rare to read.’