AN aspiring young writer from Omagh has been shortlisted for one of Ireland’s most prestigious literary prizes.
Andrew Maguire (26), from Knocksilla Grove, is one of just ten writers from both sides of the border in the running for this year’s RTÉ Short Story Competition.
Mr Maguire’s tale, which is called Tactics, was chosen from more than 4,000 entries.
The winners of the top prizes will be announced on RTÉ Radio 1 tomorrow (September 28) at 7pm.
All ten stories will then be broadcast, starting with the overall winner that night, and continuing every week night until Friday, October 9.
The Omagh man, who works at South West College, said he was “over the moon” when he got a phone call from the competition organisers to say he’d been shortlisted.
“I was aware that the announcement was due soon, but in a competition with so many entries I didn’t have any real expectations.
“It was great news to be able to give my parents and to share with family and friends,” he said.
Mr Maguire has been writing, with a particular focus on short stories, ever since studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Queen’s University. As part of his work at the college, he writes a blog that won a top honour at the European Digital Communication Awards in Berlin in 2017.
But he admitted the RTÉ competition was the biggest thing that’s happened with his writing so far.
“RTÉ is a big platform and it’s great to have a story reach such a large audience, because I think having readers engage with your work is what any writer wants. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and some lovely comments from people who have read it, which will give me a lot of confidence for the future.
“Of course, the unique thing about being shortlisted for the RTÉ award is that the story will also be broadcast on the radio, and it will be a great to hear it read by an actor.”
Mr Maguire said there were lots of classic writers he loved, but he found the contemporary Irish literary scene “most inspiring”.
He said, “There are so many brilliant writers producing incredible work, including Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett and Sara Baume, to name just a few, so it’s impossible not to be inspired.
“I’ve been involved with the Omagh Arts Committee for few years and I’m currently chairman of the Omagh Literary Festival. Some of Ireland’s biggest writers come to the festival every year and hearing them talk about their work and getting to talk to them personally only adds to that inspiration.”
The ideas for his stories can come from anywhere, Mr Maguire said.
“The ones that turn into an actual story are those that just won’t go away; the ideas that stay with you until you eventually write them down and make them work.
“In the case of Tactics, some of the ideas in the story had been with me for a long time. Eventually, I put them on paper and the story came together quite quickly.”
His shortlisted story is about a shebeen which is older than any of the men in it can remember.
He said, “It’s a setting and a group of characters I’ve always wanted to bring to life in a story because although it’s not based on any one place or any specific people, the influence of places and characters I’ve encountered are present throughout it. The central character is Wojciech, a young Polish lad, and because the shebeen is new to him he serves as a fresh pair of eyes with which to view the scenes and the people around him, before he eventually takes the story in his own direction.”
No matter what happens in the competition, Mr Maguire said his first passion would always be writing fiction.
“Like any writer I have ambitions of having more work published in the future, but I’m aware that I’ve been lucky enough to have a few great experiences so far, and if I have a few more like that I’ll be very happy,” he added.
To read Tactics, Mr Maguire’s story that has made the shortlist, click here.
Posted: 6:01 pm September 27, 2020