Poet, writer of short fiction and memoir, performer, social networker, workshop leader.
Her first collection of short stories As Long as it Takes, about first and second-generation Irish women living in England, is forthcoming in February 2014.
Writing as Maria Bradley, she was a regular columnist on BBC Radio 4′s Home Truths.
Maria has arranged themed events at libraries in the Medway towns, Canterbury and Swale, and at The Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne, featuring her own work and that of other local writers and musicians. She has also taken part in events at the University of Kent, at the Medway Fringe Festival 2006, and at Foyles Bookshop in London.
She leads creative writing workshops in her writing room – a converted shed at the end of her garden – and has also taught workshops on short fiction at the Hazlitt Arts Centre, Maidstone, for Save As Writers, Canterbury, and has led poetry workshops for libraries in the Medway and Swale areas of Kent.
Maria has an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Kent. She was winner of the Save As Prose Awards 2011, having also won the 2009 Award, and gained second place in Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2010.
Maria finishes five sentences for Canterbury Laureate Sarah Salway - featuring a photo of her writing shed
I think it does, but a lot less so than when I was growing up, when we from Irish families were associated with the acts of the IRA. My brother was beaten up by his English friends on the night that Mountbatten died. This was behind the story 'Cold Salt Water' in my collection. I can identify with how Muslims feel in England, when they are associated with fundamentalists. It's similar to how the Irish were treated in the '70s.B. does an anti Irish attitude persist in England.
My first book, strange fruits, was a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support, which supports people with cancer and their families. The book is in memory of my friend Karen McAndrew, who died just 4 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Macmillan were very supportive to her and her family, and I used their website a great deal to get information. Macmillan nurses work in the community and in hospitals, and they helped Karen and her family in her final days. The final story of As Long as it Takes features Macmillan nurses. The story, 'Combing out the Tangles' is based on my final visit to Karen, when I combed her hair. Such an intimate thing to do, and all I could do for her at that stage.C. Tell us a bit about the foundation that your book sales help support please.
I do feel that a lack of respect, a challenging of authority, is something that has been passed down to me in my genes. I remember my mother marching up to the school to speak to the headmisstress about my brother having been locked in a cupboard as a punishment. This was in primary school. My sister, who was perhaps only 8 years old herself, walked out of school and ran home to tell Mum what had happened. A brave thing to do, and born out of that lack of respect for authority.D. Are you willing to generalize a bit and compare and contrast the Irish versus the English?Ooh, goodness. I grew up in England in an Irish family. I suppose my memories are of Irish people as willing to have a party at the drop of the hat, and English people being a bit more reserved. And I have to say, in the circles my family moved in, there was a tremendous amount of drinking by the men (not so much by the women), which I didn't see in the families of my English schoolfriends. I do think there is a sadness in a lot of Irish people, in spite of a seeming outgoing nature. But all these sound like generalisations, and are based on memories rather than current day. And talking - the Irish can talk!questions for Irish Short Story Month Year 4These questions are designed to get responders talking. They are asked out of a deep respect, they are not a quiz. Feel free to ignore questions you do not wish to answer. The more you answer, the more valuable the session will be. Say as much as you like.A.A. what is your reaction to this ?
B.I love this quote. Is Edna O'Brien onto a fundamental insight about the Irish.?I think she is on to something. It does make me think of the landscape of County Clare where my mother comes from.1. Declan Kiberd in his book, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation, said thedominant theme of Modern Irish is that of the weak or missing father. Do you think Kiberd is right? How does this impact your work,if it does.
2. how and when did you begin to write?
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary short story writers. What classic writers do you find your self drawn to reread. If a neophyte short story writer were to ask you who to read, what might you suggest?
4. Frank O'Connor in The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story said short stories seem to be about marginalized people, the lonely, those with with little voice in society. Do you think he is on to something illuminating about the format? Why is there so much loneliness in the Irish short story?
5. I sometimes wonder why such a disproportionate amount of the regarded as great literature of the world is written in the colder temperate zones rather than in the tropics. How big a factor do you think the Irish Weather is in shaping the literary output of its writers.? I cannot imagine The Brothers Karamazov being written on tropical island, for example.
