Irish American Writers & Artists

November 13, 2012

The (New) Wild Geese Takes Wing on Crowdfunding Campaign

Finding a financial support for projects, albums, films, festivals, plays and more is increasingly challenging.  IAW&A member Gerry Regan took on that challenge when he decided to revamp his popular website on “Irish Heritage Worldwide,” deciding to seek support from friends and fans through a 30-day campaign in Crowdfunding.  Here’s the sory in Q&A form:

Soaring With The Wild Geese: Q&A With Gerry Regan

 
Gerry Regan

On our 15th anniversary as a leading destination for those passionate about the history and heritage of the Irish everywhere,The Wild Geese is at a crossroads. Our team has recommitted itself to our mission, “to explore, promote, preserve and celebrate the heritage of the Irish … worldwide.” But to accomplish this, we realize we need more resources, and we need to increasingly incorporate the voices of the Diaspora with ours. So, on the verge of a brave new world for The Wild Geese, our Associate Producer, Tiffany Silverberg, posed to co-founder Gerry Regan questions about the venture’s past, present and future, and how we are dramatically turning to those Irish worldwide who, with us, want to insure Irish heritage remains ‘green,’ in the words of William Butler Yeats, “wherever green is worn.”

How did The Wild Geese come about?

 
Gerry Regan (right) and Joe
Gannon (left) at the 1992 St.
Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

The Wild Geese started 15 years ago this month, in fact, when Joe Gannon, Micah Chandler and I, three huge history buffs and fellow Civil War ‘living historians,’ searched for “Irish History” online and found very little. A few months earlier, we had formed GAR Media with the goal of “Forging New Frontiers for the Past.” This largely unexplored Irish focus seemed a good fit, so we launched The Wild Geese, then known as The Wild Geese Today. This big anniversary seems like auspicious time to revamp the site.

Micah, our graphic designer, left in 1998, but Joe and I pressed on. We remain passionate about the drama of history, the stories of history, and military history, where the stakes were immense. We found that Ireland’s centuries-long struggle to gain sovereignty from one of the world’s foremost powers was among the most dramatic we’d encountered. And with millions of emigrants worldwide, we came to see the outsized impact the Irish had on the world. With these insights, we set about “Chronicling the Epic History of the Irish Worldwide.”
Keeping it simple, we were about sharing this history, not revenue. Fifteen years, 700-plus articles, drawing 1,100 visits and more than 2,000 page views daily – not bad considering we spent a pittance on marketing.
So why change tracks now, 15 years in, with a new business strategy?
We came to realize our limitations in fully exploring Irish history. Think about it – hundreds, perhaps thousands, of traditional and folk tunes recorded and packaged each year by consummate, passionate artists, on several continents. The same with books about the Irish experience around the world. Irish studies programs springing up in universities. A huge literary and artistic milieu, spoken word, theatre, filmmaking, dance, visual arts, sculpture, all interpreting and exploring the Irish experience through centuries, millennia in many cases.
 
     Gerry Regan, far right, with Trinity College
classmates in TCD’s Buttery Bar in
November 1973.

This is a big Irish world. Much of it is not readily accessible to most of us, who find some info on one site, some on Facebook, and some offline.

