Colin Barrett was born in Canada and grew up in Mayo. He received bursaries from the Arts Council in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Young skins is his first collection of short stories
What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing Young Skins?
I was lucky enough to receive consistent editorial support fairly early on from the press that would ultimately publish the collection – the stinging fly press. So it was reassuring to know that once I completed the manuscript there was a specific destination for it. The main challenge then was simply writing stories of sufficient quality. Along the way there were stories that did not work, and those that weren’t abandoned had to be extensively rejigged. Putting the collection together took almost three years. You are developing all the time and from the first year of that period a lot of work ultimately ended up being purged as it was not of a standard with the later stuff I was writing; and that’s not mentioning the years of guff I was writing before all that.
How would you describe your daily writing routine?
Fitful, but continuously so. I go in and out of it. I am generally able to write in contained bursts, leave it and come back. But then some days it is all one extended instance, and other days it just can’t get going.
What has receiving a bursary award meant to you as a writer/for your writing career?
More even than the actual financial support, it is just nice to know your work is of a certain merit (though these things can never be universally objective, of course, and at other years I may not have got funding). Writing for a long time is a solipsistic, secretive thing, of necessity. Eventually though, you must put it out into the world. When you are starting out, any avenue of potential legitimation, whether that’s a bursary, placing in a competition, being published in a journal etc etc will help with your confidence. Though when you are starting out, you also need to have the inner conviction to not be dissuaded if those things don’t materialise!
What is the best piece of advice you received as an emerging writer?
Nobody knows anything, so just do your own thing.
What book/author has influenced your writing the most?
I’d give a different answer to this every day of the week, but what comes to mind right now is Paul Muldoon’s yellowbrick collected poems - a book that I devoured over and over for a couple of years back in my early twenties. This is when I was writing small amounts of terrible poetry. It was a salutary process to be a bad, ‘would-be’ poet, but I learned incalculable things about the chemistry of language from Muldoon’s work. .