The writing competition that helped launch the careers of a galaxy of authors including Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry and Joseph O'Connor is being revived by the Irish Independent.
New Irish Writing began life under Cork-born editor David Marcus in 1968 as a page in the Irish Press for short stories and poems by new and emerging literary talent. Before it was suspended in the spring, it had brought about 3,000 writers to a national audience. More than 100 of them have gone on to publish books.
Ciaran Carty, who has edited the page in its various homes since 1988, said: "Over half a century ago, David Marcus had a big idea, an idea as dazzling in its simplicity as it was brilliant in its realisation. Rather than start another literary journal while many were failing, he created one in the Irish Press where it could reach a national readership merely for the price of the newspaper. The page became a platform for generations of new and emerging writers who helped shape contemporary Irish literature today."
These authors include Colum McCann, John Boyne, Sara Baume, Deirdre Madden, Patrick McCabe, Mike McCormack, Claire Keegan, Neil Jordan, Frank McGuinness, Paula Meehan, Bernard MacLaverty, Mary O'Donnell, Hugo Hamilton, John O'Donnell, Mary Costello, Anne Griffin, Eoin McNamee and Mary O'Malley.
New Irish Writing was carried in the Sunday Tribune from 1988 to 2011 and the Irish Independent from 2011 to 2015. Its most recent publisher was the Irish Times but the page was suspended indefinitely as the coronavirus pandemic hit Ireland. Its annual prizes were known as the Hennessy literary awards after the drinks company that ended its association with the competition last year.
"We welcome the Irish Independent's decision to again provide a home for the page and secure the future of its iconic contribution to Irish culture," Carty said.
Carty has been advised over the past 30 years by Dermot Bolger, the poet, playwright and novelist. They have been joined since December last year by Niamh Donnelly, whose first story was published by New Irish Writing in 2018.
Bolger said: "This platform was a miracle under David Marcus's editorship. Its survival under Ciaran Carty's steadfast guidance was a greater miracle. But the greatest miracle is that this vital stepping stone for successive generations of writers has found a welcoming home in the Irish Independent: a beacon of hope in these fraught times."
John Boyne, the author of 19 books including The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, said: "Being published on the New Irish Writing page in 1992 not only kickstarted my writing career but gave me a much-needed boost of confidence… Each step in a writing career leads to the next, to finding readers, to building an audience and a body of work, but my first step was on this very page. How wonderful to see it returning to publish a new generation of writers."
Niamh Boyce, whose novels include The Herbalist and Her Kind, said: "I still remember the moment I opened Ciaran Carty's email accepting my work for New Irish Writing in 2009. The publication of that early short story gave me the courage to think of myself a writer, to keep making work, and to take it seriously. New Irish Writing turned out to be pivotal in my career as a writer, winning New Irish Writer of the Year was life-changing.
"I'm delighted to hear that New Irish Writing lives on; it has long been a vital showcase for exciting new work, and a lifeline for Irish writers."
Mike McCormack, whose novel Solar Bones won the International Dublin Literary Award in 2018, said: "It's almost 30 years ago now but I remember clearly having my first piece published in the New Irish Writing Page of the Sunday Tribune. I sat in the car on Sunday morning and flittered through the paper to find the story - and there it was in the culture section with a brilliant illustration. I look back now and I remember that publication as the beginning of my adventure in fiction writing."
Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither, A Line Made by Walking and Handiwork, said: "When I first started learning to write I would hungrily study the stories published each month in New Irish Writing; it was so important for me then to understand what my peers were writing, and what kind of stories were rising to the top. To be published in a national paper had a special kind of significance. My neighbours read it! And provided some colourful feedback."
Cormac Bourke, editor of the Irish Independent and independent.ie, said: "We are delighted to welcome back New Irish Writing and to maintain a distinguished tradition dating back more than half a century. This underlines the Irish Independent's commitment to celebrating and fostering up-and-coming Irish writers. This platform has given some of our country's best-loved authors their big break and we look forward to helping the literary stars of tomorrow find their audience."
New Irish Writing is for short stories and poetry from Irish writers and writers in Ireland, with one story and at least one poem to be published each month. It returns to the Irish Independent on September 26 and will appear in the Review supplement on the last Saturday of every month, with an accompanying podcast. It will reopen to entries from September 1 via email@example.com. Short stories should be no more than 2,000 words, and up to five poems can be submitted.
Jon Smith, Review Editor