Irish American Writers & Artists

January 22, 2012

Kudos to Kathleen! IAW&A Member Wins Irish-American Writing Contest

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Kathleen Donohoe, an Irish American Writers and Artists’ member and frequent Salon contributor, learned today that she has won first prize in the prestigious Crossroads Irish-American Writing Contest. In addition to a cash prize, Kathleen has been invited to read her story at the Crossroads’ Festival in San Francisco in March. 

“I’m very excited about the award,” Kathleen said. “Actually, it’s the first piece I ever read at an IAW&A Salon.  I first learned of the contest when it was announced at one of the Salons and later when the IAW&A posted a link on its website.  I never, ever, would have heard about it otherwise.”

The story is a chapter from Kathleen’s novel in progress and is titled You Were Forever.  The story takes place in Brooklyn, NY in October 2001. Kathleen tells the tale of one of the first women firefighers in the history of the FDNY attending the funeral of the first male firefighter who befriended her on the job.

Kathleen regrets that she will be in San Francisco on St. Patricks day but said, “I’ve been thinking about a Brooklyn pub crawl…maybe we can get a group from the IAWA to do the Brooklyn St. Pat’s Day Parade.”  Yes, a resourceful woman and a wonderful writer. 
Congratulations, Kathleen.  Well deserved. 

January 19, 2012

A Big Night at “Salon at The Cell”

by Charles Hale

Tuesday evening’s IAW&A’s Salon at The Cell began with newly elected Irish American Writers and Artists’ president, TJ English, whose best seller, The Savage City,  is now available in paperback, thanking the members and friends in attendance for making the Salon the success it has become.

Following TJ, the talented writer, John Kearns, who has presented poetry, a novel in progress and scenes from his plays at prior Salons, read a segment from his first novel,  The World, in which the main character, known as “The Youth,” stands on a bridge over a littered stream and receives his vocation to be a writer. After this experience, the character becomes known as “The Artist.” 

Maura Mulligan, whose book, Call of the Lark,will be published on May 10, the anniversary of her arrival in the United States from Ireland, read from a novel in progress. The main character works as a teacher in the NYC Department of Education. She is confronted with a problem–unwanted, unprofessional attention from the principal of the school–that she’s never had to deal with.  The question is, how will she deal with this sexual harassment? Given Maura’s wonderful facility for words, as evidenced by her past readings from Call of the Lark, I anxiously await the development of this new work. 

New IAW&A member Tom Phelan read a gripping selection from his latest novel, Nailer, in which a former inmate of the Irish industrial schools sets out to achieve justice for himself and his murdered brother. I hope Tom comes back and continues reading from this extraordinary work. 

Tom Mahon, who read the first half of his story “Outcasts,” at a recent Thalia Care Salon, followed Pat with the second half of his story.  Tom explained how he’d written the story two years ago of a husband and wife from the husband’s point of view, but on rewriting realized that the wife’s ongoing dance with formidable demons really made it her story.  

I closed the out the first half of the evening with a video John Coakley’s White Wings, which examines how poor immigrants lived in New York City during  the late nineteenth century and the jobs they were  forced to take in order to put food on the table. 

Martha Pinson opened the second half of the program with a short film that she directed called It’s Not Saturday, in which a NY teenager finds himself the head of his family, which includes a sick grandma and a little brother. When he begins panhandling with his saxophone  we discover the power of his music to contribute not only to his family but to the city as well. Past IAW&A president and co-founder, Peter Quinn was in attendance and of Martha’s film he said, “It is a spare, eloquent, moving piece of filmmaking. Bravo to Martha!”  The film stars alto sax monster, Alex Han, Chase Williams, Linette Hardie, Scott Burik, and Frank Lewallen. The screenplay was written by Annette Beatrice and edited by Will Brook. 

Journalist and playwright, Pat Fenton, took us back to his old neighborhood reading a scene from his play in progress about a lost part of Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, once a teeming, tight-knit, Irish and Italian blue-collar neighborhood that existed near 17th Street and 9th Avenue before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.

In his play, Fenton intimates the dreams, trials and travails of just ordinary people trying to find the American dream in post WWII Windsor Terrace, among them a cop who really wanted to be a writer, a movie projectionist at the Sanders Theatre whose life is defined by the continuance of movie reels as he waits for the changeover mark, a 9th Avenue pool hustler whose small piece of the American dream, two weeks summer vacation over a Rockaway saloon, Fitzgerald’s, is dangerously gambled one night, and a beautiful dreamer named Janice Joyce who tried to go home again, and almost made it, Irish American stories about an area that was once the hub of one of the greatest, Irish working-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Pat’s characters, their hopes, desires and foibles, and his ability to create a moment in time, show off this wonderful writer’s talents.  

Mark Donnelly read a poem Blue-black Night and Snow, a memory poem about late winter nights as a boy, watching the snow from his bedroom window and praying that school would be canceled the next morning.  I really related to this one. I spent my entire youth praying that school be cancelled for any reason. 

Sarah Fearon read a recent draft of her play Air Rights,which features as its main character, the riotous realtor, Snazzy Peabody. The quintessential New Yorker, Snazzy epitomizes an everything is for sale, New York attitude. If you haven’t seen or heard Sarah–she’s got a great ear for voices–you should.  Very topical, very humorous. 

Last up was multi-talented, Larry Kirwan, who read/acted a chapter from his novel, Rockin’ The Bronx, set in the watershed years of 1980/81 that tracks the lives of four young Irish immigrants in the racially diverse Kingsbridge Road neighborhood.” After Larry’s presentation, Tom Mahon said, “There’s such a thing as performance writing, and it’s counterpart is performance reading.  We just heard both.” Perfectly stated. 

