Richard Bausch's Short Story workshop at the Dun Laoghaire Mountains To Sea festival was not the kind where participants work feverishly on exercises, wondering anxiously if they will have to read their on-the-spot compositions aloud. Instead, the amiable Bausch perched on a stool in the midst of the café, ordered a bottle of red for the tables, and began to talk. Two hours later he was repairing with a good percentage of attendees to a nearby hostelry because he didn't want to stop, he was having fun.
As were we. He regaled us with anecdotes about writers and writing, and his own writer's life. He gave advice as succinct as 'strive to be clear', and that 'everything in the story has to contribute to the story'. He explained that the transition from the first dream-like draft through the subsequent drafts, where conscious invention becomes involved, is a process of learning what our story is about, or uncovering the truth in our fiction.
But perhaps even more valuable was his generous encouragement to us as writers, telling us that our doubts 'are the thing itself', the talent, and to 'get stubborn'. He recommended that we find ourselves a literary salon, in whatever its contemporary form - MFA programmes, for example - for the peer support that writers need and have always sought.
As the short two hours drew to a close, he shared his father's words, 'Everybody, one at a time', surely a lesson in compassion that no writer can be without.
The demand for the workshop was so high that Richard will give another tonight.
The Mountains To Sea festival runs from September 4th -9th.