We thought: Why not create a community of people and organizations devoted to exploring and celebrating the heritage of the Irish worldwide — a place where each of us can bring our own Irish stories and connect with those from around the world with particular expertise to share, as we share what we know best, our own stories. It will be a dynamic place where we are all, together, pushing the boundaries of what we’ve come to know about the Irish experience worldwide.
We also want The Wild Geese, going forward, to play a vital role in preserving Irish heritage “wherever green is worn,” wherever it faces becoming irrelevant.
We can’t accomplish that without a profit — to allow us to keep our focus, day in and day out; to pay writers, artists, photographers and producers; to underwrite research; to create new online platforms to take advantage of technological advances; to gain new audiences for this culture and ultimately to create a worldwide community of those committed to our mission, whether they be individuals or our Heritage Partners, marketers who like us remain passionate about the Irish brand worldwide.
So what is The Wild Geese crowdfunding campaign?
The crowdfunding campaign is how we will raise the funds we need to better serve our constituency and our focus — the heritage of the Irish worldwide.
We still use the same hand-coded HTML on our site as we did 15 years ago. Our navigation is not intuitive, nor user-friendly. Our site taxonomy, intended to help one find one’s way through 700 features, is confusing, even to us. To carry out our mission, we need a newly designed site, one that allows speedy updating, that allows visitors ready access to precisely the information they want or need, and that helps us connect our Heritage Partners with our readers and members.
We need page design and functionality that allow readers to share articles and information quickly, via social media, pages that carry our partners’ marketing messages and professionally written and edited content that speaks powerfully of the Irish and their exploits around the world. We need a smarter taxonomy, using channels and search engines, to explore in a more thorough, user-friendly manner the arts, folklore, genealogy, living history, military history, freedom struggle, foreign climes, travel, Gaeilge, accomplishments in labor, law, government, technology, science, poetry, on and on.
Most of all though, we need a full-featured online community alongside the newly designed web site – a place where our members, the Irish diaspora around the globe, can share their stories, connect with their heritage, and explore their history. And a place, as well, where marketers who share our passion and our mission can connect with us naturally.
These require money, and further, support, both from our many fans and from Heritage Partners who believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Our upcoming crowdfunding campaign allows members to show their support for what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we will all accomplish together with the new features. Heritage Partners have stepped up to offer the best of their products and services as perks to those who support us in this campaign with donations at any and all levels.
Why should devotees of Irish culture worldwide get involved now?
For many years we’ve presented stories of the Irish, worldwide, with looks at the culture fostered by the Diaspora, as our time and resources allowed. We’ve had a largely one-way conversation, though. We spoke to you. To explore and celebrate our heritage worldwide, we need more. Simply put, we need you. In this campaign, we need your support, and with our new platforms your dollars will help fund your voice and your unique, poignant, humorous Irish stories and perspectives.
How will the energy of the campaign continue into The New Wild Geese?
We are humbled and gratified, but frankly not surprised, to find such enthusiasm for our mission from Heritage Partners. With the help of your donation, in early January, we will launch our newly designed public site, along with The New Wild Geese community. We are already planning new content, such as editorial cartoons, op-ed pages, expanded travel coverage, and launch of nine channels and dozens of sub-channels, along with The Wild Geese Directory of Irish Heritage and Hospitality Network. I direct you to the full list of benefits we envision from their support, listed after this interview.
So many individuals, even many Irish Americans, don’t look back. What draws you and your colleagues to focus on Irish heritage?
For us, The Wild Geese continues to be about two things: exploring and presenting the dramatic and often transformative stories of our ancestors, and finally, the drive to find, and reconnect, to our roots. These will continue to inspire and inform us as we move forward.
One of the most satisfying aspects of my work producing The Wild Geese all these years has been the thanks we’ve received from individuals who credit us with helping them reconnect to their roots, to their kith and kin, to Mother Ireland herself.
My Irish-American mother relinquished me for adoption within a week of my birth, and I find myself particularly moved by such comments as this from Michael Patrick Fleming, writing us a decade ago: “Hello, was surfing the web and found your site. I am an Irish American / Catholic / and living in exile. My mother was born in Dublin, and died while giving birth to me. I would be honored to be associated with an Irish group online like yours.” Or this comment from Runnel Riley: “I am an Irish-American, who thoroughly enjoyed your web page. Thank you for helping us remember who we are.”
Michael, Runnell, and everyone else out there finding themselves overcome with sadness when contemplating the emigrant’s trail of tears, or thrilled by narratives of the Irish struggle for nationhood, this campaign is, above all, for you. We need your support and ask for it now. Go raibh maith agat. (Thank you.)
To see The Wild Geese crowdfunding campaign page, go to http://www.indiegogo.com/NewWildGeese
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July 7, 2012