The next Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon will be at the Thalia Cafe at Symphony Space on W. 95th Street off Broadway, Tuesday, February 7, at  7PM. For more information on joining the IAW&A or presenting at one of the Salons contact me at

January 18, 2012

“White Wings” Screened at “Salon at The Cell”

Filed under: Essay,Film,Literature,Music,Television — by johnleemedia @ 8:00 pm
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by Charles Hale

Pete Hamill, Brooklyn born author, and the son of Irish Immigrant parents, said of our immigrant ancestors. “We know what they gave up. They gave up their countries and in some cases their languages. They worked at the lousiest, rottenest jobs in order to put food on our tables. We have to honor that for the rest of our lives.” One such Irish immigrant was my great great grandfather John Coakely. John was a street cleaner. How much can one study or write about a street cleaner?

The music I have chosen for this work is, coincidentally, called “White Wings,” a beautiful work by Oystein Sevag:

January 17, 2012


Tonight the Irish American Writers & Artists Salon sets up again at The Cell, 338 West 23rd Street in NYC.  The evening begins at 7:00.

IAW&A members can present, but all are welcome to attend.  So, if you’re not a member and you are interested in becoming one, please see Salon host Charles Hale at the Salon or join online  at

The Salons work best when folks keep their presentations within the ten minute limit. If you plan on reading, please read your work aloud at least once so that you know how long it takes.  Many find they can read about 1,400 words comfortably in ten minutes.

There will be wine, but donations are appreciated to cover the cost!

See you there!


January 5, 2012

First Salon of 2012, More to Come!

There were a number of references to the experience of war during Tuesday night’s Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon at the Thalia Cafe. Malachy McCourt gave a powerful reading of “Does it Matter,” a poem written by English poet Siegfried Sassoon, a leading poet during the First World War, and Charles Hale included singer Dinah Shore’s popular World War II hit, “I’ll Be Seeing You” in his presentation, illustrating how music connects him to events, including those he hadn’t personally experienced. 

Kathleen Frazier, one of the salons finest readers, opened the evening with a reading from “Silkie Girl,” the first in a trilogy of historical novels.  “Silkie Girl” has also been described as, “… the first in a series of intergenerational historical novels about the women in an Irish/Irish American family, their mythologies, and how their love for each other lifts them up.” 

Mark Butler read the Work Overture from John Kearns’s novel in progress, “Worlds.”  The Work Overture is a poetic piece about the Logan family’s making its fortune in the construction business.  An interesting development at the salons has been the way members have called on other members to participate in presenting each other’s work.  This was a prime example of that pleasant development.   

John Kearns a frequent presenter at the Salons read an excerpt from his novel in progress “Worlds” a story about Janey Dougherty’s marrying into the Logan family in the early ’60s.  Janey’s dream of a glamorous entrance to her wedding reception at a hotel on Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square is shattered by her encounter with a homeless man and her sister’s racist response to it. 

Mikelle Terson, a first time presenter and guest of Malachy McCourt, read several poems, including “ME”,  (“I got in a huge fight with myself; I slept on the couch”),  “Poems in my Bed”, a poem about the pesky nocturnal presence of poetic entities, “At the Margin” a poem about the dark night of the soul, “No Footing”, a poem about betrayal (“my legs came off last night and I was doing so well with them”) and “Love that Rattles the Bones”.  

Mikelle also announced that she is hosting a writing contest to help elephants, particularly the African elephant, which is in danger of extinction. Write a poem, short story or song answering the question of “What made the elephant happy?”  There is a $5 entrance fee to support the elephants’ cause. The prize is an 18k gold diamond happy elephant necklace and wildlife photo essay book by Nick Brandt. Malachy McCourt and David Amram are judges. For more information visit

Honor Molloy wanted, in her words, “to start the year off with a bang” so she read Sex in Dublintown, a selection of sex tales from her novel “Smarty Girl – Dublin Savage,” which will be published by Simon and Shuster and released in March.

Charles Hale opened the second half with a multimedia presentation, demonstrating how music, photos and the spoken word connect him to events, specifically World War I and Viet Nam, and define the way he experiences the past.

Alexis Doyle read from a short story in progress called “Search for My Young Father,” an attempt to piece together her father’s earlier life.  Alexis told of listening to tales of her father and her famous literary cousin Liam O’Flaherty while visiting her ancestral home in a tiny village on Ireland’s Aran Island.  This story ended way to soon for me.  I look forward to hearing more of Alexis’ search.  

Following Alexis, new IAW&A member Tom Mahon stepped up to the microphone.  Tom read the first half of his story “Outcasts.” He explained how he’d written the story of a husband and wife two years ago from the husband’s point of view but on rewriting realized that the wife’s ongoing dance with formidable demons really made it her story.  I hope Tom returns and reads the second half of this tale at a future salon. 

Closing out the proceedings, Malachy McCourt treated us to three short pieces. First Malachy read an article a riotous tale of bed bug infestationm which was recently published in Silurian News.  Malachy then read Sassoon’s WWI poem “Does it Matter.  And as he often does, Malachy, along with an able chorus of members and guests, closed the evening with a song, “Mrs. McGrath.” 

The next salon will be at The Cell, located at 338 West 23rd Street, on January 17th at 7PM.  For more information on joining the Irish American Writers and Artists and presenting at a salon, please contact Charles Hale, at

January 3, 2012

Start 2012 with the Salon at the Thalia

Filed under: Uncategorized — by johnleemedia @ 2:03 pm

Holidays over? Time for sober reflection? Nah! It’s time for the next IAW&A Salon, Tuesday, Jan 3 at the Thalia Cafe.

7P start, but swing by early for happy!


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