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Marian Keyes to help budding writers unlock their talents


BATTLING GLOOM: Writer Marian Keyes. Photo: Mark Condren

BATTLING GLOOM: Writer Marian Keyes. Photo: Mark Condren

BATTLING GLOOM: Writer Marian Keyes. Photo: Mark Condren

She has written 15 best-selling novels and sold 35 million books worldwide and now Marian Keyes wants to share her wisdom with aspiring writers.

The Irish author says she has been moved to teach others a way they can escape through writing now that life has been become so "brutal" under lockdown.

"I am very, very aware of a collective gloom at the moment," she told the Sunday Independent. "It's been awful. With the pandemic, with the really high figures, with the capers in the US the other night and Brexit impacting us, too.

"And I think this lockdown has been even harder on people. We were so innocent the first time round. We had this sensibility that we were 'all in it together'. And we thought that if we all did the right thing, we would see results. So it's dispiriting to find, 10 months on, that the figures are higher than ever. That combined with the time of year - the dark and the cold - makes things a lot harder now.

"So I thought about it, and I get so much pleasure and escape from reality through writing, that if other people could enjoy that, too, it would be great."

Her free course, which starts tomorrow at 7.30pm, will air on Keyes's 'Instagram live' account and will run each Monday night for four weeks. It will cover the basics of plot, characterisation and dialogue as well as the psychological hurdles writers face, such as self-doubt and the fear of failure. Offering reassurance to others, Keyes, whose works include Watermelon, said: "Most mornings when I turn on the computer, I just think 'oh jaaaaaysus' because writing comes from the subconscious and that's not easy to access.

"So I think it's absolutely appropriate to talk about the 'blankness' when you start. When I sit down, I need to get into the imaginative part of myself and that door isn't always obvious."

On the age-old belief that everyone has a book in them, Keyes said: "Everybody is entitled to give it a go. There should be no gatekeepers. Some people are going to be better than others. Some are going to enjoy it more, but right now this is about people enjoying themselves and finding something else to escape into that isn't our grim reality.

"Life is so brutal at the moment. And I realise that starting a course could feel like another burden but the thing about this course is that it is just a bit of craic and I am sure people will get something from it, hints and tips, but there is no exam at the end.

"So it's supposed to be fun."

While Shakespeare may have written King Lear during a plague, Keyes says she isn't so sure that a crisis unleashes creativity so she tells people not to expect too much of themselves, whatever their line of work.

"I can't speak for everybody - but this is a very unusually unpleasant time and when people are anxious and worried about the future it's very difficult to do good work. There is literally a physiological reason for it.

"When people are frightened, they shut down the imaginative part of their brain and switch to the fight-or-flight instinct to keep safe.

"And I have found I could barely read when the first lockdown hit, never mind write."

Sunday Independent