Cool & Convivial July Salon at Bar Thalia

Day after the big holiday,  sweltering summer night and a shift in date for the Salon, and still they came…new members too! 
It was a wonderful night at last night’s Irish American Writers & Aritsts’ salon at the Thalia Cafe. Best selling author and new member Jeanine Cummins joined us and mentioned she plans to read from her novel in progress at The Cell on July 17th.  Singer-songwriter Tara O’Grady closed the eveing with a song she wrote called “Goodnight Nora,” off her second album, Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.  And photographer Cat Dwyer photos capture the relaxed and convivial atmosphere of Thursday’s salon. 
Mary Gannon began the evening presenting a creative non-fiction piece on a Memorial Day visit to New York’s Tenement museum.  A poignant tribute to 19th century Irish immigrants and their plight, combined with a reflection on her own immigrant childhood.  Mary announced that she plans an essay collection on immigrants, both past and present.
John Kearns read an excerpt from Worlds, his novel in progress about four generations of the Logan family. In the excerpt, Janey Logan, nee Dougherty, reminisces about the night in the late 1950s on which she met James Logan, the man she would later marry, at a traditional Irish music session in West Philadelphia. John announced that his poem, “Transmigration of Soul,” appears in the current issue of the North American Review, published July 1st. 
Jim Rodgers returned and read an excerpt from his novel, Long Night’s End. Johnny Gunn, having been thrown out of his home for his drinking and now living in a flophouse on the Lower East Side, is confronted by his wife Rose about his affair with Molly Farrell– an affair all the more evident as Molly is eight months pregnant. After hearing the truth, Rose, with her heart broken and her Irish up, leaves Johnny to his drinking, his demons, and his continuing spiral into his own private hell. Jim assures us that there will be redemption for Johnny, but where it will come from is anybody’s guess. Terrific writing.
Jim Callaghan presented an essay that dealt with his sometimes humorous, at other times sad views on labor unions, including his own experience in 1966 when he was instructed by his colleagues at the Post Office not to work so fast. He concludes that bad behavior by some union leaders and occasional featherbedding can’t hold a candle to the trillions of dollars stolen in America’s history by oil companies, the Robber Barons, banks, health insurers, some Wall Street operatives and baseball owners.
IAW&A board member John Lee, who last presented about a year ago when he read a blogpost off his cell phone, printed out his copy this time, reading a theater review he wrote for New York Irish Arts that also appeared in Huffington Post. In “Who Speaks for Ireland? Rebel Voices Have Their Say”, Lee gave the double bill of Blood by Larry Kirwan and Dancing at Lunacy by Seamus Scanlon a spirited “Two Thumbs Up” (or should that be “Four Thumbs Up” as it was a double bill?).  Lee gave kudos to  actor Paul Nugent, who starred in both plays, for his performance in Dancing with Lunacy where he crafted “an indelibly rendered character named McGowan, an offbeat wiseass, fuelled by manic energy and freshly brewed tea, a pop music-loving, gun-toting, Clockwork Orange-caliber sociopath for the Republican cause.”
Kate McLeod performed a character study in the form of a letter from 14-year old Abby to her friend Love who is in a State Hospital.  In the letter we learn that her much older boyfriend has been put away for possession of 120 kilos of marijuana and that her mother is an alcoholic. We learn how humiliated and traumatized Abby was when her mother would jump on her with public demands to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”  “I would’ve said thank you by myself,” says Abby.  And lastly we learn that Abby would rather be in the state hospital with Love than at home because her father has slept in the same bed with her since she was eight.  A poignant work.
When she was fifteen, Maura Mulligan served pints in a pub in Mayo. Reading from her powerful new memoir, Call of the Lark, Maura beautifully shared the rich conversation of Kilkelly cattle dealers and the gossip she overheard in the snug. Maura will begin a book tour of Ireland next week. 
Tom Mahon, a wonderful reader who possesses a very fine voice, read the second half of a short story of a girl who preservers in the face of great adversity at a young age in 1951. Instead of giving into despair, as is the case so often today, this girl has the difficulties she encounters empower to become educated so she can be in a position to help others, and be effective in changing young girls’ lives. 
Essay and memoir are the forms that most interest me as a writer,” said new IAW&A member Ed McCann.  Last night Ed read “Big Sister,” a chapter about sibling love — and tyranny — from his recently completed memoir.   Ed, a native of both Queens and Brooklyn, is a former television writer/producer and a contributing editor for Country Living magazine.
Kathleen Frazier read from her provocative work-in-progress, Somniloquies: a memoir of sleepwalking. Actress-turned-writer, Kathleen chose a shorter piece of prose and reeled us in with her riveting pacing.  Kathleen’s currently working on the book proposal for her memoir after a successful essay on sleepwalking in the April issue of Psychology Today. A powerful performance by a talented writer and reader.  
TODAY’S SONG:
GOODNIGHT NORA/TARA O’GRADY and ALAN BENNETT
Join us for the next salon at The Cell, 338 W. 23rd Street, 7PM on July 17th. For more info on joining the IAW&A or the salons contact Charles R. Hale at chashale1@yahoo.com