Oh, I appear to have answered this in the previous Q! More time indoors, more isolation, the effect of rain on the psyche...
7. When you write, do you picture and audience or do you just write?
9. Assuming this applies to you, how do you get past creative "dry spells", periods when you have a hard time coming up with ideas or when things seem futile?
10. What are the last three novels you read? Last three movies? do you have any favorite TV shows?
I took a Cert than an MA in creative writing and have also been a part of workshopping groups, such as Medway Mermaids women's writing group. I learned a tremendous amount on the courses, but they were only the beginning of my learning and practice as a writer. Workshops - at their best they can be supportive and helpfully critical. At their worst, they can destroy a beginner writer's confidence. I had a malicious workshopper in my MA group for 2 years. Why the tutor didn't deal with it I do not know. I have lost faith in workshopping, I have to say, except in a trusted group. Even then, it's good to get the opinion of someone you don't know after a while, someone with a different perspective. I am not a member of a writers' group now and it doesn't appeal to me anymore.11. Have you attended creative writing workshops and if you have share your experiences a bit please.
12. Make up a question and answer it please.
13. Not long ago I was sent several very hostile messages from Irish writers demanding to know why I had posted on the works of other writers and not them. Some suggested I had been influenced by some sort of shadowy group to ignore their work. I was informed there is a small elite group who decides who gets reviewed, published or receives grants and it was also suggested they had sent me negative feedback on writers I should ignore. What in the Irish literary scene is behind this? Is there anything like an "Irish Literary Mafia"?
I went to a Catholic primary school in Surrey, which was very mixed in terms of race and culture. Lots of Irish children, plus Italians, Polish. It was quite rich in many ways. I then went on to a girls' grammar school, which was very posh and mainly white English girls went there. It was a culture shock, as I'd mixed so much with Irish children and families, even though we lived in the heart of Surrey. I did a first degree at Thames Polytechnic, being the first in my family to go on to higher education. I worked as a library assistant after graduating with a non-spectacular lower second (too many interesting things going on to study hard). Marriage and children came early, so I didn't get into work properly until my late twenties, when I started a career in the charity sector, working mainly with volunteering schemes around disability. My last full-time job was managing an advocacy scheme for people with mental health problems. Then I got ill and haven't worked full-time since 1999.14. Tell us a bit about your non-academic non literary work experience pleaseTell us something about your educational background, please. ,
15. Quick Pick QuestionsA. tablets or laptops?
I love my MacBook laptop, and I don't have a tablet. If I had one, I might love that too.
B. E readers or traditional books?
C. Synge or Beckett?
D. Cats or dogs?
E. best city to inspire a writer- Paris, London, Dublin, or?
F. Would you rather witness opening night for Waiting for Godot, King Lear, Playboy of the Western World or Ubo Roi?
16. Do you think Irish Travellers should be granted the status of a distinct ethnic group and be given special rights to make up for past mistreatment? Are the Travellers to the Irish what the Irish were once to the English? I became interested in this question partially through reading the short stories of Desmond Hogan.
17. Death, natural and otherwise is a central factor in the Irish short story and it seems to me to play a bigger factor in the Irish short story than other cultures-can you talk about this a bit, please .
18. How important is social media in the development of the career of writers? Do you have your own web page and if so why? Do you think it is good business savvy to post free samples of your work online?
19. recently Guiness sponsored a creative writing program and set up a grant system for writers and artist. A number of my Irish Facebook friends said they would repudiate a grant from Guiness and art festivals and programs should refuse their sponsorship. This was in part because of the perceived terrible social cost of alcoholism on Irish families. It was also stated that Guiness was trying to get people to see drinking as associated with creativity. Would you refuse a grant from Guiness? Are their sponsorship efforts insidious? When I facetiously suggested I would take on the burden of these malicious grants, I was taken to task as an outsider who needs to mind his own business.
EndMy great thank to Maria for taking the time to provide us with such interesting and informative responses.I hope to post on her full collection in April.