One minute she’s updating friends on Facebook about preparations for a dream 50-day hiking and camping trip around Donegal, the next lying in a hospital bed having metal stents inserted in her arteries to help her heart do what it’s supposed to do – keep her alive.
That’s the transformative experience musician and teacher, Donna Harkin, has undergone over the last few days at two separate hospitals either end of Ireland as her life turned topsy-turvy after suddenly feeling sick last week.
That’s why it was such a pleasure for me to call her yesterday in the hospital and tell her a short story she wrote had been selected by international judges among the top ten out of several hundred by writers worldwide including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
Sadly, Donna, 50, was forced to cancel her longed-for trip but the good news that she was the only Donegal person to achieve this literary goal in the inaugural ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ hosted by ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ helped lift her spirits.
“My head was in a bad place when I got the good news but it couldn’t have come at a better time, I’m delighted,” said the friendly Letterkenny ‘Mistress of the Button Box’ who has produced a CD entitled, Tell It Like It Is.
Donna’s achievement is all the greater considering the award’s distinguished panel of judges included Dublin-based crime writer Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, founder of writing.ie and publishing consultancy Inkwell Group, as well as Irish and American authors and writing tutors such as Anthony J. Quinn, who has nine books to his name, John DeDakis, formerly with CNN in Washington, Danny Morrison, Bradley Harper, Anne O’Reilly and myself.
In her story, ‘To Be A Writer,’ submitted for the creative nonfiction category of the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA), Donna describes in a witty way her struggle to overcome what every writer has to overcome – procrastination.
The story begins, ‘To be a writer, one must write, and therein lays the problem.’ Then she proceeds to tell how she ‘paints the kitchen, plants the garden, re-tiles the downstairs bathroom, rearranges the furniture in the living room and watches six seasons of ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ all to avoid sitting down at her laptop.
‘In the morning, I avoid eye contact with the door that leads to my creation station and it sticks like a splinter in my mind as I move through the day,’ she continues. ‘I grieve for words I haven’t written before I even write them, and in some reality, this realisation is enough. Opening the word document, I gently turn down the volume on scorn and rancour, and getting out of my own way I remove my I and write – simply because I must.’
“I’ve been writing for my own joy and amusement for about fifteen years,” said Donna, who writes mostly prose poetry but has been experimenting with other forms. “I love the way words can be used to create visceral experiences in the reader.”
Thank you Donna for your good humor and your immense creativity. The world needs more spirited souls like you, especially in the particularly strange times we all live in right now.
For anyone interested in reading Donna’s original and delightfully quirky views on everyday life, do yourself a favour and check out her Facebook. It’ll make even Donegal’s dreariest rainy day seem that little bit brighter.
If you are interested in creative writing, ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ will host a second awards competition over the next few months. For information become a Friend. It’s free.