February 23, 2012

“What at Night!” at Salon at The Cell

As Terry “The Toad” Fields says in the final scene of the film American Grafitti, “Jesus what a night!”  That’s what folks were saying about the Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon at the Cell on Tuesday night. And speaking of American Grafitti, just as George Lucas included Del Shannon’s “Runaway” in a scene in which Toad is tooling  around in his friend’s ’58 Chevy, Pat Fenton deftly incorporates Shannon’s song into his play Stoopdreamer and Other Windsor Terrace Stories


And what a treat is was to have actor Jack O’Connell, who has appeared in a recurring part as the character Stanich in the TV series Blue Bloods, read from Fenton’sStoopdreamer.

Stoopdreamer revisits a lost part of Irish working-class Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and some of the characters who lived in it before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.  A terrific reading by O’Connell of Fenton’s slice of Brooklyn life. 

Pat Hanrahan began the evening reading from his novel in progress.  The story is set in a small Irish town early this century. The main characters are an elderly man living in a nursing home who came home after years in England,  a local man, whose wife threw him out around the time his mother died and a young woman who runs a family business and was affected directly by 9/11. Listening to Pat you had the feeling this was going to be a special evening.  

Singer/songwriter Ashley Davis, a cofounder of the IAW&A, accompanied by two musicians, harpist Cormac De Barra and violinist Megan Hurt, beautifully performed two songs, “Wild Mountainside” and “These Winter Days” from her latest album Songs of the Celtic Winter. The warm sound of Hurt’s fiddle beautifully rounded out Ashley’s tunes.  

Kathleen Frazier read from Silkie Girl, historical fiction inspired by her grandmother and the countless Irish girls who ventured to America to work as domestic servants.  Through their efforts they sponsored countless others to join them on these shores.

Kathleen announced that her personal essay on sleepwalking will appear in the memoir section of the March/April issue of Psychology Today.  Her coverage of the 2011 Norman Mailer Gala, “A Gala Raises the Question: Are You an Activist?” will appear in the spring issue (March) of the quarterly magazine, Avalon.

Maura Mulligan, a salon regular, whose memoir Call of the Lark will be published on May 10th, read a humorous passage of her early dancing days in Mayo.  In a solo competition at her first feis, held in the middle of a field, her shoe went flying into the air and landed on the judge’s desk. He disqualified her. A beady -eyed man, the locals called him “the ferret.” Because it was customary to bow to the judge, her mother reminded her with a wag of her finger: “Now, don’t you forget to bow to the ferret.”  An exquisite reading from a very talented writer. 

Mark Donnelly followed with a stirring reading of the opening scene of his new play, Mother Jones, the Irish immigrant who played an important role as a union organizer in the American Labor Movement during the early decades of the 20th Century.  John Kearns announced that his play, In the Wilderness, a story of a South Bronx high school will be part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in June (six dates TBA). John also read a poem called, “Valentine Avenue.   And Kevin Holohan, author of the highly acclaimed novel, The Brothers’ Lot, read a short story which captures a mother’s unconditional love for a grown-up, messed-up child that the rest of the world and even she may not entirely like. 

Mary Lou Quinlan performed a scene from her play The God Box, currently in workshop in NYC. The play is part of a multi-media project linked to her upcoming book, also called The God Box. Mary Lu lovingly shared her mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. The God Box will be released on April 17, 2012.

Novelist Gavin Corbett followed Kevin with a selection of poems that touched on a variety of topics including the recent deaths of Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston, late-evening cricket, and the divine qualities of French bulldogs. Using techniques such as non-rhymes and non-sequiturs, Gavin had us all staring at our feet in bewilderment, when we weren’t rolling on the floor with laughter. One of the funniest readings I’ve heard in years.

Billy Barrett kept it cranking with an edgy reading from his memoir in progress, ‘Highway Star.  “They honeymooned in New York, took in Lenny Bruce and affected a blue-note cool that flew through the roofs of their B-52’s into nights full of gazing the stars. Jack Jones and Bobby Darin poured out of the hi-fi like Perfect Manhattans being dumped on the slats of Toots Shor’s. What a gas! The whole world was looking in…. “ Riveting writing, great presentation.

Michelle Woods announced that her book Censoring Translation: Censorship, Theatre and the Politics of Censorship Translation will be out in April.  She ended the evening with an excellent reading from a novel in progress, called Right. 

Great, great night!
The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Symphony Space,  on 95th and Broadway. The salons begin at 7PM. For more information about the salons and joining the Irish American Writers and Artists, contact Charles Hale @ chashale1@yahoo.com

February 13, 2012

Message from The Man Who Used to Be President

Filed under: Essay,Literature — by johnleemedia @ 10:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

To Our Members:

For those present at the creation, the rapid growth of IAW&A has been deeply satisfying to witness. In the almost four years since the idea was first hatched, the organization has moved beyond initial expectations and taken on a momentum of its own.

As the activities and commitments of the IAW&A have continued to expand, so have the responsibilities of our board. We have no paid staff. The board members provide the day-in, day-out involvement and oversight that support our ability to pay tribute to our greatest writers and artists as well as foster new voices and talent.

The recent and much-welcomed additions to our board–Skye Gurney, Charles Hale, John Kearns, John Lee, and Honor Molloy, and Tim O’Brien–reflect IAW&A’s dynamic and widening reach. Drawn from different backgrounds and endowed with diverse skills, they share a single commitment to enhancing IAW&A’s impact as a force for creative engagement and cultural renewal.

Along with our new board members, we also have a change in leadership. After three years as president, I’ve stepped down (and, no, I haven’t been granted immunity from future prosecution for crimes committed while in office). As of January 1, 2012, our new president is bestselling author, crime chronicler, screenwriter, raconteur, activist, and IAW&A’s co-founder, T.J. English (and, no, he has no plans to change his last name).

It’s been a thrill and a privilege to be a co-founder and first president of IAW&A. I look forward to continuing to serve on the board under T.J.’s leadership and to interacting with our gifted and growing membership. There ain’t no doubt about it–The best is yet to come!

Peter Quinn

February 2, 2012

IAW&A in NJ! Authors Kathleen Hill and Mary Pat Kelly head to Montclair

Filed under: Essay,Events,Film,Literature — by johnleemedia @ 7:03 pm
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Reading, Discussion, Wine and Cheese at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ, co-sponsored by Irish American Writers and Artists

The Irish American Writers & Artists takes the show on the road with a reading and reception at the Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ on Thurs., Feb 16, 2012 featuring two noted authors.

Writer Mary Pat Kelly’s award-winning PBS documentaries and accompanying books include her historical novel Galway Bay, now in development as a TV mini series, To Live for Ireland, a portrait of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and the political party he led; Home Away from Home: The Yanks in Ireland, a history of U.S. forces in Northern Ireland during World War II; and Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason, a portrayal of the only African-American sailors to take a World War II warship into combat, whose first foreign port was Belfast. She wrote and directed the dramatic feature film Proud, starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, based on the USS Mason story. She’s written Martin Scorsese: The First Decade and Martin Scorsese: A Journey; Good to Go: The Rescue of Scott O’Grady from Bosnia; and a novel, Special Intentions. She is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine.

Kathleen Hill teaches in the M.F.A. program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her first novel Still Waters in Niger was named a notable book by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award. The French translation, Eaux Tranquilles, was short-listed for the Prix Femina Étranger. Her second novel Who Occupies This House was recently published and was selected as an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize XXV, and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories.

Watchung Booksellers is at 54 Fairfield Street, Watchung Plaza, Montclair, NJ 07042 (phone: 973.744.7177). The event starts at 7 PM.

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